During the days before the protestant reformation when John Huss led his small bands of Christians into Albania & the Covenanters were being persecuted in Scotland, one bible book was read, referred to, memorized & loved more than any other. No, not psalms. That book was Solomon’s Song of Songs.
Why this book? Why a book that is a blatant love song, sensually delighting in love & the things pertaining to love? Why is this book even included in the cannon & part of our scriptures? It is short, only about 117 verses. It is the last of the 5 wisdom books: Job, proverbs. Ecclesiastics, some of the psalms & Song of Songs. That it is listed among the wisdom books should immediately tell us that it contains gems of wisdom we would do well to heed. In a wider sense it belongs to a far different theme that runs throughout scripture: the marriage agreement between God & his people.
In Deuteronomy we have the marriage contract. In Hosea we see the adulterous, unfaithful wife & in the Song of Songs we see the fulfilment of love in marriage.
This book is usually attributed to Solomon, David’s Solomon, the live born child of David & Bathsheba. He was not the oldest son. His parents’ relationship was conceived in great sin but he is the first Jewish ruler to inherit the throne of Israel as a birthright. His name is related to the Hebrew word for Peace, Shalom ~ peace arising from harmony with God & man. David chose him to be king over his older sons despite what the Mosiac law said.
Solomon came to the throne in 961Bc, before his father, David, died & reigned for 40 years. It was during his reign the Jewish monarchy gained its highest splendour.Now the seeds of Solomon’s destruction are inherent in his choices. The child of a polygamyous household (David had 18 wives) Solomon took for himself 700 wives & 300 concubines (1 Kings 2:1~3. )I think it is fairly safe to say Solomon liked women. He liked Moabites, & Ammorites. Edomites, Sidonians, Hittites & definitely Shulamites! Famous for his wisdom, he is notorious for his polygamy.
Solomon’s wisdom seems to have been a worldly wisdom. He was aggressive in his foreign policy ~ hence the number of women in his life (he married them to seal arrangements with other rulers) ~ & it was not all plain sailing in the Solomon household. This was the man who said better a dry crust on the rooftop than a brawling woman in a wide house. Perhaps he was something of a henpecked husband & a coop of hens can be particularly vicious. In Deuteronomy (17:16~17)we also find the law explicitly saying not to multiply horses, silver & gold or…wives!
Solomon’s sin in this area lead to his apostasy. His rule was dominated by the conflicting tensions between faithfulness to God & yielding to the foreign influences his marriages brought into the kingdom.The bible is particularly explicit about sexual sins. Solomon’s sin in this area destroyed the house of David. He forsook his first love for God & under his wives influence followed after other gods. I find this particularly interesting scripturally because it is Solomon who built the temple to the Lord to house the ark of the covenant & when we come into the New Testament the scriptures say 1 Cor6:18 shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you that you have from God. From old testament to New God’s temple has been defiled by sexual immorality.
When we read through Solomon’s song of Songs we read a love poem that shows us how to love in a morally correct way on the human level & the spiritual level.That is all background information but bear it in mind as we come to the song itself. Let’s face it, in the area of love Solomon had some idea of what he was talking about.
Kings also tells us Solomon wrote 1005 songs; this is the only survivor. It is, unashamedly, a love song: sensual, sensuous, the portrayal of a man & a woman falling deeply, passionately, irredeemably in love. In the rabbinical view it is a portrait of Gods love for Israel. It was meant to be performed, perhaps something like an ancient musical or opera, theatrical in style, an Eastern love song between bride & groom, God & Israel, Christ & his church.
Now when we come to the scriptures we bring our cultural biases with us so I’d like to pause here & just clarify by giving a little background material on how a traditional Jewish wedding occurred because the song of songs arises out of this Eastern tradition & we miss many of its subtleties if we ignore the Eastern traditions which have little resemblance to our Western ideas of love & romance. Many of the Parallels with our relationship to Christ I’m sure you can draw for yourself. There are 7 main points to consider.
1.The groom’s father made & approved the choice of bride. God has made & approved us as His choice of bride for his son.
2. A contract was drawn up (remember Deuteronomy) & wine was drunk to seal the covenant. The groom pays a price to show his intent is serious & promises his bride he will come to claim her soon. I think we all get the parallel for that one!
3. The groom prepared a bridal chamber where he & his bride would stay for 7 days. He works until his father releases him to go & claim his bride.
4. While the groom is busy preparing the new home the bride waits wearing a veil. This shows she belongs only to the groom. She prepares for her wedding by making blankets etc, shows her family her gratitude for raising her, mends damaged relationships. She had to be ready for whenever her husband came to claim her. Her groom would come for her at night & she would not be told the hour of his coming.
5. Unmarried friends would attend the bride & provide light for the groom when he came.
6. Groomsmen would run ahead of the groom & shout that he was coming. While the father’s head was turned the groom would steal the bride & the wedding went back to the groom’s house to meet the guests.
7.The bride & groom enter the bridal chamber & the marriage is consummated. The party waited outside for this announcement & the guests celebrated for 7 days.
I have spent a lot of time on the background because what I want to discuss with you today is not the Song of Songs per se, though I love the song & think it one of the most beautiful of the many lovely scriptures. It’s central theme is far too important for us to dismiss this book as merely a very lovely love poem, exquisite, but not overly important. Rather by asking ourselves what this theme is we begin to grasp why it has been so loved & why it has remained in the cannon all down the centuries.
The main theme as I see it is loving God. Now scripture says over & over we are to love God. We are to love God first. We are to love God with Heart & mind & strength. We are to love God before mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, husband. I think many of us struggle in this area. We know what we’ve been told to do but we do not know how to do it. How do we love God with all our heart & all our mind & all our strength?
Scripture begins with the heart so that is where we will begin too. Scripture says to guard our hearts with all diligence because the heart is where the issues of life (thoughts, emotions, desires) originate. Proverbs 4:23 There are 4 types of hearts ~ the unregenerate, the hardened, the clogged & the pure. The pure heart, the one God desires for us & for himself, is attuned for the faintest promptings of the Holy Spirit. Sin makes us insensitive & resistant to those promptings.
There is a whole list in Galatians 5:19~21 of the sins of the flesh & I am betting most of us would run down that list going nope, nope, nope, not guilty of that one either. But what about a list like this: grumbling (philipians2:14 do everything without grumbling), self~seeking (phil2:3 let each esteem others better than himself) criticalness, disorderliness & being busybodies ~ There are some who walk among you disorderly, being busybodies (2nd Thessalonians) ….You get the picture I am sure. Sin is pride & put simply pride is not loving God; it is loving ourselves first ~ & that my friends is idolatry!
The word for mind is dianoia. Translated literally it means willpower or volition. When we are born again in the Holy spirit we are enabled to will as God wills. Aligning with the Greek word dianoia is the word exousia ~ it is permitted. That is, it is permitted for us to override our natural desires & inclinations & act in accordance with the spirit of God. It is not permitted for the unregenerate heart to do this. The unregenerate heart is governed by the sinful lusts & desires of the flesh. We are not. We can choose to act in a Godly way because the spirit of God resides within us.We are made in the image of God.
God has 2 sorts of will, the emotional (thelo) & resolve (boule). Our natural inclination is usually to go with the emotional but it is the disciplined choice based on the known will of God as revealed in his scriptures that God desires of us. That is the love response. Ephesians: grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. We grieve the spirit by not following His promptings to walk in the Godly pattern he enables us to walk & instead following after our own desires. When we choose our own way we choose to be ruled by the sin Christ died to free us from.
Lastly there is the soul. I think many of us in the West confuse spirit & soul. Our soul is our conscious thoughts, emotions, desires. Here we see why obedience is of such vital importance. There is a line of progression here. Guard our hearts ~ the things we put into ourselves. Bring captive every thought. Give authority to the Holy Spirit to exercise God’s will in our lives. No matter how we feel, act in accordance with what scripture says & lastly believe that God is acting in our lives as he has promised!
We have been made in Gods image to be an exact likeness of his son, Jesus Christ. We have been given free will which gives us the choice to choose to love & obey God. To do this we need to catch negative, ungodly thoughts before they stir up our emotions, catch negative, ungoldly emotions before our fleshly desires are stirred up, catch our desires before we are stirred to action, catch our actions before we do indeed act upon them in the flesh!
When we choose our own fleshly desires we are allowing Satan to use us to take revenge on God. This is not the action of a loving child of the father’s. If we delight ourselves in the Lord he is able to give us the desires of our hearts because they are the desires he has placed there & they will be in accordance with his will.
Most of us know something of love ~ the desire to be with the beloved, the way our thoughts return again & again to those treasured memories of times we’ve spent together, the anxious waiting for our beloved to be with us again, the way we know their thoughts without speaking, the hours we have spent peacefully in each others company without words. We know what it is to love our partners & our children, our siblings & our friends but far to many of us don’t know what it is to love God ~ to love as the Shulamite loves. And this is why this little book, Solomon’s glorious Song of Songs, is so important & why it has been so loved.
Let me paraphrase for a moment:
Jesus, your love is more delightful than wine.
The fragrance of your perfume is intoxicating;
Your name is perfume poured out.
No wonder we adore you.
Take us with you~Let us hurry.
Oh, that the king would bring us to his chambers!
Jesus, You have captured my heart,
my brother, my groom.
You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes.
With one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful your love is, My brother, my groom.
Your love is much better than wine
& the fragrance of your perfume than any balsam.
Your lips drip sweetness ...
And so scripture comes full circle for psalm 119 verse103 says; your word is to my taste ~ sweeter than honey to my mouth. Friends, let us keep our hearts with all diligence & bring every thought captive that the words of our mouths & the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to the Lord our God & our lives, pure & holy, be reflections of His love that resides within us.
references: Song of Solomon: a love song & a hymn ~Ray C. Stedman
The Way of Agape ~ Chuck & Nancy Missler