Bible reading for weekend April 30 -- May 2
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Apr 30 -- Song of Solomon 5 and Hebrews 5
May 1 -- Song of Solomon 6 and Hebrews 6
May 2 -- Song of Solomon 7 and Hebrews 7
"I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me." (Song of Solomon 7:10)
DIFFICULTIES (ch 5). The couple has moved from courtship (1:2-3:5) to the wedding night (3:6-5:1) and on to maturity (5:2-8:14). There's a time in every marriage when one or the other partner lacks energy or passion to overcome the obstacles to continued love. Marriage partners must rise above their selfishness to keep pursuing their beloved. The Shulammite finally rouses herself to pursue her lover. She searches and is beaten by the night watchmen. This is describing a dream, poetically conveying the difficulty of her pursuit. She goes on to describe to the choristers (the "daughters of Jerusalem") the handsomeness of her husband.
PURSUIT (ch 6). The pursuit is successful, love is restored, and now Solomon describes the beauty of his wife. A repeated lesson in this book is that love is powerful and must be nurtured and protected by the Lord (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). There's a couple of problems in this chapter, however. First, there's the problem of Solomon's many wives and concubines (6:8). Does he view the bride merely as the best of many, or is she in some way the only one? Solomon was wrong to take multiple wives (Deut 17:17; Gen 4:19-24; 1 Tim 3:2). I think the Song of Solomon is like the book of Ecclesiastes, in that it relates the false paths that Solomon took and realized later to be dead ends in life. In the end he discovered that obedience to God is what matters (Ecclesiastes) and that one wife is God's plan for man (Song of Solomon). A second problem in this chapter is the dance of "the two armies" (or "camps; companies", or name of a place, "Mahanaim")(6:12-13). These are difficult verses to translate, let alone interpret. Constable writes,
Verses 11-12 are probably the Shulammite’s words. She had gone down to Solomon’s garden (v. 2) but to see if his love for her was still in bloom more than to examine the natural foliage (v. 11). Immediately, because of his affirmation of his love (vv. 4-10), she felt elevated in her spirit, as though she were chief over all the 1,400 chariots in Solomon’s great army (1 Kings 10:26). Evidently in her fantasy she rode out of the garden in a chariot accompanied by Solomon. As she did, the people they passed called out to her to come back so they might look on her beauty longer (v. 13a). However, Solomon answered them, “Why should you gaze at the Shulammite as you do at the dance at Mahanaim?” Perhaps he was referring to a celebration held at that transjordanian town that drew an especially large crowd of onlookers. However, we have no record that such an event took place there.
MATURE LOVE (ch 7). Solomon again praises his wife and speaks of the joy of their love together. There are many metaphors for love-making in the Song of Solomon, and we see that it is a good thing that a husband and wife enjoy each other physically, which is the biblical pattern (Gen 2:23-25; 26:8; 1 Cor 7:3-5).
LESSONS. Many people today view sexual intercourse as merely a biological function, fulfilling a personal bodily need, much like eating, drinking, or sleeping. In the Bible, however, sexual relations are viewed much more deeply, as a soul-bonding union of two lovers in covenant relationship. There is more to marriage than sex, obviously. Solomon refers to his bride not only as the walled "garden" of delights, but also as "my sister," which is a warm family term. My own wife is not only my lover but also my sister in the Lord and my soul companion in life's journey. The husband and wife (and only one of each) are to "be one" in body, in soul, and in spirit. Every marriage, as we learn in chapters five through seven, must overcome indifference, selfishness, miscommunication, and other difficulties, if it is to remain healthy and vibrant. Commonly, we speak of this as "keeping the romance alive". This also, in a related way, applies to our relationship with the Lord (see, for example, 1 Cor 6:15-20). We must ask, what is our level of desire for the Lord? Have we allowed barriers like indifference or tiredness or busyness to creep in and erode the enjoyment of our fellowship with the Lord? Are we seeking to resolve any difficulties with God that we may feel? His love is worth it, and we must seek to keep alive our love and desire for him! As you read the Song of Solomon, ask yourself, what are ways that you can keep your love fervent for the Lord? We should rise each day and be able to say happily, "I am my beloved's, and he is mine."
"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain..." (Hebrews 6:19)
BETTER THAN AARON (ch 5). In calling his readers to be faithful to their confession of Christ, the author of Hebrews is showing the superiority of Jesus over all the main figures in the OT: angels, Moses, Joshua, and now Aaron the high priest. Jesus is a different kind of priest. He is human and sympathetic, yes, but also eternal and without sin. In his human nature Jesus learned obedience (vv 7-10; cf Luke 2:52). Two very key passages from the OT are cited here: Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. The NT writers will refer often to these Davidic psalms that speak of Christ's kingly and priestly roles. Read more about chapter five here.
A STRONG WARNING (ch 6). This chapter contains a strong warning against falling away. There are a number of these warnings in Hebrews. How should we understand and apply these? First, we should note that the sin in question is apostasy, which is a denial of Christ, by downgrading his deity and denying his holy work in dying for us (v 6). Secondly, we should recognize that perserverance in our confession of Christ is part and parcel of the gift of salvation. Peter O'Brien (Moore College, Sydney) in an interview with Collin Hansen (TGC), summarized it this way,
...the author maintains that the listeners’ continuance in faith to the end will demonstrate that they are members of God’s household, not that they will become this in the future (v. 6). Similarly, holding on to their confidence will reveal the reality that they already share in Christ, not simply that they will share in him on the final day (v. 14). The listeners’ perseverance is the evidence of what has taken place in the past and is an essential ingredient of what it means to be a Christian, a partaker of Christ. So Hebrews "virtually defines true believers as those who hold firmly to the end the confidence they had at first.” Read the full discussion here.
WHO IS MELCHIZEDEK (ch 7), and what does that have to do with the intercessory ministry of Christ? Read more here.
BUT WHAT ABOUT...? Through my involvement in various ministries over the years I have known many people who have tasted the goodness of the Lord and his word, who have shared in the blessing of the Holy Spirit and his gifts to the church, and who have experienced the power of God in some manner (cf Matt 7:22-23), who then have fallen away and now deny the Lord. What do I make of that? Practically, I believe one of two things must be true: a) if they are real believers (one of God's elect, born again) the Lord will draw them back to himself and they will be restored in time; or b) they were never really regenerate (born again) in the first place, and so they need to come to Christ in a true and saving way. Be assured our Lord will turn none away: "...whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37), and, "let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price" (Rev 22:17).
AN ENCOURAGING QUOTE. "It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end." (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, "Offices of Christ; VII. The Intercessory Work of Christ")
Image credit. Photo of entrance to walled garden at Farmleigh (Dublin, Ireland) by Karora on Wikimedia. 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.