Friday, July 25. Song of Solomon 6 – 8

The husband addresses the insecurity of the bride with an affirmation of his love for her in chapter six. He begins with her head.

Having moved in his admiration for her the length of her body from top to bottom, he explains his absence: he’s been tending to business.

In chapter seven he turns once again to his admiration for the bride by describing in exquisite detail her body; this time from feet to head. The bride replies that she would be willing to go with him to work and they could examine the crops together but in her reply, she picks up on his description of her mouth as the best wine and offers her mouth (wine) to his. She is delighted their separation has come to an end.

Why is the husband so interested in her looks rather than her mind – or one of another countless things she thinks is so important?

Because that’s the way guys are. We are visual.

We’re also a little blind. Women pay attention to their appearance because that’s the way women are (and looking in a mirror, a woman can be fairly critical (see chapter 1 verse 6 for how the Shunumite sees herself). A man pays attention to a woman’s appearance because that’s the way men are. Unfortunately, men are a little blind when it comes to their own appearance. You will seldom see a man admiring himself in a mirror, but when you do, trust me, he’s not seeing what a woman sees. He sees a hunk – no matter what he looks like. And we like to hear a woman say she sees us as we see ourselves.

Friday, July 25. Song of Solomon 6 – 8

Midway through chapter five, something comes between the newlyweds and we find them parted.

The bride is crushed at his departure.

There is a bit of tension in chapter six. It would appear that the bride doesn’t know where her man has gone – only that he has left. When asked by her friends if they can help look for him in chapter six, the wife reveals she knows where he is. Perhaps she does. Or perhaps she only thinks she does. Wherever he has gone, he hasn’t taken her.

Our differences, male and female, often cause perplexing separation. Men, at times, just want to be alone. We need to think about stuff. Wives, faced with our moodiness and distance, believe something must be wrong with the marriage – perhaps they’ve done something wrong or displeasing. Or worse – perhaps there is another woman. Is this what the bride means when she says he has gone to “browse among the lilies”? What could possibly be the problem that they two couldn’t work out together?

Sometimes, it’s just he can’t figure out why the motorcycle won’t start.

In this case, the husband simply went to the fields to check on the crops (see vss. 11-12). Marriage is a growth process in which both parties must become secure in their relationship roles. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Thursday, July 24. Song of Solomon 3 – 5

Reading the Song of Solomon, I often wonder precisely what the author is saying. The young man speaks to the girl: “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon.” He calls her his “garden,” a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. But later he writes “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk.”

What does he mean?

I think the best thing to do with this poem is to allow your imagination to flow freely. What do you think is happening?

Remember, this is an erotic poem. Surely the man is speaking candidly of his sexual desire for his beloved. It is a desire that is intense, but still, restrained. At this moment anyway, her garden is locked up, her spring enclosed. But however restrained, desire burns.

What strikes me about this poem is the imaginative and beautiful imagery used to convey eroticism. In a world where sex language is so often synonymous with words for violence, mistake or regret, the language here gives sex the beauty of planning, refreshment, and joy.

It is the way God intended it to be.

Wednesday, July 23. Ecclesiastes 12 – Song of Solomon 2

In the Hebrew Bible, the Song of Solomon is called the “Song of Songs” or, “The best of songs.” This book “celebrates the dignity and purity of human love . . . It came to us in this world of sin, where lust and passion are on every hand, where fierce temptations assail us and try to turn us aside from the God-given standard of marriage. And it reminds us, in particularly beautiful fashion, how pure and noble love is.”

The great love expressed in the Song of Solomon is between a man and his bride, in this case, Solomon, and a woman from the town of Shulam in northern Palestine. The book is presented very much like a play, divided into scenes.

Scene 1 – The bride is brought to the chambers of the King’s banqueting house. A chorus is sung by the “damsels of Jerusalem” and Solomon and the woman praise each other’s beauty (1:1 – 2:8).
Scene 2 – The bride’s dream of her husband to be (2:9 – 3:5).
Scene 3 – The marriage (3:6 – 5:10).
Scene 4 – The marriage festival (5:2 – 8:4).
Scene 5 – The couple visit the former home of the bride (8:5-14).

Historically, Christians have been somewhat reluctant to discuss the role of intimacy between men and women, but the Song of Solomon is a very intimate book. In an effort to avoid the issue, the book has been misinterpreted as referring to the love Jesus has for the Church – this despite the fact that the book is not cited anywhere in the New Testament. Some of our hymns are based on this interpretation (eg. “Jesus Rose of Sharon” and “I have Found a Friend in Jesus”).

Friday, June 14. Song of Solomon 1 – 3

Who has not, in their youth, dreamed of what it would be like to be married?

Not the day to day, get up and face one another with uncombed hair and unbrushed teeth, or the evening so tired you don’t want to talk, or the monotony of day after day the same old conversations – or worse still, silence. But that electrically charged desire to be near one another, with one another.

There is a comic strip that depicts a fourteen year old boy and the trials of being a mid-teen. He has a friend who is so attached to his girlfriend that the strip writer often depicts them as joined together as one. They can’t imagine being apart.

This is the vision of chapter two, but it is not the vision of youth. These are adults. They are not yet married, but this is their vision of what marriage will be like.

The cynic (or the long-time-married) might say: “they’ll get over that after a few years.”

Perhaps.

But really, wouldn’t it be nice (blessed even) not to get over it?

This is part of the value of Solomon’s song. It points us to the way God intends things to be, all the time. Kathy Mattea some years ago sang a song about Claire and Edwin, two people who found one another later than usual in life. The song heralds a love that is so close that each becomes the breath of the other. Later in life, they both are moved to a nursing facility – though in different rooms on different floors. Claire loses her mind, forgets the names of friends and family. It is a sorrowful time many of us have seen with loved ones. She knows nothing until Edwin is moved back into her room. Seeing him, she asks: “Where’ve you been?” (the title of the song) “I’ve looked for you for ever and a day. Where’ve you been? I’m just not myself when you’re away.”

It’s not a love that just happens. You have to make it happen, because that’s God’s will for married couples.

Friday, June 15. Song of Solomon 7 – 8

Sex is a powerful drug – if we might be permitted to call it that.  It is exciting, relaxing, comforting, and addictive; all the things we customarily associate with drug use.

That fact also makes it dangerous.

Though sexual addiction has yet to be recognized as a real psychological disorder, no one plagued with it can deny its awful and destructive impact on the afflicted’s life.  And the writer of the Song of Solomon, though praising sexuality throughout, is also responsible enough to offer caution.  Note 8:6 – 7 – “[L]ove is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”

Yes, I know that the word used is “love” and not “sex,” but in this book, they go together hand in hand.  Sex, as God intended it, belongs in a loving relationship, and a loving relationship is not contemplated (in this book) without sex.  Humans must be careful with sex, for God holds us responsible.  Misuse of it can hurt and destroy.  That is why the woman in this poem urges the daughters of Jerusalem “not to arouse love before its time” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4) and to beware of those things that destroy loves garden (like the little foxes – 2:16).

“Sex crazed” is an apt description of our world, for having lost all restraint and casting aside all God’s sexual boundaries, we have ruined what God intended to be a beautiful garden of love and turned it into a prison for the insane.

Thursday, June 14. Song of Solomon 4 – 6

Reading the Song of Solomon, I often wonder precisely what the author is saying.  The young man speaks to the girl: “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon.”  He calls her his “garden,” a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.  But later he writes “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk.”

What does he mean?

I think the best thing to do with this poem is to allow your imagination to  flow freely.  What do you think is happening?

Remember, this is an erotic poem.  Surely the man is speaking candidly of his sexual desire for his beloved.  It is a desire that is intense, but still, restrained.  At this moment anyway, her garden is locked up, her spring enclosed.  But however restrained, desire burns.

What strikes me about this poem is the imaginative and beautiful imagery used to convey eroticism.  In a world where sex language is so often synonymous with words for violence,  mistake or regret, the language here gives sex the beauty of planning, refreshment, and joy.

It is the way God intended it to be.

Wednesday, June 13. Song of Solomon 1 – 3

The Song of Solomon is so very different from other material in the Bible.  I read it and wonder what story it is telling.  I know that it involves Solomon, for the text is plain about that in chapter three, but often other things are less plain.

The poem begins with the words of a woman and it reads to me like a “Cinderella story.”
She sees herself as oppressed.  Her brothers make her do their work for them, and her own work gets neglected.  Because the work is outside, and hard, her complexion is dark and rough.  Plain – at least in her own eyes.  Yet Solomon sees her as a beautiful wild flower – a lily of the valley or a rose of Sharon.

Somehow they met, and fell in love.  But social distance makes the union impossible.  She lies on her bed at night, dreaming of her prince charming, and in chapter three, he shows up.

Or is it just a dream?

Dream or real, it is an idealized story of how we all wish romance could go for a lifetime.  Reality however requires that we  wake up and deal with work, illness, conflict, and children.  But that doesn’t mean romance has to end.  It just means we have to remember who we fell in love with in the first place, and why, keep our priorities in check, and learn to see ourselves as our spouse has always seen us, and work to live up to their vision.

Wednesday, June 13. Song of Solomon 1 – 3

    The Song of Solomon is so very different from other material in the Bible.  I read it and wonder what story it is telling.  I know that it involves Solomon, for the text is plain about that in chapter three, but often other things are less plain.

    The poem begins with the words of a woman and it reads to me like a “Cinderella story.”

    She sees herself as oppressed.  Her brothers make her do their work for them, and her own work gets neglected.  Because the work is outside, and hard, her complexion is dark and rough.  Plain – at least in her own eyes.  Yet Solomon sees her as a beautiful wild flower – a lily of the valley or a rose of Sharon.

    Somehow they met, and fell in love.  But social distance makes the union impossible.  She lies on her bed at night, dreaming of her prince charming, and in chapter three, he shows up.

    Or is it just a dream?

    Dream or real, it is an idealized story of how we all wish romance could go for a lifetime.  Reality however requires that we  wake up and deal with work, illness, conflict, and children.  But that doesn’t mean romance has to end.  It just means we have to remember who we fell in love with in the first place, and why, keep our priorities in check, and learn to see ourselves as our spouse has always seen us, and work to live up to their vision.