Bible reading for April 26 -- 27
Apr 26 -- Song of Solomon 1 and Hebrews 1
Apr 27 -- Song of Solomon 2 and Hebrews 2
"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." (Song of Solomon 2:4)
THE GREAT ROMANCE. Biblical wisdom contemplates the great mysteries of life. Job dealt with pain, and now Solomon deals with pleasure. Proverbs warns against sexual sin, and Ecclesiastes tells us to enjoy our family life, and here is a book dedicated to extolling the beauty of courtship, romance, marriage, and sexuality. It's a book filled with sensual (in a good sense) imagery and metaphors drawn from nature. Marriage in all of its dimensions, including sexual relations, is good. Josh McDowell used to say, "Sex is God's idea. He even created the plumbing!" The Song of Solomon (also called the Song of Songs) is about our marriages and also about our relationship with the Lord. Everything beautiful in love and marriage -- its companionship, intimacy, faithfulness, presence, and mutual delight -- applies in some way to our relationship with the Lord.
THE BRIDE AND GROOM. It is written as a poetic drama, with words from the man (the shepherd-king) and the woman (the Shulamite) and the choristers. There are a number of interpretive issues with this book, and so, I invite you to read Dr. Constable's introduction here. The first thing we notice about the pair is their desire to be with each other. "Draw me after you; let us run..." (1:4) She wants to be where he is, pasturing his flock. He also says, "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away..." (2:10). This has not changed in the three thousand years between us and Solomon. Couples in love desire most of all to be together. Sometimes I still tell my wife, "Run away with me to the mountains!" And then I realize, oh, we already live in the mountains. But still, the spirit is there!
REFLECT. Everything good about love and marriage applies in some way to our relationship with the Lord. The union of man and woman in marriage was created to foreshadow the union of Christ and his people (Gen 2:24-25; Eph 5:32). The Lord is called the husband of Israel (Isa 54:5). And Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast (John 2). What we learn: love involves mutual enjoyment of each other, delight in the other's presence, in beauty, and in the celebration of loving and being loved. The shepherd-king's invitation, "Come away" (2:10) is echoed in Jesus' words, "Come and you will see" (John 1:38-39) and "Come, follow me" (Lu 18:22). We are called to a relationship of love -- even an exclusive relationship of covenant love -- with the Shepherd-King. We are under his banner of love. All of creation is richer when we are loved, and especially when we know the love of the Lord!
earth around is sweeter green,
that which glows in ev'ry hue
Christless eyes have never seen.
Birds in song his glories show,
flow'rs with richer beauties shine
since I know, as now I know,
I am his and he is mine."
(Author: Wade Robinson)
"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high..." (Hebrews 1:3)
HEBREWS. This letter was written to Jews who had trusted Jesus as Messiah and yet were under great pressure to give up and go back to Judaism. Perhaps they were influenced by family and community to downgrade Jesus to a prophet, a great man, or some other supernatural being, but not to consider Jesus to be God. In the early church this letter was always included with Paul's letters, for the message and theology in it are Pauline. But the writer does not name himself and some scholars believe that this was a teaching, or series of messages, given by Paul, but transcribed by one of his assistants, perhaps Luke or Apollos, and then circulated to the early churches.
CHRIST IS SUPREME (ch 1). From the patriarchs and prophets to the gospel-writers and apostles, there is a continuity in God's revelation (1:1-4). History centers upon and culminates with God's son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation he accomplished, and the proclamation of its message, is of such critical importance that to depart from it will result in eternal judgment (2:1-4). Christ is superior to even the angels in heaven. He is God's unique Son, and is even called "God" (vv 8-9) in a citation from Psalm 45. Other OT passages are quoted. For Jews it was especially important to verify New Testament claims with passages from the Old Testament. As we read Hebrews we will be told repeatedly that Jesus is "greater" or "better" than anything else we could trust in.
CHRIST'S HUMANITY (ch 2). Though Jesus is greater than the angels, he is also the perfect human being. He was perfected through his suffering. This does not mean Jesus was imperfect -- he was always pure and without sin -- but that there was a process in which his humanity would be tested and matured, and thus become part of his messianic qualification. This is a reason (one of many) why we should come to him, for he is "a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (vv 17-18).
REFLECT. To do what Jesus did, that is, to accomplish eternal salvation for all who would trust in him, he must somehow be God and also man. An angel couldn't do what Jesus did, not even an archangel. We receive the Savior offered to us in the gospel, namely, one who is fully God and fully human. The main purpose of Hebrews is to encourage believers not to yield to pressure to downgrade Jesus in any way, or to abandon faith in him. Our culture, our media, our leaders, even our families, can demoralize us from finding our life and assurance in Christ. They may tell us that he's just a man (and not God), or that he's one of many religious founders, or a prophet, or that he's a legend or myth. But the message of Hebrews is: Jesus is the ultimate One; don't go back to unbelief!
Image credit. Painting above is the Marriage Feast at Cana by Esteban Murillo, courtesy of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, England. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe at https://buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Another resource I recommend is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.