The Expository Files

 

An Inspired Song About God's Love for His People

Song of Solomon

 

A wedding day is meant to be a wonderful time of great joy. The Bible portrays the gathering of the Lord's people unto the Lord on that final day as eternity begins as a bride joining her betrothed on their wedding day (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-4; 9-10). The groom is the Lord Jesus; the bride is His people. His best man was John the Baptist (John 3:28-29). The New Testament in several places makes an analogy between the love of a couple - man and woman, husband and wife; groom and bride - with the love of Jesus for His Church (Ephesians 5:25-33). More generally, the love of God for all His people is also pictured this way in the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19-20).

God's Love Has Always Been Something to Sing About

Both the teachings of the Old Testament and the New Testament include parables, allegories and figures of speech to describe God's relationship with His people. One example of this is one of the 1005 songs that Solomon wrote (1 Kings 4:32). The Lord has preserved one of these songs for us, evidently because of its special importance. In fact, it begins with the phrase, "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's". What is this "song of songs" about, and what does it have to do with God's love for His people?

Both Jews and Early Christians saw the Song of Solomon as allegorical. Ancient Jewish commentaries speak of the "Song" as an allegory of the love between God and His people. Jeremiah, Isaiah and Hosea all appeal to the people to be faithful to God on the basis that a spiritual marriage contract existed between God and Israel.

Early Christians also looked at the book the same way, emphasizing the relationship between Christ and His people, the church. This interpretation was in line with what Paul and John wrote and Jesus Himself taught.

The Story Summary

1. A humble family of shepherds including a daughter who is the focus of the Song.

2. The young maiden and a young shepherd fall in love. They become devoted to one another and seem to vow themselves to one another. However, the brothers do not look favorably on the developing relationship.

3. One day the king of the land (Solomon?) and his retinue pass by and see the maiden. He is taken with her beauty and he decides she ought to become one of his wives. She is taken to Jerusalem and put in care of the women amidst the luxury, comforts and grandeur of the palace.

4. She is enticed with gifts of jewelry and advancement in the court if she will become another of the king's wives. But she is loyal to her shepherd whom she loves. Her thoughts constantly dwell on her "beloved" and her heart belongs only to him.

5. The king comes to realize that her heart belongs to another and will not be swayed. He is impressed with her virtue and dignity and grants her permission to return to her home.

6. She joyfully sends word to her "beloved" to come and escort her home, and he eagerly responds. There is dialogue between the two as the return home as the express their joy and love for one another, and look forward to their marriage.

Some Parallels Between the Song of Songs and the Love Between Jesus & His Church

The story is somewhat difficult to follow due to the unannounced changing of speakers and locales (hearing it read or sung by different speakers as originally done would have been helpful). Note some wonderful points of comparison between the Song of Songs and Jesus and His Church. The Shepherd/Groom is a figure of Jesus; The Shulammite Maiden is a figure of the church. The relationship is tender and loyal between the two, and survives the obstacles to it from several sources, including the maiden's brothers as well as the king.

The Maiden In The King's Palace

Available to the maiden while at the palace are all sorts of comforts and luxuries far beyond her wildest imaginations, but she cannot be distracted by them from her first love, the shepherd. She is surrounded by luxury and costly perfumes, but she desires the fragrance of her Shepherd's name (SOS 1:3; Matthew 6:33; 19-21; 24; John 6:27). She asks to be "drawn" after the Shepherd that they may be together (SOS 1:4; John 12:32; Hebrews 4:16; James 4:8). Even the other maidens of the court recognize her deep devotion to her shepherd. They consider her love for the shepherd as evidence of his fine qualities, but will prove to be resentful of the maiden (SOS 1:4b; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12). She had been tested by suffering hardships and yet possesses beauty and is unashamed. Her toil "on the farm" had built endurance and character. (SOS 1:5-7; 1 Peter 1:6,7; James 1:2-4; Matthew).

But the king is very persistent and tries to win over the maiden and cause her to forget the shepherd. Still, her love endures. The ladies of the court ask where her shepherd is? Has she been abandoned? Has he forgotten her? How often does the world suggest that God has forsaken us? (SOS 6:1; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:16-18).

The maiden's answer is that her shepherd is far away, but he has not forsaken nor forgotten her. That is her confidence and a source of her strength. He is preparing a home for them both (SOS 6:2,3; Hebrews 13:5,6; John 14:1-3).

After some final attempts to seduce the maiden, the king permits a message be sent to the Shepherd to come and take her home. She recalls the open country and longs to return there and make a home with her special one (SOS 7:11; Hebrews 11:10;16; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

The Journey Home

The shepherd comes to the palace and the two return to the countryside together. As they near home, villagers see them coming (SOS 8:5a). Perhaps this is a figure of the angels of heaven so intently interested in our Shepherd and His Bride, the church. The Shepherd reminds her of a previous time in the yard of the cottage where she had been born and raised (SOS 8:5b). The maiden affirms her loyalty and love for the shepherd, and asks for the same in return. Nothing had been able to quench her love for him. Nor can anything quench his love for her. She asks for a seal, or pledge of His love. We, as the church, have it (SOS 8:6-7; John 15:13; Ephesians 1:13,14).

Perhaps the stage we are at right now is in the king's palace, being enticed by the world to leave our first love (like Ephesus did - Revelation 2:4-5). There have been and will be obstacles and distractions. Will our love for the Lord be proven true? Especially in times of distress, the early church had a saying. It is similar to the way the Song of Songs closes (The bride says: "Hurry, my beloved" (SOS 8:14a;) "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).
 

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.9; September 2006

 

 

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