Sunday, 21 September 2014

(265) September 22: Song of Songs 4-5 & 2 Corinthians 13

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what can be learnt about marriage.

To ponder:
The groom now addresses his bride, declaring her beauty: Her eyes behind her veil (perhaps for the wedding) are like doves, and so tranquil, her hair like a flock of goats descending a mountain, and so lustrous, with clean, white and symmetrical teeth, red lips, rounded temples, a long and impressive neck, and gentle breasts, which he declares he will “go to” and so enjoy all through their wedding night, as “hills” of sweet perfume. In short, he considers her flawless (4v1-7). He then pictures her almost like a goddess dwelling with wild animals on mountain tops, and calls her to himself, speaking of how she stole his heart with one glance from her eyes and when he looked on her beauty (4v8-9). He regards her love as more intoxicating than wine and more pleasing than perfume, her lips tantalizing, like dripping milk or honey, her aroma like a fragrance that was clearly highly regarded in Lebanon (4v10-11). But the sign that they are not yet married, is that she is like a locked up garden or sealed spring: Her many choice fruits and her satisfaction of his sexual thirst are not yet accessible to him (4v12-15). As is fitting in godly marriage, they will be his only if she is willing to welcome him. And she is (4v16), calling the winds to carry the fragrance of her garden to him, so that he may “come in” and “taste” its fruits. This is the consummation of the marriage, signified by the fact that here she describes herself as “his” garden. She now belongs to him.
            It is the sexual detail that makes clear the author’s purpose was a celebration of marital love, combined, perhaps, with a warning over the power of desire before marriage. And those who are married would do well to dwell on the beauty and desirability of their spouse. Indeed, Paul affirms how the body of each in any couple belongs to the other, and how they should not deprive one-another sexually (1 Cor 7v3-5). No doubt one of God’s reasons in inspiring this book, is to help rekindle such passion. Nevertheless, the delight of the groom over his bride does also speak of how the Lord delights in every aspect of his people, longing for them to be his. Moreover, the bride’s welcome of the groom speaks of how willing we should be to let Christ have us.
            5v1 simply and tastefully affirms the couple’s love-making. The groom declares how he has come into his garden, which is his bride, gathering her smell, tasting her honey, and drinking her wine and milk. And knowing what is going on, their friends, in support of their love and marriage, express their desire for them to eat and drink their fill. We too should encourage our married friends in their marriage.
            It’s difficult to quite know why 5v2-8 is here. It clearly parallels 3v1-5. Some think both metaphorically describe the wife’s feelings about sex. Others that they are dreams she has: the first about having sex with her fiancĂ©, the second after they have sex for the first time. This is more plausible as both begin with sleep. But, a more literal event is quite possible, placing the latter section sometime into the marriage: Although in light sleep, the wife hears her husband and lover knocking at her door. He asks her to let him in, wanting to come in out of the night. At first she is reluctant, as doesn’t want to get redressed and dirty her feet after washing. This of course resonates with marriage beyond the honeymoon stage! But when her lover puts his hand through to open the door, her desire for him increased and her heart pounded. She got up to unlock the door dripping with the fragrance of sexual desire, only to find he had gone and her heart sink in disappointment. She looked, called and even went out to search for him, being beaten and robbed by the watchmen, who clearly didn’t know who she was. The point may be that she so longed for her husband that she did what was foolish, putting herself in danger’s way. This stresses all the more how daft it was for her to hesitate to welcome him in, suggesting the story may be intended to encourage couples not to miss opportunities to give themselves to one-another. Whatever the case, the wife charges her friends to tell her husband she is faint with love for him. They ask how exactly he excels others for her to ask them to tell him that. She responds with a description of his physical attractiveness as “outstanding among ten thousand”: He is radiant, ruddy, with golden skin and back wavy hair, tranquil and pale eyes like jewels, with cheeks and lips that are enticing and have a pleasing aroma for her. His golden brown arms and white (probably untanned) body are described as if decorated with jewels to stress their glory and preciousness to her. His legs are strong like marble, on golden brown feet, and his whole appearance strong and tall like cedars. His mouth, and so kisses, are sweetness itself and he is altogether lovely. We might expect the woman to have included some character traits in her husband as reasons for her love, as in wider scripture these are more important (1 Tim 2v9-10). However, we should remember the song has been written to celebrate sexual desire and enjoyment as a gift from God.

Praying it home:       
Praise God for the delight he has in his people. If you are married, pray that you and your spouse would more fully enjoy each other sexually. Whether married or not, pray that you would give wholly yourself to Christ.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Song of Songs, click here.

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