A sacred love

Slices

Prepare

Talk with God about your experience of relationship with him.

Bible passage

Song of Songs 4:1 – 5:1

He

4 How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
    Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
    descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
    coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
    not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
    your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
    are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
    built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
    all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
    like twin fawns of a gazelle
    that browse among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
    and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
    and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
    come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
    from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
    and the mountain haunts of leopards.
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
    How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
    more than any spice!
11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
    milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
    is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
    you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
    with choice fruits,
    with henna and nard,
14     nard and saffron,
    calamus and cinnamon,
    with every kind of incense tree,
    with myrrh and aloes
    and all the finest spices.
15 You are a garden fountain,
    a well of flowing water
    streaming down from Lebanon.

She

16 Awake, north wind,
    and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
    that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
    and taste its choice fruits.

He

5 I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
    I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
    I have drunk my wine and my milk.

Friends

Eat, friends, and drink;
    drink your fill of love.

Arm raised worship

Explore

The images of goats and sheep may make us smile (4:1,2)! But this love song is no joke. Its celebration of the beloved woman is passionate and sacred. So, let’s spare our blushes! Here its inclusion in Scripture reminds us that we are fully human, and our physical, God-created world – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – is good! 

Imagine the young man walking through countryside. A flock of goats streaming down the hillside reminds him of the girl’s long, dark hair; freshly washed, white sheep bring to mind her perfect teeth (unusual in those times) ... and her lips, her cheeks (‘temples’, 4:3); scents of flowers bring to memory her perfume. She is altogether lovely (4:7). So, he invites her to come with him (4:8). 

The intimacy of their relationship is about more than physical appearance. She has stolen his ‘heart’ – the very core of his being. Her mode of loving is pleasing and he refers to her with deep affection (‘my sister’, 4:9). Now she is also set apart as his ‘bride’ (4:10). The description of the garden of love (4:12 – 5:1) – with its luxurious fruits, scents and fountains of flowing water – is sacred. Here is a holy love which is only known and shared between the lovers. He has declared his love – its fulfilment depended on her willing response (4:16)

Author
'Tricia Williams

Respond

Christ loves his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25–27). He also calls to each one of us. How are we responding to that love?

Deeper Bible study

‘Drink your fill of love.’1  As you come into God’s presence, pause to breathe in his love for you and to breathe out your love for him.

They say that every bride is beautiful on her wedding day. It is not the dress or the make-up that does it, despite all the money thrown that way. It is because she knows she is loved. Because she has been chosen above all the others. Because her prince has found something special in her that he wishes to cherish for ever. That something sparkles out of every pore of her being, dazzling the guests and stunning the awe-struck groom.

So this is his wedding song, in the traditional Middle-Eastern genre of wasf, in praise of his alluring bride. His gentle lingering gaze over her allows him to drink in every part of her shining splendour. Tantalisingly, her face is veiled, so partial sight and memory paint a flawless image in his adoring imagination. On this wedding day, love is ripe and ready. Love is succulent and bursting to be picked and tasted and consumed. The long wait makes the bride’s shimmering invitation all the more thrilling. Her locked garden is thrown wide open with an urgent cry of desire. All is delight and freedom and ecstasy.

In an age when so many build their self-worth on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ or Instagram followers, these words point us to what we really need. When fragile souls are taunted by comparisons with touched-up celebrity images, this poem speaks volumes about true beauty. When sex is considered an easily accessed commodity to be exploited or purchased, this simple exquisite wedding song declares that nothing comes close to the exclusive bond of mutual self-giving love. Surely the Christian church has something to celebrate and commend to a society desperate for unconditional love and deep contentment.

When the church has often been caricatured for what it is against, how might we promote the compelling, life-affirming beauty of a Christ-centred monogamous marriage?

1 Song 5:1

Author
Fiona Barnard

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year: 2 Chronicles 33,34; Psalms 75,76

Pray for Scripture Union

Many Local Mission Partners including Brentwood Schools Christian Worker Trust, Engage (Woking), Lighthouse (Crawley), LightSpace (Grantham), Watford Schools Trust and Christian Connections in Schools (Windsor, Slough and Maidenhead) had planned a range of transition activities around It’s Your Move. Pray for children making the move to secondary education, especially after an unsettling period, asking that effective ways may be found to support them.

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