The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you
Draw me after you; let us run.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
Author = Solomon (Verse 1 best understood as “of Solomon” meaning authorship. Internal evidence: the Shullamite girl who is the object of Solomon’s affection is most likely from Shunem, a Northern town which suggests the song comes from a time before the kingdom was divided. Also, we know Solomon was a prolific songwriter (1 Kings 4:32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.)
“Song of Songs” = recent scholarship has questioned whether the song is actually made up of songs. Driscoll: “Solomon’s Greatest Hits” Perhaps they are distinct songs, yet put together in an album that tells a story with a consistent refrain which acts to separate the seasons of love. This is the album before itunes. The Song of Songs is a love song which follows a young couple through their courtship, engagement, wedding and marriage, with the passing of the seasons as a backdrop. “300 Days of Summer”. The songs begins with the passing of the winter into the tumultuous springtime of love where everything is new and blossoming but sometimes stormy. They get married early summer, and while they face difficulties adjusting to life as a married couple, near they end they find that their love is blossoming once again even greater than before.
Why is this in the Bible?
Mediaeval scholars classified Song of Solomon, with its overt sexuality, as one of two “dangerous books” (Ecclesiastes being the other). The ancient rabbis held that “no one who has not attained to full maturity [may] be allowed so much as to hold this book in his hands.” Origen, who set the standard for over 1000 years of Christian interpretation of the book, acknowledged that the book must be read as a book about love, though he insists that the reader must “know how to listen to the language of erotic desire with chaste ears and a pure mind” and not as a fleshling.” The Song of Solomon was the last Old Testament book to be universally received as scripture, which is understandable since there is no mention of topics such as sin, religion, salvation, the Law or even God (there is one possible reference to the Lord in 8:6 but even that is debatable). So why is this in the Bible?
1) Part of the answer lies in understanding the nature of the wisdom books of the Bible. Last week we saw that books like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes do away with the distinction that we tend to make between sacred and secular. The message of both of these books is that all of life is God’s including our intimate lives.
2) Another part of the answer is that God is not concerned with shocking us religious people to proclaim truth. It is surprising that the Song of Solomon is in the Bible, but is it more surprising than God telling Hosea to marry a whore or Jesus touching a leper or talking to the woman at the well or telling the Pharisees that a humble sinner went away justified before God while the praying man was condemned. God is not as conservative and strait-laced as we think he is.
3) A third part of the answer is that it is in the Bible because it needs to be. Because God knows that for most of human history Satan has used sex to distract and destroy God’s children and the Song of Solomon is the clearest book in the Bible to speak against two lies the enemy of our souls has used in turning sex into a weapon of mass destruction.
Mark Driscoll, in the introduction to his series on S.of S. identifies these two lies.
Lie #1: Sex is God
In the culture of SoS sex was God– Canaanite religion had crass liturgy – fertility rites, Ashterah poles, sacred prostitution. Today, sex is God. “You are part of a culture that spends more money each year on pornography than country music, rock music, jazz music, classical music, Broadway plays, and ballet combined” (Driscoll, Porn-Again Christian). In his introductory sermon to the Song of Solomon Driscoll sites statistics that North Americans spend more on Pornography than ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. More on Pornography than Pro Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey. More than 12billion a year, more than our entire foreign aide. The average age of first look at porn is 11, and the largest consumers of porn are children age 12-19. 20% of men and 13% of women admit to looking at porn at work. 28% of women admit to using porn regularly (not just a guy thing). We live in a culture that puts nipples on mannequins, celebrates premarital sex with festivals at tax-payer subsidized universities, photoshops already beautiful girls so that they are perfect enough for the magazine rack, excuses adultery, fornication, and all sorts of perversion as natural while any voice of reason or moderation is decried as being repressive or worst puritanical. Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote (in the 40’s):
Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?
The Song of Solomon is a very sensual book, but as we shall see, even though it does not mention God in every verse, God is behind every verse – that is, God is God and sex is sex. Sex is not God.
Lie #2: Sex is Gross
The reaction of many religious people living in cultures which proclaim sex to be God is to follow another more subtle yet equally soul-killing lie of the devil and believe that sex is gross. There is the story of the Victorian Bride who sedated herself on her wedding night, pinning a handwritten note upon the blanket, “Do with me what you must.” You see this in Corinth, in which a certain group in the church, horrified by the immorality of the culture and the church, argued that it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” My wife and I once knew a Christian couple who had not consummated their marriage for a year after they were married because one of the members of the party had been taught that sex is gross. As a Christian some are taught that sex is gross, evil, dirty, shameful, and wrong, so have fun on your wedding night!
The idea that sex is gross does not have its roots in the Bible but in the Greek and later Gnostic duality of Spirit/good = physical/evil. This is not the Christian worldview. The Christian worldview is that God created all things and pronounced them “good”. Matter, life, the material universe is good because God said so! Then one thing was not good – for man to be alone! So he created Eve, told them to be fruitful and multiply, and that chapter of the story ends, “and the man and his wife were naked and unashamed”. Perfect intimacy – the two shall leave their father and mother, and cleave to each other and they shall become one flesh. So Sex is not God, it is not gross, but . . .
The Song of Solomon: Sex is a Gift
The Song of Solomon is the poetic and practical exposition of that one verse: the man and his wife were naked and unashamed. Song of Solomon puts sex and desire into its proper place of receiving it as a gift of God and sharing desire attraction and intimacy within it natural context of marriage. That’s why my message title for these two sermons is “How to Love and Be Loved” because its not simply about sex, but about intimacy.
How Does Jesus Fit in?
Some have been so embarrassed by the passion of the Song of Solomon that they have attempted to make its message more G-rated by making it an allegory of the love between the Lord and his covenant people. This Jewish interpretation of the book was introduced to the Christian church through Origen, the second-century Alexandrian Christian scholar famous for his allegorical approach to interpreting the scripture. While Origen recognized on one level that the book spoke of human love and passion, he saw a deeper meaning as well, suggesting that the book is also, or is really about the relationship between the Lord and his church, or even more radically, the Lord and the individual believer. Origen’s approach became the dominant Christian approach to the Song of Solomon through the first 1500 years of church history and can be seen in later interpreters as well – notable Spurgeon and even Watchman Nee. I just listened to a sermon by Paul Washer who took this approach as well.
Simply surveying the wisdom literature in the Bible we may find support for interpreting the Song of Solomon this way. Remember the first proverbs sermon, the Lady and the Tramp, where Solomon endeavored to teach his son Wisdom, but personified the concepts into two women. Think elsewhere to the book of Hosea, in which God demonstrated truths of his relationship with Israel through the union of Hosea and his wife. While I believe that there are problems for taking the book as primarily intended to be read allegorically, I believe that it is instructive for us to ask how this book has been able to be so read.
1) The allegory is possible and natural because we are created in the image of God.
An allegory only works when you are comparing two situations that are similar along certain lines. If two things are altogether dissimilar, than no comparison or allegory could be made. Yet an allegorical reading of the Song of Solomon has seemingly worked and found appropriate for many Christians over the years. I believe that the reason for why this allegory seems to work is that we were made in the image of God. This means two things:
a. We were created by an intimate being.
b. We were created for intimacy
Genesis 1:27 states that “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” One of the first things people often notice when they come to this text is the interesting pronoun God uses when he speaks. “Let us make man”. As Christians we understand that through Jesus Christ, God has been revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three diverse personalities relating to each other while of the same essence. I John 4:10 declares, “God is Love”.
While man and woman are both equally God’s image and are crowned with dignity as such, we God’s brings us together in community we reflect His image in a more substantial way. We can reflect his image a friends, as a family or as a church to varying degrees of intimacy, but there is no relationship so intimate, and as such no relationship with the potential to reflect his image so purely as the marriage relationship. “The two shall become one flesh” and as we grow closer in intimacy to the third party in our marriage, we must grow closer to the other as spokes on a triangle. We are one with our spouse as God is one with himself – unity and diversity. We were created by an intimate being to express intimacy – to love and be loved.
2) We are one with our spouse as Christ is with his church.
The New Testament goes even further, that the relation between a husband and wife is an corollary to Christ’s love for his church. Ephesians 5:31-33 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Your relationship with your spouse should reflect your relationship with the Lord. People should be able to observe your marriage and see an allegory. Are you schooled in how to love and be loved?
a. Are you growing in intimacy?
b. Are you removing barriers to intimacy?
c. Are your words pleasing to your spouse – do you magnify them?
d. Do you desire your spouse?
e. Are you able to continue pursuing your spouse even when the desire is missing?
While our relationship with the Lord is not the primary theme of the book, the book teaches us how to love and be loved in an intimate way and the things we learn on one level about intimacy carry over into the vertical. So yes, while the Song of Solomon is primarily about how to love and be loved humanly speaking, it also speaks to our divine relationship.
* If you’re a husband, wife or thinking about it someday – come back next week to learn about God’s desire for your relationship
* If you’re a Christian, come back next week and learn secrets of intimacy that draw you to enter in deeper into the arms of the Only Lover of your soul.
* If you’re not yet a Christian – know this. God created you for intimacy. You seek for it and long for it and will never find it until you find it in him. Other loves will hurt you and you will despise them for their shallowness. He who knows you most, loves you most. Do you know how to love? Ask him to come into your life, accept his love and forgiveness. Turn from the things that kill your intimacy with him, and let him teach you how to love and be loved.