Bible verses from The Life of the World to Come

I’ve been listening to the new Mountain Goats album, The Life of the World to Come, and it’s predictably driven me back to the Bible. The connection from passage to song is at times direct, but at other times quite oblique. The whole thing is gorgeous. The album marries verses about unity and obedience to a musical approach which honors a radical subjectivity. Whatever brief notes and contextual cues I’ve added below are thanks to the Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd Ed. The mistakes are my own.

1 Samuel 15:23

King Saul says he followed God’s orders, but he didn’t follow them to the letter. Samuel received the word of the LORD, who was displeased. Here Samuel shares that news with Saul:

“For rebellion is no less a sin than


and stubbornness is like iniquity

and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of

the LORD,

he has also rejected you from being


Psalms 40:2

Psalm 40 addresses giving thanks to God. Just like the previous passage, Psalm 40 addresses how it’s better to be obedient than to find your own idiosyncratic way to serve God.

He drew me up from the desolate


out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

Genesis 3:23

Having disobeyed God, Adam must leave Eden and work to sustain himself:

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.

Philippians 3:20-21

Philippians is a call for unity, with examples of those who gave up personal gains for the greater good. Paul exhorts the Philippians to envision themselves first and foremost as a heavenly community:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Hebrews 11:40

In this section Paul draws upon Old Testament examples of faith. Again the focus is on unity, since their struggles and rewards are our own:

since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Genesis 30:3

At this point, Rachel is still barren; she’ll be pregnant with Joseph by verse 23, however.

Then [Rachel] said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees and that I too may have children through her.”

Romans 10:9

Paul is once more breaking down distinctions in practice and arguing that Christianity is a big-tent religion. The test for salvation is simple, even if it is not simple to pass:

because  if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

1 John 4:16

John the evangelist (or followers) comes to this point in his refutation of various “Jesus deniers” who question his status as God in the flesh. But we know this must be so if we look to the Spirit:

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Matthew 25:21

From the parable of the talents (and this is said to the slave who had acquired five additional talents). This is another parable about how we should comport ourselves knowing of God’s imminent arrival.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ ”

Deuteronomy 2:10

This passage is a brief reference to a race of giants which had once inhabited Moab but had been conquered or displaced by others:

The Emim–a large and numerous people, as tall as the Anakim–had formerly inhabited [Moab].

Isaiah 45:23

This passage predicts that Cyrus II of Persia will defeat Babylon and thus allow for Israelites to return home. The larger message is that God’s hand is shown in the playing out of historical events

By myself I have sworn,

from my mouth has gone forth in


a word that shall not return:

“To me every knee shall bow,

every tongue shall swear.”

Ezekiel 7 (and the permanent efficacy of grace)

Ezekiel wrote during a period of extended resistance to Babylonian rule, when many were worried about Jerusalem’s fate under their oppressors (spoiler alert: Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 586 BC). Ezekiel predicted this, and after it came to pass, predicted its restoration.

I’m not formatting this one–too long!

The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. 3 The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 4 I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Disaster! An unheard-of disaster is coming. 6The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! 7 Doom has come upon you—you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. 8 I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 9 I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the LORD who strikes the blow.

10 “The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! 11Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd—no wealth, nothing of value. 12 The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd. 13 The seller will not recover the land he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. 14 Though they blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.

15 “Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. 16 All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. 17 Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water. 18 They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. 19 They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the LORD’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. 20 They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. 21 I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. 22 I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it.

23 “Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. 24 I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. 25 When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none.26 Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. 27 The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”


1 Response to “Bible verses from The Life of the World to Come”

  1. 1 ashleygillblog October 15, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Maybe you could be a professional annotator. You’re too good at it.

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