To the one made beautiful by Jesus,
What I believe affects deeply how I respond to situations. If I believe that my boss is like an ogre (like Shrek on a bad day), when he says something nice, I’ll just think he’s manipulating me. And if she gets really mad, I may just say – “That’s just her, she’s always going off like that.” There are some people who easily offend me and others to whom I give lots of grace.
It works this way with God. Some of us believe that God is a master and we are his servants. Others think of God as a big cuddly grandpa that likes to give out hugs and treats. (These are both good pictures, but incomplete.) Still others figure that he’s quite far away and doesn’t notice what’s happening here. We all respond to God and to life based on what we believe.
One metaphor that the Bible uses over and over is that we are the bride of God. This doesn’t mean that God wants us to walk around in white dresses or that men need to get in touch with their feminine side; rather, it’s a way of describing the relationship that God wants with us. He created people so that he could have a perfect partner – we were made for him and he is our perfect partner. He’s not looking for a perfection or maturity, he’s looking for you and me to say yes.
Today, let’s do a little Bible study of the second act in Song of Songs (See last week’s post). It’s the song of separation and reunion and it starts in chapter 2.8 and goes to chapter 3.5.
The first scene (chapter 1.1-2.7) is over and now comes the first real conflict of the story. The bride is painfully separated from her lover and then finds the way to renew their love.
Part 1 – The song.
“My beloved spoke, and said to me:
‘Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.'” (Song 2.10)
The bride is singing a song of the words of her lover. He loves her and has invited her to come with him on an adventure. After a season of keeping her safe, sheltering her from winter’s cold and the advances of any of his enemies he has invited her to “Come away with me.”
The Bridegroom is showing himself in a new way to the bride – in the first act of the play he was romantic and tender – easy to be found and safe. Now he’s coming leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.
This is not the safe God, but the dangerous and adventurous God. A man of the mountains.
The bride is excited – her lover has invited her to be with him on his mountain hunts and adventures. And he calls her “Beautiful.” She’s so excited that she’s singing this song – repeating the words of the One she loves.
YOU AND ME – The songs we sing are important. They can speak to us truth and courage. Reminders of the promises of the One who wants us to run with Him.
Part 2 – The challenge.
Now we hear the voice of the Lover, and we discover that the singing bride is still hiding, safe in the place where he put her. The gate is still locked – he can hear her voice, but she’s hiding in the shadows.
“Let me see your face,
Let me hear your voice.” (Song 2.14)
It’s no secret, the bridegroom is enraptured by his bride. He want’s nothing more than to take her with him to conquer armies, and vanquish foes, but she’s hiding.
“Catch for us the little foxes.” (Song 2.15)
- the foxes here represent the little fears & compromises that keep her from opening the gate and running with him.
- the confident song has turned into a response of fear. What fear do you think is keeping her from running on the mountains? How has compromise kept her from opening the gate to him?
- There was a season where he had her hidden, but now is not that season – it’s the time to arise and run!
YOU AND ME – What keeps you from running with Jesus? Have you let fear have a hold in your life? Is there a little compromise that is stealing your joy or confidence? Speak it now, and be free to run.
Part 3 – The retreat.
Fear & compromise overwhelms her and she sends him off to take on the mountains and hills on his own.
“And be like a gazelle
Or a young stag
Upon the mountains of [separation].” (Song 2.17)
- the mountain hiding place somehow has become a prison – a place where she hides from her lover, rather than from his enemies.
- wouldn’t this be a terrible place to end the season?
YOU AND ME – God is always on the move – sometimes he has us hidden, for our benefit. Other times he is ready to invite us into partnership with him. What season is it for you? Do you feel God’s peace and his pleasure?
Part 4 – Reunion comes quickly.
“I sought him, but I did not find him.” (Song 3.1)
Now, when she sleeps, she can’t rest in his security because she knows that he’s invited her on and she’s stayed back. Whether it’s fear or sin or compromise, she’s not where He is. She is not where his loving safety is – even though she’s hidden.
But now she awakes – her dreams don’t give her rest and she knows that staying hidden is not going to help her. She used to find comfort in the hiding place, she used to find her lover easily, but not now. So off to the city she goes. The watchmen of the city are the clue and not long after she encounters them does she find the one she loves.
The withdrawal of God’s presence and joy is not punishment, it’s not a sign of displeasure and it’s not abandonment. This is a love story – God is a lover, looking for a lover. He knows that a lover will leave safety and comfort to find their lover. He’s not afraid of losing her, he wants a lover who is fearless, confident and mature in their love. Leaving her without his comforting presence is part of his loving desire.
“Scarcely had I passed by them,
When I found the one I love.” (Song 3.5)
And she won’t let him go!
YOU AND ME – Are there places where I used to feel Jesus’ nearness that it’s no longer there? Where is the new place that Jesus has invited you on to? Who are the people I can look for to help us find Him? Do I believe that God only wants me happy? Does my confidence go up and down based on how I feel?
“Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”