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If God is the Pursuer, the Ageless Romancer, the Lover, then there has to be a Beloved, one who is the Pursued. This is our role in the story.
John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance
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Several months ago a friend lectured me about the lack of direction in my romantic life. I think she was trying to say a lack of momentum. Or the lack of a pulse, since sometimes my dating life seems to be barely breathing. Anyway, she strongly encouraged me to join an online dating service. Sigh. I thought, So, it's come to this.
I know finding the love of your life via an Internet connection is all the rage now-I've seen the advertisements featuring cute couples gazing at each other adoringly, so it obviously worked for them. But it still seems a little awkward to me. Not as desperate as advertising on the side of a bus, but awkward nonetheless.
My friend argued that the main reason I was hesitant about collaborating with a high-tech matchmaker was my pride. And since pride has certainly been my downfall before, I was convicted. I thought, Maybe she's right. Maybe I should just get over myself and give it a try. So I paid fora three-month membership.
That was four months ago and let's just say I should have followed my initial instincts. Not that there was anything really bad about the experience, but online dating just doesn't fit my personality. I like meeting people face-to-face over a mocha at Starbucks rather than hunched over a laptop, responding to an e-mail. I like watching new friends laugh, hearing the inflection in their voice, seeing the color of their eyes. And I didn't find that kind of personal connection on a computer screen. Dates just don't seem very real when they're dependent on electrical outlets.
I want a real love relationship with real intimacy. Something I believe every girl wants.
The Song of Songs (often referred to as "The Song of Solomon") is a colorful poem that stands out in biblical literature like white shoes after Labor Day. The lyrics are sometimes shockingly Explicit-they seem more Danielle Steel than divine at first glance. Perhaps that's why it's missing from most Sunday school curriculums! And the most wonderfully scandalous thing about the Song of Songs is what it says about the kind of authentic intimacy we can have with God.
What mode of communication do you prefer to use with work or impersonal relationships: face-to-face, phone, or e-mail? Which do you prefer with friends and family? Explain your preference in each genre.
What Did He Just Say?
I went to college at Troy State University in Troy, Alabama, for my junior and senior years. The area was quite different from where I grew up in central Florida. Among other things, Troy wasn't what you'd call metropolitan. It was a small, laid-back Southern town where people were quick to extend hospitality but pretty slow about everything else. Needless to say, the local music scene wasn't exactly cutting edge. Therefore, when I went home on school breaks, I tried to pay attention to new radio hits so I could help my friends back in L.A.-lower Alabama-keep up with contemporary playlists.
During one school break, I heard a new pop song from a tiny musician with huge hair named Prince. Like Cher and Ghandi, he's one of those Single-name people-although he went through a season where he wanted to be known as a symbol, not a name. Anyway, I thought his song was really cool, so I memorized a few lines in order to teach it to my sorority sisters back in Troy. It went something like this: She wore a red, spherical dress. The kind you find in a secondhand store. Or so I thought.
Within days of returning to school, I'd told most of the girls about this "great, new song by Prince" and shared the catchy lyrics. So we were proud to strut our stuff when the song finally made it to the Troy playlists. We pranced out onto the fraternity dance floor en masse and began to belt out, "She wore a red, spherical dress...." until someone approached us and asked, "What were you just singing?" To which one of us, probably silly me, repeated the lyrics with panache. But I was quickly exposed as a musical moron when he explained that the words of the song were actually: She wore a raspberry beret.
What's your most embarrassing example of mangling a song lyric?
How Should We Peruse This Poem?
Before we start sifting through Solomon's Song, I need to warn you that some of the lyrics are difficult to understand. Therefore, we're going to take just a moment to consider the best way to "hear"-or interpret-the language of this book.
There are numerous interpretive styles, and Bible scholars still debate which one is the best. I don't want to get so technical as to encourage mental field trips, but I do want to briefly explain the various methods in order to justify the lens through which we'll look at the Song.
Historically, four or five different approaches have been popular when it comes to interpreting this book. The first is purely allegorical, which is basically an extended metaphor. I don't think this approach is valid, mainly because it essentially ignores the historicity (the actual historical details-real people and places) of the text.
Another interpretative style is that this book was written as a drama, casting Solomon as an ancient Shakespeare on marital relations. I don't favor this method either because I think it marginalizes the text into a summer paperback. Something to thumb through for entertainment.
The most common method is the natural or literal interpretation, which argues that this Old Testament book is simply a poem, communicating the hopes, desires, disappointments, and reconciliation of two young lovers. This approach synopsizes the Song of Songs into a marriage primer of sorts. Something to encourage love and sexuality, like God's version of the Kama Sutra.
Additional interpretive methods for the Song of Songs include the mythical or cultic approach, which links this Old Testament book to the erotic literature of ancient fertility cults. And finally, there's the typological approach, which is derived from the Greek word typos, meaning a pattern or what is produced from a pattern. This style recognizes the validity of the Old Testament account, and then finds a parallel Link-or pattern-in the New Testament.
Whew! That's a lot of information, isn't it? However, we're not going to use any of the above approaches in their strictest sense in this book, and I'll explain why in just a minute.
Who Wrote This Wild Stuff?
It's commonly assumed that Solomon-King David's wealthy and wise Old Testament son, who wrote most of Proverbs and possibly Ecclesiastes-was the author of the Song of Songs, although some biblical scholars debate this assumption. Evidently, there are several linguistic issues that cast doubt on sole Solomonic authorship. But none is so compelling that Solomon can be irrevocably dismissed as the author. And theologians do agree that Solomon was the central male character in this love song. So maybe he wrote this poem, or part of it, or maybe it was written in his honor. Either way, it chronicles an amazing tenth-century (BC) romance between Solomon and his "favorite" wife.
Just in case you flinched when reading that last sentence, it's important to remember that Solomon lived during a time period when polygamy was the norm, especially for the rulers and chieftains. You'd probably be hard-pressed to find someone who embraces polygamy among your current circle of friends-unless you live in certain parts of Utah-but having more than one wife wasn't anything to write home about in this ancient era (although Solomon's harem might've prompted a postcard or two because he was such an enthusiastic wife collector). Scripture says he had seven hundred wives, as well as three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). That's a lot of estrogen at one address! The Bible also tells us it got Solomon in a heap of trouble:
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 1 Kings 11:4
But please don't assume he was some lecherous millionaire, because for most of his life he was a godly man and a good king. Furthermore, it's a widely held belief (especially in the Jewish rabbinic tradition) that the Song was written when Solomon was a young man and celebrates the true "love of his life," or at least, the first girl who really captured his heart.
Who was the first person you developed a crush on in elementary school? Did it ever sprout into a relationship?
What's Up with You?
Now by this point, some of you are probably asking yourself, Why is she writing a book on the Song of Songs? Which is a legitimate question. Why would a single girl like me, with a checkered dating past-basically a Bridget Jones among Bible thumpers-choose to write a book about the most romantic, erotically charged section of Scripture? The argument could be made that I'm like someone on the Atkins diet who can't have donuts, but gets a weird charge out of pressing her nose to the window at the Krispy Kreme place and watching them go through the glazing machine.
But I prefer to think of myself as kind of a Bible tour guide, and my purpose in writing about the Song is to introduce people to the encouraging truths found in this amazing poem! Because the treasures in Solomon's words are for everyone-men, women, single, married, widowed, black, white, red, or purple-who yearns to connect with God through an intimate relationship with Jesus. And while it would be ignorant of me to claim that romance and marriage aren't the central themes in the Song, I do think a more inclusive yet still theologically responsible way to interpret this book is a Christocentric, or Christ-centered approach-looking at key passages and considering how they illustrate our walk of faith.
Because at some level, this eye-popping poetry points to our relationship with God. Jesus Himself said so in the Gospel of Luke:
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:18-27
These two guys are walking home from the very first Easter week in Jerusalem, kicking at pebbles in the road because they don't really understand what happened. They're depressed that the political-religious system conspired against a "good man." And that this man, named Jesus, died an unfair death. But then Jesus Himself-whom they don't yet recognize-walks up beside them and asks, in effect, "Why the long faces, guys?" They look at Him in disbelief like, "You've got to be kidding!" because they're shocked that this stranger doesn't know what just transpired in Jerusalem. Everybody is talking about it. It's frontpage news in Israel Today. Has this man been living under a rock or something? So they explain, probably with exasperation or condescension, the events that have taken place.
Jesus listens to their entire spiel, then says something like this-and I picture Him with a hint of a smile here-"Don't you remember? We studied this in Old Testament 101; the prophets told us this would happen!" He continues by patiently reviewing God's merciful plan to redeem mankind through His death and resurrection, which they have just witnessed. Starting the lesson in Genesis and continuing through the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. In other words, Jesus takes these two bewildered men on a comprehensive Old Testament tour in order to say, "All of this points to the Messiah ... it's all about Me!"
Read Isaiah 53. What do you think this Old Testament passage says about Jesus?
Dr. John Murray, a respected theologian and professor, made this observation regarding Christ and the Song:
I also think that in terms of the biblical analogy the Song could be used to illustrate the relation to Christ and His church. The marriage bond is used in Scripture as a pattern of Christ and the church. If the Song portrays marital love and relationship on the highest levels of exercise and devotion, then surely it may be used to exemplify what is transcendently true in the bond that exists between Christ and the church.
Another well-respected theologian and professor, Dr. Tremper Longman III, says this about the application of the Song:
Throughout the Bible relationship with God is described by the metaphor of marriage. As with any metaphor, the reader must observe a proper reticence in terms of pressing the analogy. Nonetheless, from the Song we learn about the emotional intensity, intimacy, and exclusivity of our relationship with the God of the universe.
Excerpted from WHAT EVERY GIRL WANTS by Lisa Harper Copyright ©2006 by Lisa Harper. Excerpted by permission.
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