Saturday, April 27, 2013

Song 2: First Love of the Bride

Song 2:1-7
She: I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. 
He: As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. 
She: As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste, He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.  ESV

Quite obviously, the lady in this song is very much in love (infatuated) with Solomon, and vice-versa. It has created a longing and a desire that makes the lady love-sick: "for I am sick with love." In that infatuated state, she longs for physical intimacy with her beloved: "his left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me!" However, she sounds a note of caution about physical love: "I adjure you... that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases" (ESV). The NIV translates the same verse as: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires";  NLT has it as: "not to awaken love until the time is right" and the Message translates it as "don't excite love, don't stir it up, until the time is ripe — and you're ready." Here the caution is that physical love, once aroused, needs consummation for which an unmarried woman is not ready for. In other words, sexual intimacy is reserved for married life, not to be aroused prematurely. Pre-marital sex can harm a love relationship.

But infatuation can be powerful and it opens us to fantasy of perfection of our beloved. The love-struck lady speaks of Solomon as a fleet-footed gazelles and stag, "leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills" (v.8-9), whispering sweet nothings into her ears: "My beloved speaks and says to me: 'Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away...Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely." Solomon, obviously is a lady's man: he knows how to say nice things that many women be willing to pay to get their husbands/partners say such nice things to them. (The guys reading this are likely to be thinking, "Solomon is really sick--not love sick, but mentally sick--to utter such mushy stuff!" Well, if your lady feels loved because of it, why deprive her of it?) The love-struck lady is singing the praise of his beloved: "My beloved is mine, and I am his... his banner over me is love!"

The point of this is that the flush of first love can be intense and powerful, for it can dominate the hearts and minds of the love-struck couples. So, what's the spiritual lesson here? Namely, that in our relationship with the heavenly Bridegroom, we should never lose that excitement and intensity of the "first love" experience: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (NKJV). The Lord expects our love for him to be as fresh as the "first love" experience we had with him. Those were the days when Bible-reading, prayer and singing of praise were easy and a delight. But over the years, like the church at Ephesus, we are still faithfully "serving God" but somehow lost that passion and delight in service to the King. Passionless serving is an affront to the Bridegroom who gave his all for us--so the call to repent and "remember from where we have fallen" (Rev. 2:5). Perhaps, over the years, other loves have competed for our attention and have won our hearts -- career, family, hobby, entertainment or money. We need to repent of these other first loves (idolatry) and returns to the One who alone deserves our first love.

Just as attending the Alpha Marriage Course can restore and rekindle a couple's first love experience even though they may have been married many years (decades), so it is possible to restore that first love experience in our relationship with our Bridegroom: we just need to get back to where we have fallen off. Let the Spirit help you get rid of other competing loves. The first commandment says: "You shall have no other gods (money, career, family, hobby, etc) before me" (Exodus 20:3). We have to repent of idolatry in order to rekindle that first love for God.

Father, awaken our love for You. Show us from where we have fallen, so that we may put aside all idolatry that has stolen our affection for You. Amen.

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