Welcome to 2016 and to a book that can change your life!
Do you realize how different your life would be if you realized, to your core,
how deeply loved you are?
That, indeed, Jesus sees you as beautiful?
Up until the 1800’s, The Song of Songs
was the most preached on book in the Old Testament.
It was a pearl to be treasured.
Nothing, pastors thought, was more important for his flock’s walk
than seeing the depth of Christ’s love for them.
Seeing that love would help them face trial and temptation with victory.
But in time, the primary focus of the Song shifted from Christ to marriage, and preachers didn’t feel it was as important. Some, in fact, belittled its value. When the value of the Song was questioned by the interviewer who interviewed C. S. Lewis in his final interview, C. S. Lewis responded strongly.
The great saints and mystics of the church have felt just the opposite about it.They have found tremendous spiritual truth in the ‘Song of Solomon.’ … what is meat for a grown person might be unsuited to the palate of a child.
How do you know if you are ready for this study? I don’t think Lewis would say that the length of time you have been a Christian is what matters, but rather, the depth of your hunger. Often new Christians, and I have seen this in prison, put those who have been Christians many years to shame with their hunger. So if you are hungry to know more of the Lord, and willing to do homework, come!
The Song is definitely a book that has been trampled upon. Dr. Michael Reeves, from whom you will watch a short video this week, says there are errors on both sides, when people fail to see both levels. Some who see only marriage have turned it into soft porn, and some who see only Christ have gone to great lengths, to, for example, spiritualize her breasts to mean the Old and New Testaments. This week we will look at the genre of the Song, and why good hermeneutics demands we see both levels.
It is my view that earthly marriage is there, but it is a pointer, as Ephesians tells us, to Christ and his Bride. Every other book is about God and His people, every other book has Christ hidden or revealed, and I cannot see why The Song would be an exception
The language of the Song is so private and yet that is also the key to its power. I believe you will be greatly refreshed by seeing how a beautiful earthly marriage can illuminate Christ’s love for you and His desire for your responsive love for Him.
We put our toes into the water of this book in 2013. Many of you may have been with us, and so some of this, especially initially, will be review, and I’m asking you to mentor our newcomers to The Song, for it is a challenging book. Here were a few of the responses from our first time around.
Does Jesus love me? I have been contemplating this question as my “sorrows like sea billows roll,” and I have come to see that this question is KEY. Do I believe that He loves me, desires me, even when suffering does not make sense and every alternative is dark? The Song of Songs keeps telling me He does.
Diane from Canada
A veil has been lifted and made me see God’s love in a whole new light. . . . He calls me to come away with Him, to come away from idols, from the safety blankets I have clung to for so long.
Staci from the Netherlands
I had previously thought of Song of Songs as being primarily about marriage, a book reflecting the beauty of romantic love. However, there’s so much I was missing. After all, the Bible from beginning to end is a cohesive story of God’s love for His people. So of course the Song should contain whispers of Christ. From that viewpoint, I can see Him pursuing me, rescuing me from my own sense of inadequacy and failure, delighting in me, and declaring His love for me. It is amazing to think of myself as His beloved, and the Song sings it loud and clear.
Jon from South Carolina
We also, during our first time around, made this Song our theme song, a song from Jesus Culture called “Song of Solomon.” Here is the official You-Tube version that has come out since 2013.
Monday-Wednesday: Approaching Poetry
A basic principle of good hermeneutics is to interpret according to the genre. For example, some would say that the Bible supports polygamy, for there are examples (including Solomon) of polygamy practiced. The error is that they fail to see these are historical accounts rather than didactic commands. God does not command polygamy but his plan instead for marriage, repeatedly stated, is one man and one woman for life. The fact that the Bible historically records sin such as polygamy, rape, murder, etc. is not a license to do those things.
It is also vital to know that prose should be interpreted differently than poetry.
2. Let’s look at the same truth expressed first in prose and then in poetry. What does it say and what does it mean in each case?
A. 1 Peter 5:7
B. Psalm 91:4
3. With the above example in mind, answer this:
A. What advantage does each genre have (prose and poetry)?
B. How could Psalm 91:4 be mis-interpreted if you didn’t see it as poetry?
Those who wish to discredit the Bible will often take a poetic passage and claim it is not scientific. Tim Keller has some wonderful sermons in which he says Genesis 1 is often mis-interpreted because people fail to realize it is poetry. They think it is teaching “how” the world was made rather than “why” it was made. Likewise, I remember a family member I love being misled by her minister who said the Bible couldn’t be trusted because it said the world was flat. He quoted Job 28:24: “God’s eyes run to the ends of the earth.” He was interpreting poetry as prose, perhaps to advance his own sinful agenda.
The genre of The Song of Songs is explained immediately in Song of Songs 1:1. It is a song! And a single song, though some have said it is many songs strung together. Songs, by their very definition, are poetry set to music.
4. Since poetry is multi-layered, and since the Song is poetry, what does that teach you about how to interpret it correctly?
I’d like your input on this. I plan to use this excerpt from John Donne’s on a preface page to my upcoming book:
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
“Batter my Heart, Three-Personed God”
5. What do you think Donne is communicating with this? What is the first level and what is the second?
6. Are you shocked that Donne would ask God to “ravish” him? What do you think he means and how might this correspond to the Song?
7. One of the strengths of poetry is its word pictures, for word pictures are able to slip into the heart, helping us feel, and love the Lord with all our heart, or fear HIm, or trust Him. They also tend to be memorable. Can you think of a word picture from Scripture that has impacted you?
8. Let’s put our toe into the water with the opening of the 1st chapter, realizing we will plunge in fully after these intro weeks. But, see if you can see the multilayers in Song of Songs 1:1-4.
A. Describe the feelings this peasant woman has for this earthly king.
B. We understand earthly love – but what might this be communicating
concerning what God longs for from us, His Bride?
C. How would Matt. 22:36-37 support this?
D. Challenge question: If the Song were only about earthly marriage, what
problems might occur in interpreting, for example, verse 3?
9. Take a verse or passage from this week and pray it into your life.
Thursday-Friday: 15 minute Video
10. Watch and share notes and comments:
11. What is your take-a-way and why?