The young girl gazes out into the desert; something is coming towards her. It is Solomon, her lover, traveling by carriage. He is accompanied by a protective band of weapon wielding warriors, tested and poised for whatever threat awaits them. With Solomon — and his army — she will be protected.
In a spiritual sense, this is how it is with God and us. He is coming towards us; with him, we will be protected. (That doesn’t mean there won’t be risks as we journey with him, because there will.) We will also be afforded a band of warriors, ready to battle on our behalf. In the spiritual realm, this is an army of angels.
Centuries later, Jesus tells Satan, “Don’t you know that I could ask my Father, and right away he would send me more than twelve armies of angels?”
While we might not see angels, we have good reason to believe that they are nearby, ready to protect us from both physical threats and spiritual foes.
Our God, who loves us, will make sure we are protected.
[Song of Solomon 3:6-8, Matthew 26:53]
In the Song of Songs, the girl reveals something personal. She is self-conscious about the dark tones of her skin (from spending too much time in the sun, she says). She doesn’t want others to stare.
Yet the friends in this story want to do just that. They admire her uniqueness and ask to gaze upon her. This is ironic; the exact thing that makes her uncomfortable, others admire.
More significantly, is that her lover desires to do the same. He says, “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” His love for her is revealed through his desire.
While this human love story between a man and a woman is wonderful and inviting, the underlying analogy is of the love story between God and us. By extension, God wants to look at us; he wants to hear our voice!
If this seems strange, know that there is precedent.
You may recall that after Adam and Eve hid from God, that God sought them out, calling “Where are you?”*
I hear the same call to us today.
*Their location was not a mystery to God; he merely wanted them to come to him on their own accord — as he does of us.
[read the passages referenced above]
The Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) is a part of the Bible that is not often read. Even so, three phrases jump out as being very familiar.
The first is “rose of Sharon.” It is a beautiful and valued flower. However, according to some translators, this eloquent phrasing should more correctly be rendered as “crocus.” That just doesn’t carry the same punch.
Immediately following that is another flower reference, “lily of the valley.” Lily of the valley is also a pretty flower, usually a pure white and most delicate in appearance.
What is unclear is if these images refer to the king (implying God) or to his beloved (implying us).
The third phrase is “his banner over me is love.” This harkens to I song I remember singing as a child. Aside from this phrase and a vague recollection of the tune, I can recall no other words to the song, but I think this is what we sang (and there are even hand motions to accompany it!)
Interestingly, all three phrases only occur once in the Bible, in the Song of Songs.
Song of Songs is commonly categorized as wisdom literature in the Bible. With the possible exception of Job, it is not like the other wisdom books, nor like any other book in the Bible. It is easy to imagine Song of Songs as being the lines to a play that King Solomon wrote to both entertain and teach his people. As such, Song of Songs may be more akin to a modern-day screenplay than anything else.
There are three characters in this play, the beloved (the girl), the lover (the king), and the friends (think of them as the “chorus”). Headings, indicating the three parts, are inserted in some versions to reflect the pronouns used in the original Hebrew text, though some of the delineations between speakers are not absolute.
The book can be read straight through as a narrative or the various speakers (lover, beloved, and friends) can be pulled out read individually to gain a better understanding of each character. In doing so,
- the lover mostly upholds and celebrates her beauty,
- the beloved mostly talks about her deep yearning for him and desire to be with him, and
- the words of the “friends” often provide a transition or information for the play.
In reading the words of the lover (the king), we can gain insight into God’s love for us and how he views us.
In focusing on the words of the beloved (the girl), we get a glimpse of what our response to God should rightly be.
Reading the Song of Songs with this perspective, gives me much to consider.
After my prior post about the number one hit that used the Bible for lyrics, you may thing that it is the “song of songs.” Not so. There is another. You may have heard the book in the Bible, Song of Solomon. It is sometimes called the “Song of Songs.” (A more comprehensive title might be “Solomon’s Song of Songs.”)
Song of Songs can be thought of as a “biblical erotica,” albeit a PG 13 version. It is a bit explicit and somewhat suggestive, but in a literary way.
Song of Songs is a tale a passionate love affair between the king and his lover. The king is Solomon and his lover is foreign royalty (she is described has a “Shulammite” and a “prince’s daughter).
However, in addition to this real life drama, Song of Songs is also points to a passionate spiritual love affair between God and his people. (In the New Testament, this love affair is even more specific, being between Jesus and the church, who is his spiritual bride.)
As such, Song of Songs can be read and appreciated on two levels: a personal love story between two people and a spiritual saga of God’s desire for his people (us) and the way he longs for us to respond.