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Song of Solomon – “God’s Gift of Love”

Chapters 3:1-5 – “The Missing Lover”

This section leads up to the celebration of the marriage of Solomon.  It is in these exchanges that we see the reality of human love at its most intense.  Once we have considered the human dimension we can then consider the idea that this whole text is pointing us toward a symbolic picture of the love of God for his people.

I. “I Sought Him But Found Him Not”- 3:1-3

We have here a picture of frustrated love.  The woman awakens at night to find her lover missing.  As a betrothed couple they may already have been living together.  This would not be uncommon.  An engagement was binding and needed a divorce to be broken up (Matt. 1:18-19).  The lover discovers in the middle of the night that her betrothed is missing.  Her calls to him go unanswered. Apparently frantic, she not only gets up but goes out into the streets seeking to find him.  Needless to say, this would be inappropriate if not also dangerous for an unaccompanied woman.

She seeks for him but can’t find him.  She is then found by the sentinels, the police in effect.  She scarcely leaves them after telling them she is seeking for her beloved.  At that moment he finds her.  She holds him desperately.  They then return to her mother’s home.  We have the repeated line not to awaken love until it is ready (v. 5; 2:7). No reason is given why the beloved is absent or where he had been.  Why hadn’t he told his lover that he was going to be away?  We are not given answers to these questions.

We can note the following points:

  • Absences can occur even between the most dedicated lovers.  There are many possible reasons for this but none are discussed her.
  • The beloved desires her lover to the point where she will make herself vulnerable and seek for him in the city streets at night.
  • The lover appears and the two are reconciled.
  • The power of love is noted again.

There are several themes here.  The first is that love at its deepest is not perfect.  We have a desperate note that the woman calls for her lover but he does not answer.  Is it because he doesn’t choose to, which seems unlikely?   It is perhaps more the case that he is unable to for some reason.  The second point here is that the woman is not content to wait until he returns.  She arises and goes out into the city to find him.  As noted an unaccompanied woman going out into the streets in the middle if the night is placing herself in potential danger.  Yet from her standpoint that is immaterial.  She is desperate to find her lover.  When she finds him she holds him and will not let him go.

This in many ways is an ideal picture of human love.  The ideal however does not always run smoothly.  We saw that in chapter one with the opposition of the brothers.  We see it here in the absence of the lover. These are human lovers.  They are not perfect.  Yet their dedication is intense.  Love remains an incredibly powerful force.

We can now look at the symbolic nature of this love.

Symbolically the lover is the believer and Christ is the beloved, the betrothed.  There are moments in the believer’s life where Christ (or God) seems absent or at least not responsive.  The psalmist cries out, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1).  The setting of the scene at night connotes darkness.  It is in the middle if the night that we can confront what St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.”

The lover (believer) here cries out in the night for the beloved (God).  Yet she receives no answer.  She then goes in search of the beloved in the city streets at night. This symbolizes the hunger the believer has for the Savior.  Yet these are immaterial in the context of the need of the lover to find the beloved.  But even here the search proves fruitless (“I sought him but found him not” v. 2).  This testifies to the reality so often expressed by the psalmist that God seems to “stand far off” in times of trouble.  This is seen to the fullest extent in Jesus’ quoting Ps. 22 from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, Ps. 22:1).

The lover asks the sentinels if they have seen her lover but apparently they have not.

All of a sudden she finds her beloved.  The suggestion clearly is that he appears to her.  He in effect is revealing himself to her.   She holds him and will not let him go.  This section can be summarized in the following points:

II. The Reunion

  • The soul (the believer) has an inherent and undeniable desire for God (Ps. 42:1).  The question here is not of God providing a specific answer to a stated need (health, prosperity, success, wellbeing).  The desire for the beloved (God) is grounded in the very nature of the lover (the soul).
  • God does not always answer when we call.  We do not always experience his presence.  This creates a crisis.  We can find ourselves in the darkest night, cut off and alone.
  • The lover is distressed but not in despair.   She goes out into the city at night determined to find her beloved.  The risks and dangers of the city streets are not an obstacle.  If God seems absent or unresponsive we need to pray all the more as Jesus does in Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-42).
  • Others may not assist us in our search (the sentinels).
  • Yet all of a sudden the beloved appears.  God will not delay in answering us indefinitely.  He appears.  The lover does not question where he has been.  She grabs hold of him and will not let him go.  Loving God is an end in itself.  We have only to hold him tightly.  He alone is our true love.  He alone can provide us with all our needs (Matt. 6:33).
  • Love creates its own power.  It is the love of Christ alone that propels us into his kingdom (II Cor. 5:14-15; John 3:16-17).

Questions for Us –

  1.  Have you experienced times in your life when God did not seem present, when your prayers were apparently not being heard?  How did you deal with those times?
  2. What are some of the way that we search for God when we don’t feel we have a response from him?
  3. What for us would be an example of holding fast to God and not letting him go?

Next Study – Song of Solomon Chapters 3:6-4:16

“The Great Wedding”