For the Love of God, Volume 2/April 28
From Gospel Translations
Numbers 5; Psalm 39; Song of Songs 3; Hebrews 3
IF THE END OF SONG 2 FINDS the beloved and the lover fervently expressing their mutual devotion to each other and the exclusiveness of their love each for the other, Song 3 begins with the woman, the beloved, almost frantically searching for her lover. Many commentators have suggested that chapter 3, and perhaps the entire unit of chapters 3—6, is a dream sequence. That may be right: “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves” (3:1, italics added), the beloved says. In the first panel (3:1-5), the beloved searches for her lover, and simply assumes that because she knows the man for whom she is looking, everyone else should too—including the night police officers (“the watchers”). She finds him and brings him to her mother’s bedroom (3:4), signaling official consummation.
The coherence of the next panel (3:6-11) is disputed. The best guess is that “this” in 3:6 (feminine Hebrew pronoun) refers to the woman. She is being brought up from her dwelling in the country to the court—and in Solomon’s carriage, a gloriously designed and luxurious vehicle. Solomon himself is present, and “the daughters of Zion” watch and “ooohh and aaahh” as the couple make their way to their new home. This then leads to the extravagant language of the lover in chapter 4.
Whether or not this is a dream sequence (I am inclined to think it is), one thing abundantly clear is that the language of love is the language of mutual praise and mutual invitation. Anything less will stifle love. If the language of praise and invitation operates only one way, for instance, it will tire in time or leave the speaker feeling servile or perhaps desperate. If the language of love is the language of praise but not of invitation, it may never breed intimacy—a good relationship but not good sex; if it is the language of invitation but not of praise, it may degenerate into mutual gratification but not mutual edification—good sex but not a good relationship.
Many of us who are married and who reflect on the language of Song of Songs are slightly embarrassed at its sensual abandon. But that may say more about who we are than about what God wants us to be. Like everything else that God made good, marriage and sex and intimacy can be trivialized and sensationalized and brutalized. But God made them good. Believers are bound, so far as their transformed natures can take them this side of the new heavens and the new earth, to display God’s goodness in every arena to which he calls us. We who are married ought, intentionally, to develop the language of mutual praise and invitation.