In Chapter 2 the Shulammite chose to stay
in the cleft of the rock instead of responding to her shepherd/king and going with him to higher places.
Though she thinks she can postpone responding,
suddenly he bounds off, for reasons unknown to her.
Now she experiences the time of “wilderness love.”
The wilderness is a gift from God to refine us until we realize how desperately we need Him.
On my bed at night
I sought him whom my soul loves,
I sought him but found him not.
Song of Songs 3:1
In Biblical idiom, the bed signifies more than sleep and lovemaking. It is also a place of prayer where God is sought intently, and sometimes in great anxiety, and revelations are granted.
I will rise now and go about the city,
in the street and in the squares,
I will seek him whom my soul loves,
I sought him but found him not.
Song of Songs 3:2
The watchman found me
as they went about the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go…
Song of Songs 3:3-4a
When you’ve come so close to thinking you’ve lost the one your soul loves, and then he comes to you, you never want to let him go.
My earthly parallel:
My daughters Sally and Annie were with me where I was speaking in Indiana. It was there that Steve called to tell us he’d been diagnosed with advanced cancer. We drove through the rain and through our tears to get back to him in Nebraska. In “The God of All Comfort” I record the scene of our return:
The three of us rushed in, so eager to see him, hug him, hold him, have him be alive. He was lying down on the sofa but sat up with a smile, my ever cheerful man. Sally and I sat on either side, clinging. Annie fell at his feet, her arms around his legs, her body heaving with sobs, her silky dark hair spilling on his lap. He tells us that the Lord is with us, so no matter what, it will be all right.
When this earthly memory came to me, suddenly
I saw a spiritual parallel.
Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb.
Her shock, her grief. She just wanted to anoint His precious body.
See him again, even if just his body.
His body is gone. Stolen, she surmises.
She is weeping, pierced to the heart, confused.
Through her tear-filled eyes she sees
a “gardener” and pleads with him.
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
“Mary,” speaks the voice of her beloved.
“Rabboni!” She gasps.
She must have clung to him, for he tells her she must let him go. She was the first to see Him, but many He loved are still in despair.
He tells her she must go and tell them:
“I am ascending to my Father and your Father,
to my God and Your God.”
It is helping me so much to test this study from my upcoming book with you. I so appreciated “Laura-Dancer’s” forthright declaration of her struggle with poetry. I saw her struggle when last week she thought our passage was a picture of “lovers playing games.” But Christ doesn’t play games, if indeed, He is at the heart of the Song, which I am convinced He is. James Hamilton likens The Song to an “impressionist painting.” When Vincent Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” he was attempting to penetrate your heart with the emotion that comes from gazing at the heavens, rather than taking a photograph that would be a literal representation.
The Song takes an earthly picture to help penetrate your heart with a spiritual reality. I am convinced the primary purpose of the Song is to penetrate your heart with the love of Christ for you so that you might, in response:
Ellen Davis looks at the four times the Shulammite
repeats the refrain:
“the one my soul loves,” and writes:
This awkward phrase…seems to be a deliberate and insistent echo of another biblical passage: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” That repeated echo of the weightiest verse in the Old Testament confirms — in my judgment, beyond reasonable doubt — that at one level of the poet’s meaning, the one who is loved and sought after so intently is God. The poet’s original hearers would make this association in the present passage more easily than we do, because they were familiar with biblical idiom.
THE LOVE HE LONGS FOR IS NOT JUST “HEAD” LOVE
WHERE WE NOD IN AGREEMENT TO A CREED,
BUT A PASSIONATE LOVE,
LOVING HIM WITH
ALL OUR HEART
AND ALL OUR SOUL
AND ALL OUR MIGHT.
LOVING HIM AS HE HAS LOVED US.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Can you think of a time when your heart felt broken because of a rift, but then, the great comfort of reconciliation? Or of a separation and then a great re-union?
MONDAY: SCENE ONE: LOST AND FOUND
Last week my heart leapt when Lizzy got the heart of the passage and then gave us this song. Prepare your heart with this:
2. Read Song of Songs 3:1-5
A. What is she doing in verse 1? What clues do you see that you should not interpret this literally but poetically?
B. Compare verse 1 to Psalm 6:6 and Psalm 63:6. What similarities to you see? What does this teach you?
C. Do you seek the Lord on your bed in the night? If so, how?
I’d like to share a comment from my husband’s journal that I shared in A Woman of Worship. He often prayed “on his bed,” was often awakened with a phone call, but then prayed. His prayer was not so much one of distress, but simply one of communing with the Lord during wakeful times.
When the distractions of my medical practice are over for the day, I reflect on how God’s lovingkindness flowed to me during the hours past. In the still hours of the night, I respond with praise to the Lord, And then, I respond with prayer, asking for help with the problems of the coming day, for grace, for forgiveness of my sins.
D. Find three repeated phrases in Song of Songs 3:1-3 and comment on what you think is the significance of each of them to your life.
E. What is the emotion of verse 3? Have you experienced this on an earthly level or a spiritual level? If so, share.
F. James Hamilton, in the sermon you will hear this week, presents the possibility that in chapter 2 that he was proposing marriage and she was not ready. (I don’t know if I agree but it is interesting and does make sense of repeating the thought of verse 5 here.) What do you think?
TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY: SCENE TWO: THE WEDDING
Our family had stopped pestering J. R. and Dianne about getting married. We decided that, for whatever reason, theirs was just a beautiful platonic lifelong brother and sister friendship.
That all changed in the twinkling of an eye.
(You can read the whole story on this past post: CLICK)
On their honeymoon they went to a fine restaurant.
Dianne left to go to the Powder Room, and the waitress asked J. R. if he knew what “his wife” would like to drink. He surprised the waitress by throwing back his head and crying:
YES! SHE’S MY WIFE!!!
And though it seems too good to be true, we are Christ’s Bride. As “The Church’s One Foundation” puts it:
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy Bride, and with His blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
And one glorious day we could hear:
YES! SHE’S MY WIFE!!!
Amazingly, in the Song, the wedding takes place right in the middle of the wilderness journey. For the last time we saw her, she has sent him away, for she was unwilling to come out of the cleft and follow Him. He bounded away and she becomes distraught. The first love time is past and the wilderness time has begun. Perhaps the fact that he marries her now is a poetic way of showing that He did not choose us on the basis of our merit, but on the basis of His love.
Song of Songs 3: 6-11 describe a royal wedding. There are great similarities to Psalm 45, which describes the royal wedding between Christ and His Bride, the purchased Church.
There are also great similarities, as the sermon will point out, between God leading His Bride, Israel, in Exodus, through the wilderness with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of clouds by day.
3. Read Song of Songs 3:6-11. Describe the scene of Solomon bringing his bride to the wedding. Find everything you can. What stands out to you and why?
4. What question is asked in verse 6 and how is it answered in verse 7?
5. How is the picture in verse 6 reminiscent of God leading his bride Israel through the wilderness? (See Exodus 13:21-22)
6. The pronoun in S. of S. 3:6 is feminine singular. How is she perfumed and what might this signify? (See Leviticus 6:15 and Romans 12:1)
7. Another royal wedding is described in Psalm 45, which Hebrews 1:8 quotes as being “about the Son.” The parallels between Psalm 45 and the Song convinced Jonathan Edwards that the Song pointed to Christ as well. Here are seven of the many parallels Edwards saw. See if you can discover them too:
- Psalm 45:1 and S. S. 1:1
- Psalm 45:2 and S. S. 5:10
- Psalm 45:3-5 and S. S. 3:7-8
- Psalm 45:7-8 and S. S. 3:5
- Psalm 45:10-11 and S. S. 4:7-8
- Psalm 45:14 and S.S. 3:11
- Psalm 45:15 and S.S. 3:11
To see more from Edwards, google Jonathan Edwards Song of Solomon or click here: Jonathan Edwards
8. Read Psalm 45:9-10. What parallel do you see with the Song, and what might the King be saying to you?
9. What follows the wedding is the wedding night.
A. He praises every part of her in 4:1-5. There are many Old
Testament allusions to historical events when God was with
His people See if you can find one.
B. What do you think is the meaning of 4:6? (He is speaking)
C. Since this is most likely when the marriage is consummated,
what might verse 12 mean?
D. Though this is very physical there are still two levels here, as
may become clearer next week. You can definitely see the
spiritual level in 4:16. What do you think this means?
9. What comments do you have?
10. What is your take-a-way and why?