Welcome, welcome to those just joining us for our journey through
The Song of Songs!
Please read over the instructions in “Getting Started.”
I have wanted to do this book for a long time.
This is why:
Tim Keller believes our main problem is
that we doubt God’s love for us.
Brennan Manning believes the one question we will be asked on Judgment Day is
“Did you believe I loved you?”
The following is a short video of a small group (whom I love) from my church in
Nebraska that did Idol Lies and
how they were awakened to their “unfaithfulness” and then desired to have the
love of God replace their love for their idols:
How we need to linger over
the best song
the highest song
The Song of Songs
There are two historical approaches that scholars have taken to The Song of Songs:
1. It is primarily a picture of the love of Christ for His Bride with an application for marriage.
2. It is primarily a love song of marriage with an application to Christ and the Church.
There are people who love the Lord in each of these camps, so it is important we give grace to those in the camp we are not in. (And I’m praying for grace from those who are in the camp I am not in as well!)
It is certainly true that we can learn something about Christ’s love and about marriage from this book, the disagreement comes concerning the primary emphasis. And where you give the primary emphasis dramatically impacts how you interpret the book.
I am in the first camp, and I have been enormously helped by Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, and most recently, Mike Reeves of the Reformed Theology Network who draws upon Puritan Richard Sibbes. Sibbes lived at the time of Shakespeare and so his language is antiquated, and Reeves is so helpful in clarifying the language of Sibbes. Our own Laura pointed out to me that Nancy Leigh DeMoss did a series on The Song of Songs from this first perspective, and that has also been a great resource.
Both Mike Reeves and Nancy Leigh DeMoss have free downloadable sessions we will listen to during these series. Nancy Leigh DeMoss also has her teaching in written form. Mike Reeves is in a classroom setting and you will have to listen carefully for some of the audio is soft, but I don’t want you to miss it. As Reeves says in his wonderful British accent, “I believe you will be refreshed,” and oh, I have been! And our own Anne has a video, we will see later, when we are further into the study. All are free!
This week will be an overview.
Here are some fascinating facts provided by Mike Reeves:
- Up until the early 1800’s, The Song of Songs was always seen as primarily a picture of the love of Christ for His Bride with an application to marriage. It has only been in the last two hundred years that the focus has shifted.
- Up until the early 1800’s, The Song of Songs was the most preached on book in the Old Testament. Now it is rarely preached on, and if it is, it tends to be from the perspective of marriage.
For those of you who have been blessed by teachers who feel the primary emphasis is on marriage, I think you will also be blessed by this perspective. Not only will you develop greater confidence in God’s love for you, but when you see both your marriage and your marriage bed through the perspective of Christ and the church, it enriches this earthly bond.
The Mysterious Song
Some of you have expressed understandable apprehension about this book, and I understand. Solomon, who is the author, liked to write in riddles — we see this in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. So The Song of Songs is a mysterious book, and it is a poem, rather than a chronological story. There are flashbacks and repetitions, as is characteristic of songs and poetry. It is also important to look at this as an allusion rather than an allegory. Like a parable, The Song of Songs is a big picture, rather than a didactic equation where you can find a parallel for each detail. There are so many WILD interpretations from those who have done The Song of Songs from both camps. In the first camp, for example, one author said that her beloved lying between her breasts was Christ between the Old and New Testaments! And in the second camp, the interpretations often seem to me to demean the beauty of The Song of Songs by suggesting certain sexual practices. I do want to make it clear that I believe there is an application to marriage and the marriage bed, and this book shows us how beautiful, how mysterious, and how powerful the marriage bed can be. But the main purpose, I am convinced, is to deepen our confidence in God’s love.
There are two primary characters: King Solomon, the bridegroom, whom the bride usually called my beloved; and the peasant girl, the Shulamite, the bride, whom Solomon usually calls my love. (Those pet names may help you know who is talking.)
Sunday/Monday Icebreakers (Everyone answer all)
1. What stood out to you and why?
2. What, if any, has been your perspective of The Song of Songs up to now?
3. What do you hope to gain from this study?
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study: Clues to Discern the Primary Message
Let’s see if we can gather clues from the Bible itself as to the primary message of The Song of Songs. This is a bit of a “riddle,” but do your best and ask God to help you to see.
4. Every other book of the Bible is about one relationship, that of God and His people. Can you think of a book that is not about that? Do you think The Song of Songs would be an exception? Why or why not?
Every other book of the Bible has Christ at the center, because God knows we are blessed when He, rather than we, are at the center. Here is what our own Elizabeth wrote:
When I read the Bible in context, with God, instead of Self, as the center, the reference point–the Bible is…indescribable! I am noticing now that even one verse strikes me as it never has before. There is a richness and depth that draws me in for more. And, not sure if this makes sense out-loud–but there is a RELIEF, a peace that comes from taking myself out of the center. When I stop looking for answers for me–and turn to His Word to know more of Him–there is a satisfying calm that comes over me.
5. According to 1 Kings 4:32, how many songs did Solomon write? How many riddles?
6. What is this song called, according to the first verse? How is this like “the King of kings,” or “the Lord of lords?”
7. What do you think is the best possible song? Why?
8. We are told Solomon is the author, and we can glean something about the perspective of the book by considering Solomon’s style of writing. He liked to write riddles, and they run through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. He opens Proverbs with:
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs 1:5-6 (ESV)
We have come to associate “riddles” with a child’s game, but in Scripture it is deeper. We understand a mysterious heavenly truth through a less mysterious earthly truth.For example, in Ecclesiastes Solomon tells us:
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
9. What is being communicated by the above “riddle” from Solomon?
Jesus told “riddles” in the form of parables
There was a man who went out to sow…
A man once gave a great banquet and invited many…
A man planted a vineyard and lent it out to tenants…
10. In the above parables is the primary message about the earthly example or the spiritual parallel?
11. We also associate Solomon with women and with love. What do you learn about him from Ecclesiastes 2:8?
We know that Solomon walked with God and God appeared to him twice, and granted his heart’s desire for wisdom. God also warned him, knowing his weakness for women, but Solomon disobeyed and married 300 wives and took 700 concubines. How then, we ponder, can he possibly foreshadow the ultimate Bridegroom?
This is a mystery. We do not know when The Song of Songs was written. It may have been in his youth when his only bride was the Shulamite. It may have been in old age when he had possibly repented of his folly. Why would God choose him to foreshadow the ultimate bridegroom. Here are a few thoughts from others:
Richard Wurmbrand (Voice of the Martyrs) and Nancy Leigh DeMoss feel it is precisely his fallenness that God chose him, to show that He can redeem and use anyone. Nancy Leigh De Moss writes: “That is exactly where grace comes in…”God can’t bless the sin of your past but he can use a broken and contrite heart. That’s the person God wants to use and chooses to be a channel, a vessel of communicating His love and His grace and mercy to others.”
Richard Sibbes (the Puritan pastor) says Solomon was known for his passion, and this shows us God’s desire for us.
I wonder if Solomon is chosen in part for his kingly splendor, for he was the wisest and wealthiest king. It is a picture to me of a great King who loved an unworthy peasant girl, and whose love transformed her into a beautiful princess. This is the story of the gospel: the bride is asked to leave her shameful past behind and become a daughter of royalty. This is in essence the story of Psalm 45, which has been called The Song of Songs in a nutshell.
11. Why do you think God chose Solomon to write this song and why?
12. Based on all you have read above, what do you think is the primary message of The Song of Songs and why? (Let’s hear from everyone!)
Thursday/Friday: Helicopter Ride
This is not a chronological story, yet you can see growth on the part of the bride. Most divide it into three areas of growth. The Song of Songs has flashbacks and repetitions, but basically, I think this will help you as you as you read through. Much will be mysterious, like a riddle, but still, ask God to give you glimpses of His love for you as you read. I’ve chosen three sections that seem to represent these three stages.
13. Find something in each category that stands out to you and explain why:
A. First Love (a time of euphoria when you first fall in love with Jesus) (Song of Songs 1:1-2:8)
B. Wilderness Love (when you realize there is a cost, and that your Bridegroom doesn’t always make sense and you feel like withdrawing) (Song of Songs 5:2-9)
C. Invincible Love (when you have matured to the point you trust Him, even when there is mysterious pain) (Song of Songs 8:5-7)
14. If time permits: I am so excited to share what I’ve learned from Mike Reeves (and the Puritan scholar Richard Sibbes) — but that will need to wait til next week so I don’t overwhelm you with homework. For those of you who have time, read Psalm 45, for it is The Song of Songs in a nutshell. We’ll look at it again next week — but if a verse quickens you, share it here.
15. What is your take-a-way and why?