Sermon March 23, 2014 The Song of Songs- “A Song for Lovers.” Sermon # 6 in the Parables that Pack a Punch Series.

“Parables That Pack a Punch” Sermon Series     Sermon # 6       

The Song of Songs         “A Song for Lovers”           March 23, 2014

Pastor Louis Prontnicki     Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

 Intro: This sermon has been rated “G” for God-glorifying and good for your growth!

I. How Should We Understand This Song?  

  1. A.    The Big Picture: 

Some take this song to be purely spiritual and allegorical, pointing us to the relationship between Christ and the Church, his beloved bride.

Others tell us that this song has much to teach us about the love between a human husband and wife, and the sensuous manner of love.

I think it includes both aspects, for two reasons:

One: all scripture ultimately points us to Christ, and clearly the horizontal love relationship between a husband and his wife is used by God to help us understand the vertical relationship that He desires with us, as we see in Eph. 5:22-33.

Two: Unless we appreciate the human aspect of this relationship and the “earthly” delights and pleasures of human sexuality and the “chemistry” of love, we will not be able to fully benefit from the analogy to such spiritual joys and pleasures with Christ. That is, the point of an extended metaphor is to take what you have experienced on one level and be able to translate that to another level. So for example, unless you can appreciate the delightful fragrance of perfume or enjoy the pleasure of a fine wine, you will not be able to fully appreciate how the Scripture uses those metaphors to describe your relationship with Christ.

The spiritual application and understanding presupposes the physical and sensual enjoyment.

So while this Song has great spiritual value, we must not neglect the unabashed, erotic, sensuous and sexual dimension of this great Canticle of Canticles. This Song speaks of God’s wonderful gift of love and sex within the blessed and holy safeguard of the covenant of a marriage between one man and one woman!

The book teaches us to appreciate physical beauty and married love that God has given to us as gifts (James 1:17 – the are good and perfect gifts), and can be used as a counterbalance to those who think that the Bible has a prudish, “Victorian” view of sex!

So while other OT parables, metaphors and allegories usually pack a punch that is more of a warning to sinners, this Song packs a punch that is sensuous, delightful, and inviting! It shoes us what it means to “be in love” both with a spouse and with our Savior. This song invites us to delight more in the emotional aspect of love for both… and we need that, especially in our reformed framework.

 

  1. B.     The Finer Details (of understanding this Song of Songs):

Let’s keep in mind that the context for this book of the Bible is quite different than our own:

It is a song written 3,000 years ago in a Middle-Eastern culture, with metaphors and similes that arise out of a very different cultural context.

Plus, it is a love song, and love songs typically use language that is flowery and full of images that are unique to that culture, in that time.

Think about our love songs: Here’s one that parents and grandparents sing to the kids:

I love you a bushel and a peck, A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap, A barrel and a heap and I’m talkin’ in my sleep
About you, about you. 

Imagine reading the words to that song 3,000 years from now, in China, and making sense of it!

Or what about Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore”

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine, that’s amore
When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool, that’s amore
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet, You’re in love!

    You can see what I mean about love songs!  So it should not surprise us that the word picture and metaphors in the Song of Songs seem strange to us.

Clearly, the metaphors in this Song of Songs gain much of their meaning and impact from the emotional feelings which a person associates with them, and we need to put ourselves in the sandals of the people of that time.

For example, to tell your girlfriend or wife in 4:3 that “Your hair is like a flock of goats which descend from Mt. Gilead,” will probably bring either a blank stare or give her the impression that her hair is a mess! But to say that to your beloved 3,000 years ago in Palestine was a great compliment! That imagery conjured up a picture of an entire flock of sheep moving down the mountainside in a peaceful, almost hypnotic way, which is what her long, flowing hair reminds him of… so this is a lovely compliment in her ears.  It’s all about the emotional association of the metaphor.

Here’s another example from 7:4  “Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon…” When he looks into her eyes, they were peaceful and gentle, so he compares them to these well-known pools.

So we need to work a bit on understanding this song, both its big picture and its finer details. It will take some work, but it is well worth it!

II. How Should We Read This Song? 

This song is likely between a Shulamite woman and a man who is described both a s a shepherd and as a king. Let’s take a very quick overview of the Song of Songs:

Chapters 1-3 give us ten snapshots that tell of the story of the courtship of the two lovers.

We see what she loves about him and his character (1:1-4, 12-14)

His love for her makes her beautiful (1:9-11)

They speak, face to face (1:15-2:2)

Her view of herself has changed (from 1:5-7), as she views herself through his eyes (2:1)

Their courtship flowers (2:3-3:11)

“His banner over me is love” (2:4) – He has proclaimed to everyone how much he loves her!

“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (2:7, 3:5; 8:4) – patience is needed.

2:11 “The winter is past…” Their love is like spring bursting forth!

2:16 “My lover is mine and I am his…” – Mutual commitment; each one completes the other. (see 6:3; 7:10)

  Note: Some see chapters 3-6 as a dream sequence

 4:1-5:1 may describe the wedding night of these two lovers.

Note here how the man praises the woman’s beauty. It has almost a hypnotic effect on him. (Here is a picture of Christ wooing us, patiently bringing us along, to Himself.)

1 “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!…

    7 All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

4:12ff. “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride…”

He praises her virginity, and gently requests that she give herself to him, as her loving husband.

4:16 She invites him to come into her garden.

5:1 “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride..” The sweetness of sexual union.

5:2-16  Their first problem, and how they deal with it: He is eager and affectionate, but she is not responding.

5:5-6 He had left her a love note of fragrant myrrh at her door, but by the time she’s in the mood, he’s gone.

5:9-16 The friends ask her, “How is your beloved better than others…?”

Her answer says what she appreciates about him: he is gentle and yet strong; his physical appearance, etc.  “Her attitude of ingratitude for her husband is transformed to a heart of appreciation for him, as she answers the question of 5:9

[Spouses should make a list of everything they appreciate about their partners.]

6:1-8:14 Further expressions of their mutual love and praise

6:3 “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine” (2:16; 7:10). Theirs is a secure commitment.

6:2-9 Here we have the same praises from him, about her, as on their wedding night (4:7ff.) –

she is as precious to him now and she was then… yet he says all this not just because he

wants sex; he simply is saying “I love you for who you are.”

6:9 “But my dove, my perfect one, is unique…”  That is, out of all the women in the world, I am glad I married you!

6:10ff. “Their love and marriage are growing and maturing, and without losing a sense of sacredness and specialness, there is more familiarity and freedom.

7:1ff. “How beautiful and your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter!”

He delights in her, literally, from head to foot. Here he gives a fuller, more sensual description of her charms, than on their wedding night.

Whereas in chapter 4 he praised her with 7 compliments (the perfect number), here in chapter 7 he praises her with 10 compliments (a number of completeness), as their lover as deepened!

7:8 “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit. May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine….” (Cp. Prov. 5:18-19. God is not embarrassed to talk about the joys of sex within the safe confines of marriage.)

Their sexual love and union both consummate their love and nourish their marriage.

7:9bff  Her response to him

7:10 “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.” (2:16; 6:3)

Here, she seems to initiate the love making, as she is secure in his love.

8:6-7 “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death,   its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.

7 Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.”

This is a firmly committed love; it is unshakable, persevering, beyond riches, and priceless!

It is a love full of desire, self-giving, and commitment… and let us read it that way!

 

III. How Should We Sing This Song?

It’s not enough to understand this book, nor enough just to read this book; after all, it is a song, and songs are meant to be sung, right? The Jews had always held this book of the Bible in high esteem, calling it a holy of holies. [They even would forbid their children to read it (along with Genesis 1, and the beginning and end of the book of Ezekiel), until they were 30 years old, because of the mysteriousness and sublimity of it!]

You can just imagine a cantor with a deep voice belting out the Song of Songs, and making the top 100 Jewish Songs of all time!

So it is not only a SONG; it is the Song of Songs; it is the most excellent of songs! As such, it is to be part of the Word of God that we as Christians use to encourage and build up one another, and to give praise to the Lord! (Col. 3:16)

      Look at Exodus 15 and Rev. 15:3-4, the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb

But if this Song excels all other songs of the Old Testament, then why don’t we sing more? Is it because we are embarrassed by its sensual content?

The other OT songs, for the most part, are “Songs of deliverance from captivity.” But Solomon had no need for such deliverance. For he was “in the height of his glory, full of wisdom, abounding in riches, and secure in peace,” and as such, inspired by God, “He sings the praises of Christ and His church, the grace of holy love, the mysteries of the eternal marriage, yet all the while like Moses putting a veil before his face, because at the time there were few or none that could gaze upon such glories.”  THINK about THAT!

Other songs in the Bible often proclaim what God has DONE, but the Song of Songs declares Who God IS, His beauty and glory, and His delight in us, as we are in Christ!

Two examples of singing the Song of Songs:

Some of you might remember a little song that we use to sing here:

“His Banner over Me is Love” (It’s taken from the S of S, 2:4)

I’m feasting at His banqueting table, His banner over me is love;

I’m feasting at His banqueting table, His banner over me is love;

I’m feasting at His banqueting table, His banner over me is love;

His banner over me is love.

 

Michael Card has a lovely rendition of Song of Songs in his Arise, My Love

Arise, my love, my lovely one come, winter is past and the rains are gone.
The flowers appear, it’s the season of song; my beautiful one, arise and come with me.
Who is it that appears like the dawn? as fair as the moon, as bright as the sun?
Show me your face, let me hear your voice, my beautiful one, arise and come with me.

So how should we sing this Song of Songs? In at least two ways:

First, to our spouse, our beloved on earth:

“The reading and singing of this book should lead us to praise the Creator who created us in His own image, who made the human body beautiful, and Who awoke in Adam the longing for a companion like himself, yet very different, and Who led the first bride to her admiring bridegroom.”

Second, we should sing this to our Lord, Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom:

Let’s see this Song of Songs in connection with other passages such as Ps. 45, Hosea 1-3, Eph. 5:22-33, and Rev. 19:7-9, and Rev. 21:2, all of which use the imagery of marriage, the bride and the bridegroom, etc. to draw our attention to the everlasting covenant love that God has for us, especially as revealed in Jesus Christ as our bridegroom. May God use this Song to stir up our emotions of love for Him!

Let us seek to sing this Song of Songs more often, as it speaks of this most intimate of relationships, with the One who is love incarnate!

Seeing, understanding, and feeling the joy and holy awe of this earthly love and delight will help us better appreciate and long for the fullness of our relationship with our great bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ!