I checked my notes and found that I had never actually heard a sermon from Solomon’s book called the Song of Songs. Song of Songs is not a book we even read a lot. It is not only hard to interpret, but its subject matter is also of a romantic, sensual nature. The question comes as to whether we can trust that King Solomon who had 700 wives and 300 concubines can offer any advice about a loving relationship between a man and a woman. Even a harder question is whether there is any Godly advice in Song of Songs.
The Song of Songs, sometimes also called the Song of Solomon, is one of two books in the Bible that does not mention God. The other is the book of Esther. It was written approximately 940-960 BC as advice for married couples and singles contemplating marriage. The story is about the courtship and marriage of a maiden referred to as the Shulammite and takes place in ancient Israel, in the woman’s garden and the king’s palace. The Song of Songs is a beautiful love story between a man and a woman, bride, and bridegroom. King Solomon poetically declares his love for a beautiful Jewish maiden. She responds to the king’s advances and adds her heartfelt desire for him. It is written as a dialogue, a conversation, between two people who love each other. Let’s meander through the poetry and find a few bits of wisdom for today!
God Will Take the Initiative
(Song of Songs 2:13)1NIV New International Version Translations – “The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”
Solomon is stating that he is taking the initiative. It is just like our God who takes the initiative and comes to us. Just as Solomon refuses to be deterred from the pursuit of his beloved, so is God determined to pursue us with His love. While this is a beautiful image when attributed to human lovers, once we take the time to understand that God is determined to come to us, we should be humbled. In that determination, any obstacles and deterrents are removed. Nothing stands in God’s way except us.
(Psalm 53:2) – “God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”
Grace is God’s favor toward the unworthy (God’s benevolence on the undeserving). In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us, even though we fall short of living righteously. However, grace may be received “in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 6:1). If we refuse the grace that God offers or presume to receive it on anything other than His terms, the opportunity for salvation could pass by. There was no greater tragedy than to hear Jesus’s lamenting those in His day who had refused His grace:
(Matthew 23:37) – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Love is a Pursuit
(Song of Solomon 5:2-3) – “I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.’ I have taken off my robe—must I put it on again? I have washed my feet— must I soil them again?”
The above verses could easily have come from a comedy sitcom. In the scene, a wife is pursued by her husband for an evening’s pleasure. However, she is ready for bed. Hence, the clean feet comment. There is a common theme in the Song of Songs. It involves seeking each other. The husband and wife each have the drive to discover and enjoy the other. From this, we see love is active. It is an attitude to serve rather than be served. Hesitation leads to lost opportunity. The same holds for our God. We need to pursue our God with full energy. Waiting for tomorrow can lead to the loss of eternal opportunities.
By the time the Shulammite overcomes her hesitation, she realizes she is too late. Her king has left the door. Our learnings here are that resentment or just regret is foolish emotion. She instead pursues reconciliation, going to search for him. When God knocks, we should answer. If we have missed the opportunity somehow in life, then pursue, pursue, pursue.
(Psalm 119:2) – “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart”
A Healthy Relationship is Protective
(Song of Songs 2:3) – “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.”
The Shulamite woman uses a metaphor, comparing Solomon, her king, and a warrior, to an apple tree within a forest of trees. Such a tree would have been strong and sturdy. Its shade offers protection from the scorching rays of the sun. Its fruit is nourishing and refreshing. She sees Solomon, her bridegroom, In the same way. Strong, protective, and nourishing to their relationship.
(1 Corinthians 13:6-7) – “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. t always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always persevere.”
The metaphor can be extended to include the love of God and our Savior, Jesus. It is through God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrificial love for us that we are offered protection from our enemies. God loves us more deeply than any experience or expression we can relate to in our life. God’s love is abounding, encompassing, and transformative. There is nothing that can interfere with God’s love except for our obstructions. God came to us in human form and removed all barriers between Himself and us. The young woman simply records “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.” (Song of Songs 2:4). This is the relationship to be held between husband and wife and between ourselves and Jesus. Jesus, our perfect Bridegroom, shelters us with the power of his unfailing love. God’s Word is there to nourish us!
(Ephesians 5:25-27) – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
True Love is Worth Waiting For
(Song of Songs 2:7) – “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”
It must have been the ultimate ego trip to find herself pursued by Solomon. He was King, the world’s wealthiest man, and the wisest too. The Shulamite bride repeats her plea two more times in the book of Song of Songs. She is urging her fellow maidens to wait for love’s perfect timing. The Hebrew word for love in this verse is believed to mean sexual desire. Today, society laughs at this idea. God, however, encourages us to follow His advice:
(Romans 12:2) – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Even the best relationships fall short of the glory of God. Human love always falls short. There is One whose love will never falter; whose love will never let us down. The Song of Songs was never meant to focus on the imperfect love of humans, but to direct us to the perfect love of Jesus Christ.
The True Love of God Will Never Fail
The end of this love song concludes with the resounding melody of the strong, unrelenting love of the king and his fair maiden. In (Song of Songs 8) his beloved bride describes the great power and depth of true love. We see the same passion in the greatest love story ever told, the story about the Son of God. The humble human who came to us and carried the sins of the world on His shoulders to His death so that you and I could have a relationship with our Creator. While speculative, it is thought Solomon wrote Song of Songs early in his life. Solomon would later lose much of his tenderness. Too many wives and concubines would corrupt his view of the purity of love. In his book Ecclesiastes, Solomon would claim that life has no meaning. He was right in a sense, without God’s love in the forefront, life has little meaning!
- Where do you think the permissive attitudes come from in our society about sex and marriage?
- Ideas to Explore: Do we learn them from our parents? Do we learn them from our educational institutions? Do we learn them from social media, news, or the entertainment industry? Are they learned on the street?
- God holds the leaders of a nation accountable for the moral values of that nation. What are our leaders doing to strengthen the institutions of marriage and family?
- Ideas to Explore: Be specific in your thoughts. Are the people our nation is electing acting responsibly for the moral values of its people? If so, what are they doing? If not, what should they be doing?
- How do these attitudes help or hinder the strength of a marriage and family?
- Ideas to Explore: Who is supporting the philosophy of living together before marriage? Does this strengthen or weaken family relationships?
- Are churches too tolerant in their attitudes towards marriage and sex?
- Ideas to Explore: Are churches too concerned over financing? Do churches tolerate ungodly things to keep their congregations together? Are churches just modeling the world today rather than the world God wants for today?
- Denominations today no longer exclude people from their leadership that would have been excluded just a few years ago. Does this strengthen or weaken the church?
- Ideas to Explore: Since all people are sinners, shouldn’t our church be a melting pot of society? Should someone who openly disobeys the Bible become a church leader? How does leadership affect the congregation?
- Do weak families impact future generations in negative ways?
- Ideas to Explore: Does divorce, children born out of wedlock, and children raised in single-parent family homes cause societal issues in later years? How does crime impact families? How do drugs impact families?
- Do you think that people believe there is a loving God?
- Ideas to Explore: Do people even think about God these days? Why are fewer people going to church? Is the family structure weaker or stronger these days?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations