Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon; depending on your Bible version) is an extremely challenging book. The first time you read it you think, “Why is this even in the Bible?” And upon future readings…well, not much changes. I watched a seminar on it once which helped establish some basics that you should consider before entering into it. Song of Songs can be seen from multiple perspectives; it can represent a relationship between two people, it can be the relationship between Christ and the church, or it can be Jesus and each believer’s personal relationship. In my most recent read-through, the Holy Spirit gave me some awesome insight on the third view (Jesus and believer’s personal relationship). I felt like I should share at least one part: the sub-song of sin.
One part of the Song of Songs that I’ve always been bothered by is the second time the “Beloved” goes looking for her “Lover.” Umm…before I continue on I should probably explain that. Depending on your Bible version, there might be some titles denoting three characters in the Song of Songs: the Beloved, the Lover, and “Friends” (though I think there’s much speculation as to the third party’s identity. The “Beloved” is the female part of the song, for today’s reading she represents you personally (no matter what your gender is). Her “Lover” is the male portion, and is usually played by Jesus, but can also represent the husband in a relationship. The “Friends”; well, I don’t really understand their part well. Only the “Beloved” (you) speaks in today’s main passage. Anyway, back to where we were, so this part is confusion because earlier the Beloved goes out looking for her lover and finds him and everything is happy and great. However, in what we’re going to read, things don’t go so well. The Holy Spirit showed me that it is because things have become complicated by sin. Alright, now that you’ve read through two introductions, let’s do this.
The passage starts at night while the Beloved is in bed. We read,
I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My lover is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
My dove, my flawless one.
My head is drenched with dew,
My hair with the dampness of the night” (Song of Songs 5:2).
The Beloved states that while asleep, her heart is still awake. This means that she’s in some sort of sin. It’s one of those time when you know it’s wrong (your heart is awake), and yet you don’t really want to stop (being asleep). Jesus warned us to avoid this sort of situation when he taught,
Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping (Mark 13:33-36).
Jesus advises us not to sleep (sin), but to always be ready for his coming by doing good while we can. However, our poor beloved has found herself asleep, and she doesn’t want to wake up right now. And, just like when a believer sins, your heart is telling you to stop. That’s usually the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit in John 16:7-11,
But I tell you the truth: It is good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
The Holy Spirit, our heavenly counselor, calls it as he sees it. That’s why when you sin, you can hear him clearing his throat or encouraging you to do something else for a while to get your head straight. And so when you sin, your heart is awake (as the Holy Spirit is on constant patrol), and yet you’re asleep (because you’re not being vigilant against sin and temptation). Oh, and look who shows up, Jesus. The image of the lover knocking at the door fits Jesus perfectly, because in Revelation 3:20 he actually says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus wants to spend time with you and to have a relationship with you. This relationship was made possible through his death; for it is written, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Due to dying for you, Jesus seems to have it into his head that he can show up whenever he wants to- which sometimes means you’ll get the knocking when you’re in the midst of sin (which circles back to his warning from Mark).
Now that all of our players are in place, let’s see what happens in the sub-song of sin. The Beloved hears her lover knocking at the door trying to have some relationship time, but she’s sorta busy doing what she wants. The song continues,
I have taken off my robe-
Must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet-
Must I soil them again?
My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening;
My heart began to pound for him (Song of Songs 5:3-4).
So you’re sinning, the Holy Spirit is telling you that you know better, and God is pushing you to do something more holy. “Aw crap, do I really have to stop?” Revelation 19:8 explains to us,
“Fine linen, bright and clean,
Was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
So specifically, when sin shows up, you take off your robe of righteousness. However, even through we’re sinning, God does his best to give us motivation to quit (that’s that hand coming through the latch). Suddenly, we remember the love of Christ and his mercy towards us and we don’t want to sin anymore (this is the heart pounding for the lover). So you pull yourself out of your sin-hole,
I arose to open for my lover,
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
My fingers with flowing myrrh,
On the handles of the lock (Song of Songs 5:5).
So you stop sinning for now, congratulations. Now, I don’t know about you; but when I make a turn from sinning, I generally try to overcompensate with being extra holy. The beloved does this by covering her hands with perfume. We do it by suddenly acting like we’re not full of sin. God got mad at Israel for pulling this stunt one too many times and spoke through the prophet,
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
And honor me with their lips,
But their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
Is made up only of rules taught by men (Isaiah 29:13).
Yeah, God can see through your thees and thines. Sin is sin and no amount of good works and good speech will counter that. Luckily, Jesus already cleansed us from sin.
However, as we cover ourselves in fake righteousness we may quickly find things not as we’d like them,
I opened for my lover,
But my lover had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer (Song of Songs 5:6).
Oh no! You’re too late and you’re sin has lead you into a spiritual dry spell! If you haven’t experienced one of these before, they usually come when you’re doing something God doesn’t want you to do (even if it’s not explicit sin). Suddenly something seems missing and no matter how hard you look for him, God doesn’t seem there. The Bible explains,
But your iniquities have separated
You from your God;
Your sins have hidden his face from you,
So that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).
Keep in mind that sin is rebellion against God. That means that if you’re doing something, and the Lord tells you to stop, and you keep doing it, you’re sinning- even if it isn’t something outlawed in the Bible. In fact, my most recent dry spell came as a result of doing something that wasn’t wrong at all, it just that God didn’t want me to do it because he had other plans. But I did it anyway and suddenly everything got quiet. If God tells you not to do something, it is best that you don’t do it- even if you really want to. For it is written,
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
The Lord would not have listened;
But God has surely listened
And heard my voice in prayer (Psalms 66:18-19).
Rebellion is a dangerous game. But it gets worse for the beloved of Christ (you). We read in Song of Songs 5:7,
The watchmen found me
As they made their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they bruised me;
They took away my cloak,
Those watchmen of the walls!
This verse discusses the repercussions for sins. I will come right out and say that I still have no idea who the watchmen represent. Maybe angels? What I do know is that Jesus clearly stated, “The servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows” (Luke 12:47). I think this part of the song really can be seen when pastors get busted for something. Because not only are their reputations marred (being bruised) but everything good they had done up until they got caught sort of gets flushed down the drain (the cloak being taken away). Actually, one of my favorite pastors stepped down a few years ago in the middle of a big scandal. He had put around thirty-some years into his church and was legitimately blessed by God in teaching. However, after he stepped down due to sin, all of his sermons, hundreds upon hundreds of teachings in both audio (from the ‘80s) and video form were removed his church’s website. This guy had his entire career, and his entire back catalog of great teachings, removed due to being asleep while Jesus pounded on the door of his heart. There are repercussions for sin, and they differ depending on the situation and the sins; but when they come, they are not fun for anyone. And so we plead for mercy,
O daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you-
If you find my lover,
What will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love (Song of Songs 5:8).
“I’m trying gosh darn it! This is really hard!” And it is really hard to stay clean all the time- probably impossible. -Especially when God is trying to pull you away from something that doesn’t even seem like a sin (but becomes sin since God doesn’t want you doing it). Those of us who have been saved by Christ often find ourselves separated from the things we want, or things that even most normal folk get to enjoy without any repercussion. Paul notes that “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19). When I eventually die, if there isn’t heaven on the other end, I’ll be pretty upset- well, actually I won’t be anything, I’ll be dead. If I could, I’d demand a refund (suddenly I understand reincarnation much better). Seriously though, for all the stuff believers are called to avoid, if our hope in Christ goes no further than this life, we’re getting a bad deal. But by faith we go on, and do our best- even if not perfect. I think this is why even when we do get what’s coming to us, we feel pretty jaded about it- at least I do; and God has shown me ridiculous grace when I’ve sinned.
The conclusion to all of this is that sin messes up our relationship with God. Having said that, Jesus does understand where we’re coming from. The Bible reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus has seen all forms of temptation, and he knows what we’re going through every day. And to that end he is always working with the Lord to help us; for it is written, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is always praying on our behalf, and his prayers are pretty darn strong. However, if you do find yourself wandering the streets looking for Jesus only to find yourself naked and beaten (or whatever the equivalent of that is for you), remember that even when you receive punishment from the Lord, it will play out for your good in the end (as long as you’re a believer); for it is written, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Peter goes as far as to say we should be happy when hard times (no matter what the reason) come,
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).
But avoid sin as best as you can. Paul writes, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (1 Timothy 2:22). Never forget though, Jesus loves you; even when you slip up; for he wrote of you way back when,
You are beautiful, my darling, as Tirzah,
Lovely as Jerusalem,
Majestic as troops with banners (Song of Songs 6:4).