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PRESBYTERIAN
CHURCH

Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

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

Chapters 5-6 – “Faint with Love”

These next two chapters present images of love.  We learn several things here.  Love requires flexibility.  It includes longing and risk.  Love brings us into a new world.  All of these experiences are found in the believer’s relationship to Christ.

 I. “Listen, my beloved is knocking” – 5:1-16

We have here a series of images that seem dream- like.  They pick up descriptions we encountered earlier in chapter 3.  These images now however are more intense.  The opening seems straight-forward.  The bridegroom has a garden.  The image of a garden should alert us to a major image in scripture.  The first lovers in the Bible of course are Adam and Eve (although they are not necessarily the only human beings on earth, cf. Gen. 4:14-17).  They too had a garden which they lost when they succumbed to the temptation of the serpent.

We next have a dream.  The bride hears her beloved knocking.   He calls her to open the door for him.  She is reluctant.  She has undressed for bed.  Yet her inmost being yearns for him.  She opens the door but he is not there.  She then goes looking for him (as we saw in chapter 3).  She calls but he does not answer.  She can’t find him.  Once again she encounters the nightly sentinels.  They beat her and wound her.  The take away her cloak, her mantel.  Not only wounded, she is faint with love.

What is this telling us?  We are left with the idea that love is a struggle.  Couples do not fully communicate.  They lose touch with one another.  Lovers may be missing but this is not the same as being abandoned.  There are many reasons why a lover may be absent.

We also see here that love can be risky.  The beloved woman is set upon by the sentinels and beaten.  There are risks, even dangers in love.  The chorus asks the woman,

“What is your beloved more than another beloved?”  In other words, what makes him so special and is he worth the longing and indeed the wounds?

The woman’s answer is emphatic.  Her beloved is unmatched.  She describes him in glowing terms.  He is “altogether desirable” (v. 16).  She is willing to risk everything to be with him.

This then is a picture of love.  We are to note that even the most dedicated couples will have times when they seem lost from each other.   Love is risky.  People can feel beaten, even wounded.  Yet genuine love rises above all these challenges.  In Paul’s words, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Cor. 13:7).

This then works as an analogy on the spiritual level.  If we substitute faith for love we see the application.  The believer longs for Christ.  Yet Christ can call us at unexpected moments.  We need to be ready.  There are times (as we saw earlier) that Christ can seem distant.  We cry out in prayer and seemingly receive no answer.  Yet true faith continues.  It holds on.  Why?  Because there is nothing that can be compared to Christ.  Christ is the ultimate example of one who is “altogether desirable.”

II. “Where Has Your Beloved Gone?” – 6:1-13

This now is the key question, where is the beloved?  We now have several Biblical images.  As noted above the reference to the garden is key.  The description of a perfect garden with “beds of spices” clearly conjures up the lost Garden of Eden.  In Eden it was not only that Adam and Eve rebelled against God.  Their relationship was broken as Adam insisted on blaming Eve (Gen. 3:12).  In this new garden relationships are restored.

It turns out that the bridegroom has not abandoned his beloved.  He has gone to his garden to prepare it for her.  She is to join him there.  Another image here is that of the shepherd.  The beloved “pastures his flocks among the lilies” (6:2).

The bridegroom now describes his bride as “my perfect one.”  In this section the ideas of love and spiritual commitment overlap.  The return to the garden is finally a picture of salvation.  The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 is a re-birth of Eden.  The shepherd of course has many references including David the shepherd-king and of course Jesus who is the “good shepherd” (John 10:11).

The struggles of chapter 5 are all resolved in chapter. 6.  The lovers are reunited.  The bridegroom did not simply disappear.  He was preparing his garden to make it ready for the beloved.  She describes it as a “nut orchard,” “the blossoms in the valley” (6:11).  The bride speaks of being alongside her prince in a chariot before she was aware that she was being set apart for him.

We can see multiple images of Christ here.  Christ is the ultimate Bridegroom.  We need to be prepared for him.  He comes suddenly at night (Matt. 25:1-13).  As we noted he is the good shepherd.  Yet above everything else Jesus is the supreme lover (John 13:1).  Nothing can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:38-39).

Questions for Us –

  1. Why are there obstacles to love?
  2. What are some of the reasons that a lover, or symbolically Christ, can seem distant?
  3. What do you think of the image of returning to a restored Garden of Eden (5:1; 6:2)?

Final Study – Song of Solomon Chapters 7-8

“Set Me as a Seal Upon Your Heart”