March 18, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XVII: A True Love

Song of Songs

This book is full of Jesus in an allegorical setting. But it is Jesus in a special character. He is not seen solely as  Savior here nor is he King, High Priest or Prophet. He is viewed as something much more intimate. Jesus is the Bridegroom. We see Jesus in marriage union with His bride the Church. In the Old Testament (the setting of this book) it was distinctly a story of engagement of the Jewish nation Israel to God; and it is plainly declared in the language of the Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament also.

1 Corinthians 11:2 ~ I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

The needs in the Church today becomes intensely relevant in Song of Songs. It is a message which is peculiarly appropriate to the Church in our own day. In no age perhaps is the need of Christ more the center issue than it is today. We in the Church lean more towards pretense than praise. Jesus is like an estranged husband being locked out of His own house by a selfish and vain wife.

In the Church today His nature, His character, His work, His kingdom are clearly discussed on all sides but it seems He himself is not admitted because we would rather have ourselves stand in His stead. We and our needs have become more important than having Him. I see many people discuss Jesus in a clinical or academic manner but a biting cold often creeps over my heart as I listen to the words that come from “Christian” mouths and I realize…they are not as Christian as they claim.

An infatuated love with God would produce constant conversation and comment about Him but instead we hear of everything but Him. I listen to people because what people talk about is what they care about and I usually do not hear much of God in church conversation…not even in the sermons. The Gospel is only spoken of as a token gesture to appease the theological types but mostly what I hear is “personal application” or how the pastor or believer feels the passage affects them. Someone’s priorities are askew or backwards. There is an outward piousness but no divinity in sight to apply it towards. There is affection but it is misdirected. Instead of pushing it out to Him we throw it out it like a boomerang fully expecting it to come back to us, not stay with Him.

Matthew 7:21-23 ~“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

To really know Him entails an intimate personal knowledge which comes through communion with Him or internalizing of His truths from Scripture. An endearing love or passion and concern will have a person dwell nearly solely on that which they are in love with. When someone speaks who really has knowledge of God and loves the Lord, well…it awakens a spiritual response within those who are of like mind and no amount of academic or “book knowledge” produces this effect.

The speaker may be an old woman in a bingo hall, a policeman talking of God in the local Diner or the nurse at an ER bedside. Right within the din and chaos of life we as Christ loving Christians sense at once:  

"Here is a person who has truly had an audience with God and it has changed them from the inside out--permanently.”

A true, personal love to Christ is the greatest need of the Church today and seems at times almost uniformly absent. This absence is to the detriment of those that do not have this personal love and communion with the Lord. It may take on different forms but it is critical and necessary. The true passionate and intimate love called for and commanded in Scripture requires a true, passionate and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Can we all honestly say that we have this when we can read our Bibles and understand little of it? When we can sing all the words to the old hymns and not understand any of their theological implications? I posit that we cannot.

If we do not have the true intimate knowledge as shown in the Song of Songs, can we truly understand just how much grace has been given us to have our sins forgiven even though we didn’t deserve this grace? Can we truly understand His redeeming work and realize that it is this very sacrifice that draws out our love to Him through His Spirit?

We live in an age of very little conviction--not only in our beliefs but also in the negative sense about our sins and misdeeds. Conviction of sin requires an understanding that we are offending someone/Someone. Someone that we should've been loving, not offending. It is hard to love a person while simultaneously offending them. If not we begin to fragrantly violate and trespass others with no thought of whom we hurt. If we love God as much as we say, why would we carelessly hurt Him and abuse His gift through willful sin and ignorance? I posit that those who do this really do not care and do not love Him the way they claim. 

He who loved us first. It is no wonder our hearts grow cold. We abuse the love and grace given us.

In the Song of Songs the truth of redemption is brought out in the beauty of the Bride.

Song of Songs 4:7 ~ “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you.

We will hear the echoes of Solomon in Ephesians…

Ephesians 5:25-27 ~ “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 

What’s more is that, as we read the Song of Songs, the love intensifies and deepens through communion or more specifically—unity and closeness. It seems this unity is interrupted a few times only to have her (the church) seek Him more earnestly due to the separation. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

This speaks volumes. Those estranged from the love of their life should adamantly be seeking that love. Frankly, I am just not seeing this in many people. Perhaps the only place I see this is in a minority that are pushed to the fringe or periphery by those that feign love because the fringe group’s intensity towards God is “embarrassing” or "fanatical" to the majority. If those feigning devotion were true in their love, it would come out towards those that are visibly in love with God in a zealous manner. The fruit is what glorifies God. It is this very zeal in joy and love that is to be the attraction to God and bring Him glory. It is not to ostracize those that have this love. Those that are pushing these passionate few to the edges are the ones that need to be scrutinized closely. It is this very shining and victorious aura based in joy and love that is the dividing line between the true believers and the pretenders and liars of the world.

Song of Songs 6:10 ~ “Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession?”

This is a short and amazingly lucid description of what the Church should be—shining with the reflected light of her absent Lord. The Church is to be the light in the darkness of this world eventually ushering in the new dawn through the one that the Church reflects: Christ.

Unfortunately, what do we often see? We see the very thing (believer/Church) that should reflect the light of Christ, blocking Him instead. Instead of being a fair and beautiful moon just before dawn…we eclipse Christ and block Him out with poor or bogus behavior. We do not reflect His image at all. Instead of being a light-bearer in the world, we snuff-out the light we are meant to reflect.

True love is more than lip-service and platitudes. True love changes us from within. If we truly love Someone we put the One we love before us to show the world…not behind us trying to hide them.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden either do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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