In the previous three weeks we have spent ample time looking at both an overview of the entire Song of Songs and also the history of the Song of Songs. If you haven’t looked at those yet, I would challenge you to start with the first three chapters before you seek to jump into the life of the Shulamite and her journey in Christ. Those three chapters create the context for what our verse by verse study will unearth. In this chapter (Chapter four), we are going to take a look at the start of the young maiden’s journey in Song of Songs 1:1-6. We will cover several major road-marks in the life of the Shulamite. We will see her hunger for God, the reason why people are attracted to Jesus, her two-fold life vision and her first crisis of faith. The Shulamite’s journey start’s in Chapter one and much of what takes place throughout the entire Song finds its root system from this very Chapter.
The Divine Kiss and The Fragrance Of Christ (Song of Songs 1:1-3)
The first three verse’s in the Song of Songs start with the Shulamite saying “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth (Word)—for Your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of Your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; therefore the virgins love you.” Inside these short three verses there is a library of revelation to be obtained. Here the Shulamite is at the start of her journey and she is rightly calling out to Jesus for Him to speak to her His word. I have translated the word from “mouth” to “words, scriptures or voice.” The reason I have translated that word from mouth to word, is so that you don’t get the idea that Jesus is kissing us on the lips, or that we are kissing Jesus on the lips. Though this is a natural love story, we are looking at is as an allegory and it’s important for this entire series that we don’t get off into strange romance with Jesus. Though He is a Bridegroom, we don’t date Jesus, kiss Jesus or share other strange romantic encounters with Him.
The Bride is clearly appealing to the One that has authority over her life. This isn’t just anyone that she is asking to speak to her, but rather One who actually has power over her and the ability to not only speak to her, but to awaken her with love. It’s clear that in the Church many people are starving spiritually, even though there is everything that’s needed to eat prepared at the table. It’s not because of poor preaching that people aren’t fed, or off key worship, or small dumpy buildings, but because there is a general lack of hunger in the body of Christ today for more of Jesus. Proverbs 27:7 says “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hunger even the bitter things are sweet.” Solomon is telling us that to those who are hungry, even the bitter things in life become something sweet. It’s not that bitter things are actually sweet; it’s that the hungry find something good in nearly everything. The bride, here, is expressing her hunger for God to speak to her. She is asking for the Word of God to come from Him to her. The bride has no idea where a little bit of her hunger mixed with His voice is actually going to take her. She is a small kite about to be caught up in a hurricane. Hunger will take you places you have only dreamed about in the Godhead. The bride makes it clear that loving God is better than the things that even come from His hand. Many times we can end up loving what God does for us, but have no interest in actually coming to know Him as a Person. Loving God and being loved by God is the best wine that life in both this age and in the age to come can offer.
As she is moving closer to her Beloved, she catches the fragrance of Christ. She says”…because of the fragrance of Your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; therefore the virgins love you.” It’s because of His good fragrance that she is attracted to Him and it’s the reason why others have loved Him so much. For most of our non-Christian culture that we live among, their view of God is very stoic, staunch and super disconnected not only from their personal lives but life on earth all together. Our culture often says things like “why would a good God kill people.” Or “I could never serve a God that you can’t see and doesn’t care about me.” The reason that many repeat these exact phrases and many others is because of how the Church of Jesus Christ has represented Jesus to the culture in which we live. Remember, a local Church is the reflection of individual Christians and the leadership of that Church who leads that ministry will be a direct reflection of how those individuals in that ministry represent Christ to the culture in which they live. Simply said, as it goes with the leaders so it will go with the people. Now that isn’t always true, but often times it is and if it’s not totally true for everyone, it’s true for most. Most people will also turn out like their leaders or whoever they are following, for the good and the bad. So because Christians often have the stench of religious striving, we send off that fragrance to others and it doesn’t attract them to us and it totally repels them from the Church as a whole. If they see individuals Christians that have this stench, most assume that not only is the whole Church just like that, but so also is God.
The bride is smelling and experiencing a totally, altogether different type of fragrance when she touches the real Jesus, as opposed to the Jesus we often present to others. When she experiences this kind, tender, truthful, compassionate, caring Creator she responds and says “this is why the Church has loved you so much.” Often times before we were Christians we struggled with understanding why people would spend so much time at Church, giving their money, their time and their gifts to the Church. But after Jesus touches our hearts with the same fragrance the bride experienced, we become just like the other ones we didn’t understand. The reason for this is because until it becomes personal for you, until you experience Jesus for yourself, the dedication and discipline of others doesn’t make sense. Here the bride is having an eye opening moment. It’s clear why others have loved Him. It’s because of how kind He is. Paul has this to say about the fragrance of Christ in 2nd Corinthians 2:15 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and to those who are perishing.” Have you ever though that God has called you to smell like Christ in the midst of your culture, so that others will see the Christ in you, and respond to love Him in the same way that you do?
The Bride’s Two-Fold Life Vision For Intimacy And Ministry (1:4)
Because the bride is being exposed to something totally different than she has ever encountered it is causing her to draw closer to Him. You can sense in the start of the Song a passion to know Him, but also a little bit of a hesitation, but when she comes a little closer to Him, she is struck with the reality that internally she longs to know this Man. It’s here in Song of Songs 1:4 that the bride speaks out what I call her two-fold life vision. She first says “Draw me away!” The bride is being awakened with really solid Theology and Bible doctrine as she is making the first part of her cry known to God. She first and rightly says “Draw me away!” The bride has a passion to enter into the first and second commandment in a powerful way, but she also understands that they are called the first and second for a reason. She sees that before she can run in the place of ministry with God and other’s she first must be drawn away with Him in the place of intimacy. Before she can be empowered to be fruitful in the many vineyards of God throughout the earth, she must first be drawn to Him in the place of personal encounter.
Often times the servants of God become so busy in the second commandment (ministry) that they forget the first and the great commandment of loving God with everything. So often we can be doing the second commandment and say this is how we show our love for God, by working for Him. But this is a really broken pattern. This pattern creates an ideal that I am somehow earning the affections of God by what I do, and not by who I am. You aren’t looking to have a short impact in the kingdom of God because you worked hard but became burnt out. You are looking to live your whole living serving God and that can only happen as we make the first commandment first and the second commandment second. Look how she uses the word “draw ME away.” The reason she says this is because intimacy is always something that we do on our own with Jesus. Unlike ministry, we always do that in the place of community, or with others.
When I say that the bride has good Theology, that’s because she is making the first things first and the second things second. It’s not that intimacy is better than ministry; it’s just a matter of priority. The bride follows the first part of her cry for intimacy in Song of Songs 1:4 with the cry for ministry as she says “We will run after You.” She understood that when we run in the place of ministry we always do it in community and never on our own. Now that doesn’t mean that as we serve others if won’t feel lonely. It means that when we are serving others; don’t act as lone rangers attempting to do the work of the ministry on our own without a team. Team work is the way of the Kingdom. The bride sees that ministry is often at a running pace and she doesn’t want to be running off on our own because we really, deeply need each-other. Community is where God does most of His work on us as individuals. Not only does God work on us in community but He also uses us to work on others. It’s a beautiful give and take.
For you to be able to run effectively and have longevity in the ministry that God calls you into, you will have to balance the first and the second commandment so that they are married to each other not separated like most tend to do. When you look at most Christians they are usually either people who love God really well but don’t reach out to people, or they love others so much they are so busy helping them that they don’t have time to love God. You don’t have to choose one or the other because you have been called to do both in an equally powerful way.
The Bride’s Revelation Of Her Dark and Lovely Heart (1:4-6)
As you read through the Song of Songs and become familiar with the storyline as a whole, you will start to notice who is taking, how quickly they respond to one another and the many things which are said several times throughout the entire Song. This verse is one of those quick responses from Jesus to the bride. In SOS 1:4 the bride asked that He would draw her away into the place of intimacy with Him and He answers her prayer in the very verse that she prayed it in. In SOS 1:4c she says “The King brought me into His chamber…” Within the very verse that she asked Him to draw her away with Him, He answers her and takes her into His chamber. Now the chamber was the place of intimate encounter between Groom and Bride. She is being pictured as one who was taken into the place where He is. He has taken her into the place that she couldn’t go on her own.
You and I are unable to go into God’s presence on our own. It takes the Holy Spirit to escort us into the place where God dwells and the bride clearly understands this because she is appealing to Him to help her. What I love about this scenario is that as soon as she asks He answers. So often we live our lives as if God doesn’t really hear us or even care about us, but this isn’t true at all. Not only does God hear us, but He always hears us. You must translate her experience with God listening to her and responding, to our relationship with God. You don’t have to wonder any more if He hears you, you can take courage that God is listening and even responding to that which you are asking of Him or talking to Him about. Beloved, He is listening.
The young immature bride steps out of the King’s chamber and has another huge Aha moment. In SOS 1:4f she says “…rightly do they love You.” As she leaves His presence she can see why everyone loves Him so much. The more she is touching Him and being touched by Him the clearer the passion of others towards Him is right. We can see this best in the following verse in SOS 1:5 when the bride says “I am dark but lovely, O daughter’s of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.” Because of her personal encounter with Him, in the way that He views her life in this immature state, it’s clear to her why the others around her in the Church have wasted their lives on Him also. It’s only in the place of divine encounter with God Himself that we too come to the same understanding that the young maturing bride comes to. It’s right that these others have loved Him, because of the fragrance of His Person and His good name but specifically because of how He views me when I am in His presence. As soon as she walks out of His presence she says “I am dark but lovely.” This is what I call an authentic encounter with Christ. It’s authentic because the bride saw both her dark and lovely heart. That is a big word and many of us overlook. The bride didn’t see only her dark heart, but she also seen that she was lovely to God.
Many of you are so struggling with loving God because of the way that God was presented to in the Church. Many of you have heard a very harsh message of justice and truth and that God doesn’t tolerate sin, which is true, but it’s also only one side to a two sided coin. When we only get exposed to one side of a coin, we miss out on the other half, which is an equally important half. See the other half of the coin is that God is also a God of love, compassion and tenderness. This doesn’t mean that He’s not truthful and just, but rather that He is truthful and compassionate at the same time. If you leave God’s presence only seeing your darkness you will fail to grow in Christ to your full potential. But if you only see you’re lovely to God and no dark heart you will live presumptuously as if you have no sin when you do. We must see both realities of our dark and lovely heart in order to grow in both confidence and humility.
Our confidence in God comes from the fact that even though I have a dark heart, He see’s my love for Him as real. Our humility before God and others comes from the reality that though I am loved by God I have a dark and sinful heart that often takes me to places I never intended to go. My dark heart allows me to see my great need for God, but His love for me empowers me to keep pressing into Him. My lovely heart allows me to see a God who is happy with me, not disappointed with me.
Most of us have no problem seeing that our hearts are weak and dark. That’s not our problem, but our problem is seeing that even though our hearts are dark, if you are sincere before God, you are lovely to Him. Now it’s important that I state, if you are in blatant sin, rebellion or defiance, God is not over looking your sin. You must repent; apologize to Him and others in order to be restored. The message of the Song of Songs is to the sincere that are repenting and asking for help and working in partnership with the Holy Spirit to become free. If you’re asking for help, repenting of sin and working to press into God; be encouraged that your heart is dark, but it’s also lovely. Don’t focus so much on your dark heart as must as you are lovely to God. When we see yourself as being clean before God, you will also live clean before Him. He knows that you heart is dark and so do you. But what you don’t know is that you are lovely to God and He desires you, right where you are at. You can’t do anything more or less for Him to love you more or less. He loves you right where you are at. Take time today to allow that truth to wash you and empower you to rise up as a weak, but sincere lover of God. If you have repented of sin, it’s gone and it will never be brought up again. So press delete on the sin, and say yes to your new loveliness to God.