Photo credit to Patricia Knight. (www.faithlovejoyhope.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/)
“My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.” Song of Solomon 2:16
Now, Lord, I don’t even know where I’m going but after listening to a discussion from Your Word about the bride of Christ, I think I want to listen to You about that so I can have a deeper understanding. So this morning that took me to the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs. Why? Because the word “beloved” stood out on my mind this morning. And I suppose I want to think about what it means for You to hold someone as Your beloved and what it means for someone to hold You as their beloved. Why? Because maybe understanding that more than intellectually, maybe understanding that in actually getting it and knowing it, will make every difference in my walk as a believer.
Well, I don’t want to make the Song of Solomon less than what it is. It’s a beautiful picture of Your intent for beautiful sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife. But, if Scripture is there to draw me closer to You, it must also draw a picture of You. This is a song about a husband and wife but it is also a song about the Husband and His wife. There is a mutual intimacy here also. I can’t stop getting excited when I think that I can call my Jesus my beloved and call Him mine! And just like in a loving husband/wife relationship, isn’t it glorious to know that Your partner so adores You that they claim you as their very own and that they adore to hear and know that You love belonging to them? “My beloved is mine and I am his.” I could just as easily say, “My Beloved is mine and I am His.”
But I do find the next phrase interesting. “…He grazes among the lilies.” What? Why would a man graze among the lilies. Now, this is a stab in the dark, but maybe my earthly husband who loves me just enjoys the pleasures of the field of me and it’s beautiful to him. I’m no Biblical scholar, so that’s just food for thought. But what is the implication about You, Jesus, here? “He grazes.” What creature actually grazes? Well, lots of creatures graze but there is One who grazes that also calls His bride beloved. It’s You, Lord, the Lamb of God. Revelation 19:7-8 says, “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” So here You are, the Lamb of God, rejoicing in Your Bride and her beauty.
What is the desire of the Bride? What is the desire of the Groom, in this case, the Lamb? “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.” ( Song of Songs 1:2) Isn’t the desire intimacy? It’s not ownership although intimacy begets a deeper ownership. It’s not control although intimacy hands over control, both ways. Isn’t their a mutually fulfilled desire? And what is that desire for? Each other. Listen to the import of this verse. “Your love is better than wine.” And lest I think that the bride is the only one saying this, listen to the voice of the groom, “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice.” So, what if Your love for each of us, and us as a whole is as deep as this love, Lord? What if Your desires for me go this deep? And what if that is how deep my desires for You are to be? What if this isn’t just about thinking about loving You and You thinking about loving me. If the word “dodeka” in Hebrew actually signifies the act of love-making and not just the idea of love, then what do my actions signify toward You? And have I really stopped to examine the extent and action of Your love for me?
You, Lord, use this picture of sexual intimacy repeatedly to show the depth of Your love. In Ezekiel You showered this love on Jerusalem who You cared for and raised and brought to “the age for love”. In verse 16:8 You say, “I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow with you…and you became mine.” So You take this nothing, this nothing from birth, clean her up, build her up, and take her for Your very own beautiful bride, to continue to clothe and wash, and anoint, and cherish, and love, and bestow all of You upon.
So, who saw beauty in me in the first place? That’s an interesting thought. Because I’ve never really thought of myself as being beautiful. But I know this. My husband thinks I”m beautiful. He tells me so. I don’t know what he sees but thank You, Lord, he does. And that’s the special thing about You. If I go back to the story about Jerusalem in Ezekiel I see that when Jerusalem was born, no one wanted to take care of her, no one saw her beauty. They would have left her to die. But You, Lord, saw her beauty. You went to her, the one no one else valued, and cared for her and cleaned her up. You were the one who gave her life. You spoke life over her. You made her flourish. Because of Your love over her, she grew and became tall and beautifully adorned. She matured into a beautiful woman because of You. But still, she was not clothed until You covered her. But when You covered her with Your righteousness, with Your garment, You also entered a vow of marriage with her and You consumated that covenant and You took her as Your bride. And then You took her through the process of being bathed in You. You put new clothes on her, embroidered, fine leather, and fine linen, and covered her with silk. You adorned her with jewelry and a crown upon her head. She ate from the King’s table and grew in beauty and royalty. Your glory shown from her. You saw her beauty before she knew her own and You bestowed beauty on her. Why is this so important?
What if I don’t have a husband who sees my value? What if I live in a culture where because of who I am, I am not valued? What if I don’t even feel like I have value?. Well, the truth of the matter is not in how anyone values me but One. Who do I run to when I start feeling “not loved” and “not valued”? I need to take my eyes off of my spouse, off of the world, off of me. There is One who is always faithful. I must turn my thoughts to Him, to my Beloved, to the One who ALWAYS sees me as His beloved. I must look to His everlasting promises and His everlasting character. I must look to the truth of Your belovedness, Lord, and my belovedness in You.
In Deuteronomy 33:12 you spoke of Benjamin, “The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and he dwells between His shoulders.” And just to see that this idea about You, Lord, carrying Your beloved isn’t a single incidence we read earlier in Deuteronomy 1:31, “the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son.” This is how our Heavenly Father feels for us, despite the way the world feels. He is the perfect Father. He carries His beloved. He doesn’t carry everyone. But if I have entered into that special relation with my Heavenly Father, through placing myself in Jesus Christ, then I am a recipient of His total affections! But to be carried, I must be willing to be placed upon Your shoulders. I must be willing to leave off walking myself. I must trust Your hands to lift me when You will and place me where You will. And there is no more sure foundation to be placed upon other than on You.
This is echoed in Jesus’ own words “If a man love Me, he will keep My Words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” In You, Jesus, I become a son/daughter of God and I have this sure, this assured, this always present, always valued dwelling place. I am in You perpetually. I am perpetually beloved. Nothing can change Your desire for me. Look at Your faithfulness to Israel despite her unfaithfulness to You. Your desire toward her has never changed. You continue to be jealous over her today. Because Your heart for us always remains the same.
This is deeper than companionship also. The beloved doesn’t just walk beside You, Lord, nor only hold Your hand. The beloved is lifted up and placed “between” Your shoulders. Your beloved is built on You. I am built upon Your strength and the power of Your shoulders and everything that lies under them. Do I really understand what lies beneath me in You? Do I really understand the safety and security of my life in You?
Now, I repeatedly heard about You covering Your beloved, Lord. You shelter those who become Yours, those who enter into Your covenant. And You don’t just cover us once. You are perpetually covering me. You must perpetually shelter me because every moment the world and others are trying to pull me back into their way of thinking, into their way of thinking about me, and my value, about You, and Your value, about others, and their value. You, Lord, are like the mother hen who gathers her young under her wings. Remember the story of the hen in the burning field that did that? Someone came to the charred body but underneath found the chicks safe from the fire,alive and well. This is what You do for us. Isaiah 25:4 tells me You “have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, shelter from the storm, shade from the heat…” Yes, Lord, You have truthfully been this shelter in my life.
This is the foundation of who I am, here it is wrapped up in one sentence: “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10) Now, I’m so glad You took me here, Lord. Because there is this truth about Your desire and that it is toward me. And I want to know what that means. Because it’s not just toward me, but it’s toward all of Your beloved, Your whole beloved body. It’s the Hebrew word “teshuqa” and it’s only used three times in Scripture. It’s used of Cain, of Eve, and of You in this verse. And maybe I need to understand each one, to get the whole picture for me here.
The first instance is in Genesis with Cain. Skip Moen shares, “Sin desires Cain. It desires to control and rule over him, to bend his will to its purposes and to remove the proper authority of a relationship with God.” Unfortunately, Cain lets it. His desires are twisted and warped and he lets go of Your control and let’s sin win control.
But let’s hop before this to Genesis 3:16. “In the judgment of Eve, God says that she will desire her husband but he will rule over her. We often consider this to be a curse related to physical desire. Cain corrects us. Eve will desire to rule over her husband but now, in a fallen world, he will hold the upper hand. The pact of mutual responsibility and harmony is broken. Now there is a battle for control. In spite of her longing to take charge, she will be under his command. Her life will be frustrated in fulfillment of both purposes for which she was created: to bring new life into this world and to act as the protector and provider for her mate.” So, although I want to care for and protect my husband, my husband will not understand my full value before God, unless something is restored to us. Something has been broken in every original relationship. Our mutual surrender and mutual care has been broken because of sin. How is it to be restored?
“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” It is You, Lord, going back to Your original intent. This is Your restoration. All the way through it jumps out and sings if we only listen and look and receive. There is still “a longing for authority and control. But the roles are reversed and the context dramatically altered. The man’s desire is for the woman. Does this mean that the woman in the Song wrests control from the hand of the dominant male through sexual power. Not at all. The verse says quite clearly, ‘I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.’ The Song redeems what has been lost – voluntary submission under the banner of intimacy, resulting in the reversal of the curse. The woman in the Song once again recaptures the role God intended – protector, provider, initiator, symbolic representation of God’s relationship to each of us. How she does this is discovered in the contextual shift. She wins back her lost purpose through complete submission. She establishes ownership by giving up her natural agenda. The dark side of teshuqa is overcome, not through a display of power – even of sexual power – but through a celebration of self-sacrificial love. She is God in a dress.”
So, what if we, whoever we are, man or woman, boy or girl, learned to completely submit to You and one another in the process? What would our marriages look like? What would our friendships look like? What would our ministries look like? What would our lives look like? What if my desire for You was truly to fully sacrifice my way so that I could meet every one of Your needs, so that I was doing what was best for You, because it would be ultimately best for me too. I mean, if the marriage covenant makes us one, then what hurts one, hurts the other; what benefits one, benefits the other. So, what if my husband loved me so much that his every desire was to surrender his life in such a way that You, Lord, were most glorified in my life? What if his desire was to care for me, to cover me, and to shelter me? And what if that was my desire toward him? What if my desire toward him were to love him so much that I would surrender my life in such a way that You were most glorified in his life? What if my desire was to care for him, to cover him, and to shelter him. What if Your desire toward me became my desire toward others? What if I so deeply understood what it was to be Your beloved, that I could draw others into that full understanding in You? What if?