I recently finished the biblical book, Song of Solomon, also known as Canticles.
This book is remarkable. It is a song in Scripture that celebrates the passionate love between a young man and a young woman.
It contains dialogue rather than narrative. But from the dialogue we can gather that the young virgin has been taken from her home life and from the young man she loves, to be part of King Solomon’s harem. Now, remember, this is the King Solomon who had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
Yet, for a girl in a poor family, this was the chance of a lifetime. The luxury and wealth this new position offered to her and her family was tempting, to say the least. She is only a shepherdess. And now has the opportunity to never know hunger again, to be caressed in silk, and to possibly give birth to the next King of Israel.
But the young woman rebuffs King Solomon’s advances. In fact, she escapes the harem in a quest to find her true love, who is nothing more than a farmer, perhaps a vinedresser. In the Song, she and her lover are simply lovesick for each other.
So intense is their love that, for them, no one else in the world matters or even exists. The young woman’s family is angry with her. The woman of Jerusalem denounces her actions. But none of their opinions matter. They have each other’s love and that’s all they care about.
In the Song, these two smitten lovers describe each other in such graphic terms that it borders on erotic language. They simply delight in each other’s voices, appearance, and bodies.
Scripture Celebrates Love
Now, honestly, I’ve sometimes wondered why God allowed a book like this to become part of the Scripture. It celebrates the kind of love that many marriage and family books dismiss as a “temporary infatuation.” “It doesn’t last. There’s no real commitment involved. It’s just infatuation, a youthful passion that will fade with time as the harsh realities of life hit a couple that’s in love.”
Yet the Scripture celebrates this love. And why not? It’s pure and undistracted love. It’s a love that has eyes for no other. Furthermore, it’s a love so powerful that it will drive the couple to sacrifice everything out of devotion for each other. “Love is as strong as death,” the young man says to his beloved. Perhaps this was a love that not even King Solomon could understand, for it excludes all others. And, do you know, I’ve known older couples who are still in such “silly love” with each other now as they were in their youth. They’ve always been a couple of “love birds.” So this kind of love is not just a “flash in the pan.”
Three Great Loves
This passionate love is a gift from God to humanity. I understand that not every person will experience such love. But for those who have enjoyed it—and continue to do so, it’s a marvelous feeling to know there is someone in this world who loves you just as who you are. It’s wonderful to know that there is someone who likes your mannerisms, the sound of your voice, the color of your hair, and the attributes of your personality. Everyone needs to know that, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of them, there is that special someone who adores them.
I believe that this passionate and exclusive love is also one of the three great loves that express God’s love for us. Think about it. The Bible is full of references to God’s parental love for us. Psalm 103:13 tells us, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” In Isaiah 46:10, God tells his people, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” And of course, Jesus told the greatest parable of parental love, that of the Prodigal Son, in which the father grieves over the loss of his son until he receives him back safe and sound (Luke 15:11–32). This is a love we normally associate with God the Father.
And there is also a love that we often associate with the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about the passion and jealousy that an artist has for his masterpiece or a builder has for his monument. The Holy Spirit is passionate for our salvation and sanctification. He has sealed us for the day of redemption and is determined to perfect the work He began in us. The Spirit is passionate about removing impurities from our lives, turning our weaknesses into strengths, and conforming us into the image of Jesus. While Christ intercedes for us in heaven, we are told that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us from our very soul, where he has taken up permanent residence (Rom. 8:26–27).
Keenly aware of our every stress and tiny fracture, the Spirit relays all of this to the Father through the heat of ever trial. Until that day when He ushers us into heaven, ready for our Master, Jesus Christ.
And one thing the love of the Holy Spirit will never do is to ever abandon or destroy the work of His hands. He loves us too much and is too dedicated to our perfection. Even in the face of repeated failure, the relentless love of the Holy Spirit will not give up on us.
This relentless pursuit of our perfection reaches its climax at the point of death. Far from abandoning His work in us at death, death is the time of our perfection and consummation. What carpenter burns down the house he has just finished? What sculptor smashes the statue he’s just perfected? Certainly, this is a powerful proof of an afterlife.
Then there is the love of Jesus Christ. This is the love of a bridegroom for his bride. It is the passionate love that Jesus has for His Bride, the Church. Yes, there is Someone in heaven who is lovesick for you, who yearns for you, and whose love for you drove Him to sacrifice everything.
And even when the rest of the world despises you or considers you worthless and useless, it doesn’t matter. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator who became your Savior, loves you passionately and delights in you. It’s a love that, to us, doesn’t “add up.” “How could Jesus love someone like me?” Yet He does, unconditionally and forever.
This is the ultimate purpose of the Song of Solomon. It is not only to celebrate and sanctify the love between a man and a woman. Its purpose is also to help us understand the love Jesus has for us.
Therefore, as a bride prepares herself for her husband, let’s prepare ourselves for that glorious meeting. Let’s dwell, ponder, and meditate on Christ’s love. Let’s count the sacrifices he made and the terrible price He paid for the sake of His love for us. As we begin to grasp the love of Jesus, it will inspire love in our hearts for Him. Learning to know and love Christ is our great mission in this life, to prepare us for the life to come.
Dear Lord Jesus, please open my eyes to Your love for me. As the Holy Spirit labors to conform me into Your glorious image to prepare me for my face to face union with You, let my love for You and my eagerness to see you grow ever stronger. Amen.