Tuesday, March 1, 2016

spring time love

The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
Song of Songs 2:12

This song is an idealized romance. It rejoices in new love and the power of a commitment made by a man and a woman. Song of Solomon begins with adoration of two lovers for one another and ends with a wedding ceremony. It celebrates and anticipates joy and love. It even rejoices in marital sexuality with poetry and sensual abandonment in that exclusive commitment as a key theme of the book. About halfway through the song, the lovers have a quarrel and resolve it returning to one another in love. 

I believe that all these themes of human relationship are the reason we have this song in scripture. It is not meant to be some weird allegory that has to be unlocked with a secret key, but is instead a complex song of love meant to instruct Israelite young couples on courtship, love, and sexual understanding. Like all poetry, I suspect it is most powerful in its native tongue of Hebrew.

That said, there are romantic themes that transcend culture and language. Setting the lovers' yearning for one another in the spring time is perfect. Our culture envisions young love the same way. And even us old-timers get a warm spring breeze blowing in our hearts when we consider love in this way. In a little over three months my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage in our own young love. It still feels like spring with flowers on our earth, singing in our hearts, and birdsong in the air. No really, it does. No joke... no hokum. 

And the best thing about our love is that we love because God first loved us. That gets tested... frequently, but it is what our lives are based on. I don't intend to spiritualize Song of Solomon, but rather to place it in context with redemptive history as it is revealed in all of scripture. And knowing that, I believe that marriage lasts because Christ sustains us in His love. We need Him to do this because marriage is difficult. It is hard. We are two sinners, saved by grace, who still fight sin together. And only Jesus can help us go through hard times, trials of our faith testing us, gains and losses in life, and even our own daily challenges to make a home together. Jesus is the warm spring breeze that warms the earth to grow flowers and carries the notes of sweet dove song to our hearts. And He commands and strengthens our love so that she loves me as the church loves Jesus (see Ephesians 5:25-33 for the full metaphor and its meaning), and I learn to give my life and love to her as Christ loves His Bride the Church.

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