Tag Archives: love

Bible Overview Series: Song of Songs

SongofSolomon2


Song of Songs 
by Joseph Novak

With the turtledove singing above them in the apple tree, the lovers took off their clothes and made beautiful poems together.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Song of Songs (Song of Solomon)

When God made Adam and Eve, He brought them together as husband and wife. Adam recognized Eve as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Gn 2:23–24)

The Song of Solomon celebrates this kind of union: a man and a woman becoming one.

It’s a ballad of love and longing. It’s an exchange of love notes. It’s a story of adoration, satisfaction, delight, and yes: sex.

It’s the tale of a young woman preparing to marry her love: a handsome king who adores her. They describe their emotions, their passions, their appearances, their fears. They vulnerably display their love and desire for one another—sometimes rather graphically.

Song of Solomon is arranged by character. Three parties join the song:

  • The bride, a hard-working shepherd girl with a rough home life (So 1:6).
  • The bridegroom, a handsome and stately shepherd. The text doesn’t explicitly say whether or not Solomon is the bridegroom, but the bride does reference Solomon’s wedding parade (So 3:6–11).
  • The chorus, the community of people celebrating the bride and bridegroom’s love and union.

If this were indeed an arranged song, think of it as a duet with a choir. And this song has three general movements:

  • The bride and groom prepare for the wedding.
  • The bride and groom profess their desire for one another.
  • The bride and groom are finally united.

It culminates in their marriage and mutual delight in one another: the bride is her beloved’s and his desire is for her (So 7:10).

Theme verse of Song of Solomon

“I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is for me.” —Bride (So 7:10)

Song of Solomon’s role in the Bible

Song of Solomon is the fifth book of poetry in the Bible. Solomon wrote 1,005 songs in his lifetime (1 Ki 4:32), but this is the “song of songs” (So 1:1). Like Psalms, it’s a  book of lyrics; but while every psalm’s beginning and end is clearly marked, Song of Solomon doesn’t give us this level of clarity.

It’s possible that the song of songs has always been one grand piece that Solomon wrote. But it seems that Solomon didn’t always write his own material: he also explored and arranged pieces of wisdom for the people (Eccl 12:9–10). The song of songs may be a metasong: an anthology of smaller pieces.

Song of Solomon gives us a biblical look at human love. The characters experience attraction, lovesickness, and what seems like a pretty great wedding night (So 7).

In fact, the book has an almost secular feel. God is never directly mentioned in the original Hebrew; the closest we get to a mention of God is in the last chapter, when the bride compares jealous love to a blazing flame (So 8:6). That Hebrew word for flame literally means “flame of the Lord,” but could just mean an especially hot fire.

Solomon’s song of songs is an old book, but its portrait of powerful, all-consuming love probably resonates with most of us today:

“Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised.” (So 8:7)

It’s a passionate description of human love. Although some lines are a little awkward to find in the Bible, Song of Solomon is a good reminder that God created marriage and sex, and it’s OK for us to enjoy them.

Quick outlines of Song of Solomon

Here’s the basic outline of the book’s progression:

  1. Preparation for the wedding (So 1–3)
  2. The bride prepares (1–3:5)
  3. The groom prepares (3:6–11)
  4. The couple profess their love and desire
  5. The groom professes his love (4)
  6. The bride professes her love and longing (5)
  7. Both are united in love (6–8)
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What Makes Community Distinctively “Christian”?

In Mark 3:13–19 we find Jesus bringing his disciples together and appointing 12 to be his apostles.  The text, while seemingly a straightforward list of names, gives many important insights into the nature of Christian community.

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

I know this seems like a list of names and not at all relevant to what we’re talking about, but there’s actually 5 things embedded in this passage that should radically challenge our understanding of Christian community:

1. Christian community is Jesus-centred.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot that is named Christian community isn’t centred on Jesus and his gospel.  Jesus centres the community around himself, so we should be leering of any other expression of community that is grounded in something other than the person and work of Jesus.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our gatherings, an idol of our own making–even a well intended one–will take his place.  And that move will spell certain doom from the outset.  Bonhoeffer, commenting on the temptation to centre our quest for community on an idealized vision of what could/should be instead of the person of Jesus is dynamite here:

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it.” Life Together

 2. Christian community is based on comraderie, not chemistry.  Jesus gathered together people who had little common affinity.  Scratch that:  Jesus actually gathered people who were natural enemies!  A tax collector and a zealot!? There would have been no love lost between a collaborator with Rome (Matthew) and a zealot (Simon) who is seeking to overthrow Rome and use violent means if necessary!

What is Jesus doing?!  He’s showing us a different expression of community; one that speaks to the heart of God’s intentions for the world and the gospel itself.  Jesus does not expect this group to like each other, but he gathers them together to learn to love–starting with loving those you honest wished weren’t part of the group.

That means we shouldn’t expect Christian community to be founded on chemistry and sympatico.  Sure, we will develop friendships within our churches, small groups, etc., but when Jesus forms communities he does so on the basis of camaraderie.  Camaraderie is a feeling of trust, a bond created by a shared goal or experience.  It runs deepen than chemistry.  It goes beyond a convenient collection of complimentary personality types.   When a group is grounded in comraderie, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone in the group to know you have their support.  Therefore, genuine Christian community doesn’t mean you’re best friends with everyone and the group never expereinces any friction or conflict.  What it does mean is that there is a driving experience (Jesus’ call, salvation, and Lordship) that holds the group together and teaches the group to value and love each other.

3. Christian community is a means, not an end.   Jesus calls many disciples to himself, but he appoints twelve as apostles. Why?  He’s rebooting Israel.  “I’ve called you together…for a (re)newed mission!  You are blessed to be a blessing!” (cf. Genesis 12:1-3).  Christian community is always a means to a greater end (i.e. glorifying God and forwarding his mission). When the experience of community becomes the end we’re chasing, it poisons and rots things from the inside out.

 4. Christian community is a commitment to “one another.”  Christian community isn’t driven by the question, “what’s in it for me?” but “how can I be a blessing to others?”  This means a radical commitment to what much of the later epistles spell out in the “one another’s”:

  • Love one another (John 13:34, 15:12)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
  • Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • Serve one another (John 13:1-20; Galatians 5:13)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Be honest with one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Confess to one another (James 5:16)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)

On a later occassion Jesus gave his disciples a new command:

John 13:34 “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Christian community comes into being when a critical mass of people in a church/group/fellowship begin asking “how can I creatively love and serve these brothers and sisters?” instead of, “when will this group meet my wants and needs?”

5. Christian Community is consistent.  One characteristic that should define Christian community is that it is consistent.  Jesus called his disciples together into a new way of life where they were committed to doing life together as they learned under him.

Today, my sense is that far too many Christians do not take seriously their communal responsibilities to one another.  The first believers met daily for encouragement, prayer, support, study, etc., and while I acknowledge that model isn’t doable for most of us in our contexts, I don’t think our default position should be, “I’m committed until something better comes along.”  More and more of us are rationalizing going to church every 2nd or 3rd week.  We show up at youth group if/when we want.  We sign up for a small group but attend sporadically.

And after weeks/months/years living inside of this lifestyle of casual commitment, we wonder why our experience of Christian community is so thin–or even non-existent?

I don’t think anyone would ever accuse me of being a legalist, but I think it’s important to recognize that it’s become very easy to place gathering together with other Christians consistently far down the priority ladder.  Which makes sense if church is something you fit into your agenda.  But it doesn’t make sense if through gatherings like Sunday worship, small groups, bible studies, etc., Jesus is seeking to reshape your life around his agenda.

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Second Week of Advent: Tuesday, December 10th

Today’s Advent reflection is from Kristi Gringhuis, Grindstone church’s Coordinator of Worship Arts.

As a mom, I have just a glimpse of how much God loves me. When I think about how much I love each of my kids, it’s crazy to think that God loves them even more. And to think that He loves me so much that He was willing to send HIS own Son – to earth – to die for MY sins, that is an example of CRAZY LOVE.

But He’s given me this amazing gift, and as great as that is, I’m challenged to ask myself: Am I sharing this love with the people around me? Am I looking to God as my perfect example of what it means to love others, and am I living His love out, or am I just hoarding His love, going about my business, doing what I think is important? Especially in this busy season, am I willing to stop to do the things that God is wanting me to do, even if it’s not part of my original plans?

1 John 4:7-12 — “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about — not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us —perfect love!”

I came across something this week that said: “It’s only because [Jesus] came into the world that we even have a clue what loving well looks like. It’s only because [He] lived for us and died for us that we can boast of being sincerely and deeply loved from the heart … from [His] heart … Joy beyond all delightings … peace beyond all understandings … hope beyond all imaginings … Jesus loves you deeply from his heart … and there’s nothing you can do about it! You can’t add to his love for you and you can’t diminish his love for you. You can simply enjoy it … be changed by it … and share it with others.”

I want to close my reflection with a verse from a song that I found this week:

Make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is darkness let me shine light
And may Your love cause us to open up
Cause us to open up our hearts
May Your light cause us to shine so bright
That we bring hope into the dark
Hope for the hopeless
Your love is
Strength in our weakness
Your love is
May we love as You love Amen.

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The Best Sermon on Love and Lust I’ve Ever Heard

One of the things that has served me well has been my habit of listening to 2-3 Timothy Keller sermons a week over the past year.  My practice is to listen to one sermon after another until I’ve worked my way through all 74, and then start over again.

At times, however, I come across one of Keller’s messages that is so good, I stay with it for a few days, listening to it repeatedly.  Last week I listened to Keller’s message “Love and Lust,” and have had it set to repeat every since.

I can say without hesitation is it the single best sermon I’ve ever heard on the topic.  In fact, it’s the single best “go to” resource on the topic I’ve ever come across.  I cannot imagine anyone who would not profoundly benefit from listening to it.

Do yourself a favour and download Love and Lust today (it’s free!).

Here’s the sermon’s description:

The Bible presents a more attractive and comprehensive view of sexuality than is generally understood.  The headings explored in this sermon include the integrity of sex, the challenge of lust, and the future of love.

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