Last time we read from the Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon depending on your translation I said that this was one of only two books in the bible not to even mention the name of God.
I was challenged on that, and so I stand corrected, sort of.
If you look in chapter 8, in verse six, one of the Hebrew words COULD and I stress COULD be translated as Jah (the first syllable of the the formal name that Moses is given for God by God himself on the mountain).
Now, I will challenge anyone here to find that in an English translation that they own or have with them today. I could only find it in Young’s Literal Translation from the 1800’s. And if you look in that translation, you will find what MIGHT be a reference to God. The King James translators did not think so, and did not translate it that way, nor did the NIV or anyone else.
But there it is. If you look hard enough, and biblical scholars have, you might possibly find GOD mentioned in the Song of Songs.
But it would really be a stretch, and as such the Song of Songs is one of the most peculiar and difficult books of the OT.
It’s a book not even mentioned or referenced in the New Testament, or by Jesus. And through time, because of its sometimes graphic portrayal of sexuality, it has often been excluded from use in the Christians church, or been considered a forbidden read or taboo.
It just seems so out of place, that some have questioned whether it should be in the bible at all.
Amongst Jewish people, that question has never arisen.
For them, Song of Songs is key to the Hebrew canon, used for special feast days and is traditionally read on the eighth day of the Passover.
According to Talmud-tradition (and this might surprise you), Hezekiah is the author of the book. So although it’s written about Solomon, it likely wasn’t written by him because the text came into being, it seems, much later than Solomon’s life.
Now, that’s not to say Solomon COULD NOT have BEEN the author. The first verse says he is and that’s mentioned seven more times in the book, as well as three times we read this is composed by the “King”.
And we know from 1 Kings, Solomon wrote 1,005 songs.
If this is by Solomon is the only song of Solomon that has been preserved. The song also mentions 22 names of plants and 15 names of animals, which is consistent with the fact that he was known to have a deep knowledge of nature.
But I and many others think it was actually written down much later, after many generations of being passed along by oral tradition.
So some bibles call it Song of Songs, rather than the Song of Solomon. I prefer the former because that is it’s original Hebrew title, and it means “the most beautiful song.”
If we saw a great baseball game, we’d say “that was the game of all games”.
This is the Song of all Songs.
And it’s called that because it addresses the most beautiful and sacred of all biblical topics.
Simply said there is nothing more that defines our God, and his relationship to us, and our relationship to each other than the word LOVE.
So we are going to read part of the bible greatest love poem.
Song of Songs Chapter 3 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 Young Woman: “One night as I lay in bed, I yearned deeply for my lover, but he did not come.
2 So I said to myself, ‘I will get up now and roam the city, searching for him in all its streets and squares.’ But my search was in vain.
3 The watchmen stopped me as they made their rounds, and I said to them, ‘Have you seen him anywhere, this one I love so much?’
4 A little while later I found him and held him. I didn’t let him go until I had brought him to my childhood home, into my mother’s bedroom, where I had been conceived.
5 “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the swift gazelles and the deer of the wild, not to awaken love until the time is right. ”
Young Women of Jerusalem:
6 “Who is this sweeping in from the deserts like a cloud of smoke along the ground? Who is it that smells of myrrh and frankincense and every other spice?
7 Look, it is Solomon’s carriage, with sixty of Israel’s mightiest men surrounding it.
8 They are all skilled swordsmen and experienced warriors. Each one wears a sword on his thigh, ready to defend the king against an attack during the night.
9 “King Solomon has built a carriage for himself from wood imported from Lebanon’s forests.
10 Its posts are of silver, its canopy is gold, and its seat is upholstered in purple cloth. Its interior was a gift of love from the young women of Jerusalem.” Young Woman:
11 “Go out to look upon King Solomon, O young women of Jerusalem. See the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day, the day of his gladness.”
A young jazz musician, and a friend were once playing in a band in a Masonic lodge. He wrote “we were upstairs in this building and saw a beautiful set of chimes that we coveted.
I said, “Bill, wouldn’t it be great if we could have those chimes.” And he said, “Yes, it sure would.” So I said, “Why don’t we take them.”
He said, “All right, we’ll take them.”
And I said, “You go downstairs during intermission, and I’ll throw them out the window to you. You put them in the car, and we’ll have a set of chimes.”
And so, sure enough, when intermission came, he went outside and I tossed the chimes out of the window. He caught them and put them in the car and not a thing was damaged. And we thought, “Wow, are we going to have fun with those chimes.”
But you know what? When the job was over and we went home I said, “Why don’t you take them, Bill?” And he said, “No, you take them,”
And I said, “No, I don’t want them either”.
You see, I was afraid somebody might find out I had stolen them, and I thought it would be better if Bill had them, but Bill didn’t want them either, because he too was worried that somebody might find out that we stole them.
So finally we said to each other, “Let’s go and put them back,” and that’s what we did.
Even though we had this thing we could have right now and could now today, it wasn’t right so we couldn’t.
And that’s what much of Song of Songs, at its heart, from a spiritual point of view is really about.
We have this great love. And we have wonderful ways to express it to each other. But there is an order to things set out by God, and when we follow that order we have great freedom, and a clear conscience, when we do not, our pleasure instead is bondage.
Because we know in God’s eyes what we are doing is not right.
This young couple here understood that.
They knew in their hearts what Paul later told the Corinthians ” All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
The NLT reads You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.
In other words, we are certainly able make any choices we want, but with some we will be ” brought under the power” of them. We will be make slaves to them. Our guilt will keep us captive, so we cannot enjoy what we have stolen.
Our couple in this reading did not want to be slaves, they wanted to be free.
They knew that God said, “I have this great expression of Love, and it’s all for you when you are committed to each other in marriage.”
But we should not think that waiting was easy for them. The whole book tells us they were struggling with it. They did not want to wait.
But even though neither God nor the Law is specifically mentioned here, we know they know that waiting is the right thing.
Romans 2:14 reads ” Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.”
The guilt in our hearts is an alarm clock to wake us up to what God expects of us.
And we know from this book that this Shulamite girl was a virgin when she got married.
In today’s world, being a virgin is almost a sign of shame.
But, here, it’s a badge of honor.
As she approaches her wedding day it is a gift that she will give to her husband.
Toward the end of Song of Songs as the wedding day approaches she says “May my beloved come into his garden, and eat its choice fruits.”
But always up to that point it was HER garden, a garden she was keeping locked, but now, on the wedding night it was his garden. A garden they could share together.
And it’s just this type of committed lifetime love that God intended of when he created marriage in HIS garden of Eden. Man for woman, woman for man, committed, exclusive, forever.
Now, In times past, I would not have to argue much with anyone about God’s definition of marriage. But today, everything is up for grabs. And for young people, in particular, it can be very confusing.
A preacher was preaching on this passage of the Bible, and when he finished and all of the others had gone, there was a girl who came up to him, and she was crying and said, “Sir, I left my garden unlocked. Now, is there any hope for me? What can I do?”
His response was, “Supposing you had a flower garden and somehow the gate was left open and the dogs came in and dug around and some of them walked over the flowers, what would you do?”
She said, “I would lock the gate, and take the rake and start cleaning up the garden.”
And he said, “That’s exactly what you should do.”
God forgive, and forgives completely, and there is never anyone to far gone, but God never lowers His standard and says wrong is right. And whether you have done wrong in the past, or not, today is the day to do right.
But again, without God’s standard, how do wrong right from wrong.
In this day we have something called conditional morality. In other words, anything could be right under the right circumstances, and anything might not be wrong in others.
In other words, as people, we justify. We say, I was young. I was poor. I was afraid. I was vulnerable. I was stupid. I was tempted.
And all those things may very well be true. And the past is the past. But wrong is still wrong. And God has absolute standards, and sin is sin.
And He wants the mess cleaned up.
The mess we’ve all made.
If you take a quick look around this room, you will see a room full of sinners.
Everyone here, in one way of another, has left the garden gate open. It wouldn’t take long for most of us to think quickly to something which has or still causes us guilt.
And for those things there are consequences. Sometimes life long consequences.
Sometimes the people around us: our families, our neighbors, total strangers they won’t let it go, they won’t forget. They won’t forgive. The damage with them is done.
Some things can only be done once, and then they are done.
And that’s why our bride and groom in Song of Songs are waiting and being careful. They know somethings are forever, some things can’t be taken back. They want to take care of their spirits, and their minds, and their bodies, and preserve them.
They are being careful because they know that will somethings there are no “do over” and that’s why through Jesus Christ we should all thank God for grace.
Despite our care, and we should be careful, we still fall short. We are unable to keep the law perfectly. So we need a Savior who has the power to clean up the messes we make.
Through Christ, the bible says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
Sometimes we cannot undo the damage of a garden gate left open. But Jesus can. Christ himself can and will help us get things back in order, and when we ask him for forgiveness, in His eyes, it’s a done deal forever.
Is that how we as humans do forgiveness.
Not really. Most of us forgive but then have in the back of our minds “but I’m watching you!” “I forgive but I’ll not forget.”
That’s not how it is with Jesus. He is not setting back looking at all our past sins waiting for us to slip up and do them again.
To Him, once and for all on the cross, it is finished!
Forgiveness is complete, and eternal.
Jesus was very clear about how his forgiveness was complete and final.
But when He forgave, he added five more little words.
Go…and … sin …no … more…
Even though God forgiveness completely, the people came to Jesus because they felt guilty about their sins, and they were a slave to them, and rightfully so.
So Jesus gives them a fresh start and says “embrace the freedom, sin no more…”
A church in New Zealand had a large young peoples group, and they met once a month after the evening service for discussion.
The pastor noticed a young couple that came that didn’t look very happy, and by discreetly listening and asking a few questions He found out the reason.
They were living together as man and wife on the sly, and this pastor thought that were seeking some indication that maybe that God didn’t mind too much.
They felt that NOT being married let them have their freedom, but they weren’t happy.
The pastor said, “Do you know why you’re not happy? It’s because you ARE NOT free. And do you know why you’re not free?
Because you can’t be free without God’s approval. Do you want God’s approval?”
” Oh yes,” they both said-just like that. “Oh yes, we’d like God’s approval.”
He said, “All right, no problem.”
He said to her, “You go home, tonight, to your mother’s house and stay there, and then you make plans for a marriage. And you get married, and then you’ll have it – God’s approval, and you will feel free.”
And they did go home, to their separate homes, and after not too long they got married, and it was like turning lights on inside their faces because they knew now they had God’s own approval.
There are a lot of people, I’m sure, who think that following God’s way is a big drag, and really hard burdon.
But in truth following His way is the greatest of freedoms.
Because again, God is not the slighted bit interested or concerned about how we’ve lived in the past. Our God lives, loves and forgives in the present eternal moment.
If you turn to Him, and call upon His name and you will be saved, from your sins, your past life, from yourself. Forever.
And you can feel the freedom that comes from living that.
And I know that personally ……because I have always kept MY garden gate closed and I NEVER struggle personally with sin.
Does anyone buy that?
I really hope not.
Because the worst thing that could happen this morning was if you thought I was pointing a finger away from myself. I have had a lot of messy gardens in my life.
But the one thing I do remember, at least much of the time, is that no matter how messy my garden has gotten, God is still there in with me, and he loves me, and he offers me grace.
As we are entering the time many call Lent, it’s a good time to remember and observe that Jesus himself stepped into the flesh that we share, and had temptations, and sufferings, but we should also note…… HE was always free. Because always knew His Father’s approval.
Jesus knew no Guilt, and in that He did not share our experience. We know guilt, and it’s one of those unpleasant things that that we’d probably rather do without, but it serves an important purpose. It tells us the difference between right and wrong. It helps us to not be slaves, so that we can truly enjoy the life that God has for us.
Our lovers in today’s reading did not want to be slaves they wanted to be free from guilt. They wanted to experience Love the way got had created it, and they way He approved.
They wanted the full blessing of the Lord.
And with that I’m going to end with some familiar words from the book of Numbers.
” The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”‘