- The Explore the Bible Lesson for Aug. 30 focuses on Song of Songs 5:6-16.
The Bible, starting with the prophesies of Hosea and moving forward through the rest of the Old Testament and the New, frequently uses romantic and marital imagery to describe God’s relationship with his people—both in positive and negative terms. This tendency can help us readers understand Song of Songs and its implications for our spiritual lives.
On one level, Song of Songs is simply a collection of romantic and erotic poems that focus on human relationships. Our relationship with God is not romantic in the same way that our relationship with an earthly lover may be, yet the nature of these sorts of real, earthly relationships can help give us insight into our relationship with God.
Our text, Song of Songs 5:6-16, covers three dimensions of love, both earthly and divine: seeking, witnessing and praising. The woman seeks out her lover, even at danger to herself. Her friends then ask her what makes her lover so special. Then the woman gives a lavish description of her lover’s various traits.
Verses 6-8 describe the woman opening her door for her beloved to enter. However, he is no longer there. The woman is disappointed at first and proceeds to leave her chamber to seek him out. She is unable to find him; she calls out his name, but he does not answer.
As she continues to search for her lover, she encounters the city watch. They do not help her or protect her. Instead, they harm her. “They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my cloak, those watchmen of the walls!” (5:7) The woman thankfully survives and is not seriously harmed, but she is nevertheless humiliated and hurt.
The woman proceeds to urge her friends, if they see her beloved, to tell him that she is “faint with love” (5:8).
For those of us who have been desperately “lovesick,” we can resonate with the urge to go out and find the one we love, even at risk of harm. Yet in some ways, this segment of the text bears even more powerful witness to how passionate one’s desire for God can be.
Numerous Christians, both now and throughout history, willingly have put themselves in harm’s way out of desire to follow God faithfully. One thinks perhaps of believers in North Korea who risk imprisonment, torture, and execution for following Jesus. How many of us can say that we are so passionate for Christ that we will literally risk our lives on his behalf?
Verse 9 provides a brief interlude in which neither the woman nor her lover is speaking. Instead, the speakers are the woman’s friends. They ask her: “How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful of women? How is your beloved better than others, that you so charge us?”
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These friends wish to know what it is that makes this woman’s lover so special. After all, there are numerous men in the world. What is different about this guy? It is a natural question, especially when you consider that these friends likely have lovers of their own.
This is a perennial question for those who are in love. When I see my own friends and family members in love, I want to know what all makes them love their partner so much. It is not an accusatory or critical question; it is sincere. It can often be difficult to explain, especially since love is so subjective and personal.
Such a question has a very natural parallel for Christians’ relationship with Christ. We ought to live our lives and speak in such a way that our love for Christ is evident beyond dispute. We ought to prompt our friends and others around us to ask, “What makes Jesus so special? Why do you love him so much and follow him so faithfully?”
The final and longest section of our text, verses 10-16, is the woman’s response to her friends’ query. She gives a lavish and detailed description of her lover’s appearance. She starts with his head (5:11) and proceeds down his body to his legs and feet (5:15) before tying it all together (5:16).
Of course, the woman’s love for this man is not focused only on his appearance; the rest of the Song makes this clear. Hopefully we should also recognize that real love is not based only on appearances. At the same time, we all know that beauty—which is in the eye of the beholder—is important to love all the same.
The woman uses rich metaphorical language and glowing imagery to describe her lover. This poetry is very affecting and passionate, a profound expression of admiration and desire.
This praise the woman has for her lover ought to be paralleled in our praise for God. We obviously do not praise God for being physically attractive (Isaiah 53:2). But we can, should and do heap praises on God with glowing and poetic language. We use songs, poetry, sermons and everyday speech to describe the glories and wonders of our beloved God.
Just as this woman uses glowing language to describe her beloved, we as Christians should use glowing language to describe the glory, majesty and love of our God.
Joshua Sharp is a writer and Bible teacher living in Waco. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Truett Theological Seminary.