As the most romantic book of scripture, Song of Solomon explicitly explores the intimacy of relationship, describing the growing love between a man and a woman. Although the book is attributed to King Solomon in the early stages of his kingship, some scholars and religious leaders also choose to see in the book a metaphor for Jesus Christ’s love relationship with his bride, the church. However you choose to read this beautiful book, one can’t deny the rich descriptive images of adoration, deep love, and commitment.
In the second chapter of Song of Solomon, the maiden and her beloved banter back and forth about their appreciation of each other. But at the heart of this mutual flattery is the awareness that it is the appropriate season for new life and for love. Verses 11-13 speak of the winter ending and of the new signs of life in the flowers, the turtledoves, the fig tree, and the blossoming vines. In the right season there will be signs of life that affirm the goodness of whatever is developing.
This is a beautiful message to those of us who seek to discern the fittingness of a relationship, romantic or otherwise. How can we know the relationships we are to continue to nurture? From chapter two we might surmise that relationships worth pursuing are those whose words of love come from a genuine recognition of our value as children of God, with our own unique attributes. The words of the lovers stem from the condition of their hearts toward each other, and it’s played out further in their actions. The pericope of 2:8-13 is bordered by verses that describe the beloved’s awareness of the maiden’s uniqueness and the maiden’s declaration of commitment. The words and actions of this couple are nurtured in the soil of their heart.
Lord, help me to pay attention to the soil of my heart, that I would feed it with the nutrients of your Word so that my own words and actions would grow from that foundation. Amen.
The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.
Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into scripture in a different way than other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
Read Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
Read James 1:17-27. When do you find yourself as merely a “hearer” of the word and not a “doer”? What motivates you to act on God’s word?
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. What human traditions or rituals do you tend to make too important?
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