By Matt Redmond
“I chose to be Mrs. Johnny Cash in my life. I decided I’d allow him to be Moses and I’d be Moses’ brother Aaron, picking his arms up and padding along behind him.” – June Carter Cash
A few days ago I finished a biography of Johnny Cash.
Most people are not aware of his dramatic story. He was at ground zero of the start of rock and roll with Elvis in the 50s and 60s. But then came the 70s and 80s. He had a few hits but mostly he was resigned to nostalgia. He was addicted to pills, struggled to be a good dad to his kids, and was aimless in his career.
And he couldn’t sell records.
What most people don’t know about Johnny Cash is there was one thing that never changed. His addictions waxed and waned. He failed repeatedly. He was weak physically and spiritually. But his belief that he was called by God to sing about His power to deliver people from their sin never changed, even when he was at his lowest.
By the time the 90s rolled around, Cash was growing old, and that calling had to seem like it was becoming increasingly impossible. He was irrelevant and powerless.
Moses has been given what must have seemed an impossible task. In Exodus 4, God told him to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. He was also told that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart, making Moses’ job all the more difficult. And then when he set about doing it, we read in Exodus 5 that Pharaoh punished those whom Moses came to rescue.
Moses had to feel powerless, which was why he accused God of evil.
God’s response? “Remember who I am. I’ll keep my covenant with my people and set them free. They will no longer be captives. Tell them this” (Exodus 6:6-8, my paraphrase).
In the face of so many reasons to doubt, God promises that He will deliver Israel. It was hard to believe.
Maybe you can relate. All around you is difficulty and failure. You look at yourself and see your weakness, your sin, and your circumstances, and you cannot imagine God is keeping His promises. You feel like a captive and it is hard to believe you have anything resembling freedom.
In the 90s, Cash found redemption as an artist through the popular American Recordings series, produced by Rick Rubin. On that first album, he sings a song he wrote called “Redemption:”
And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free
Cash didn’t just enjoy redemption as an artist but as a man who had a lot of reasons to doubt God’s promises. But he wrote that song because he knew the surety of those promises is the shed blood of Christ on his behalf. On our behalf.
It’s so easy to look at our failures and sins and then doubt. But when we look to Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, we are reminded of God’s promise. We have been freed and one day will enjoy that freedom to the full.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond