Today is our last Sunday with Old Testament wisdom literature as we take a look at the Song of Solomon, or sometimes known as Song of Songs.
It’s kind of a funny book to find in the Bible because it is all about two people who love one another and write poetry back and forth, declaring their love. Usually we read Bible stories as God speaking directly to us, one of the Prophets explaining what God wants (or else) or somebody like Jesus or Paul explaining what the deal with God is. But in Songs God is never mentioned. That’s a little odd, isn’t it? Anyone remember the only other book in the Bible that doesn’t mention God? Book of Esther in the Old Testament.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/304154-silly-love-songs.mp3]
The other thing that’s a little different is we have two people talking to one other. Like in a real conversation. Usually when we read the Bible it is someone speaking directly to (or at) us or to (or at) a group of us. The gospel writers speak directly to us. Paul’s letters generally speak to a group. But Song of Songs is different. It is two other people talking to one another. An actual conversation taking place.
Song’s is a pretty good read really, but presents a couple of challenges. In the first place, it is written as poetry. Poetry is beautiful writing but I’ve never been very good at it so I have to really work at it to understand anything written in poetic fashion. In the second place, it sounds a bit mushy and who wants to read mushy poetry in the Bible? Far better that we spend our time reading about wars and conquests and that sort of thing. Love? Pssh!
Ah, but now we run up against why Songs is in the Bible. And why we should read all of it. And think about it. And pray about it. And talk about it.
Because it is about the basis for everything we are as people of faith. It is about love. It is about two people who love one another. It is about two people who make the time to express their love for one another. It is about two people who have the care and concern to make the time and effort to express their love for one another.
We don’t always do that (love) very well, do we? I suspect some folks here today are uncomfortable about all this talk about mushiness and love and all that junk. Many of us come from upper Midwestern kind of people and expressing emotion is just not done in polite society or even behind closed doors.
But it should be. Songs basic premise is to lift up the love between two people. An important message and it does it pretty well. To quote former Beatle Paul McCartney’s song, “Silly Love Songs”, “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong with that, indeed?
We also see an echo the story of God’s love for each of us. Because really, what’s the first thing in the Bible? Creation. Why do we have creation? Because God loves. All of creation. Including spiders, which apparently not everyone else does.
This narrative is between two people but now imagine it is God speaking to you. From chapter 2 v10: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” That’s a pretty strong statement of love and a statement filled with hope. The winter is past and the time of singing has come? Even I can understand the message here.
What’s the second story right after creation? Adam and Eve. And what did they do? They loved one another. Perfectly.
Until they didn’t. Then sin comes into the picture. Then sin comes into our picture. Sin has been with us since very nearly the beginning of time and for us it is inescapable. We may tell ourselves we’re pretty good for the most part but the words of the traditional confession that come from the New Testament book 1 John 1:8 come to mind, “8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
We may lie to ourselves and one another but the truth is, sin is alive and well within us.
Which brings us back to God who loves us. Always has and always will. We were created by a God who loves us, so much so that when we couldn’t figure out how to avoid sin, God gave his son Jesus for our sakes. God gave his son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. That’s a pretty amazing love.
Solomon even highlights this kind of love in the second part of our reading, chap 8, v 7: 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. So when we hear the Song of Solomon it’s almost like God is filling the world with Silly Love Songs. And what’s wrong with that?