My Momma Done Tol’ Me

John D. Barry

Isaiah 55:1–57:21; Luke 21:25–22:23; Job 12:13–25

I went through a phase when I was obsessed with the blues. Something about the soul was at work in the music—a genre created late at night while reflecting on hard times. The music was written more for the songwriter than the audience because the audience had usually gone home by the time these songs were sung. The blues express raw, uncut emotions. The same can be said of the OT prophets.

A blues singer can turn a common phrase into something profound. The idea that “I knew better, but I made the mistake anyway” becomes the blues refrain “my momma done tol’ me,” complete with chord structure and growling voice. And “I’m struggling—everything is falling apart” becomes “my dog done died.” The prophets likewise use mundane things like water and food to describe emotional and spiritual struggles. They explain the root of the problem—the cause of our ills: “Ho! Everyone thirsty, come to the waters! And whoever has no money, come, buy and eat, and come, buy without money, wine and milk without price! Why do you weigh out money for what is not food, and your labor for what cannot satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul take pleasure in rich food” (Isa 55:1–2).

Jesus did the same thing as the prophet—but on a much grander scale—when He turned the idea of bread and wine into a symbol of His sacrifice for all humanity: “ ‘For I tell you that I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took bread, and after giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And in the same way the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you’ ” (Luke 22:16, 19–20).

But Jesus wasn’t singing the blues about His broken body and His blood poured out; He was turning the phrase for a new purpose. Jesus’ work turns our blues into beauty.

What mundane things is God—through the redemptive act of Christ—turning from blues to beauty in your life?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.


John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.