One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Titus 1:12-13
Even as there were secular prophets in Paul’s day who had their finger on the pulse of a generation, whose testimony was true, so we have secular prophets today to whom we should pay attention. Much secular prophecy today is put to music. The three greatest rock songs of the 20th century give us prophetic insight into the desires and the discouragements of overlapping generations. I was listening to a countdown of the 100 greatest rock songs of the 20th century and the top three songs have a very interesting story to tell.
The greatest rock song of the 20th century is “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. The lyrics are telling. The singer is on a quest for satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment – but this proves to be an illusive goal. It doesn’t matter if he’s driving in his car, trying to pick up girls, or what – he can’t get no satisfaction. He tries and he tries and he tries and he tries, but he can’t get no. That great British theologian, Mick Jagger, has captured the frustration of overlapping generations in three stanzas and a chorus. And surprisingly, what comes through is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine – the flesh does not, cannot, will not satisfy – no matter how hard you try (and try and try).
The song in the #2 slot is Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” All Aretha is looking for is a little respect when she gets home – just a little bit will do. She’s giving her man kisses and money and all she wants in return is a little respect when she gets home. There is an ache in her heart that pleasure and money can’t fill. She wants to be more than a sex object and a money maker – she desires to be seen as a person, in her home, by her man. Is that too much to ask? He can even sock-it-to-her. The lyrics go on to say that she gets tired, but she’s going to keep on trying.
Mick desires a satisfaction that he’s not finding and Aretha is asking for a respect that’s being withheld from her. What’s a person to do? I know – escape this stingy world and buy a “Stairway to Heaven.”
And that’s exactly what Led Zeppelin did in the #3 rock song of all time. Read the opening lyrics:
There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
The reality is that there is no satisfaction or real respect to be found here in this life and so let’s escape to a place where even if the stores are closed and the doors are locked and no one is opening to us, we can, with a word, get what we came for. Let’s travel to a place where we don’t have to depend upon the good will of others to experience satisfaction and feel respect. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that LSD was the stairway to heaven where everything became possible and available – at least for a while.
Mick is frustrated, Aretha is rejected, and so thoughts turn heavenward. And why not? Isn’t this, too, a Biblical theme? We weren’t created for this life, but for the life to come. We are pilgrims, not settlers. I just learned this last week that the full title of Bunyan’s book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” is actually “Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which is to Come.” These secular prophets unwittingly reveal they are on the same journey, albeit, taking a much different path that will not lead them where their hearts yearn to be. We know that Christ is the path which leads from this world to that which is to come.
These ‘three greatest rock songs of the 20th century’ are not so just because of their musicality – their rhythm and beat. Lyrically, they resonate with the thoughts, dreams, and desires of overlapping generations. In these songs we find a backhanded recognition of Biblical truth – we are created for a different world and this world cannot scratch our deepest itches, this world cannot reach our deepest places. Secular prophecy has much to teach us about the desires and doubts of this generation, while at the same time it has much to teach those who author it about their own hearts. May this generation listen to their hearts, because if they really do, they will be in a place to hear the voice of God.