ONCE SHE SAID, “DON’T GAZE AT ME!”
NOW SHE IS DANCING BETWEEN TWO ARMIES!
ONCE SHE WAS ASHAMED OF HER “VINEYARD.”
NOW SHE IS WALKING WITH HER BRIDEGROOM
INTO THE VINEYARDS TO SEE THE CHOICE FRUITS.
When my friend Twila was in her forties and the mother of five, she went into a severe clinical depression that lasted ten years. She tried everything under the sun to be delivered: various anti-depressants, alternative medicine, confessing and repenting of any known sin, counseling, eating right, exercising… all, it seemed, for naught. She was roller blading ten miles a day, but whenever she got to the five mile mark to turn around, she would plead with God: “Please, Lord – just let me die.” Her counselor kept stressing the love of God to her and had her constantly in the Word and reading books about God’s love such as Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. One of the things that her counselor told her is “Women are responders.” So Twila had to allow God to show her His love so that her soul would respond to Him. I believe that this is one of the great values of The Song of Songs — God shows us His love for us. We are loved not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done.
For Twila, it wasn’t a quick fix, but slowly, as she contemplated God’s love in His Word, His love moved from her head to her heart. Today, Twila is one of the most joyful women I know. She memorizes whole books of the Bible (Hebrews, Romans, Ephesians, 2 Corinthians…). When I asked her why she so loved to memorize, tears came to her eyes and she said, “Because when I do I experience His presence.” Mysteriously, because Jesus is the Word, His presence inhabits His Word. And in His presence is fullness of joy.
Recently Twila and some other dear friends came on a cruise where I was speaking. Twila would walk round and round the whole ship on “Deck 4,” for that was where the lifeboats hung, so it was empty of sunbathers. At night she’d go back, skipping around as she exalted in the sea, the stars, and the sense of God’s presence. This woman who once struggled to put one foot in front of another was skipping like a little girl. On that cruise Twila shared her story of being delivered from depression in a workshop. It so blessed the women there that it was requested she share it again to the whole group on the final night. This is Twila in front of the group that night: fuzzy picture, but it captures her joy.
Twila explained that in Psalm 18 “David had a literal army chasing him, but my enemy was depression. And truly, the cords of death were wrapped around me!” But this is what happened to me:
I love you, O Lord, my strength…
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From His temple he heard my voice;
My cry came before him, into his ears.
And then she says, with grateful tears springing up: “And this is what He did:”
The earth trembled and quaked,
And the foundations of the mountains shook;
They trembled because he was angry…
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
From my foes, who were too strong for me…
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because he delighted in me.
Psalm 18: 1, 5, 6, 7, 16, 17, 19 (NIV 1984)
When we draw near to the Lord and want Him and not just Him to fix our problems, we experience His presence and He turns our mourning into dancing. He did it for Twila, He did it for the Shulammite, and He can do it for you.
On a personal note I want to thank you for your encouragement last week. I expressed the thought that because this study is challenging it will not have a broad appeal, for I have noticed less participation than in most studies, especially last week. Many of you came on with encouragement or (alas!) with feeling guilty. Please know I never want any of you to feel you must be here or are not free to drop out for a season. I loved Jackie’s analogy of God reducing Gideon’s army to 300. I still feel this will have a narrower appeal, party because generally speaking the Western church is not deep. But I know God can work mightily with an army of 300! It is with the remnant that revival begins. The last two weekends I spoke at churches of depth and their response was amazing — and that was a sweet kiss from the King. Let me say that this group is amazing, and I so thank God for you. You have helped me so much in crafting this study. We will have one more week after this. Pray please for me to hear from Him as to where to head next! THANK YOU THANK YOU!
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Monday-Wednesday Bible Study:
2. Contrast the Shulammite from when we first met her in Song of Songs 1:6 to how we see her in Song of Songs 6:13-7:1 and 7:13. Find everything you can.
Compare Song of Songs 7:1 to Isaiah 52:7. What light does this give you?
This brings to mind not only the song from Handel’s Messiah, but this by Twila Paris:
James Hamilton said, in last week’s sermon, that if this was just a description of an individual woman, he would have done a better job. He saw, as does Ellen Davis, descriptions of the beautiful land of Israel, of the Garden of Eden, and of fruitfulness and fertility. As you read this next section, what can you see?
4. Read Song of Songs 7:1-5
Now I am going to delve in this blog where I did not delve in the book — for I feel it is “meat” that isn’t suitable for everyone. I could still change that during the editorial process, so I’m eager to hear your responses.
5. One of the most astonishing aspects of the Song is that indeed, there are sexual aspects — not in a pornographic way, but with subtle beauty. First, read Song of Songs 7:6-10, viewing it from the earthly perspective of the marriage bed. What beauty do you see and how does it impact your view of the marriage bed?
6. Challenge Question: Now, I want you to compare Song of Songs 7:8 with Psalm 92:12-14. What do you see and what insight on the spiritual level does this give you?
This is from Hudson Taylor, the Founder of China’s Inland Mission (Now OMF):
Grace has made her like the palm tree, the symbol of uprightness and fruitfulness. And this tree’s fruit-bearing powers don’t end as it goes older. Instead the fruit becomes more perfect as well as more abundant.
(I love that! As my body is getting less sexually alluring with age, how wonderful it would be if simultaneously my soul was bearing better spiritual fruit.)
7. Another challenge question. In the beginning of this study, Ellen Davis said that holding both pictures (intimacy in marriage and intimacy with Christ) side by side enhances both. Has that been true of you? If so share. (Warning — I’m looking for some pithy quotes!)
Jim Hamilton does a good review of Song of Songs 1-6 and then goes into 7.
8. What are your notes or thoughts on the above?
9. What is your take-a-way and why?