Saturday, April 04, 2009

What Song of Solomon Has to Teach Us!!

One of the fascinating conversations I had on my recent visit to Bristol to see my dad was regarding one of our favourite books in the Bible - the Song of Solomon. It was provoked because I brought him C H Spurgeon's sermons on this wonderful book entitled; "The Most Holy Place". I've argued before what my position is on this glorious book - so don't need to repeat that at length. Suffice to say that I couldn't be further removed from C J Mahaney's odd views and tend to stand in the more traditional historical view that first and foremost this book (like Christian marriage) is a picture of Christ and His Bride - the Church.

What my dad and I were discussing and unpacking was what teaching a biblical approach to this book can and will do for the Church. Some of the historical divines said this of the Song of Solomon:

"This is spoken in the person of the Church, or of the faithful soul inflamed with the desire of Christ, whom she loves". (from the Geneva 1599 Bible Notes)

"It treats of Christ and his Church, in their most glorious, lively, and lovely actions, to wit, his care of, and his love unto his Church, and that in its most eminent degree; and also, of her love to him". - James Durham (1622 Puritan) who incidentally C H Spurgeon described as "that master of masters".

On Song of Solomon 2:1 - "If these are the words of the Well-beloved,—and I have no doubt that they are —then it may be suggested by some that here we have the Savior praising himself; and it is true; but in no unworthy sense, for well may he praise himself since no one else can do it as it should be done" - C H Spurgeon.

And finally the great Jonathan Edwards said;

"The name by which Solomon calls this song confirms to me that it is more than an ordinary love song and that it was designed for a divine song and of divine authority for we read in 1 Kings 4:32 that Solomon's songs were "a thousand and five". This he called the "Song of songs". That is the most excellent of his songs ... because it was a song of the most excellent subject treating of the love, union and communion between Christ and His spouse of which marriage and conjugal love was but a shadow. These are the most excellent lovers and their love the most excellent love".

More recently theological scholars have said:

"The Song is more than a canonical sex manual as some recent treatments have implied" - Tremper Longman.

So what does holding this biblical view do for our Christian lives?

1. It Increases Affections for God.

As a single man I confess I have tried reading the Song of Solomon with Mahaney's interpretation in mind and I have felt nothing than a grudging resentment that I am not married. Whereas when you allow the Spirit-inspired words that are "profitable for teaching" to sink into your heart then they cannot help but provoke feelings of awe and wonder. For example;

"Your love is better than wine, your oils have a pleasing fragrance, your Name is like purified oil ...".

And then the Bridegroom Himself actually speaks ... to us! To me!

"To Me, My darling ...". (GOD calls ME darling!?!?). "Your cheeks are lovely ... My beloved ... My beloved ... how beautiful you are My darling! How beautiful you are!".

How can we but respond?

2. It inflames Worship to God.

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I'm not sure you can sing a beautiful song like "Draw Me Close to You" (which is one among many songs of intimacy I love) without touching the passion of God for us. Pete Day's recent blog post is a vital foundational grace truth - that condemnation MUST be removed. Because while we tolerate condemnation in our lives then we never will quite believe that God is so passionately for us. How long should we bear guilt!? Not for a MOMENT! Why? Because once it's gone - our worship will rise like a fragrant incense!

Song of Solomon itself expresses something of the response that should be the Church's;

"Listen! My beloved! Behold He is coming! Climbing on the mountains! Leaping on the hills! ... My beloved is mine and I am His!"

And by contrast something of the heartache that should characterise us when His manifest Presence is not felt among us personally or corporately;

"I sought Him whom my soul loves; I sought Him but did not find Him, I must arise now and go about the city ... I must seek Him whom my soul loves".

3. It Revives Marriage between Husband and Wife.

Let me say again that I do applaud C J Mahaney's heart to infuse a God-honouring passion back into Christian marriages. I just wish he hadn't tried to impose his views to twist Scripture to try and back up what he was saying. That wasn't necessary. And I wouldn't limit Song of Solomon either to purely representing Christ and His Bride (as perhaps some of the Puritans tried). Because Christian marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ and His Bride - but it is that which will last for eternity!

For example Ephesians 5:31; "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church". And slightly earlier in Ephesians 5:22; "Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is also the head of the church, He Himself being the Saviour of the Body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their husbands in everything".

It's my observation as a single guy that most Christian men have stopped there in their theology and experience - nodding and agreeing with Wayne Grudem. But Sam Storms says quite rightly;

"Headship is a responsibility - not a right".

It is my conviction that if I were ever to be married - I would not dare try and expect my wife to submit until I had fulfilled the next verse;

"Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her ... so husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself".

Maybe if more husbands loved their wives "as Christ" then it wouldn't be such a controversy expecting wives to "submit"!

So it's my prayer that the Song of Solomon is rightfully claimed back! I have to confess something - I've always hated a lot of "couples" teaching you hear that goes on in the Church. I will fully admit I am bitter and jealous of those who are married. What an awesome blessing! I would love to share my life with someone! And much of the teaching that you hear makes me ... frankly want to puke. I am sure they love each other but it doesn't help me being single hearing them wax eloquent. Oddly enough though since encountering Rob and Glenda Rufus I have benefited so much in gaining a more godly attitude about marriage. I love watching a couple who have been married faithfully for 30+ years - still totally in love with each other. I hope Rob and Glenda share some of their wisdom soon about marriage in book form.

On that note Rob Rufus spoke recently about the Song (and wonderfully he agrees with myself and most of church history!). It's an awesome place to finish my meandering thoughts - because it is a testimony of how the Song of Solomon (rightfully preached) saved 30 of his soldier collegues!

"I am a bit passionate about this! Here is the mystery of the Bridegroom and the Bride! I have deliberately left out some passages because some of you would blush. These passages were written by the Holy Spirit and you are not as holy as the Holy Spirit as He expresses intimacy and you can't handle it. In the military where atheists become Christians on the Angolan border, and they usually read pornography books - so one night I opened the Song of Solomon and they all usually want to borrow each others books. I put my candle on and I read the parts which I can't read to you because you are saved people. I read it to them because they were reading pornography so they could cope with it but you are Christians and you are holy and you can't! I didn't tell them it was the Bible and hid it below my sleeping bag! And they said; "Wow what book is that - can I read it after you?". I said "Yes it is the Bible!". I wish I had captured on video their faces! They said "No!". Suddenly they all wanted to read the Bible and they realised that the Bible had been mis-represented by Christians!

30 of those swearing blaspheming troops got saved and many of them are still going on with Christ today! I wasn't a Christian - I was a son! And I showed them that this is the mystery of God and His Bride! I told them "Don't go to church to check this out because you won't see it - you will see no passion or heavenly romance". Song of Solomon chapter 1:1;"Let him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth for your love is better than wine ... let him bring me into his chambers". That is the King to the Bride!

Go down to (v12); "My lover is to me ... how beautiful you are my darling oh how beautiful". Then the church says back; "How handsome you are my lover!". This is church - Sunday morning! "Oh how handsome you are". All through the week I have been encountering your love, all through the busy week I have been concious of heaven! 2:3; "Like an apple tree ... I delight to sit in His shade .. His banner over me is love". The prophetic word God spoke to us today! "I am faint with love". How many of you have felt FAINT with love for Jesus? "I charge you by the gazelles ... do not awaken love .... here He comes! (Jesus!) bounding over the hills ... Arise my darling!" - talking to the church!".


lydia joy said...

Great post!!

I don't think we should 'expect' anyone to submit, we should not regard one another after the flesh, and we should trust that Christ in us will complete the work he began. But, it is so very true that when a wife is regarded by her husband as Christ regards his church, well let's just say, it will be a no brainer for her to line up with loving and submitting as she should!!! Somehow the church needs to get a clearer revelation of how intensely Christ loves His bride!! That's why this post is so important!!

Peter Day said...

"How many of you have felt FAINT with love for Jesus?"

What an excellent post - and some more awesome statements from Rob. Faint with love for Jesus!!! Passion is released by grace - our Jesus wants this kind of intimacy! Glory!

jul said...

Dan, I LOVE this post! I was just thinking about the Song of Songs last night, thinking if we really really understood it with all the implications, that we are the bride of Christ,I can't even imagine the implications!

I think it's interesting to see in Song of Songs that the love relationship, the desire goes two way, back and forth. In church the emphasis we often get is how much we should love God because he did so much for us, like we are now somehow obligated to fulfill our wifely duties. But God doesn't want that kind of marriage! We yeild and respond to his passionate love, his continual wooing and romancing of us. He is not an authoritative, controlling, or demanding husband, but one that just longs to shower us with affection and blessings. Out of that beautiful love, fruit is conceived and born out of the bride effortlessly (and with none of the nausea and discomfort and pain haha).

Anyway, thanks for never letting this topic go, it's so important for us to get hold of it. I feel I've only just gotten the tiniest bit of revelation on this and looing forward to much much more!

dave bish said...

What to say? Um, Amen!