THIS IS MY BELOVED,
THIS IS MY FRIEND.
(Song of Songs 5:15)
EVEN MORE THAN NEW YEAR’S DAY, RESURRECTION DAY IS A TIME FOR
THE SHULAMMITE IN THE SONG OF SONGS IS EXPERIENCING A NEW BEGINNING.
SHE HAS COME OUT OF THE WILDERNESS
C. S. Lewis struggled at first with the whole idea of praising God, explaining:
We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence, or delightfulness…
Was God like that? But then Lewis realized praise and worship might be for us, for what it does in our hearts.
The most obvious fact about praise…strangely escaped me.
I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour.
…I had not noticed how the humblest,
and at the same time most
balanced and capacious minds, praised most,
while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.
I met “Joseph” at pickleball, a growing sport in America that is a less rigorous form of tennis and popular with all ages. Joseph, in his eighties, may be the oldest man who plays regularly with us. He came to faith when he was fired as a young professor. Broken, he picked up a Bible and read the gospel of John. He said, “It saved my life. I thought I was such a hotshot professor, and I am just an ordinary professor.” Joseph loves the Lord and always has a twinkle in his eye and a gracious kindness toward every single person. One fellow pickleball player said to me: “Joseph is such a gentleman.” One day I heard a man who didn’t want Joseph to be his partner be exceptionally rude to Joseph, and Joseph responded immediately with love and kindness. Joseph and his wife adopted all five of their children and have faced many trials with some, including repeated jail sentences for one. When someone commiserated with him, he said, “God gave us exactly the children we needed and who needed us.”
Yet as mature and godly as Joseph is, he has not stopped learning. A new habit has brought even greater radiance and joy to him. Last year he faced rotator cuff surgery (common, unfortunately, among pickleball players!) and asked Twila and me to come and pray with him before his surgery. Twila had gone through the same surgery the year before and faced the same year long recovery. She gave Joseph a journal and told him that every day while she was recovering she recorded her blessings and it helped her stay positive. Recently over coffee with Joseph and his wife, I asked him how keeping that journal had impacted him. His face shone as he told me about it and I was too transfixed to write anything down. So I asked him to write me what he said that day, and he said it would be his great pleasure. 🙂
I write in my journal every day, first thing after the coffee is ready. “Lily” is still sleeping and our little condo is quiet. I sit down with the journal and make a list of all the blessings of the previous day, and sometimes I include some anti-blessings also. I don’t want to call them curses, because they, too, flow from God’s love for me. They are just the disappointments that flow from my own desires being in imperfect alignment with God’s will for me. I mark the blessings with a filled-in circle, and the anti-blessings with an open circle. There are many more filled-in circles than open circles.
Writing in it has become my principal devotional exercise. I call it “Joseph’s Little Book of Blessings.” Now, by concentrating each morning on the good things that happen to me, I find myself happier than before — grateful for God’s benevolence and power, and in wonder as I ask, “Why me?” I am not an exceptional man nor an unusual Christian — whatever seems otherwise was put there by God. I just reflect His love.
What struck me was recording the “anti-blessings.” I see that as a form of lament — where you speak honestly to the Lord but then allow Him to speak to you. A dialogue. This week, for example, I recorded this “anti-blessing.”
I become so discouraged by the political scene in America. The candidates are so crude, rude, and lacking in integrity.
Then I pause and let God speak to me and record that, if I sense He is speaking.
Nothing slips between Your fingers. You may be refining us, refining America, and giving us just what we need, for suffering refines like nothing else. Or, You may show us mercy and bring a godly leader to us still. But I trust You Lord, for You always do things well in Your time.
Worship changes us, aligns our perspective with God’s, and helps us remember that God is for us, for He is our Beloved, He is our Friend. Even in these times of political dismay and ISIS, God has not forgotten us nor has He turned His back on us. We must pray for revival, for that may be the reason He has allowed this all to happen. The faith of Americans is so shallow when compared to the faith of Christians in third world countries or in prison. May we humble ourselves and ask Him to revive our hearts as He revived the heart of the Shulammite.
1.What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Prepare your heart with this famous hymn (exceeded only in popularity by his” Hark the Herald Angels” by Charles Wesley. It is worship for our “Beloved” at its best, so meditate on the words!
While it may seem so lacking to compare falling in love on earth with our relationship with the Lord Jesus, it is what we earthlings know, and so God uses this intimate metaphor to illumine us concerning His love for us and our responsive love for Him. My mother was a gifted soprano and she used to sing “This is My Beloved” from Kismet, but I never ever realized it was inspired by the Song of Solomon until now. This is a song of earthly love and yet, can you not see the “living verbal statue” that we studied two weeks ago, who has “eyes like doves besides streams of water?” She explains “plain words cannot tell the thrill” so her comparisons are to LIFE and nature. (Some of you may think this strange, but I think others of you will get it.) Watch and comment — however it impacts your heart.
3. What reflections do you have on the above?
Read Psalm 45, which has many similarities to the descriptions she makes of her kingly love. Hebrews clearly tells us that Psalm 45 is about Christ. Now that you are much more familiar with the Song, I’d like you to find three passages in the Song that parallel verses from Psalm 45, and after describing the parallel, use it to praise your Lord. Here is an example:
Psalm 45:2 says “grace is poured from his lips” and S. of S. 5:16 says “his mouth is altogether sweet.” And surely we have seen grace upon grace poured from his lips in The Song.
Lord, I can hardly believe the grace You have told me I am loved, I am clean in your eyes, and that You find delight in me. How can I ever thank You enough for this love, this grace?
4. Now it is your turn — find three places that correlate and use what you see as a springboard for praise.
5. See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing S. of S. 2:16 with S. of S. 6:3. What do you see?
When we first come to Christ we are still so self-centered, exalting in the fact that “Christ is ours” and in the many ways He blesses us. But if we move into the land of “Invincible Love” on this earth, it becomes much less about us and much more about Him. Augustine said: “We are either centered in self and forgetful of God or centered in God and forgetful of self.”
As a young speaker, I often told the listeners the amazing things the Lord had done for me. Today, I want their hearts to melt with the beauty of Christ. Our desires shifts from glorying in what He does for us, to truly glorifying Him. We, like John the Baptist, “decrease that He might increase.”
6. Do you see yourself “decreasing?” (Michael Reeves says it is not wrong to be aware of fruit in your life, for it is “all of Him.”)
Thursday-Friday: Message from Nancy Leigh deMoss Wolgemuth
7. Share your notes and thoughts.
8. What is your take-a-way and why?