DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW YOU'RE READING THAT STUFF?
No! And neither does my wife! Just kidding. Yes, our text today is a little risqué. I know, it's the Bible and there is nothing risqué in the Bible. At least that's what some would have you believe. I present as evidence the Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon, as it is sometimes referred to. I promise to keep this as PG rated as I can, but I can't promise that it won't be PG-13 at times. Even the way the book begins is...well...it is what it is...
"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-for your love is more delightful than wine." (Song of Songs 1:2) (Oh, Brother!) Now, what is there to say about that? I want to slow down and begin with a little background on this Book. The Song of Songs is most likely a collection of loosely connected poems. It has been suggested that the book is a cycle of wedding songs chanted during a week long wedding ceremony. We'll look at the layout of the book shortly.
While I was in seminary I had to read over the eighty sermons on the Song of Songs. Eighty sermons on the Song of Songs? I didn't know that it was possible to come up with eighty sermons on this book. After all, I had never even heard one. Guess what? These eighty sermons were written by one man; Bernard of Claivaux (1090-1153) He said, in sermon 79:1, "Here love speaks everywhere. If anyone desires to grasp these writings let him love! For anyone who does not love, it is vain to listen to their song of love or to read it, for a cold heart can not catch fire from its eloquence." Wow! Think about those words! There is a lot of truth to what he said. Another second century theologian said, in regard to Song of Songs: "Heaven forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. All the writings are holy and the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies."
Well, let's try to understand this little book a little better. The book actually begins with the heading: "Solomon's Song of Songs." (1:1) As I have stated the book is also referred to as the Song of Solomon. This is due to the appendage of the first verse. The Hebrew words, from which we get "Solomon's Song of Songs" or a variation of those words depending on your translation of the Bible, are li-shlomo. (*there is more Hebrew involved here, but for our purpose I'll not go into it all) which can mean that this song was either "by" Solomon, "is" Solomon's, or is "for" Solomon. It is interesting that we discovered in I Kings 4:32 that Solomon spoke "three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five."
O.k., when we begin to look into the Song, or Songs, we discover that there is a particular pattern, and that there are three characters. (one being a group of characters) At least three that are distinguishable. There is the male lover, the female lover, and an independent group of observers who are referred to as the daughter of Jerusalem. Now, let's look at a typical pattern within the Song.
*Female Lover Speaks: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you! Take me away with you-let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers." (1:2-4) I couldn't help to think while writing that about the perfume that it must have been Axe. You know what the commercials say about Axe? The ladies will be lined up. Hmm. Zander sprayed a whole bottle of Axe one morning and Melody and I both had to go outside just to breath again. Hmm...this fellow is portrayed as some lady's man. Can you say chick-magnet?
*Observers speak: "We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine." (1:4b)
The observers seem to respond to the two lovers words of encouragement. We'll look more at that later. The female lover and the observers exchange words a couple of times, then the male lover speaks:
*Male Lover: "I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh. Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels..." (1:9-10) Wow, did I read that wrong or did he just call her a horse? Now, I have to admit that I'm not the most romantic guy in the world, but even I know not to call my wife a horse. In fact, I have learned...the hard way...to be very careful as to what I call my wife. I have found that the best thing for me to call her is Melody. That keeps me out of trouble a lot.
These folks go back and forth in their conversation. But, really this is all poetic. The male lover gushes over the female lover who gushes over him in return. Meanwhile, the observers seem to be encouraging the female to go further into the relationship. There are times, however, that it seems that the male lover is growing impatient with the female; "You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain." (4:12) He appreciates her modesty, but...Well, in case you don't know the Bible is full euphemisms. We have discovered this already during our journey together. In this book there is imagery of a garden mentioned throughout. (4:16), (5:1a) and (5:1b) Both "fountain" and "garden" are images of feminine sexuality. The male lover wishes to be admitted to the female's garden.
As I am writing this it is nearly 2pm. Therefore, I will definitely continue this particular study tomorrow. But, before I do, I want to give some insight to various understandings of the meaning behind Song of Songs. The Rabbis viewed this book as an allegory of the relationship between Yahweh and the people of Israel. Of course, the Christian would argue that it is an allegory of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Still, there are other ideas, whether right or wrong. One of which argues that this is a protest against a world where the expression of love was discouraged. Others saw this as a protest against the dominating patriarchal society that manipulated female love to use it self-gratifyingly. Then, there was the idea that this was nothing more than an appreciation of sex. I guess, if that is the case, it may have been the first ever book on sex. Go figure. Well, who right? Who is wrong? It will depend on who you ask. But, think about the words of Andrew M. Greeley who wrote: "Human passion...gives us a hint of God's passion for us. We are most like God's love for us when we are aroused in the presence of our beloved. And we best experience a hint of God's love when our beloved pursues us." (Love Song, 1989) Now, before you criticize what he said because of the mentioning of passion and modern understanding of passion think about what he said. Their is nothing greater than a husband and wife who absolutely are in love with one another after many years of marriage. She is still his world and he hers. When he walks through the door she stops everything because her love has returned. And, to be fair, when she walks through the door he does the same. If we say that God loves us as much as God does and that God wants to spend eternity with us, then shouldn't God have that same passion for us?
Tomorrow we will continue our look into this unique writing. Please join me. -Pastor Rick