Song of Songs: Life as Love
1 - The Greatest Song
READ AND REFLECT: Song of Songs 1:1-7
The Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, is a well-known, but not so well-understood, book of the Bible. It’s eight chapters of love poetry right in the middle of the Bible.
The first line says Song of Songs, which is a Hebrew idiom like Holy of Holies or King of Kings. It’s a Hebrew way of saying it’s “the greatest thing”… the greatest song of all songs.
I’m sure you have a favorite song or collection of songs. Well, Song of Songs is the favorite of God’s people as we read the Old Testament.
And it’s “of Solomon,” but the main voice is that of a woman called “the beloved.” And the “of Solomon” part likely means in the wisdom tradition of Solomon. And it is part of the wisdom literature of the Bible.
Chapter 1:2-7 introduces the big theme of the book with the voice of this young woman who delights in her man, a shepherd. She’s not married to him yet, but it becomes clear they’re engaged and cannot wait to be together.
She 2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. 3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! 4 Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers.
Friends We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine.
2 - The Power of Poetry
READ AND REFLECT: Song of Songs 1:8-17
The poetry of Song of Songs is a little challenging to understand at times. The reason why is partly because it is poetry, and poetry tends to be open-ended. It leaves you pondering, wondering. It doesn’t tie up every loose end. It’s not full of water-tight arguments. It packs a ton of meaning into each phrase and leaves us to muse and ponder. But it has a power to move our souls in a way that prose can rarely match.
So, what on earth is Song of Songs about? Well, on one level that’s easy. It’s about love. But whose love? Is it about the love between two human beings—a husband and wife? Or is it an allegory of love that was intended to illustrate the love God has for his people?
I think the best answer to this is—YES. It’s really about both.
The Song of Songs points us in a profound way to God’s love for us in Christ, and simultaneously it is wisdom literature that celebrates the great mystery and life of mutual love between a man and a woman. So it intends to shape our thinking about human relationships, but also to give us profound insights into the love that Christ has for his bride, the church.
And we can see that it is about two idealized people, a man and a woman, whose exclusive and committed love for each other is great, but like all loves in this fallen world it is far from perfect.
And it’s designed to show us both the beauty and wonder of love and to show us just how far short of perfection we fall, both as human beings and as lovers, in order to drive us into the arms of our heavenly husband, Jesus Christ, whose love for his bride is perfect.
3 - It's All About Desire
READ AND REFLECT: Song of Songs 2-4
The poems flow back and forth in Song of Songs from the woman to the man and the man to the woman, and it’s not linear in its development.
One of the themes is intense desire, passion, and seeking of each other. There’s joy of physical attraction to each other and a beautiful exploration of love.
Song of Songs is not primarily a book about physical attraction and sex—although it is about that. It is primarily about DESIRE. And desire is something that God created that is good and right and a glorious gift.
The Song is about desire from beginning to end. Desire stirred, desire frustrated, desire satisfied, desire frustrated again. The woman in the Song wants something, or someone, with a passionate and breathless desire.
And as wisdom literature, it intends to instruct us as it challenges us and reshapes our views of sex, love, and marriage. Song of Solomon is about the beauty of desire. And it gives us a picture of what rightly ordered desires looks like.
And that’s what wisdom literature does. It supplies us with BEAMS and BOMBS.
Beams to construct our character and Christian worldview, and Bombs to explode and deconstruct our warped selfish and culture-shaped worldview.
And we need to recognize that all of us have broken and disordered desires that need to be re-ordered and brought into alignment with the way God wants us to live and flourish. And the only way our hearts can change is through the work of Jesus and the Spirit of God.
4 - Love and Good News
READ AND REFLECT: Song of Songs 5-8
Song of Songs affirms and glorifies the single-hearted lifelong, devoted, exclusive, and passionate relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.
And the Song also echoes the melody of the song of Good News in Jesus Christ, the song of a true and faithful lover who loves and gives himself for his church (who is not altogether lovely).
And Jesus is the true hero and lover for whom all of our hearts yearn. He is the one to whom all of our most intense earthly desires ultimately point. And this is how the Song of Songs speaks to all of us today—whether we are in love, out of love, confused by love, or forsaken and disillusioned by love. Our desire to love and be loved by a human beling is at its core a reflection of our desire to love and be loved by the God who made us.
And finally, there are key features throughout the Song of Songs that hearken back to the Garden of Eden. The Song holds out hope that love points us to God’s love, that is renewing all things in Jesus—even you and me—and our deepest passions and desires.
6 Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
7 Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.
- Songs We Sing
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