Friday, July 23, 2010

Song of Solomon

My best friend, Mark, and I came to faith in Christ about a month apart during our first year of high school. We would often read the Bible together and ponder the great things found within with the desire to know deeply this God Who had saved us from our sin and delivered us from its power. We were doing quite well, actually, until we came to The Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. We slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt when reading that book of the Bible. We did not understand at all why it was found in the pages of Holy Scripture and were, frankly, a little embarrassed to read it. We finally decided to wait until we were about to be married to our future wives before rereading it again.

Though an understandable conclusion from two adolescent boys, we were not too far from the truth about The Song of Solomon. A "lyric" poem written by Solomon around 965 B.C., this is considered by some to be the "best" of the some 1,005 poems or songs that Solomon, son of David, wrote. It is indeed meant to be a poem, perhaps even an exposition, of the healthy relationship between a husband and wife, attesting loudly and clearly that men and women are meant to live with each other within the contract of marriage. One might even say The Song of Solomon is included in the Canon of Holy Scripture as a representation of God's plan for a godly marriage spanning the realms of spiritual, emotional, and physical love.

The literal, intended meaning of the poem or song should be understood as a representation of God's plan for a godly marriage. However, there are some "allegorical" or foreshadowing components within the song that speak to God's relationship to Israel (a Rabbinical view) and to Christ and His church. An example of this foreshadowing can be seen in Song of Solomon 2:4:

"He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love." (NIV)

This verse could be seen as a representation of the intimacy of the believer pursued and purchased by Christ, thrusting us into a position of magnificent spiritual intimacy by His redemptive Grace.

A representation of how God preserves us (His sheep) in Christ (security) and feeds us spiritually and provides for us physically could be seen in Song of Solomon 2:16:

"My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies." (NASB)

Though there are those who would dogmatically insist that the poem should only be considered in its literal and intended meaning, I would suggest there are many lessons in the book that could govern our relationship with God and how to grow that intimacy.

One: Just as we are to take all the time to get to know who our spouse is and give all the attention needed that we might grow in intimacy together, we should take all the time, constantly and thoroughly, to know God through His Word and prayer. This, too, like in a marriage, will result in a deeper and more intimate understanding of our Lord, Savior, and King.

Two: Just as in a marriage where spending uninterrupted time with one another in encouragement and praise results in a more intimate and mature relationship, spending uninterrupted time in God's Word praising Him will encourage us in our relationship to the Divine.

Three: Just as God's plan for us is to enjoy our marriage relationship in a profound and joyful sense, we, too, can enjoy our relationship with God by entering into a "child" to Father sense, i.e. Abba Father and the intimate closeness implied by that term.

Four: Just as a married couple should do "what it takes" to reaffirm their mutual devotion, so should the believer with his Lord: Through immediate confession of sin, through the immediate putting to death the deeds of the flesh regarding besetting sins, through daily uninterrupted prayer.

Five: Just as infidelity will ruin fellowship within a marriage, if not outright destroy it, so can infidelity with God wreck the believer-God relationship. This can take form in allowing things such as devotion to sports usurp the believer's devotion to God. The believer can end up trying to serve two masters in getting caught up in unbiblical and unscriptural practices such as with the New Age heresy. The Word of God teaches us we cannot serve two masters. We will love the one and hate the other.

The curious thing about this poem being included in the Canon of scripture is that after more than twenty centuries, there is not agreement as to what it means. Old Testament scholar Edward Young offers eight different interpretations for the book. The main ideas offered by scholars and preachers are that the book is primarily a manual of sorts for godly marital love, and secondly, an allegory of Christ and His bride, the church. Some take it as a typological combination of the two. An Australian Free Church minister believes that a literal interpretation makes it a "display of immoral affection."

I think the lack of consensus on the book's meaning and reason for inclusion in the Canon might last until the second coming.