Mumford & Sons – “The Wolf” Can’t Prevail Against God’s Love

Mumford & Sons on stage
Mumford & Sons on stage

I guess I’m on a music kick lately, and one of my favorite bands of the past few years is Mumford & Sons. Often, I hear their songs as either a song to God, a song sung from His perspective, or a combination of the two. Marcus Mumford’s lyrics hold the highest literary merit and do not shy away from discussing the most difficult topics from infidelity to addiction. But honestly, I was not that big a fan of their most recent album, “Wilder Mind,” as I preferred their more unique acoustic sound to their foray into electric instruments. So, I did not listen to their new music all that much.

Shame on me.

While at first take, a song titled, “The Wolf” does not seem to be a godly work of art, once I got beyond my own narrow-mindedness, I realized it might be one of the most beautiful songs this visionary group has ever recorded. Here is a link to their music video filmed at Bonnaroo (certainly not a place know for choir boys).

Now, I imagine, like me, you’ll watch this video, hear the jarring sounds of the electric guitar, see the costumes – including a man in a wedding dress – and grow very skeptical of its Christian roots. To go ahead and avoid losing you from the beginning, I would encourage you to read the lyrics as you listen. They are –

Mumford & Sons – “The Wolf” Lyrics:

Wide-eyed with a heart made full of fright
Your eyes follow like tracers in the night
And the tightrope that you wander every time
You have been weighed, you have been found wanting

Been wandering for days
How you felt me slip your mind
Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
‘Cause you were all I ever longed for

Sheltered, you better keep the wolf back from the door
He wanders ever closer every night
And how he waits baying for blood
I promised you everything would be fine

Been wandering for days
How you felt me slip your mind
Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
‘Cause you were all I ever longed for

Hold my gaze love, you know I want to let it go
We will stare down at the wonder of it all
And I-I will hold you in and I-I will hold you in

Been wandering for days
How you felt me slip your mind
Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to look you in the eye
‘Cause you were all I ever longed for

Been wandering for days
How you felt me slip your mind
Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
‘Cause you were all I ever longed for

My Analysis

From the beginning, I can immediately relate. How often are we terrified when faced with making a big decision, or a small one for that matter? By the end of the first verse, we see our fears realized – “you have been weighed, you have been found wanting.” Everyone who rushed to judgment on the video, go ahead and pat yourselves on the back. You were right about those people all along!

Finished?

Now recognize that Marcus Mumford, in referencing Daniel 5:27 is speaking as much about them as he is you, or me, or himself. And what gets me is I try really hard to not come up short, but I do every time, which is why I’m so often “wide-eyed with a heart made full of fright.”

To remind us that we’re not alone in our failures, the chorus then references maybe the most frequently wayward group mentioned in the entire Bible. After referring to the Israelites wandering through the desert after escaping Egypt, the chorus continues with a command to leave a life of sin and come back to God, who is trying every means of love possible to get through to us so He can reward us with His Fatherly love, as Jesus describes in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Then, that last line is as good as it gets.

“You were all I ever longed for.”

Think about that. When God made you, all He ever wanted in all His creation was for you to come to Him. You can minimize the impact of that love by rationalizing that He feels that way about everyone, which means you’re not uniquely special, but that rationale is a lie. The truth is God loves YOU … so much so that you are all in the world he longs for. You are his lost sheep that He would abandon everything to save. He would give the life of His son so that He could save you and only you. That’s how much you are worth to Him. Wow! How amazing is our God?

Then, in the next line, we learn why the song’s title is “The Wolf.” Mumford uses a common Biblical metaphor for sin. Jesus warns in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.” Or Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Mumford goes on to describe the wolf as “baying for blood.” What a perfect metaphor for what sin longs to do with our lives. The Old Testament establishes blood as a symbol for life (Deuteronomy 12:23), so Mumford creates a vivid metaphor in which God is warning us that sin wants to consume the very essence of our being. In just the short chorus and second verse, he establishes the overwhelming love God has for us despite our constant wandering away from Him and also poignantly depicts the threat of sin in our lives.

Then, after another chorus, Mumford describes a heavenly scene in the bridge. This is where I think the video, with its beautiful areal shots, really adds to the song. Just imagine being held in God’s arms and looking down at the world as He says these words to you, “Hold my gaze love, you know I want to let it go (your sins), we will stare down at the wonder of it all (His creation), and I will hold you in (His arms) and I will hold you in (His arms).” I don’t know about you, but when he sings that bridge, it’s as if I can feel Jesus’s arms around me, holding me in a loving embrace, and I imagine how it will feel to finally be home.

All this may be well and good, but maybe some of you out there are saying, “Surely there’s still something a little off about a guy in a wedding dress, right?” Actually, that metaphor may be what confirms all the aforementioned analysis. The Bible often refers to God as the bridegroom and His people and church as a beautiful bride. (Ephesians 22-23, 1 Corinthians 11:2, Revelations 19:7-10) In a human and worldly sense, we can conceive of no greater depiction of love than that of a man watching his bride in her flowing, white dress walk down the aisle to be joined to him in marriage. It is the epitome of love in many of our minds and hearts.

In using this metaphor to relate to God’s love for us, notice how the Bible does not use the Bride of Christ exclusively as a term for women. So, if this song is meant to describe Christ’s longing for us, then showing a man wearing a wedding dress would be in keeping with a common Biblical metaphor. The fact it is a man in the dress is irrelevant since each one of us, whether it’s me, you, or anyone in that video, is called Christ’s bride. He feels that strong a love (stronger actually) for each one of us, even if we don’t feel we belong, much like how I wouldn’t feel I belong in a wedding dress.

I could probably delve deeper, but for now, I feel this is nothing short of a love song from God, beckoning us to “leave behind your wanton ways” so He can reward that choice with “love in kind.” It’s a reminder that no matter how many times we’ve failed or been found wanting. No matter how many times we’ve succumbed to the howl of the wolf. No matter how despicable we feel about something we’ve done or who we are. We are all God has ever longed for, and He can make us whole. How can our hearts not sing in praise?

2 thoughts on “Mumford & Sons – “The Wolf” Can’t Prevail Against God’s Love

  1. Emily says:

    Will, I am a big, big fan of Mumford. They have been on the top of my playlist for over 6 years now. I searched for the reason years ago to find out why they did not want to be considered a Christian band. Marcus was brought up with parents in Ireland that were very involved with the church and seems to be trying to find his own way.

    Almost every song (I love them all)
    Lover of the light, Whispers in the dark, Home, Little lion man, Sigh no more…..
    You name it!
    Marcus says he is a “work in progress and that he didn’t want the Christian label to define him and his music. Instead, he wants the music to speak for itself.”
    Well, it is speaking for itself to me and has Jesus written all over it!
    Great article!
    Great Message!
    Thank you, Emily

    ?”
    And oh
    hold on to what you believe,
    In the light
    When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight”
    ?
    Hold on to what you believe

    1. Will Searcy says:

      Thank you, I agree. I went to their concert and it was an interesting mix of people. You had people with tee-shirts with Bible verses right alongside the more typical music festival fan. I do appreciate that Mumford’s music is so powerful that it draws in people who are not Christian. Hopefully it serves to change some hearts in the process whether people accept Christianity or not as a result of hearing their music. Non-Christians acting the way Christians should act is an improvement over a non-Christian not acting that way and hopefully it serves as a stepping stone. Oh, and you forgot Timshel, The Cave, and Roll Away Your Stone. lol

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