Song of Solomon 1: Love
October 16, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
If Ecclesiastes is difficult to interpret, try the Song of Solomon! Throughout history, there have been basically two streams of interpretation. The first, and the most ancient, is to interpret the song as an allegory of God’s love, and in particular of Christ’s love for the church. The second, and mostly more recent, is to interpret the song as instead a celebration of human love. What is the right approach? Clearly, it is overly prudish to deny the human love element of this song. Some of the descriptions of this song are fairly graphic, or certainly physically romantic. On the other hand, we ignore the tradition of interpreting it as an allegory of Christ’s love for the church at risk of post-Enlightenment, modernistic hubris. How then should we interpret it?
In my view, the basic approach is actually to say that both are true. The reason for this is a deeper reflection on the meaning of marriage. Really, the best commentary on the Song of Songs is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians chapter 5. There Paul gives instructions about how married couples are to treat each other. But then, having given such instructions, he says that really this is a mystery and that he is at another level truly talking about Christ and the church. In other words, real Christian marriage is a mystery that has been revealed in the gospel of Christ’s love for the church. Christian marriage is intended to reflect the gospel.
So to ask whether the Song of Solomon, this Song of Songs, is either a celebration of human love or a reflection of Christ’s love for the church is really to misunderstand the ultimate purpose of marriage as well as the nature of Christ’s love for the church. Song of Songs is a book of romantic poetry. And because it is a book of romantic poetry, it is also a book about Christ’s love for the church. Truly, you must read the book both ways, at both levels, to grasp its full meaning. Even in the Old Testament, God’s love for his people is described in a love-relationship, marriage, covenant way: read the book of Hosea. And so the Song of Songs should have the effect of both encouraging us to pursue the godly delights of marriage without embarrassment or fear that somehow God does not intend us to enjoy marriage. And the Song of Songs should have the effect of causing us to delight in Christ’s love for us, to relish it, and respond to it with love and affection for him. Thereby, this book is as relevant to single people as it is to married people, to the celibate as to the wedded. And it speaks of greater delights that even the greatest marriages cannot hope to achieve, and gives hope to those who find themselves in marriages that disappoint—knowing that marriage is truly about something else: namely Christ’s love for his people; and of that love, if you trust him, you will never be disappointed.
So read these words in this chapter to inspire you to faithful marriage, and faithful covenant love for your Savior too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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