Sunday, February 10, 2008

Intimacy, Wonderful Intimacy with the Beloved!!

*Update* - Interestingly enough I just got home from work and noticed that the latest sermon from City Church International in Hong Kong was called: "Intimacy and Inheritance" by Tony Johnson. It's awesome when God speaks similar messages to different people - and even more so when God is speaking the same word to me as He is in Hong Kong!!

How we view the Song of Solomon is extremely important to how open we are as Christians to be reconciled with the very Biblical view that it is God-honouring to speak of Him in intimate language. Actually it is dishonouring to the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross NOT to be comfortable with worshipping Jesus Christ with reverent yet intimate language. My family always wince whenever the Song of Solomon is mentioned because since I read "Sex, Romance and the Glory of God" - it has become something of a pet passion to prove that indeed this wonderful book of the Bible IS primarily reflecting Christ and His Bride and secondarily marriage. For those who haven't read this small book, briefly C J Mahaney argues that the Song of Solomon is only a sex manual for those in marital bliss and makes fun of those who would teach otherwise.

Reading Jonathan Edwards in his "Blank Bible" not only assures me I was in good company to argue that C J Mahaney may have missed something but more importantly to hold a wrong view about a book of the Bible does indeed mean we are missing out on a vital form of relationship and encounter with our Living Lord Jesus Christ. Some of these quotes are so Christo-centric they are breath-taking:

Song of Solomon 3:4: "It cost the spouse much to find her beloved but when she found him she held him so much the faster. So it is with the saints. The longer it is before they find Christ, the more pains and care and self-denial when they have found Christ and the more careful not to let Him go".

Song of Solomon 3:6: "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke perfumed with myrrh and frankincense with all powders of the merchant?"

No, not the Christian husband as Mahaney would argue but:

This represents the abundance of merit with which Christ came out of His passion and state of humiliation. In coming out of His state of humiliation, He as it were came out of a dreadful wilderness and He came forth like a great cloud of incense for then He had finished His purchase. He arose and ascended from His humiliation like a great cloud of incense upto heaven, perfumed with all manner of sweet spices, for when He had finished His passion He entered into the holiest of all with His own blood, with the incense of His abundant merits as the high priest of old entered into the holy of holies with a cloud of incense ...

And another thing that is probably meant by it is Christ's coming forth out of His humiliation in the glory of His divinity. The glory of His divinity is represented by the cloud of glory. While in His humiliation His divinity was veiled, but when He was exalted, He reassumed the glory He had with the Father before the world was.

We find this question; "Who is this?" often asked in Scripture on occasion of Christ's coming forth out in His merits, triumph and glory after His sufferings and conflicts with His enemies. (Psalm 24:7-10)".

And there are many more quotes. But I find the link between the references in the Song of Solomon to Calvary and Christ's sacrifice tremendously moving. I do believe time and again that the primary "joy set before Him" in Christ enduring the most awful sufferings as He hung there alone was so that He could watch the redeemed both dead and alive cry out; "Abba! Father!". I would not say the primary experience of the Christian church is that cry springing forth from the Holy Spirit out of their deepest souls ... not yet. Surely that is why Rob Rufus's teaching and preaching is so important at a time in Christian history as this - we MUST consider what Christ has accomplished for us and what that means for us in actual position. We MUST consider out righteousness as not being of our own but imputed from this glorious "one coming from the wilderness".

He died .... so that we might not only live but worship! A thought occured to me at this early hour on a Sunday morning. Will God EVER be silent now we are in the New Covenant? Now that the veil has been torn in two and the Holy of Holies has become our dwelling place (legally if not experientially yet) - dare we ever accuse God of being silent? Now that "Open Heaven" is truly our experience will He ever refuse to speak to us or pour out His wonderful love on us? What a tremendous price He paid that we might have the deepest and richest intimacy with our heavenly "Abba!". Let's not abuse it this Sunday by keeping the love of God poured out within our hearts by the Holy Spirit at a distance. Let that deepest, most intimate cry spring up from within us again!


lydia joy said...

Go Dan!
I'm glad you wrote this post. I never was fully comfortable with that teaching about SOS being a "manual".
I wonder if He translates it that way because when one is a more legalistic minded, this is what we do for God kind of christian they simply interpret the Bible as more of a what to do book. when ultimately it is more of a beautiful story of Love if you ask me! And if God is longing for the church to be a bride to His Son, seems to me we should be looking at our relationship in an intimate passionate way....I love what you said we must consider what Christ accomplished for us ...and your last paragraph is great....I would also say shouldn't we consider what we are getting ready for too, a wedding!!!! which is why we can embrace our pursuit of an intimate relationship as well as our gratitude for our position and our gift of righteousness.....anyway, these are just the thoughts that are coming to me!
Great stuff!!

Dan Bowen said...

Why Lydia, are you now attributing C J Mahaney a capital "H" when you refer to him as "Him"?!!? ;) Has he joined the ranks of the 12 elders in heaven finally?! I jest (in case the emoticon was missed).

My suspicion is that more legalistic Christians are naturally uncomfortable with intimacy - and I mean TRUE intimacy - not poems, roses, and the trappings of "love". Why? Because I think under the spotlight of true intimacy - which surely is the deepest form of love, actually THAT is where grace does it's deepest and most wonderful work. "Perfect love casts out fear". Well if we are blessed enough to experience the most wonderful intimate encounters with the Living God then we truly are EXPERIENCING perfect love!!

Therefore fear (one of legalisms most potent weapons) will have no power over our lives. Ipso facto ... legalism HATES true intimacy.

That's just something that occured to me. Rather than seeing intimacy as singing "Draw Me Close to You" with misty eyes (although there's nothing wrong with singing that most wonderfully intimate of songs), we should adjust our thinking slightly and begin to see intimacy with the Father as a powerful weapon of grace.

Chris said...

Song of Songs by Watchman Nee is great....he too was influenced by some others I think.The key in the lock this provides is how the poem shows the different stages of intimacy with God...moving from me me me land to pouring out our life for others and enroute aour different relations with the you see how the first mention, they pastor us, the next mention we suffer greatly at their hand, as we move into a more autonomous position of hearing God for ourselves. A guy called Gene Edwards expands the Song of Songs outwards to encompass the whole Bible revelation of history and calls his poetic book "Divine Romance" Google Allibris for these books.

thebluefish said...

Still a book I don't feel I've got my head around at all. It's evidently about intimate relationship of some kind.

Christ & the church and husband & wife relationships are clearly very closely connected and thr language of unity and relationship must go together.

I guess the concern in saying SOS is about marriage is a recovery of doctrines of humanity and the value of sex and marriage in our culture. And, a concern to avoid allegorical interpretations...

Never heard a 'live' preach on the book... so whatever we're to make of it we're not paying it much attention are we!

Hmmm. Pondering.

Dan Bowen said...

"Christ & the church and husband & wife relationships are clearly very closely connected and thr language of unity and relationship must go together".

Amen Dave! I think in reading much of the Puritan "take" on the SOS - I've come to realise actually that though they (rightly I think) defending the primary allegorical nature of the Book, they avoided at all cost an honest application of the Book to marriage - which I do believe has some relevance.

I couldn't agree more with your point about hearing a "live preach" on the book! Here's a challenge to preachers and teachers out there - preach the Word! Get into the Song of Solomon! :)

Dan Bowen said...

PS: Thanks for the book recommendation on Watchman Nee Chris, Ern Baxter always liked Nee so I will have to hunt that book out!

lydia joy said...

Uh Dan, that was a coincidental typo......:0

Dan Bowen said...

:) I thought as much Lydia!!