Tag Archive | Song of Songs

Love That is Utterly Despised

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Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 8:7

As I’ve been reading through the Song of Songs, I’ve been musing on the nature of love.  But this verse caught my attention the other day and I’ve been thinking about it’s implications. Join me in thinking through what it means:

The first part of the verse is pretty easy. Love is powerful. It’s a fire that can’t be put out with water. Not even many waters can put out the fire of love–it’s that powerful.

But the second part is much more difficult. If a man gave all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly despised.  This flies in the face of what we are taught about love, doesn’t it? Often we’re taught that love is a sacrifice, that it’s not just flowery emotions or lustful passions, but laying down our lives for one another in service. This verse seems  contradictory to that idea.

Let me try and help. If a man sold all he had and attempted to buy the love of a woman, most of us would react strongly, somewhere between bored disgust and outright rage.  We’d look at that man and know that he might have desire in his heart, but no real love. He was attempting to make a transaction.

Real love isn’t transactional. It’s not looking to give something in order to get something in return.  It’s birthed out of a much deeper, more real place, where, yes we’re willing to give all we have, but it’s because we love whoever it is we’ve fallen in love with.

The best example is God’s love. God’s love is never transactional. We could never earn it. If we sold everything in our house and gave it to the church or the poor in order to make God love us, it would be utterly despised.  We can’t buy God’s love. Nor should we want to. If we buy love, it’s not love, it’s just a transaction.

This is why it’s good news that God loved us first. The apostle John says this, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins,” (1 John 4:10). See, we cannot buy our way into this love. We can’t earn it. There is no level of righteousness that will get God to love us more than He already has. We can only receive the love of God and live lives that are a response to it.

But this is true for more than just God. We are called to love others, but often, especially within the church, we feel the need to try and win others’ love through serving.  In many ways, this is giving what we have for love. It’s trying to earn love from others through our efforts or even trying to win love for God through what we do.

Now we still need to love others, but we cannot buy love through service or sacrifice. Have you ever been served by someone who you felt like didn’t love you? It doesn’t feel good. It feels forced. No one wants to feel tolerated. It’s the noisy gong and clanging symbol that Paul warns us about.

What do we do when we find we don’t love someone from the heart? We go back to God and ask Him to fill our hearts with His true love for that person. This may seem hopeless because you can do very little, but when you are convinced that God loves you in all of your weakness and mess it’s so much easier to love others who are weak and broken.

Love is stronger than death. It cannot be put out. But the fake love that doesn’t come from God will not last. Give yourself to getting the kind of love that will stand the test of time and overcome death.

You won’t regret it.

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The Transforming Power of the Love of God

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Lately I’ve been reading the Song of Solomon*.

This time around, I’ve been reading it as the story of a church that God dearly loves and the journey that she goes on in order to become the mature Bride of Christ we see described in Chapter 8. What’s struck me as I read this time was how much power the love of God has to transform a person.

Let me explain: The book starts with a woman (called the Shulamite) who is insecure about herself. She’s deeply loved by Solomon and loves being loved by him, but when he comes to her and asks her to join him in the harvest, she refuses. She loves safety and security more than she loves Solomon. So in chapters 3-5 there is an elaborate courtship, where Solomon leaves and the Shulamite, realizing her mistake, goes on a journey to find him. She is drawn out of her selfishness and leaves comfort to find Solomon.

Then in Chapter 5 something amazing happens. The Shulamite begins to look for Solomon a second time. He came and reached out to her. She responded. But by the time she responded He was gone.  She goes looking for him and asks others where she can find him. When she does, these others ask her, “What’s the big deal about this guy? Why do you love him?” She launches into what amounts to a hymn of praise for Solomon that provokes these others to want to find him as well.  And when she finds Solomon, they remark: “Who is this who shines like the dawn—as beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as an army with banners?” (Song of Songs 6:10). This woman, who identified herself in chapter 1 as “dark, but lovely” is now “awe-inspiring as an army with banners.”

This is our story as well. We start out loved by God but insecure, afraid, and divided in our hearts. But as we expose ourselves to God’s love, we are transformed by it. God’s love poured out in our hearts, convincing us that we are the desire of His heart transforms us. Suddenly in our quest for Him, people start to look at us and say “Why do you love Jesus as much as you do?” We get to tell them. And just as the Shulamite was transformed by her love for Solomon, we are changed by our love for Jesus. We become a different person because of the transforming power of God’s love.

I write all of this because so often we feel like taking time to seek God, to receive His love, to hear His voice is a passive, even selfish thing. Often we feel like there are better, more noble, less self-centered things to do, but the transformation that happens when we know, receive, and grow in is worth our time. It transforms us. It draws others to Jesus. It’s only in receiving this love on an ongoing basis that we get beyond ourselves and join Jesus where He is.

So take time today, tomorrow, and the days after, to know and receive God’s love. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings in it. Often early it will feel pointless. It’s worth the time.  If you continue to know and receive the love of God, you will be transformed.

*The Song of Solomon has a long history of the church not knowing what to do with it, but there are essentially two groups of thought on the subject: One group sees the book as the biblical celebration of human love in the context of marriage. (Warning: this view requires you to see more explicit sexual images in the Bible than you ever thought was in there.) Another group all throughout history has seen this book as the journey of the believer into intimacy with God. (I wrote a brief introduction to the Song of Solomon that can help catch you up on this interpretation.) While will argue until Jesus returns about this subject, I’m over hear like “Why can’t it be both?”

 

Basic Introductions-Index

In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, I’ve written a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.”  Each post gives my definition of a seldom explored realm of Christianity so that readers who are unfamiliar with some of the terms and concepts discussed here will have a quick reference point available to them. The following is the list of "Basic Introduction” posts here at Pursuing Glory.

Basic Introductions: The Bridal Paradigm

Ever heard people talk about Jesus as a Groom or the Church as His bride?  Ever wonder why people are so excited about the love of God?  This is the post for you.

Basic Introductions: The Song of Solomon

If you’ve ever heard people talk about Jesus and the Song of Solomon in the same sentence and not understood where they get Jesus in that book, this post is a great place to start.

Basic Introductions: Characters and Plot in the Song of Solomon

Once you understand the Song of Solomon a little better, you may want to dig a little deeper.  This is the post you want to check out next.

Basic Introductions: The End Times

If you’ve always thought that we really don’t need to know much about the End Times because we won’t be here during most of the scary stuff, you should probably read this post. 

Basic Introductions: Characters and Plot in Song of Solomon

[In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, over the next few weeks on Fridays I’m going to write a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.”  Each post will focus on a seldom explored realm of Christianity that we will focus on regularly here at Pursuing Glory.]

This post also builds off  previous “Basic Introductions” posts called “Basic Introductions: The Bridal Paradigm” and “Basic Introductions: The Song of Solomon.” I would encourage new readers who are unfamiliar with the Bridal Paradigm or the Song of Solomon to read those posts, and then return to this post.

In our last Basic Introductions post, we looked at the necessity of understanding the Song of Solomon as a literal love story and as an allegory describing Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church.  While both views are important and necessary, I want to focus on the spiritual interpretation because I believe it will deeply benefit those who begin see God as a Pursuer of Love. Because this interpretation has largely been abandoned in the last hundred years, I want to introduce a couple of key principles that will help people new to the Song understand enough to gain revelation.

First, it’s important to understand the basic characters in the Song:

Solomon– Solomon represents Christ as revealed as the Bridegroom.  If you watch closely throughout the Song, Solomon will actually manifest different aspects of the nature of God.  In Chapter 1, He’s a Shepherd, In Chapter 2 He’s a conquering God, in Chapter 3 He’s the safe Savior, etc.  Wherever you see Solomon, see Jesus pursuing His Bride.  What Solomon says and does in the book you can generally interpret as something Christ says or does to us.

Shulamite- The Shulamite is the woman of the Song.  She’s only called the Shulamite one place in the entire book (Song of Solomon 6:13) but she’s never given a name or any other identifying information.  She represents the Bride of Christ, the Church, who begins the song dark but lovely (Song of Solmon 1:5) but ends the song coming out of the wilderness victoriously leaning on the one she loves (Song of Solomon 8:5).  What the Shulamite says and does throughout the book you can generally interpret as something we do in our journey to love Christ more.

Daughters of Jerusalem- This group of women appear periodically through the book (Song of Solomon 1:52:7, 5:8, etc.) and represent spiritually immature believers who truly love Jesus.  They don’t understand the situations that the Shulamite finds herself in, so she is constantly having to explain herself.  However, they look into the relationship with the curiosity of one who truly loves Jesus.

Watchmen- Two times the watchmen appear in the Song (Song of Solomon 3:3, 5:7).  Both times they represent those who have authority and oversight in the Kingdom of God.   Think of them as elders, older brothers, those further along the journey.  They should be the ones helping the Shulamite, however, sometimes her encounters with them are mixed.

Next, it’s important to understand some basic structure of the Song.  If you don’t understand the general timeline, the story get’s very complicated.  What follows is a simple sketch that I would encourage you to flesh out with more study.

Song of Solomon 1- The Shulamite begins her journey realizing sinful but beautiful to Jesus.  Solomon only sees her pursuit and encourages her by affirmation.

Song of Solomon 2- The Shulamite is overwhelmed by Jesus’ love.  He comes and invites her to spiritual adventure on the mountains but she declines Him out of fear.

Song of Solomon 3- Jesus leaves, but the Shulamite realizes her mistake in refusing Him.  She searches for Him and when she finds Him, he reveals to her His attention to her safety.

Song of Solomon 4- The Shulamite decides to join Jesus on the mountains.  Jesus, seeing her sincerity, praises her character.  She ends the chapter asking for Him to make her His alone.

Song of Solomon 5- Jesus comes again to invite her with Him.  This time she obeys but still cannot find Him.  In His absence she is abused but still loves Him.  When asked why, she praises Him to the daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 6- The daughters desire to find Jesus too and the Shulamite finds Him.  Jesus praises her in a way that reveals her growth through these tests.

Song of Solomon 7- This chapter continues Jesus’ praise of the Shulamite.  She desires to go see the harvest (think souls), which is the place she actually gives Him her love.

Song of Solomon 8- The Shulamite is mature in love, leaning on Jesus.  She asks Him to guard her heart and her actions and to come back quickly to her.

When you read the Song of Solomon, you gain an incredible insight into the heart of Christ.  We begin to see Christ as a pursuer of a Bride, the Church, who will not be turned away by her sin or distraction.  His love proves to be so transformational that this Bride begins to love Christ in the same way He loves her.  By taking these truths and applying them in our lives we mature and begin to love God the same way He loves us. I encourage you to crack open Song of Solomon, read the book, and pray some of the truths you find there back to God.  It will change you.

Some Helpful Books on the Topic

The Bride- The Bride is incredibly helpful from the standpoint of understanding the story that lies behind the Song of Solomon.  It is fictional, but will help those new to the Song of Solomon understand much of the symbolism that they will find in the Song.

The Song of Solomon-While this isn’t a book, this CD/MP3 series is well worth any time or money spent on it.  Mike is the foremost expert on the Song of Solomon as an allegory for Christ’s love in our generation.  I’ve been incredibly helped by Mike in many areas, but this is the place where he really shines.  You can also get his material for free at Mikebickle.org.

The Song of Solomon-Watchman Nee provides an excellent resource that examines the Song of Solomon verse by verse.  I don’t always agree with everything Nee sees in the book as symbolic, but he goes into more depth than just about anyone else.  If you’re looking for a deep resource on understanding the book as a revelation of Christ’s love for His Bride, this is a good start.

Other Posts In the “Basic Introduction” Series:

Basic Introductions: The Song of Solomon

[In an ongoing effort to provide a jumping-on point for new readers, over the next few weeks on Fridays I’m going to write a series of posts entitled “Basic Introductions.”  Each post will focus on a seldom explored realm of Christianity that we will focus on regularly here at Pursuing Glory.]

This post also builds off a previous “Basic Introductions” post called “Basic Introductions: The Bridal Paradigm.” I would encourage new readers who are unfamiliar with the Bridal Paradigm to read that post, and then return to this post.

In my experience, the Song of Solomon is probably one of the most neglected books in the entire Bible.  The reason why is different for different groups of people.  For some the book is overflowing with symbolism, which makes interpretation and application difficult.  For others who can see through the symbolism, the book seems so erotic that the idea that God could have ever inspired it is difficult.  Between these two reasons are a host of smaller reasons but the bottom line is that the Song of Solomon is a neglected book.

This is tragic because as Paul wrote, “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable  for teaching” the church (2 Timothy 3:16). That includes this poetic, romantic, passionate book.  The question that we have to deal with is how does God use the truths in this book to build up other believers.  I would like to suggest two ways that this book has been used historically and argue that both of them are appropriate as long as we don’t ignore the other.

First, this book is a love song that describes a literal, holy relationship between Solomon and the Shulamite (see Song of Solomon 6:13).  Though the book is filled with symbols that are difficult to interpret, it’s easy to see a very passionate but holy romance blossom between Solomon and the object of his affection.  Because this book is part of the Bible we can use it as an endorsement for pure romance that occurs in the confines of courtship and marriage.  God is not an enemy of either and He demonstrates that by giving us this Song.  This view of the Song is called the natural interpretation.  Insight from reading the song this way has helped many pursue romance in purity and has helped cultivate deeper intimacy in marriage.

The second view of the book, called the spiritual interpretation, looks at the book from the perspective of the Bridal Paradigm. More people have held this view through church history than any other view.  In this approach, the Song is an allegory of Christ’s pursuit of the Church.  This approach makes sense when you understand that Paul would look back at the relationship of Adam and Eve and see Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:28-32).  The benefit of this approach is we gain an understanding of God’s deep heart of love for us.  If we believe the truths that can be mined here, we begin to see God and ourselves in a totally different light.  We are changed when we see how much God loves us and begin to love Him back in a new way.

It’s only as we read this book both ways that we gain insight into what God intended the book for.  He intended it as a natural love story. And God uses natural love stories to speak volumes about the nature of Christ’s love for His Church.  To only read it one way or the other weakens the whole book.  Now, the book is in your court.  What will you do with this book of the Bible God has given you for the building up of the church?

Help Other Readers Out (Leave a comment about the following questions below):

  • How do you read the Song of Solomon?
  • How does reading the Song of Solomon promote holy romance couples?
  • Has reading the Song of Solomon ever changed your view of intimacy with God? Describe it.

Some Helpful Books on the Topic

The Song of Songs-Watchman Nee provides an excellent resource that examines the Song of Solomon verse by verse.  I don’t always agree with everything Nee sees in the book as symbolic, but he goes into more depth than just about anyone else.  If you’re looking for a deep resource on understanding the book as a revelation of Christ’s love for His Bride, this is a good start.

The NAC: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs-This commentary provides an excellent look at the Song of Solomon from the perspective of a love song.  It’s written by one of themore outstanding Old Testament Scholars of our day.  If you want to develop some depth in understanding the natural interpretation of the Song, this is a good place to start.

The Song of Solomon-While this isn’t a book, this CD/MP3 series is well worth any time or money spent on it.  Mike is the foremost expert on the Song of Solomon as an allegory for Christ’s love in our generation.  I’ve been incredibly helped by Mike in many areas, but this is the place where he really shines.  His 24 session teaching on the book can be found here.

Other Posts In the “Basic Introduction” Series: