The Song of Solomon is one of the books of the Bible that lots of people really don’t know what to do with. At first glance it is a love poem between Solomon and one of his brides, and as such it’s intimate and at times surprisingly explicit. Recent sermons I have heard on the book have taken it primarily as a love poem that speaks into the pre-marriage and marriage setting. In other words its about human love and the wonder of a rich gift God has given us. I found listening to material that treats the book like this very helpful and enriching on many levels. The church has been shy to talk about these things because we don’t want to cheapen something precious but in so doing we have left a whole generation of people uneducated about what God thinks of sex and marriage. Song of Solomon has lots to say to couples today and it would be a huge shame not to take its wisdom to heart.
But, in many writers, particularly those of years past Song of Solomon was primarily about Jesus and the Church, it was a metaphor for the deep relationship that exists between the heavenly bridegroom (Jesus) and us.
Listen to how Spurgeon, a great Baptist preacher from 150 years ago speaks about it:
“His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers.”
Song of Solomon 5:13
Lo, the flowery month is come! March winds and April showers have done their work, and the earth is all bedecked with beauty. Come my soul, put on thine holiday attire and go forth to gather garlands of heavenly thoughts. Thou knowest whither to betake thyself, for to thee “the beds of spices” are well known, and thou hast so often smelt the perfume of “the sweet flowers,” that thou wilt go at once to thy well-beloved and find all loveliness, all joy in him. That cheek once so rudely smitten with a rod, oft bedewed with tears of sympathy and then defiled with spittle-that cheek as it smiles with mercy is as fragrant aromatic to my heart. Thou didst not hide thy face from shame and spitting, O Lord Jesus, and therefore I will find my dearest delight in praising thee. Those cheeks were furrowed by the plough of grief, and crimsoned with red lines of blood from thy thorn-crowned temples; such marks of love unbounded cannot but charm my soul far more than “pillars of perfume.” If I may not see the whole of his face I would behold his cheeks, for the least glimpse of him is exceedingly refreshing to my spiritual sense and yields a variety of delights. In Jesus I find not only fragrance, but a bed of spices; not one flower, but all manner of sweet flowers. He is to me my rose and my lily, my heart’s- ease and my cluster of camphire. When he is with me it is May all the year round, and my soul goes forth to wash her happy face in the morning-dew of his grace, and to solace herself with the singing of the birds of his promises. Precious Lord Jesus, let me in very deed know the blessedness which dwells in abiding, unbroken fellowship with thee. I am a poor worthless one, whose cheek thou hast deigned to kiss! O let me kiss thee in return with the kisses of my lips.
I confess I get a bit nervous about this kind of language. It reminds me of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” kind of mushy, sentimental nonsense that gets written and sung in many churches today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against modern songs, nor against devotional songs, but I do get worried that some of the language we use about Jesus is just weird.
But…then I got thinking about the amazing connection that many of the Christians of the past had with Christ. I see in some of their writing a deep reverence for the Lord Jesus and a wholehearted commitment to knowing him and serving him that is often lacking today in those of us who call ourselves his followers. In an effort to be good at our exegesis (understanding what the Bible is saying) and to be passionate about doing church well I wonder if we are in danger of pushing devotional connection to Jesus to one side.
Maybe I can make Song of Solomon too much about me, and maybe I can make marriage too much about me. If after all God is the designer of marriage and marriage itself is a picture of our relationship with God then I must at some level retain a joy about marriage that is not disconnected from God but rather profoundly grateful for what he has given me and also learning from it what connecting to him means.