Some Christians in church history, and maybe even today, are a bit embarrassed by the Song of Songs because it is so overtly sexual. Some try to allegorize it; the early church fathers were especially fond of this approach, or they might completely spiritualize it because they were uncomfortable with human sexuality. It’s kind of hard not to be because of all the good gifts God has given his creatures, sex is very often perverted and abused, and in ways that cause so much pain and misery. But human sexuality is an unqualified good meant for our pleasure and the propagation of the species, and there is nothing shameful about it in the proper, marital context between a man and a woman. It is a beautiful, private experience that creates pleasure and life. Although it creates more of the former than the latter, I believe we must never divorce one from the other, but that’s a topic for another post. For this one I want to focus on its meaning for Jesus and his Church.

That doesn’t mean I’m spiritualizing the text. My reading through it this time profoundly impressed upon me both the creational (I was tempted to write “natural” but I try not to use that word anymore because secularism has made it imply “without God.”) and the spiritual aspects of the text. The theme of the book is love, depending on the translation used 25 to 50 times, between a lover and his beloved. It reminded me of something I was fortunate enough to experience in my life, but thankfully no longer have to—infatuation, being gratefully married for almost 36 years. The lover and beloved are obsessed with one another, can’t help but think about each other all the time. If you are not currently in that state of distraction, do you remember the times in life you were? If the other person reciprocated, wasn’t the sky bluer, the grass greener, wasn’t your step lighter, didn’t you wake up quicker in anticipation of seeing that person who you were thinking about all the time? How wonderful is that!

Thankfully, the giddiness is temporary. Who could live that way their entire life! Novelty always wears off when reality sets in, which is of course when true I Corinthians 13 love begins. True love, long lasting love, love that works, is a verb, not an emotion, as wonderful as the emotion can be. God in the Song of Songs is letting us know that giddiness is a good thing! To be enjoyed in its fleeting joy. And the sexual consummation of that giddiness in marriage, and only in marriage, is beautiful, holy, and good. Solomon leaves no doubt right out of the gate:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.

And he’s only getting started! I won’t delve further into the details of the text, but suffice it to say, the lovers will enjoy carnal knowledge before the night is out.

But that’s only the obvious meaning of the book. What may not be so obvious is the spiritual meaning. Solomon uses the word bride six times, but doesn’t use husband or groom once. And each time he uses the word bride, he says, “my bride,” as if she is his possession, which indeed she is, as is the husband of the bride. But in the Christian understand of marriage and the family, the man is in effect the owner of the relationship, and the one primarily responsible for its success. I wonder if saying something like that might get me banned from Twitter. I sure hope so because it’s as counter cultural in our secular woke day as can be. To our woke leftist elites patriarchy is repressive and toxically masculine. How dare you say the man is the man of the house, the leader, the one God has tasked with the success and safety and support of the marriage and the family. Well, I say it, loudly and proudly! It is biblical, God ordained. And it is the way marriages and families work best, the way they flourish and produce solid citizens.

But this is much more significant than what works and is counter cultural in the moment (we need to make it cultural again!). It is a metaphor for Christ and his marriage bride, the church. The idea of marital faithfulness between the Lord and his people is a consistent theme throughout the Old Testament so it doesn’t surprise it is carried into the New. Paul addresses this most directly in Ephesians 5 as he discusses the relationship between wives and husbands:

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

There is something about the union of a man and a woman in marriage who in some way become spiritually one being, one flesh, and this in some way communicates the relationship between Christ and his church. It’s almost like when Paul uses the phrase “great mystery” he knows something that is in mere human terms impossible to communicate. As a man and woman become one being, so does Christ with his church. We are part of him, and he is part of us. Even as we are unique beings, we are a united being who becomes one entity share in the essence of the other. In writing this I feel the futility Paul must have felt trying to convey this mystery.

Which brings me back to Solomon’s Song of Songs. The giddiness of infatuation we experience in a novel romantic relationship that is consummated in marriage is like our relationship to Christ. As a man pursues a maiden, Jesus pursued us, and loved us with a love unto death. It is the kind of love men are called to for their wives as Paul says in Ephesians 5. In a way, Jesus is infatuated with us! I know, it’s hard to fathom, but it’s true. Remember what the writer to the Hebrews said, that for the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross. We are that joy! This is something to remember next time you go to a wedding.

 

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