SHE SAYS, “YOUR LOVE IS BETTER THAN WINE.”
THEN THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM ECHO THIS, TURNING TO THE SHEPHERD/KING
AND SAYING “YOUR (masculine singular) LOVE IS BETTER THAN WINE.”
THE HEBREW WORD TRANSLATED “LOVE” IN EACH CASE IS “DOWD.”
IT IS DERIVED FROM A WORD FOR”BOILING POT”
IT IS PASSION.
IT IS USED IN SEXUAL WAYS, BUT THIS IS A METAPHOR FOR INTENSE LOVE.
EVEN CHRIST’S SUFFERING IS CALLED HIS PASSION.
LOVE LIKE A HURRICANE.
IT TOOK “DOWD,” LOVE LIKE A HURRICANE, TO SAVE US.
WE ARE SO BAD IT TOOK HIS DEATH ON A CROSS TO PAY OUR DEBT.
BUT WE ARE SO LOVED THAT HE SET HIS FACE LIKE FLINT TO ACCOMPLISH IT.
LOVE LIKE A HURRICANE.
THE HURRICANE OF GOSPEL LOVE.
Sally Lloyd-Jones opens The Jesus Storybook Bible explaining the Bible isn’t a book of rules or heroes…but rather: “The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
This is the gospel — and this is the whole story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. So of course this love story of a great shepherd/king rescuing a peasant maiden would mirror the big story. But can a beginner understand it? That was the question you helped me wrestle with last week as I worked on my intro to the upcoming book. YOU WERE SO HELPFUL. One of my favorite comments came from Cynthia, a silent blogger.
Even though a skilled musician will appreciate a well-played symphony more deeply than a first time concert-goer, the untrained ear can still soar with the beautiful music.
How true. It is the same with the gospel — a child may not see many of the breath-taking colors of this multlfaceted diamond, but he can understand the most important facet, that he can be fully forgiven. In the same way, even a beginner can “soar” with the Song, realizing God sees her as beautiful, though the nuances of poetry may have to wait.
This month I’m returning to the prisons of Texas to speak, and many of these women are babes, but I know the Song can cause them to soar.
It was Linda Strom, (you can see her in the middle above — only woman not in white) who is the founder of this life-changing ministry (Discipleship Unlimited) that convinced me that The Song of Songs might bless the women in prison.
“They are so thirsty for the love of God. I think they’ll drink it in.”
“But will they get it?”
“I think they will. God will meet them.”
Many of you have heard the story of how God did meet us the first time I braved the Song in prison. I’ll tell it in full in the upcoming book (over a year away) but here is a summary, and I’d love input into the part in red, in particular. Because the Song is poetry, and not everyone understands that, they may jump to the conclusion that when she says she is “dark,” she is referring to ethnicity — and I want to be so clear she is not.
That night in the prison I shared:
The peasant woman becomes very self-conscious when this shepherd/king comes to her and looks at her. She says, ‘Do not gaze at me because I am dark.’” I looked out at their faces, all the beautiful skin colors that our Creator made, and wanted to be very clear. “This is certainly not talking about ethnicity, but is a metaphor for feeling unclean and unattractive, for she also compares herself to the dirty and weathered tents of Kedar. She’s been working all day in the vineyard under the hot sun. It’s a little like you feel here when you’ve been working all day, sweaty, without deodorant, and dressed in shapeless prison garb. If the man of your dreams walked in, you’d feel self-conscious too.” They nodded and laughed. (All they have to make themselves presentable is a sliver of soap. No shampoo, deodorant, make-up, or even a comb – for the fear it could be a weapon.)
“But,” I said, “I want you to see how the king sees her—how the King sees you! He has cleansed her, made her as clean as the new fallen snow, as pure as a lily, and so he reassures her, as He does each of us:
Behold, you are beautiful my love,
Julia, one of the women, began weeping so loudly I had to stop. I asked her to share. She said:
All of my life I wanted my mother to tell me I was beautiful, but she never could. Then, here, in prison, Christ found me and I understood the gospel. This morning I told the Lord how beautiful he was, and I thought he said, “Julia — you are beautiful.” I was so astonished I asked him to say it again — but he didn’t. Until tonight, when you opened the Bible and said Jesus says: “You are beautiful, my love, there is no flaw in you.”
Yes, she was soaring. She caught the heart of the Song. This time she didn’t just hear the gospel, but felt it. So many of you expressed that last week as you caught the value of poetry — that it helps you feel the truth! (And, by the way, you were remarkable with John Donne’s poem which indeed, captures the essence of The Song.)
WHAT HAVE WE LOST?
Scholars like Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and Matthew Henry all saw Christ as central in the Song. However, many of the ancients may have been too prudish to first see the earthly picture of marriage. R. C. Sproul said the church of old was embarrassed by the sensual imagery of the Song, and tried to get around it. They went to great lengths to avoid it, interpreting her breasts, for example, to represent the Law and the Prophets, or the Old and New Testaments!
But in the 19th and 20th centuries, we slid to the other end of the pendulum. We developed a more serious kind of myopia – becoming so sexualized we could no longer see Christ. Some contemporary preachers have turned the book into soft porn and have even used it to pressure wives to perform acts that make them uncomfortable. As Professor James Hamilton said, “This is the exact opposite of what is taught about marriage in the Song.” The bridegroom, instead of using his wife for selfish purposes, protects and cherishes her, as Christ does the Church. I am so thankful for voices speaking out against this misuse of the Song, for honestly, after nearly every picture has been decoded to represent genitals or sexual positions, it is hard to see Christ any longer. For those who are off-put by the metaphor of sexual passion that The Song uses (and which John Donne used in his poem: Batter My Heart Three-Person’d God) it might be helpful to see that the Hebrew word used often in the Song for “love” is derived from the Hebrew word for “boiling pot.” It means intense. In English, we might say “the English have a passion for their gardens.” The word passion has also even come to mean the suffering of Christ – His love was so intense for us that he went to the cross. If we are so sexualized, as is common in our culture, it might be hard to see the metaphor, but it is vital to treat the Song with respect. Perhaps that is why The Talmud asserts that anyone who treats this song lightly (as a mere drinking song) forfeits his place in the world to come and will bring evil into the world and imperil the welfare of all humankind.
I so appreciate you and am so pleased to see several new participating bloggers. Welcome!
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Would love your comments on the paragraph in red.
Monday – Thursday Bible Study
This song made popular by the David Crowder Band will prepare your heart:
(Lizzy and Elizabeth posted the back story to this song on our Facebook page.)
3. How would you say that The Song of Songs fits into the big story of the Bible?
4. Finding everything you can, how does the Shulammite describe herself in the following verses?
A. Song of Songs 1:5
B. Song of Songs 1:6
5. Describe her insecurities, her emotions.
6. The peasant maiden has feelings of unworthiness. How do you see this in S. of S. 1:6? Turn forward to the next book of Isaiah, and describe the feelings of unworthiness that Isaiah had when he came close to the Lord in Isaiah 6:1-5. Can you identify with this? If so, share. (Leave a bookmark in Isaiah.)
7. Describe how this shepherd/king feels about her and sees her in Song of Songs 1:15. Now, turn forward to Isaiah again, and describe the parallel in Isaiah 6: 6-7.
8. In the Song, he says she is “like a lily.” What parallel do you see in Isaiah 1:18?
9. Another theme in the Song is that the bride keeps comparing herself to a vineyard. (See S. of S. 1:6) Read Isaiah 5:1-3 and see if you can discern whom the vineyard represents. What do you learn?
10. The Gospel is hidden in pictures and stories in the Old Testament, bu revealed clearly in the New Testament. How does 1 Peter 2:24 clearly explain the gospel?
11. Do you remember a time when the good news of the gospel first became clear to you? If so, share what you remember in a sentence.
12. Challenge Question: What multifaceted aspects of the gospel have become clearer to you as you have matured in Christ?
13. The gospel tells us that we are so bad that Christ had to die for us, yet so loved that He did, and that fully trusting this cleanses us and makes us beautiful. How do you see both of these aspects of our character in S. of S of S. 1:5? If you are His child, do you believe you are lovely in His eyes? Why or why not?
Last week I gave you a challenge question that I could see, from your responses, was not clear! And I see why, for discovering the Hebrew for the words “love” and “your” is critical. So, I’m trying again, if you don’t mind tackling it again!
14. In Song of Songs 1:2 and 1:4, first, “she” says his “love” is better than wine, and then “they” say his
“love” is better than wine. Read Song of Songs 1:2 and 1:4.
A. The Hebrew word translated love is derived from a word meaning “boiling pot,” and refers in other
places to sexual passion (see Pvbs. 7:18) Knowing that, and also considering the comparison to
wine, what do you think she, and then they, are saying about the king’s love?
Though some will be put off by the comparison of the Lord’s love to sexual passion, perhaps the
metaphor can be received when you realize that this has to with intensity, the kind of intense
passion that Hawkeye had in the Last of the Mohicans when he offered to die in her place, crying
“Me for her!”
B. When you think of the Lord being as passionate for you as a lover is, or as passionate as a lover
who would die for his maiden, how might that affect your concerns and your behavior today?
C. If you would limit the interpretation of the Song only to earthly marriage, what problem might you
find in interpreting verse 4?
Friday: I’m going to give you two weeks to listen to this sermon — for those who wish to get started, here it is!
15. Share any notes or thoughts for the above.
16. What is your take-a-way this week and why?