• Download

Song of Songs

Stonebrook Community Church http://www.stonebrook.org

 

Forgotten OT Books:  Song of Songs

 

We’re going to start with a quiz to the married men, and those men who want to be married.  

We are going to read three Bible verses.

And in each case, you tell me if is a good thing to say to your wife.

 

Song of Solomon 1:9 ESV  “I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.” 

Husbands, is this a loving thing to say to your wife?

It’s in the Bible, so why wouldn’t you say it?  ☺

 

Song of Solomon 2:2 ESV  “As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.” 

What about this one?  A beautiful flower among the thorns?

 

Song of Solomon 4:1 ESV  “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!  Your eyes are doves behind your veil.  Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.” 

Now this one?  Yes or no?

The first part yes.  The last sentence NEVER!  ☺

 

This morning we are going to dive into a book that I have not studied very deeply over my years as a Christian until now.  

The Song of Songs.  Or it’s also called the Song of Solomon.  

This is part of our series called, “Forgotten Books of the OT.”

Books that we might not read or teach on.

 

The Song of Songs is a very unusual book.

Difficult to understand.

Awkward, parts of it might be embarrassing, to read.

 

The book is essentially a love poem between a bride and groom.

A man and a woman deeply in love.  Full of passion, romance, and sex.

It’s poetry.

 

When I first began studying this book, I wondered several things:

  1. The book is very difficult to understand, yet word-for-word it is one of the most well-loved, oft-written and preached books in the Bible.  Why?
  2. How does this possibly relate to me and to us?

 

It’s been one of the more challenging topics I’ve had in a long time.  So that raised one more question,  but I didn’t put it up here.

Can another pastor teach this instead of me?  Do I really have to teach about some erotic love song?

 

I like this series we are doing because it’s pushing me to study books that I normally wouldn’t look to.

The Song is definitely one of those.  

Today we will make some headway in answering these 2 questions.

 

 

The Song of All Songs

 

This book is an intense love poem.  And graphic.

Before my wedding, my pastor Brent advised me not to read it much before the wedding, for it would throw gasoline on the fires of passion too soon.  He said, “Wait until a day or two before the wedding.”

 

Part of me wants to tell anyone who is single not to read this book.

It is passionate.

 

Yet if we understand it correctly and have a biblical view on marriage, love, romance, and sex, it’s a beautiful and inspiring book.

This is a significant point for the book.  I’ll say it again:

“If we have a biblical view on marriage, and the love, romance, and sex within that marriage, the Song of Songs is a beautiful and inspiring book.”

 

Let’s read a section so we get a better idea.

The WOMAN:

Song of Solomon 1:2-4 (ESV) 

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! 

For your love is better than wine; 

your anointing oils are fragrant; 

your name is oil poured out; 

therefore virgins love you. 

Draw me after you; let us run. 

The king has brought me into his chambers. 

 

Then the MAN:

Song of Solomon 1:8–10 (ESV) 

O most beautiful among women, 

follow in the tracks of the flock, 

and pasture your young goats 

beside the shepherds’ tents. 

I compare you, my love, 

to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. 

Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, 

your neck with strings of jewels. 

 

The book is a poem, and largely a DIALOG between the Woman and the Man.

There are a few other speakers, but mostly the Woman and the Man.

 

First of all, much of poetry, even today, has language and phrases we don’t use in normal conversation.

So when we read this, we have to understand it is highly poetic language.

It’s intended to express much emotion and heart.  And to stimulate the intellect, too.

 

Second, the  imagery throughout the book is drawn from various spheres of life, such as nature,  and even the military.  

Like “CHARIOTS, “FLOCKS” and “GAZELLES” and “LILIES” and “MOUNTAINS.”

 

This makes the book more difficult to read.

A good commentary can help us understand some of their culture.  

Third, the poem is very romantic.  Parts of it are very sexual.

I won’t read them today.  

I have to admit, I’m not very comfortable with reading them to a large, mixed crowd.

But it’s fairly explicit.

 

It’s this point that has prompted many questions for many centuries.

Why would God put such a book in the Bible?

Is all sex and romance bad?  After all, there is so much corruption in the world.

Surely God couldn’t mean this to be read as a literal love story between a Bride and Groom?

 

Before we get into that, let me give a brief summary.  

 

Summary:

This is one of the more curious and intriguing books in the Bible.

  • The title from vs. 1:  “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.”

The Song of Songs.  This is a grammatical expression that is not uncommon in the Bible.

Think of “Holy of Holies,” meaning “The Most Holy Place.”

Think of “King of kings,” meaning Jesus Christ is the King over all kings.

So to say, “The Song of Songs,” is like saying, “This is the Best Song EVER!!”

This alone should make us pay attention to it.

Also, Solomon’s name appears here.  There has been debate for centuries about his role.

Is it written by him?  Is it written ABOUT him?

Honestly, 3000 years later, the debate might not ever be conclusive.

That’s why some Bibles label the title as “Song of Songs,” and others “Song of Solomon.”

  • Relatively short book.  117 verses.  About the length of Philippians in the NT.
  • Love poetry.  Highly passionate.  Intense.  Emotional.  Romantic.  Sexual.

Probably a collection of love poems into one book.  Perhaps not chronological.  

  • No mention of God.

I find that curious.  

  • Major question to answer:  What is the author’s intent?

Debatable whether it’s allegory or literal.  

 

 

Purpose

 

So why is this book in the Bible?  And what does it mean?

And what does it mean for us?  What do we do with this book??

 

First, let me lay a foundation.

 

I believe the entire Bible is true and profitable and good.

Even the hard to understand books like the Song of Songs. 

 

Romans 15:4 ESV For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 

So somehow and some way, every book in the Old Testament is beneficial to us.

 

The point of the entire Bible is to point us to God, to walking in life with him now, and to spending eternity with him through his Son, Jesus Christ.  That’s the main point.

 

Granted some books like the Song are more challenging to understand, but we don’t want to give up.

So that’s my starting place.  

 

So what is the purpose of the book??  There is no one statement in the book that I can find that gives me 100% confidence of the purpose.

 

But here’s what I’ll offer:

I will offer three things today as Lessons.

  1. God has created marriage in purity and holiness and for our good.
  2. God cautions us about awakening love until the right time.
  3. Through the intense love and joy of this couple, God gives us a taste of heavenly things to increase our longing for him and things eternal.  

We are made for God and made for his love, so earthly relationships like marriage can point us to him.   

 

 

Literal or Allegorical?

 

Before I get into those three lessons, I have to give a brief background.

The biggest question about the book for over 2000 years is, is it to be read literally, like a love poem between a husband and wife?  

Or is it to be read as an allegory, that the REAL MEANING is below the surface??

I won’t go into lots of details here, but it’s important to address it.

 

What is an allegory?

An allegory says one thing but means something else.  

Now there is allegory in the Bible.  It is a useful literary device to tell a story in a powerful way.

Jesus’ parables are a form of allegory.  He would give a story, like the Sower and the Seed, or the Prodigal Son, and the story may or may not be true.  And that was obvious.  For the story was meant to make a point.

 

But there is a major problem with reading the Song as a parable.  For when we read it, it reads simply like a literal love poem.

A poem between a man and a woman who are passionately in love.

There are absolutely no clues within the text that tells us, if it is an allegory, 

 

So then we are left to our own discretion as to deciding what in the world it means.  

For example, people have interpreted it in various ways.

The Man in the story represents God.

The Woman represents Israel.

 

Or, the Man is Christ.

The Woman is the Church.

The Woman is the Virgin Mary

 

Or the Man is some political entity, like a government.

And the Woman is someone else.

 

There is a very significant problem with this:  

Unless you have some guidelines as to what the allegory signifies, you can come up with an endless list of possibilities as to its meaning.

You believe it means one thing, I believe it means another.

In the end, then, the book can mean anything….which means it means nothing.

 

Literal approach

At face value, the book reads like a real love story between a man and a woman, and nothing more.  

We take the story literally.  

 

The problem that many church leaders over the centuries have had with the book is that if really is a love poem from two real people, then it can’t be from God.

God would never put such a loving, romantic, even sexual book in the Bible.

WHY would this be their conclusion??   For well over 1000 years, the church at large had a negative view of marriage.  And even a negative view of the sexual relationship within marriage.

 

 

God has created Marriage in purity and holiness

 

So my premise today is that the Song is an actual love story.  

A love poem written by a husband and a wife who were madly in love.

And my premise is that this is a good thing.

 

LESSON #1:  God has created marriage with all its romance and love and sex as a very good thing.  

 

The GROOM says:

Song of Solomon 4:9–10 (ESV) 

“You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; 

you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, 

with one jewel of your necklace. 

How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! 

How much better is your love than wine, 

and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! 

As poetic language, I don’t understand every phrase in the book.

But we get the idea.

 

Marriage with love, romance, and sex is a good thing.

A VERY good thing.

The SONG of SONGS can jolt us into seeing this.

Love, romance, and sex within the boundaries of a man and woman in marriage is a good and beautiful and holy things.

 

Most of the time, we couples settle for something too WEAK.

 

God sees marriage as very good.

 “Creation was very good.”

Genesis 1:31 ESV  “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”. 

Very good!  He created man and woman, and in that creation, he made marriage.  And what he created, including the sexual relationship, was good and holy.  

 

 “Sin created problems.”

There is a major problem, though, about this whole topic.

It’s a very simple explanation:  Sin.

Sin has created a problem in this area.  What was created VERY GOOD, now is corrupted in some ways.  

 

Start with marriage itself.

None of us know fully how good marriage could be if there was no sin.  [REPEAT]

Adam and Eve experienced the perfect marriage—PERFECT—heaven on earth— for a short time.

No sin.  No irritation.  No selfishness.  No harsh words.  No disrespect.  No nagging.  No demanding.  No arrogance.

Only Kindness.  Patience.  Humility.  Oneness.  Tenderness.  Service.  Sacrifice.

 

I think Annette and I have a good marriage, and we’ve experienced lots of the good.

But sadly we have some sin  that at times keeps us from that Heaven on Earth experience.  

 

The Song of Songs gives us a taste of marriage in Eden.

Joy.  Love.  Romance.  Longing for one another.  Seeing only good in the other.  

Sexual fulfillment and satisfaction.

 

So sin creates a problem immediately in every marriage.

Yet the more we grow in holiness on a daily basis, the better our marriage will be.

 

We need to tend the garden of our marriages.  We keep the weeds hacked down, and we harvest the fruit.  

About 6 weeks ago when my wife was in the hospital, someone kindly came and planted our garden.

But I hate to admit this:  I did nothing to it.  I didn’t watch it or pull the weeds.

And about a week or two ago, I went out and was stunned:  The weeds had absolutely overwhelmed it.   It was embarrassing.  

Then just this week, someone else kindly came over and ripped out most of the weeds.

Our marriages can be like a garden.

Wonderful flowers and fruit and vegetables.

But it must be tended. 

 

Annette and I talked about this yesterday while out driving.

We don’t pay as much attention to the Garden of our Marriage as we could.

So we discussed ways to CHOP out some of the WEEDS.

 

Too often we settle for WEEDY Marriages.

We simply don’t put the energy into them that is needed.

 

So let’s put increased energy into our marriages:

  • Budget your money in ways where you spend some money that promotes a great marriage.
  • Get regular date nights to ensure the busyness of life doesn’t crows out your most vital relationship.  
  • Stop watching or listening to voices that corrupt or diminish the value of marriage.
  • Have regular and rich fellowship with other Christians who have good marriages.

 

The Song of Songs reminds us of what our marriages COULD be if we tend the garden.

 

I need to mention this:  SIN in our world has created ERRONEOUS and CORRUPTED views of marriage and romance and love and sex.  

We are very confused about marriage.  

This is not just a question in recent months concerning homosexuality.  It’s been a problem for thousands of years.

Divorce.  Cohabitation.  Or even simply being content with lousy marriages.

 

We’re simply confused about the purpose of marriage.

 

Hebrews 13:4 ESV  “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” 

Honored.  Held in high esteem.  

A place where there is PURITY and FAITHFULNESS.

Temptation and sin really leads us astray here.

Pornography.  Adultery. Fantasizing.  

 

And we search for romance and LOVE in other places.  Romance novels.  Chick flicks.  Daydreaming about someone else.  Flirting at the workplace.  And worst of all, even in the arms of another.  

 

We have to get this area back.  The physical/sexual is holy and good, and is not unspiritual.  Sex and romance in marriage is a very, very good thing.

 

Hollywood has cheapened this.  We’re watching shows and movies that simply make light of something very sacred and holy.  

 

One author said this.  

 “Regarding sex, the church should avoid both the secular society’s idolization of sex and traditional society’s fear of it.”

The Song is neither extreme.  

 

So in summary, I believe one of the purposes of the Song of Songs— or at least a key application of it—is to show us what marriage COULD and SHOULD be.  And to INSPIRE us to More than we have.

May God give us grace to tend the Garden of our marriages, and give our BEST Energy to it.  

 

 

Do Not Awaken Love Until the Right Time

 

A SECOND LESSON from the book is very simple.

Song of Solomon 2:7 (ESV) 

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, 

by the gazelles or the does of the field, 

that you not stir up or awaken love 

until it pleases. 

Three times in this short book the woman tells her friends, “Don’t stir up or awaken love until the right time.”

It’s like she’s saying, “Whatever you do, don’t arouse love too soon.”

There is some caution here.  There is WISDOM here. 

 

Her friends see  the wonderful love she and her husband have, and they of course want something similar.

But in a sense she is saying, “Don’t force it.  Wait for love to blossom.  Don’t be in a hurry.”

 

It’s not just about, “Don’t sin.”  Rather it’s, “Wait for this.  Wait for it.  Don’t sell yourself for a cheap substitute.”  

Anything too fast or too soon or inappropriate  is foolish and can bring harm. 

 

So if you are single, read this book, but know this:  This is not extra-marital.  This is being consumed by a deep, committed, marital love.

All the other messages we are getting are ruining us.

 

It’s all about how we use God’s gifts.

Marriage with passion and romance and sex is a GIFT.

How will we use the gift??

 

 Think of an analogy.  GOLD.  Gold is a wonderful and extravagant metal.  

In the temple of God in Israel, gold covered everything.  It was beautiful and precious and holy.  

But gold formed into an idol like the Golden Calf and worshiped is evil and demonic.

 

We can do the same with marriage, romance, love, and sex. 

 In the committed covenant of marriage, it is holy.  

Outside that, it is evil and demonic.

 

So the woman, madly in love with her husband, has a word for us today:  

Keep love and romance and sex in its proper place.  

Wait patiently for God to bring it into your lives.

Don’t settle for cheap substitutes.  

 

 

God gives us a Taste of Heaven

 

There is a THIRD LESSON I take out of this book.

It’s an IMPLIED Lesson.  It’s not explicitly stated.

 

The Lesson concerns Earthly vs. Heavenly.

 

The earthly is NEVER EVER the final goal.

Even the most glorious and passionate marital love is simply not a high enough goal.

NOTE:  I didn’t say it’s not a good goal.  I just said it’s not the highest goal.

 

AGAIN:  The earthly is NEVER EVER the final goal.

The final goal is always to be with God in paradise through his Son forever and ever.

And to experience the greatest and most glorious pleasures there.

So anything that points us to Heaven and gives us a taste of heaven and increase our LONGING for heaven— this is the GOAL!!

 

So a lesson in the SONG, even though it’s never mentioned directly, is that the greatest marriage should simply increase our longing for something better.  

 

Near the end of the book is a strong statement about the love that is revealed here.

A taste of heavenly love.

 

Song of Solomon 8:6–7 (ESV) 

Set me as a seal upon your heart, 

as a seal upon your arm, 

for love is strong as death, 

jealousy is fierce as the grave. 

Its flashes are flashes of fire, 

the very flame of the Lord. 

Many waters cannot quench love, 

neither can floods drown it. 

If a man offered for love 

all the wealth of his house, 

he would be utterly despised. 

Here we see how intense love can and should be:  as strong as death, and the jealousy that springs from love is fierce as the grave.  

This is a glorious display of human love.

But ultimately, it is a picture of God’s love.

For all love emanates from him.

1 John 4:7,8,19 ESV  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love… We love because he first loved us.” 

God is love.

He is the source of love.  He defines love.  We have a capacity to love because he has first loved us.

 

Whether you are married or not, if you are not as loving as you want to be and as you ought to be— which, by the way, includes ALL of us— there is only one SOURCE for you to go to:  God himself.  You must know better his love.  Then and only then will you love more fully.

 

And we know this love through the cross.  From that same passage:

1 John 4:9 ESV  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 

 

Everything in Scriptures has an end goal.

That is to point us to God and his Son.

To grow in our love for him.

To walk more in holiness as we imitate him.

And to long for the next life with Christ more than anything else.

 

So while it’s difficult to understand every detail of the message here in the Song, ultimately as part of the Scriptures, it is pointing us to Christ.

 

If nothing else, the fact that this kind of deep love is so elusive reminds us we need Christ.

Our lack of such glorious love prompts us to pray:  “Lord, make me more like you.  And come soon to take me home.”  

This world can NEVER be paradise.  It can be Very Good at time, but never paradise.

 

All good and holy things in this life are a taste of the good and holy things in heaven with Christ.

The most satisfying relationship with a spouse is a taste of the depth and quality of relationship we can have with Christ both now and in eternity.

 “Marriage is an earthly institution designed to teach us about our intended eternal destiny.  We are made for union with God;  we are made for love.  We may corrupt the vehicle and destroy its value and its worth, but that speaks of our sin, not of God’s intent… Earth is supposed to speak of heaven for it came from the Creator's hand.”

The things of earth—a passionate marriage, a breath-taking sunset, a delicious feast—are supposed to give us a taste of the Divine and the Eternal.

 

 

Conclusion

 

So like I said earlier, part of me wants to encourage those who are single not to read this book.  For it is enticing and graphic.

 

Yet it is good and holy. 

Whether we are married or single, why shouldn’t we let God help us take back this area and bring it into a HOLY and GOOD state?

Why should we let the WORLD influence us with its CORRUPT approach to this?

 

I pray that as we read this book,  the love that this man and woman share would  speak to us of the deep, deep love that God has towards us through his Son, Jesus.  

And that it may stir in us a LONGING of the World to come.