Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Note: This is part two of “God Loves Love.” If you haven’t read part one already, I recommend you do that first. You can find part one by clicking here. Or if you want to read parts one and two at the same time, click here for the full version.
God loves romantic love. Solomon’s Song of Songs is an amazing book about romantic love. It features many of the aspects we find in a romantic relationship. When you’re feeling romantically in love, you long for the other person, you need them to be with you and near you; and when they’re away you miss them (even if it’s because you’re at work or something). We can feel this along with the character of the “Beloved” (according to my NIV Bible’s separation of the verses) and her desire to be reunited with her “Lover,”
All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.
I will get up now and go about the city,
Through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.
The watchmen found me
As they made their rounds in the city.
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”
Scarcely had I passed them
When I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
Till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
To the room of the one who conceived me (Song of Songs 3:1-4).
Aside from the strange interest in being intimate in pre-conceived places, we find that feeling of longing every time the two lovers of Song of Songs are separated. This is a book that celebrates romantic love. What probably stands out the most though about the Song of Songs is the way the topic of sex is handled. Most of the Bible, as it deals largely with the issue of sin, makes sex something to be somewhat ashamed of. However, in Song of Songs, there is no shame, no hiding, but instead we find a pure flow of emotions. Even as you read the beginning of the book, it’s quick to see that this isn’t gonna be a list of laws and regulations,
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-
For your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
Your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the maidens love you!
Take me away with you- let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.
We rejoice and delight in you;
We will praise your love more than wine (Song of Songs 1:2-4).
If somebody quoted that to me and I didn’t know where it was from, I’d assume it was an excerpt from some trashy romance novel. I mean, c’mon, look at that, the whole “song” starts off with the two lovers making out, getting the “Beloved” (the female voice) so worked up that she demands they move it to the bedroom. This is steamy stuff. There’s no punches pulled in this book. The couple featured is madly in love- not as friends, not as family, but as lovers who cannot have enough of the other emotionally or physically. As she sings of her love, the Beloved tells her Lover (and us),
How handsome you are, my lover!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant (Song of Songs 1:16).
Even as she’s trying to compliment her husband, the Beloved’s comments spill into the bedroom. She talks about their marriage bed being verdant, which is a word that brings to mind greenery (like a lush field), so clearly their sex life is far from dead. When the Holy Spirit was guiding King Solomon to write this he lets it all come out. The reason why God does this is because he doesn’t want to be misunderstood. Our Lord loves romantic love. Most Christians today see sex as a totally taboo topic that isn’t meant for the church, but that’s not the case at all. God loves it when his children can proclaim that their marriage bed is green and exciting. There’s nothing wrong with the full emotions of a romantic relationship. However, we do need to keep in mind that God expects us to keep sex within the confines of marriage. Scripture reminds us, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). So if you’re going all Song of Songs on your boyfriend or girlfriend, don’t expect it to be a blessed relationship until you put a ring on it. God made us special, separate from the animals, and wants us to behave in a way fitting for our place (even some animals mate for life, so stop complaining about how restrictive God is). However, if your marriage bed isn’t anything to write home about, it might be time to do some Bible study with your spouse through the Song of Songs- I suspect the silliness derived from acting out the parts could loosen up the atmosphere quite a bit and probably warm some hearts (and bodies). Because it is the most intimate form of relationship, God is pretty strong on how he wants us to carry out our sexual relations- or rather how not to do so. The Lord says in Leviticus 18:6 that we are not to become intimate with those already closely related to us, “No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.” Likewise, we are not supposed to share our bodies with those who have the same gender as us, or other species,
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that that I am going to drive out before you became defiled (Leviticus 18:22-24).
Our Lord isn’t trying to restrict sex in order to be some fuddy-duddy. He designed the romantic relationship to be used a specific way, and amongst the nations this way was corrupted and led to those nations eventual destruction. God isn’t afraid of sex or ashamed of it, but he knows how it’s done right. After all, he’s the one who wrote,
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:24-25).
In the marriage relationship, there should be no shame; it is when sin creeps in that we start to feel weird about it.
God loves to love us. Our world can be tough, but for those in Christ, there is a constant hand to help us through the hard times and guide us through life. God is our loving father, Jesus our friend, and the Lord is also our husband (sex doesn’t really play into human-God relations). He loves us, and he takes an active role in our lives in order to show that love to us. Our Lord isn’t some being that just made everything and backed off, oh no. He’s involved even in our daily lives and is constantly listening and answering each and every believer’s prayer. David couldn’t help but to gush about how the Lord has been active in everyone’s lives,
Great is the Lord and most worth of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another;
They will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
And they will tell of the power of your awesome works,
And I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made (Psalms 145:3-9).
Now this sounds like a lot of hyperbole but take note of a few certain points. David says that each generation will tell the next of God’s amazing works; this means that aside from the stories in the Bible, God will make his presence known to each generation. We’re also reminded by David that the Lord loves all that he has made. In fact, it was through this love that God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to earth to sacrifice himself in order that we may become closer to God and spend our eternity with him. It is written, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Our God is involved in our lives daily; as we reach out to him he delivers his goodness. David continues,
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is faithful to all his promises
And loving toward all he has made.
The Lord upholds all those who fall
And lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
And you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
And satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
And loving toward all he has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
To all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
He hears their cry and saves them (Psalms 145:13-19).
The Lord manages the whole earth, and he provides to his children the things they need. Now I know this sounds like an infomercial about investing in Christ; but honestly from a personal level, David is right on the money. God does fulfill his promises made through his Word, he does satisfy desires, he does lift people up, and in his love he does this to everyone who calls on the name of Jesus with sincerity in their hearts. The relationship with God you develop after coming to him through Christ is beyond words and can only be fully understood through experience. But David is trying to get the point across anyway. Another Psalm tells us,
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
The Maker of heaven and earth,
The sea, and everything in them-
The Lord, who remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
And gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
The Lord gives sight to the blind,
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien
And sustains the fatherless and the widow,
But he frustrates the ways of the wicked (Psalms 146:5-9).
If you are with Christ, your life will be different. God loves all of his creations, but in order to fully show that love you must have your heart open to him. Otherwise, the Lord, in his love, will frustrate your way until you come to him; because he wants to give you all of his love for eternity rather than let you run headlong into hell.
God showed us the greatest love. Paul reminds us,
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).
Is there someone in your life that you’re willing to die for? Why are you willing to do so? Remember this, when we were still sinners, separated from God and quite honestly his enemy, the Lord sent his only son (who was also God) to die for us. And it was through this act of love that we are able to be saved. As he wrote to Titus, Paul wanted to make sure that everyone remembers just how much God loved us all,
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7).
It is through Christ’s sacrifice that we are brought into a relationship with God so that he can shower us with his love like he had intended to in the beginning. We have done nothing in this relationship, but the Lord’s love has carried us from start and will carry us to the very end; for God is eternal and his love is eternal too.
How then can we, who are human, love God back? Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). We show God our love by obeying all that he asks of us. “Whoa whoa, hold on! That’s a lot of rules to memorize!” If you’ve ever read through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; you’ll know that there are a lot of laws the Lord expects us to keep. These laws are further added to by the books of prophecy later and made must stricter when Jesus shows up in the gospels. How are we supposed to live such perfect lives? Moses tells us, “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day” (Deuteronomy 8:11). But let’s be honest here, most of us can’t even remember most of the Law, how are we expected to keep it? According to Paul, the key is self-control. He writes,
Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless- not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined (Titus 1:7-8).
Now take note here: Paul goes through a list of “do-nots.” However, they all can be maintained by practicing self-control. Wanna get angry? Self-control. Wanna get drunk or violent? Self-control. Wanna get out of debt fast? Self-control. It is through self-control that we are able to avoid the things that we know we shouldn’t do (or are being told to avoid by the Holy Spirit). This is a big piece of advice and he says it over and over. Check out what Paul says to teach to people of various ages,
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:2-6).
No matter who is being taught, Paul gives the same advice, “Tell them to be self-controlled.” This is the key to obeying God. Aside from that, the whole law is actually very easily summarized. The Bible tells us,
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:35-40).
How do you obey God? Love him, and love those around you. If you love the Lord you will obey him naturally, for the Holy Spirit will warn you as you get too close to sin and remind you to show some restraint. And if you love those around you, then you also fulfill the other half of the Law. When Jesus called out the Church in Ephesus in the Book of Revelation, he wrote, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). Never stop loving God. Don’t let the Law bring you down, for it is through your love of God and love towards people (with some self-control being applied where needed) that you grow in your relationship to the Lord. Remember the “Beloved” in the Song of Songs. Her love is crazy, emotional, and totally unabashed. If you run towards Christ headlong, with love, and without shame you will live the way God wants you to. And you will experience the Lord on every level of love and you will bask in that love. Because let’s be honest: God loves love, and he loves to love.