Summary: True love waits, it withstands problems, it uses words of affection and it works at oneness.
Singing a Love Song
Song of Songs
Rev. Brian Bill
Lynette was longingly reading the lyrics of an amazing love song. Believe it or not, this inspired ode is found in your Bible and is known as the “Song of Songs” or the “Song of Solomon” from the very first verse: “Solomon’s Song of Songs.” If you’ve been following along in our Old Testament journey you may wonder why we’re taking some of the books out of order. I simply wanted to preach on the Song of Songs before Valentine’s Day so that the men among us will have a head’s up about Thursday so that we don’t end up on the couch like Colin. We’ll study the book of Ecclesiastes next Sunday.
I want to acknowledge at the outset that there are different groups of people here today. Some of you are married and happy about it while others of you are married and feel horrible about it. Some of you are engaged and can’t wait to get married while others of you are married and wish you weren’t. Some of you are divorced and wonder why you didn’t check the bulletin more carefully before coming today. Others of you have had a spouse die and you’re not sure if you’ll ever recover. Some of you are single right now and you have hopes of being married while others of you have the gift of singleness. Still others are in a dating relationship and wonder whether to move forward or to pull the plug. Whatever the case, this sweet song has something to say to each of us.
Before thinking that this love song is not for you, could I encourage you to hang in there today? We’ll get to the two main characters in a moment, but I want to draw your attention to a group of people that are referred to as “friends.” This title has been added by the translators to help us understand the different interactions. These friends are cheerleaders and witnesses of what is happening as the love between a man and woman grows and then matures. Their primary role is to give positive direction.
Listen to their celebration of love in the middle phrase of 1:4: “We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine.” In 1:8, the friends give some match-making advice to the woman so that she can get closer to this guy: “If you do not know, most beautiful of women, follow the tracks of the sheep and graze your young goats by the tents of the shepherds.” After the couple gets married, these friends urge them to enjoy one another in 5:1: “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.” And when the couple experience conflict, these faithful friends offer to go and look for the man and bring him back so they can work things out in 6:1: “Where has your lover gone, most beautiful of women? Which way did your lover turn, that we may look for him with you?”
We all know married couples and whether we’re married ourselves or not, we can and should celebrate their love, help them grow in oneness, and be peacemakers when there’s conflict. When we think about people we know who are married, John Ortberg suggests that we ask this question: “Is their marriage stronger and better because of me?” Every marriage needs a cheering section. What couples are you cultivating through your prayers and your presence?
Let me also state the obvious that because this book is in the Bible, it should not be feared or avoided. Rather, we should look to learn from it as 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
It’s clear from the very first verse and references throughout that this book was written by Solomon. We know from 1 Kings 4:32 that “He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.” Of all the songs that he wrote, this one is the only one preserved in Scripture and is introduced as his number one hit – that’s what the phrase “song of songs” means. It was his premier piece of poetry and the most superlative song ever. Because of the highly sensual subject matter, many people over the years have opted to ignore the obvious interaction between a man and a woman and instead interpret this book as an allegory of God’s love for us. While it’s certainly true that God loves us, I think it’s better to see this book as a deep dialogue of intimacy between a man and a woman.
The Song of Songs was the favorite book of D.L. Moody and C.H. Spurgeon. The Puritan preacher John Gill delivered 122 sermons from this song. Because our Old Testament Journey is a survey, I’m just going to take one sermon and focus only on some highlights from the book. I do want to say up front that there are parts of this song that are so intensely intimate that I believe they are intended for the privacy of committed couples within the sanctity of marriage. Because of that I will not delve into its depths in this public setting. That’s to protect the young among us…and to keep me from blushing.