WE DID NOTHING TO EARN HIS LOVE
IN FACT, WE WERE DEAD IN OUR SINS
WHEN HE CAME AND BREATHED LIFE INTO US
WHEN HE LIFTED US OUR OF THE MIREY PIT
AND SET OUR FEET UPON A ROCK!
AND INVITED US INTO THE DANCE!
ONE OF MY FAVORITE DANCE SCENES IS
FROM THE SCENT OF A WOMAN.
SHE IS “A LITTLE AFRAID” TO TRY.
BUT, HE PERSUADES HER TO TRUST HIM.
AND, OH! THE DANCE THAT FOLLOWS!
How beautifully the dance pictures God’s design for a husband and a wife, and, in a mysterious way, the relationship of Christ and His Bride. This is also the beauty on every page of The Song of Songs. She is a delicate flower, a “lily of the valleys.” Her fragrance delights him, a fragrance which spreads to others as her love for him grows.
He is a life-giving tree, “an apple tree among the trees of the forest,” providing shade and sustenance. He does not depend on her, but she does depend on Him.
I’m excited about this week. Just as He led in the dance of wooing us to Himself, so we must learn how to allow Him to lead us in our time with Him. George Mueller, the man whom God used so mightily to rescue 10,000 orphans, learned how to let God lead in the dance both in his quiet time and then, in his great adventurous life. For many years Mueller began his time with God with hours of prayer, but then realized that if he began instead with the Word, and let the Word lead him in prayer, he would experience “the dance.” Mueller came to believe that the foremost duty of a Christian: “to get his soul happy in the Lord.”
This week we will not only study a passage in the Song, but meditate on it and then pray it. “Meditation,” Tim Keller says, “is not to make the passage clear (that should have already happened) but to take that truth and “make it real to yourself until it catches fire in your soul.” This is important with all Scripture, but oh what you miss if you do not hear the Lover of your Soul speaking to you in the Song, and if you do not learn how to speak to Him. (Joni Eareckson Tada says she likes to use the words of the Shulammite to praise Jesus.)
Here are some words from the Shulammite we studied last week. Now let’s see how to meditate to make it real to your heart.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. We have learned that a kiss from the King is a connection with God — a verse “quickening you,” or an answer to prayer, or circumstances that you know are from Him. Let’s concentrate this week on finding, hopefully at least twice this week, a verse that quickens you. You must then learn what God is saying, then meditate on it until it catches fire, and then pray it. For example, using the “kisses” verse, first meditate. Ask questions like: What are kisses? Why does she ask him to kiss her? What are kisses of his “mouth?” Then, when it is catching fire, go on to pray it using the ACTS acronym.
ADORATION: Thank you that You are a personal God who kisses us. Who kisses us in salvation, but then keeps kissing us with Your Word, with circumstances You bring into our lives, with peace.
CONFESSION: Forgive me for all the times I treat Bible study as a duty instead of a personal interaction with You. Forgive me for not really listening, but do it instead to feel good about myself, check it off, and go on to something I’m more eager to do. Forgive me, O Lord.
THANKSGIVING: Thank You that You are so forgiving, that your mercies are new every morning. Thank You for never giving up on me.
SUPPLICATION: Please bring to my remembrance my need to be still, to listen, and to connect with You. Please kiss me with the kisses of your mouth. Help me learn how to do this prayer/meditation so I connect with You and allow Your Spirit to transform me.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Thursday Bible Study
If you have been taught the Song just from a marriage perspective, and especially if it was a particularly sexual perspective, this passage may be a challenge for you. I’ve been grateful for teachers like Mike Reeves who said that there are foolish interpretations on both sides — when only Christ is seen or when only marriage is seen. And James Hamilton gave a stern rebuke to those who have used Song of Songs 2:3 to pressure wives into doing something they are uncomfortable doing. He said, THAT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE WAY THE SONG TEACHES A HUSBAND TO LOVE HIS WIFE. HE SHOULD NEVER USE HER FOR SELFISH PURPOSES. So if you have been taught this way, ask the Lord to renew your mind and help you to see Christ. Also, as Ellen Davis says, “Both pictures are there and enhance one another.” The Song gives us echoes of Eden, pictures of what heaven will be like when we return fully to our Lord. We must see marriage, but see it primarily as a pointer to what is most important: Christ’s love for His bride and her responsive love to Him.
Read Song of Songs 2:1-3
2. How does she see herself in verse 1, and how is this a change from how she saw herself in 1:6? What brought about this change? (Be specific with verse references.)
3. Has the gospel of Christ’s love changed how you see yourself? If so, explain.
4. How does he see her, according to verse 2? Compare this to Philippians 2:15.
5. How does she see him, according to verse 3? How do you see this “apple tree” providing both shade and sustenance? Share a specific way the Lord has done this for you.
This comment from Ellen Davis made my soul catch fire. She explained that the descriptions of the bride and groom have an “Edenic quality” [echoes of Eden!] to them, for you can find them in the close of the prophets Hosea and Isaiah. They prophets rebuked God’s people for “whoring” after idols, after others gods, but also see a day when God’s people will return, realizing their fruitfulness, sustenance, and shade comes only from God. Read this from Hosea:
I will love them generously…
I will be like the dew to Israel,
he shall blossom like a lily
They shall rerurn to sit in his [God’s] shadow…
and blossom like the vine…
6. What parallels do you see?
7. If anything so far has quickened you, meditate and pray the verse. Do it here if it has happened.
Read Song of Songs 2:4-7
While it may sound like they are making love, I agree with James Hamilton that she is imagining it. For one thing, the daughters of Jerusalem are present in this banqueting hall. And for another, this would completely go against the picture of Christ and His bride for the marriage is not consummated until after the wedding in Chapter 4.
8. A “banner” was a sign of special regard and protection — also used militarily in the face of opposition or celebration of victory over enemies.
A. How is this used in Psalm 20:5? What does this mean?
B. See also how it is used in Song of Songs 6:10. Comment.
C. Can you give an example of a time when you were privileged to work with the body of Christ and
saw God move mightily to overcome the enemy who blinds eyes or brings destruction?
9. Verse 7 is an important verse for it is repeated two more times. It has both an earthly application and a spiritual application. The earthly level is easier to see. She has just been imagining the time when their love will be consummated, and now she gives a warning. What do you think this warning is and why? How might you apply this personally or, if you are a mother or teacher of young people, help them to apply it?
The Hebrew word for “love” in verse 7 is not a person, but rather the feeling or concept of love. On a spiritual level, this is what I have come to believe — but feel free to disagree. (This is going to be in my new book, so I’m always thankful for input.)
ALLOW GOD TIME TO DO HIS WORK
I understand how deep the feelings go for wanting loved ones to trust Christ. As a young believer I would have times when I became physically ill because I was so worried about my parents’ salvation. I felt it was up to me, when it wasn’t at all. I even wrote John Stott when my parents were taking Steve and me to England and said, “I think if my dad could just meet you, he might come to Christ.”
Dr. Stott wrote me the kindest letter, telling me he would have met with us if he was not in China, but he was confident that God was capable of bringing my dad to Christ. It was the word I needed. I was able to surrender my parents to the Lord and saw Him woo them each to Himself near the end of their lives.
In our desire to bring those we love to Christ, we may be tempted to paint a romanticized picture of “the abundant life.” Jesus turned around and told those following Him, wanting all the good things He could give, “to count the cost.” For though salvation is a free gift, the Christian life involves suffering, persecution, and denial. When my sister Sally presented the gospel to me, I asked her: “If I gave my life to Jesus, would He ask Steve and me to give up the expensive house we are planning on building?”
My sister was quiet for a long time. (She was a new Christian herself and was crying out to God for wisdom.) When she finally looked up she said, “In your case, I think so – because you’ve been talking about that house so much, that I think it is a god in your life. You think it will fill up the emptiness in your life. The real God is a jealous God and doesn’t want any other gods before Him. So, in your case, I think the house would have to go. Jesus said, ‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”
At that point I wasn’t in a hurry to trust Christ. I wanted to find out if He really was who He said He was before I gave Him my whole life. I read, I sought, I prayed – and then, a month later, the Spirit of God had so persistently revealed the truth of Christ to me that I did what I was destined to do before the foundation of the world: I surrendered to the wave.
Those who come to Christ quickly with a romanticized view may be more likely to be like the seed sown on rocky ground. Because they have no root, when troubles come, they fall away. This isn’t what they expected at all! They didn’t know the real Jesus. He doesn’t always rescue us from the trouble of this world, though He does stand beside us and strengthen us.
Parents should not press their little children to receive Christ. It is so much better to give them time to get to know what God is like, and then to allow His Spirit to be the One who awakens them, convicts them, and makes them His own. We should be teaching them about Jesus, modeling what it is to know and trust Him, but then allow the Spirit to be the One to cause them to respond.
This also takes the pressure off us when we share Christ with another. We don’t need to feel like if we don’t seal the deal it won’t happen. As a speaker, I have moved away from altar calls for this reason. I don’t want spurious conversions that are a result of my getting ahead of the Lord. Altar calls didn’t begin until the 1800’s, and though I know many are sincerely converted when they come forward, many are not, but may think they are because “they went forward.” I know that our God is most capable of sealing the deal. My responsibility it to lift up Christ clearly – and then men will be drawn to Him.
10. What thoughts do you have on the above? Agree? Disagree?
Lizzy found this panel discussion from The Gospel Coalition about children and evangelism. Optional, but many of you may be interested: Teaching Children Panel Discussion TGC
One emphasis on the panel was letting God do His work and not pushing children to receive Christ before the time was right. I remember one mother was concerned because her daughter came home from VBS with a balloon and said it was because she asked Jesus into her heart. The mother wondered if it was about getting the balloon or because her daughter was really desiring Christ.
Next week we will finish chapter 2 — there is so much in it, but it really is a unit, so I must keep it together. But if you want to get started on it, go ahead.
12. Has any passage quickened you? If so meditate and pray through it here.
Friday: FREE TEACHING ON MEDITATION BY TIM KELLER
This is not about the Song, but about meditating and praying Scripture. It is not a sermon, but a teaching session on meditation. One of the purposes of Lent is to draw near, and I believe you might find a gem in this to help you.
13. If you listened, share notes and comments.
Just for fun — remember in chapter 1 how he likens his bride to a mare? Watch this:
14. What is your take-a-way and why?