July 24, 2007

Gathered Lilies from Solomon's Song

This week, in my yearly journey through the Bible, I have been “feeding among the lilies” in The Song of Solomon. As you may know, the entire book is a love song, presumably between a young Solomon and his beautiful bride. Let me share with you a few of the blossoms that I have picked:

1. It is funny (and merciful) how God often, through a pre-planned reading schedule, brings you right to the passage you need to hear most. That has happened with me this week in The Song. If you would have asked me, on Monday morning: ‘In what area do you need the most sanctification right now?’ there is no question I would have answered: I need to be a better husband and father. It is sad how, for almost all of us (and maybe minister’s especially), it is so easy to neglect to minister to our family. It is easier to sin against our family than anyone else. It is easy to take our spouse’s love for granted instead of working at love and companionship every day. And this Monday morning I was feeling the guilt of those statements more than I have in quite a while. And low and behold, what was my daily reading for that day? The Song of Solomon, chapters 1-2! God moves in a mysterious way!

2. Love is a pursuit. As I said above, many of us tend to take our marriages for granted after a while. After eight years, it can start to feel like: ‘Of course we love each other.’ And part of that is normal and healthy, I suppose. Things cannot and will not be the same for a thirty-year-old couple with two children as they were when we were 22 and newly married! However…The Song gives us no indication that the intoxication of romance and wooing is only confined to newlyweds. Most of us need that reminder. We need to pursue our spouses with demonstrations of our affection. The Song of Solomon is a great book for helping rekindle those flames.

3. Christ loves his church more than any husband ever loved his beautiful bride! In generations gone by, many well-meaning and godly Christians read this song, not as a manifesto on marital love, but as an allegory about Christ’s love for the church. In other words, they saw every description of a lily, a bed, or a handsome lover as symbolic of some aspect of Christ and Christianity. Let me give an example. In verse 1.13 the bride says: “My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts.” Certain older commentators said this was a reference to Jesus (the pouch of myrrh) appearing just between the Old and New Testaments (the breasts)! To quote CJ Mahaney: “I don’t know what you think about when you read verse 1.13, but I don’t think about the Old and New Testaments!”

And I don’t think we were intended to. This really is, mainly, a song about marriage and romance. However, you cannot fault these older commentators for their desire to let every passage of Scripture speak to them of Christ, our beloved! For Paul did say that marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ’s love for His church. So, though it may be stretching it to see every aspect of The Song as an allegorical reference to Jesus…it is completely appropriate to see, in this marital bliss, a lovely reminder of our Bridegroom, and his deep, deep love for us. For one “greater than Solomon” (Mt 12.42) has appeared—loving, not a beautiful maiden, but an adulterous, sin-stained wreck of a bride; and loving us not simply with poems and perfumes, but by laying down His life for us in bloody shame. And that is even more beautiful than lilies and pomegranates!

No comments: