It is midwinter.
The peninsula I live on in Wisconsin always has a candlelit ski the first weekend of midwinter, and I skied it last night.
He lights our way through the dark days of “winter,” but if we know Him, joy will come in the morning, as surely as spring is on the way, as surely as the darkness of Good Friday led to Resurrection Sunday!
And as we press into Him during this holy season of Lent,
He will come to us as surely as the spring rains,
the spring rains that renew the earth.
Beginning this Wednesday, not counting Sundays,
there are 40 Days until Easter Sunday.
40 is a significant number to God.
The Israelites wandered for 40 years.
Jesus fasted before his ministry for 40 days.
And many Christians take
these 40 days
to draw nearer to God.
This is my 400th post, and every year,
Lent has been such a meaningful time.
So welcome old friends and new friends:
let us press on to know the Lord better than we do.
If you are new to the blog and want to actively participate, on the home page top purple banner, click on Bible Study Blog and then again on the icon with “Getting Started” and this picture:
Then just follow the directions. It’s great if you can add a picture of yourself. Many of you did this yesterday, and we welcome you so heartily! If you prefer to be a silent blogger, that’s just fine, though we do have WONDERFUL sisters who will encourage you and give you input if you participate actively. We are going to be doing a challenging book during Lent, but I promise you it will take you into a more intimate relationship with Christ. It is The Song of Songs, and it is so much more than a marriage manual. You will discover Christ in it, the depth of His love for you, and the mystery to which Ephes. 5:32 says earthly marriage points: Christ and His Bride.
1.Tell us your name, (or name you want to use here), perhaps where you live, and one thing, besides the Lord, about which you are passionate.
2. Have you ever studied The Song of Songs in depth? If so, what was the central interpretation given? Marriage or Christ? How did you feel about it?
Monday – Tuesday: Getting Ready!
If you are new to the blog, I’d like you to listen to the following and share your thoughts.
3. Newcomers — share your thoughts on the above.
Everyone read and then listen to the reading of the Songs that follows this text.
The Jews always interpreted The Song as being about both earthly marriage and God’s romance with Israel. She is the bride He rescued at Passover, and the Song is always read on the Sabbath of Passover. (It has always taken my breath away to realize that Jesus, our final Passover Lamb, was crucified during the very same hours that the Passover Lambs were sacrificed: 9 to 3).
The Christian church recognizes the Messiah as the Bridegroom in the Song, and has interpreted the Song to be about earthly marriage and our relationship with Christ, for Ephesians tells us that marriage points to that mysterious union. Up until the early 1800’s it was the most preached on book in the Old Testament, for nothing, pastors thought, was more important than understanding the depth of Christ’s love.
The disagreement comes on the emphasis. Is Christ and HIs Bride the emphasis or is earthly marriage the emphasis? This study takes the stance that the evidence is strong that just as with other books in the Bible, the heart is Christ. But whether you see primarily marriage or primarily Christ, you will be refreshed in your relationship to Christ with the side benefit, if you are married, of being refreshed in your marriage.
I want you to listen to this Jewish reading with your Bible open. One of the things that can be confusing about the Song is wondering if “he,” “she,” “the daughters of Jerusalem,” or her “brothers” are speaking. This reading make it clear so I’d love you to mark your Bibles with “he” “she” or “they.” This will give you a great overview of the whole song. You may be mystified at how this earthly romance could have anything to do with your relationship with Jesus, but trust me, it does! I’d like you to be alert to a few things:
A) Who is speaking (you may want to mark your Bible)
B) How at times he seems to be describing a woman’s body and at other times famous geographical places in Israel’s history, including the Garden of Eden.
C) How her passion begins, then diminishes, and is finally renewed.
We’ll dive into the book itself beginning on Ash Wednesday.
4. What comments or thoughts do you have after listening to the above reading?
Some people give something during Lent to remember what Christ gave up for us. If giving up something that has robbed you of time to be with the Lord, then do it! It is important to choose a time and place to be with Him daily to do this study.
Some of you are eager students, so I have a few optional extras for you. (Skip them if this overwhelms you!) You may like to read a commentary as well. Here are three excellent resources. The first two see both marriage and Christ, with Christ as the emphasis, and the last, being before the early 1800’s, sees only Christ. My personal favorite, though it is a bit deeper and more expensive, is the one by Davis. But all are excellent.
God gives many metaphors to show He is a personal God: Shepherd, Friend, Father, but the most intimate of all is Husband and Lover:
ASH WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY: SONG OF SONGS 1
Prepare your heart with this, our theme song for Lent.
5. Read Song of Songs 1 aloud to yourself. Share any comments, observations, or questions here. (We have some wonderful mentors who can help you — and sometimes I will jump in too.)
Kathy and Tim Keller were friends for a long time. Too long, Kathy thought. Frustrated, she finally decided to give Tim “the speech” about taking her for granted and leading her on without making a deeper commitment . . . but he stopped her mid-sentence by leaning down and kissing her.
The argument was over.
In the same way, a kiss from the King is evidence that our God wants intimacy with us and that we are moving past the realm of servants and even past that of friendship. He is not a far-off God; He wants union and communion with us.
Dr. E. F. Davis, in a contemporary commentary in the Westminster Series, explains that these two pictures in the Song “are mutually informative and each is incomplete without the other…Fundamental to both,” Davis explains, “is a desire to transcend the confines of the self for the sake of intimacy with the other.”
Matthew Henry explains that our relationship with Christ begins with the “gospel kiss,” like the kiss of the father to the prodigal son.
6. Using the story of the return of the prodigal son and the father’s kiss from Luke 15, how would you define a “gospel kiss?” When were you first aware that you had received the gospel kiss?
According to Rabbinic tradition, a kiss from the King is “a living word of prophecy,” as when a verse leaps out and gives you just what you need. During this Lenten study, if you get kissed, please share. I’ll remind you from time to time.
7. What senses do you see involved in this chapter and what does this tell you about your relationship with the Lord?
8. In verse 5 the Daughters of Jerusalem chime in. They are usually interpreted as being those who are watching the bride and beginning to fall in love with this shepherd-king as well. Both she and they say that his love is better than wine. Compare this to Psalm 4:7. What do you learn?
9. The “bride” is both an individual and corporate, as is true of the Bride of Christ. You can see this by the way the pronouns vary. (verses 2 and 4) Why is it important that we ourselves both as individuals and also as part of a body?
10. How do you see the bride’s insecurity when he gazes at her in verse 6 — and how does he reassure her in verse 15. Can you see the gospel in this? If so, how?
11. Earlier she describes herself as both dark and lovely. How does the gospel show us we are both? How does this knowledge impact you on a day to day basis?
12. How does he tell her to find him in verse 8? This is usually interpreted as those who have gone before to the Shepherd, who have made their “tent” near his. Think of those who have influenced you to find the Good Shepherd — family, writers, saints from the past. Share one here.
Some are uncomfortable with the thought that God would use a sexual metaphor to illuminate our relationship with Him. It is a metaphor, and if we are too sexualized, it is harder to see. But in the prophets He equates idolatry with adultery, and Isaiah tells us He rejoices over us as a bridegroom rejoices over His bride.
13. In Scripture, in both Hebrew and Greek, the word used to describe knowing the Lord is also the word that is used to describe sexual intimacy between husband and wife. For example, last week Miriam shared that the following verses use the same word (know) Find them and then comment on what this communicates to you: Philippians 3:10, Matt 1:25. (Also Matt 7:23!)
14. How does he describe her eyes in verse 15? There are several interpretations of this and they may all be there! James Hamilton says that eyes are the windows to the soul. Doves are peaceful and gentle and often a symbol of purity. Some have commented that doves eyes are focused, they are not prone to distraction. What do you think? (Listen also to Misty Edwards sing “Doves Eyes.”) What helps you to keep your time with the Lord and to be undistracted?
Pray a passage from chapter 1 into your life. The most powerful way to pray is to pray Scripture. Here are two examples from chapter 1. Then it will be your turn.
THE BRIDE ASKS HIM TO DRAW HER. OH LORD, DRAW ME TO YOU — YOU KNOW HOW FICKLE I AM, BUT DRAW ME, WOO ME, KEEP ME CLOSE.
GIVE ME DOVE’S EYES. CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART THAT I MAY BE PURE AND GENTLE. HELP ME FOCUS ON YOU, AND NOT BE SO DISTRACTED WHEN I WANT TO BE WITH YOU!
15. What is your take-a-way and why?