Friday, July 22, 2016

"The passion of true love!"

Day #205

Scripture Reading:  Song of Songs 1 - 2 …

Books written about Solomon's "Song of Songs" have been enthusiastically received by many over the past century, and especially in recent years.  The passion of love expressed between the "Beloved" and her "Lover" has been presented as the ideal of the marital love expressed between a wife and her husband.  Solomon's words are interpreted to refer to the physical desire and sexual intimacy that God designed to express the oneness of a man and a woman.  Yet, prior to the early twentieth century Solomon's "Song of Songs" was almost exclusively interpreted as an allegory of the relationship between God and His people, and ultimately between Christ and His Church.  So which is right?

Perhaps we cannot say with certainty, yet it seems that the context of Solomon's writings … the building of the temple and a time of perhaps unequaled prosperity for Israel, the chosen people of God … would indicate that these words, while using the intimacy of marital love as a word picture, point to the passion and intimacy of God for His people and the response of those who receive His love.  God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying, "For your Maker is your husband - the LORD Almighty is His Name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer …" (Isaiah 54:5).  And when His people turned away from Him, God spoke through the prophet, Jeremiah, saying, "Return, faithless people, for I am your husband" (Jeremiah 3:14).

God used the prophet, Hosea, to give a picture of an adulteress wife and told Hosea to go bring her back, even as He pursued Israel.  The picture expands in the New Testament, as God calls Jews and Gentiles into a relationship with Christ.  Paul writes to the Corinthians:  "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him" (II Corinthians 11:2).  And then there is that well-known passage in Ephesians 5, where Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives and then says, "This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the Church" (Ephesians 5:32).

Given these passages that point to God's relationship with His people, Israel, and the relationship of Christ and His Church, it seems important and necessary to glean from Solomon's "Song of Songs" truth that applies directly to God's love for His people and our response to Him.  It's interesting to see how many people "identify" with the passion of marital love and sexual intimacy, but how few identify such passion and desire with their relationship with God.  Yet, even in the little word, "so," God reveals the depth of His love for His people when John writes, "God SO loved the world that He gave His one and only Son …" (John 3:16).  And again, Paul prays that "you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!"  (Ephesians 3:17-19).

God LOVES us!  And He calls us to love Him back!!  God calls us into an intimate relationship of which the intimacy of a husband and wife is only a picture.  And He stirs within us a passion to return His love, loving HIM because He FIRST loved us!  (I John 4:19).  To miss this is to miss the joy of knowing God's love in Christ.  As you read through these words think of how much God loves you and examine your heart to determine how much YOU love God.  

Solomon begins with words spoken by the "beloved," "Take me away with you - let us hurry!  Let the King bring me into His chambers" (1:4).  Here is the heart's desire of those who know Christ; in fact, the second to last verse of the Bible says, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"  Jesus took the part of the bridegroom in John 14, when He said to His disciples, "I am going to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am" (14:2-3).  The "king's chambers" are nothing less than the glory of God's presence!

In the words of the "lover" are pictures of God's love for Israel and of Christ's love for the Church:  "How beautiful you are, my darling!  Oh, how beautiful!" (1:15).  I can't help but think of the words of the song, "How Beautiful Is the Body of Christ":  "How beautiful, the radiant bride, who waits for her groom with HIS light in her eyes … how beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ."  How few people understand that God sees us IN CHRIST as holy, as beautiful and spotless!  Imagine how we might live if we truly believed the depth of God's love for us!  

The "beloved" declares, "He has taken me to the banquet hall and His banner over me is love" (2:4).  Could Jesus have been thinking about Solomon's words when He spoke of the "wedding banquet" in Matthew 22, or of the "great banquet" in Luke 14?  There will come a time when love will be fulfilled:  "Arise … the winter is past; the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come … the fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance … " (2:10-13).  It is difficult, if not impossible in our present existence, to see the beauty of this intimate spiritual relationship between God and His people, between Christ and His Church, but it forms the basis of God's desire for eternity.

There will come a time when the "beloved" will be able to say, "My lover is mine and I am His" (2:16).  There will come a time when the perfect love God has for His people will be returned with perfect love from those who have been transformed at the return of Jesus Christ and made like Him.  Then we will spend eternity rejoicing in the passion of true love!!  THIS is the love of which Solomon speaks.  May you know that love in Christ today!

"My Father in heaven, I come to You through Your Son Jesus Christ, who has called me to Himself by His very Spirit.  As one of Your sheep, I have heard His voice, and as one so loved, I love You, my Savior and my God, my Good Shepherd and my King!!  I long for Your embrace and my heart races at the thought of Your majesty and Your holiness.  Open my eyes, now, to see Your love and to long for Jesus' return, when I will be gathered with the rest of His Bride to celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb and His Bride in the Great Banquet Hall of heaven!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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