A TIME TO PONDER
WHY OUR BELOVED IS BETTER THAN OTHERS
BETTER THAN OUR HEART IDOLS,
AND ALTOGETHER LOVELY.
DETERMINE NOW TO GIVE HIM TIME DAILY
DURING THIS HOLIEST OF WEEKS.
LET ME BEGIN WITH A STORY.
I first met Nam, as young mothers often do, through the friendship of our daughters: May and Sally. Seven-year-old May and her mother had flown all the way from Bang-Kok, Thailand to Kearney, Nebraska to make their home with Jerry, an older serviceman who’d proposed to lovely Nam while he was stationed in Bang-kok. When I invited Nam for tea, she told me repeatedly “so happy to have a friend now!”
I thought, Okay, I better be her friend! My heart went out to her for she had moved an ocean away from friends, family, culture and language. I was grateful when my dear friend Shell came alongside as well. About a month later, Jerry had emergency heart surgery and faced a long recuperation. Their bills began to mount and Nam came to us with Jerry’s “American” ideas for making money.
She sat down with Shell and me and said, “How bout we have American party where we sell lotta your church friend soap or lipstick?”
I squirmed. Shell shot me an uncomfortable glance. That was the last thing we wanted to do! I was glad I could simply and truthfully say: “Nam, you’d probably lose money getting into one of those networking groups, and most people never make much.” (Still true today — see Christianity Today’s Brand Evangelists article:12/15)
“Okay.” Nam quickly shifted to Plan B: “How bout American garage sale? Jerry has lotta stuff we no need.”
Shell said, “That’s a good idea, Nam, but we should wait until spring. That’s when people start looking in the paper for garage sales.”
“We no can wait…” Nam implored Shell and me with her deep brown eyes.
How could we say no? We enlisted a few more friends and threw ourselves into hosting a winter garage sale. We came to understand why Nam kept calling it an “American” garage sale. “We don’t have lotta stuff like this in Thailand – and no car, or if we lucky to have one, we no build house for it.”
On Monday we put an ad in the paper for the following Saturday, hauled in card tables, bags and boxes of Jerry’s and our excess stuff, set up heaters in Nam’s garage, and got to work marking things. By Thursday they were predicting snow for Saturday, so we huddled together and prayed while Nam watched us:
Oh Lord, please hold back the snow!
Lord, if it pleases you, please help people see that ad and want to come!
How thankful we’d be if Nam could make enough to pay their bills.
We ask all this in Jesus name.
When we looked up, Nam was wide-eyed with wonder. “Will your god hear you?”
Nam’s god, represented by a clay Buddha, sat in her foyer.
We felt like Elijah with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. With mustard seed faith, we said, “Yes!” And silently we implored: Please God!
In His mercy, that Saturday was like a day in spring and scores of people were eagerly buying our “lotta stuff.’ Nam made enough to pay their bills and get them by for a while. She smiled and said, “Your god heard you!”
It was the beginning of showing Nam what it was like to belong to a living God who heard, who cared, who provided, and who laid down His life for us.
The daughters of Jerusalem ask the bride who has persevered in looking for her Lover and asked for help from her friends:
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
O most beautiful among women.
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
That you charge us so?
Song of Songs 5:9
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. As you begin this Holy Week, share three reasons that Jesus is better than the gods of world religions. Share a doctrinal reason, a picture you love of Him from the Gospels, and a personal way He has met you. Be specific!
Monday: A Verbal Statue That Lives!
Prepare your heart with this from the Blue Rock Mennonite Youth:
As the bride begins to describe “why her beloved is better than others” to the daughters of Jerusalem, it is almost as if she is describing a statue, with a head of finest gold, arms like rods of gold, and legs like alabaster columns on bases of gold. E. F. Davis believes that this is “a daring move on the poet’s part…As is well known, biblical law prohibited the creation of “graven images” (Exodus 20:4) of God. ” Davis explains that a verbal statue would be as close as the poet could come to representing God with such physicality without transgressing that command. Her description has some similarities to the statues Israel’s pagan neighbors erected of their gods, statues made of gold, marble, and alabaster – but there are some critical differences. First, this statue is brimming with life – life reminiscent of the flowers, fragrance, and flowing streams of the Garden of Eden.
3. Read Song of Songs 5:10-13 and find ways that this “verbal statue” is brimming with life!
Tuesday-Wednesday: A Verbal Statue That Is Powerful but also Good!
Prepare Your Heart with This:
Next, this statue has similarities to the idol that frightened Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, but again, with crucial differences. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, though it had a head of gold, had a body made up of increasingly inferior metals ending in the feet, made of iron and clay, which do not mix. Daniel interpreted the head as representing Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom but the rest of the body as representing the kingdoms that would, one by one, overtake the preceding kingdom. Matthew Henry writes that these inferior metals were “all of one and the same spirit was genius, and all more or less against the church.” Most commentators see the fulfillment of the silver chest, bronze thighs, and iron legs as the succeeding kingsdoms of the Persians, Grecians, and Romans. Commentators disagree on what the vulnerable and mixed feet represent, but today many see them as the continuing unrest in the Middle East. But in any case, they are all eventually broken by the stone cut “by no human hand” (Daniel 2:45) leading to “a kingdom that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 2:44)
4. Read Daniel 2:31-45 and describe the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation.
Here is one interpretation that brings this dream to life.
5. What will follow the “stone” that will crush all these Kingdoms, and how will this Final Kingdom be better?
6. Read Song of Songs 5:14-16 and find the contrasts to the idol of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Maundy Thursday: Better Than Our Heart Idols
I have received so many e-mails in response to the curriculum of Idol Lies. One was from Kristi who wrote that when she was studying Idol Lies she was also in the painful position of realizing the company, at which she thought she had landed her “dream job” as a speech pathologist was an unethical company. She said she had also “people-pleased” her way into working fifty hours a week, for twenty-five hours of pay. Members of her church encouraged her to resign. She decided to follow their advice but it meant breaking her (illegal) contract. She tells what happened:
As I sat in the meeting with my boss, he said cruel things about me personally and as a professional.
Before “Idol Lies,” these words would have been devastating. Instead, I was face-to-face with my biggest fear and able to lean into God’s love, do the “right” thing instead of the “nice” thing, and worship God instead of my boss and career. It was liberating. The meeting that should have devastated me instead smashed an idol that had been on the throne of my heart for far too long.
God miraculously provided a new job. It is only 30 hours per week, but a new idol began to replace the idol of acceptance. I began to question my worth because my work week was shorter than that of so many others who seemed important in their busyness. But I realized…instead of finding my identity in a life of a busy career, I had to find my identity in Christ alone. It has been such a sweet season of rest in Him.
7. How did Kristi’s heart idols seem to be her friends but then bring her pain? How was Jesus, instead, “altogether lovely?”
8. Could you share a brief testimony about a heart idol that caused you pain? If you are growing in allowing Jesus to fill that void, how He has brought you peace?
9. Thinking of that holy week, what heart idols brought Judas pain, do you think? Peter? Which disciple experienced “the expulsive love of a new affection” and how did it affect him?
Jesus was on the cross, our Lamb of God, from 9 to 3. This has always been a day of reflection for those who love Him. I would love you to listen to this message Michael Reeves brought in Dubai concerning Puritan Preacher Richard Sibbes. Sibbes is one who wrote this commentary on The Song of Songs. While this may seem an odd Good Friday message, I think it is perfect, for what does Good Friday show us except that our beloved is good, and loves us so. This is what motivated Sibbes in his preaching, and what we must allow to penetrate our hearts if indeed, we are to be transformed.
10. Please take good notes and ponder the above, sharing your thoughts.
On this Good Friday, ponder this. When Buddha died, his last words were “Keep striving.” When Jesus died, his last words were “It is finished.” This Lenten season we had an evangelistic study, and one of our seekers was visibly moved by the words “It is finished.” She asked, “It is finished?” There were nods. Again she asked, “It is finished?” Definite nods. Tears came to her eyes. “It is finished!”
11. What does this mean to you when you see your sin, your failures, your past?
12. What is your take-a-way and why?