What’s With The Song Of Solomon?

Before I get into my rant complaint discussion about the Song of Solomon, I want to mention that I once again participated in the Christian Carnival, hosted this week by Keyboard Theologians.

It’s kind of funny because I submitted my post entitled “Pollen,” in which I used pollen and its affect on me as an allegory for suffering and its affect on the Christian. And how does the description of the post appear in the Carnival? “Over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, Rebecca LuElla Miller speaks of Pollen.” 😆

Not surprising, I haven’t noticed a great surge of readers rushing to devour that post. Regardless, I recommend you check out the other articles in the Carnival. It’s a good way to find out what people outside our normal circles are saying about issues we’re interested in.

And now, what’s with the Song of Solomon?

A couple years ago I dubbed the book of Ecclesiastes as my least favorite book of the Bible, but I think I’m going to revise that. I no longer care for the Song of Solomon. Not that God has asked me if it’s OK to leave it in the Bible, and not that I doubt it too is part of Scripture and therefore will instruct in righteousness or reprove or correct or teach doctrine.

But here’s what I’m dealing with. For the longest time, I bought into the idea that this book was a metaphor of Christ with His Church. The New Testament refers to the Church, after all, as the Bride of Christ, so it seems plausible that the Song of Solomon, a love song between a bride and groom, would have an allegorical meaning.

Last year I abandoned that view. Quite frankly, a close reading makes it seem more likely that this is a song celebrating physical intimacy. You know, sex.

Am I horrified that the Bible has a book in it that isn’t about God but about a man-woman relationship? Not at all. Sex is God-given. Too often people forget, God told Adam and Eve to procreate (be fruitful and multiply) before they sinned. How about that for turning the notion that God is a grand kill-joy on its head? He not only designed sex to be pleasurable, He gave the command to go make babies.

So what’s wrong with the Song of Solomon celebrating physical intimacy, if in fact that’s the focus of the book? Nothing. Except apparently Solomon wrote it. About whom, I wonder? About himself and which of his 300 wives or 700 concubines? YUCK!

I’m sorry, but the luster is off this sweet love story in song.

Ah, but some people think Solomon wrote it, just not about himself. Well, OK, that is possible I suppose, but this groom, according to the text itself, was no monogamous lover either:

There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
And maidens without number;
But my dove, my perfect one, is unique:
She is her mother’s only daughter;
She is the pure child of the one who bore her.
The maidens saw her and called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines also, and they praised her (6:8-9)

So I’m having a hard time appreciating this song. It seems a little like a moment from the Bachelor. This is what old Solomon (or whoever) sang to this girl, but what, oh what, might he have sung to the next woman he took to bed?

You see my problem?

So why is this book in the Bible? I can think of a couple reasons. It’s a reminder that sex isn’t sinful (in case anyone is still under the influence of Victorian mores on the subject).

It’s also a reminder of what went wrong in Solomon’s kingdom — his many wives led him away from God. The “many” part may have been an issue since God clearly commanded the kings not to amass wives or riches or horses. But specifically a number of Solomon’s wives were women from foreign countries, most likely part of some political alliance. He built them their own palaces and then temples for their gods.

He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.(1 Kings 11:3-8)

A sad, sad passage of Scripture.

The Song of Solomon, then, reminds me that no pleasure, no relationship, no matter how right it seems, can substitute for walking humbly before our God in obedience.

It’s an important lesson and I’m sure there are others in the Song of Solomon. But I’m an incurable romantic and would rather have a song written by a man who was faithful to one wife. That’s just me.

Wisdom, Correction, And False Teaching

I haven’t been a part of the Christian Carnival in a while, but jumped in last week. The post linking to all the articles went up yesterday during the CSFF Blog Tour, so I didn’t get a chance to mention it. But you can find the modest collection of links at Who Am I?

One in particular caught my eye — Ridge Burns’s article “Wisdom and Correction.” I’m currently reading in the book of Proverbs and thought this post might relate. As it turned out I got a two-fer. Not only did Ridge base his thoughts on Proverbs, but his remarks fit with several things on my mind.

First, Ridge anchors his article on Proverbs 12:1.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.

Ridge used the NIV which says “correction” instead of “reproof,” but regardless, the thought is just as pointed, if not more so, in this translation.

I couldn’t help but think about how important “correction” is to a writer. Without input from readers/critique partners and eventually from an editor, a writer’s work will rarely be as good as it could be.

Writers learn from rejection letters that sting and maybe even carve away a pound of flesh, but they have the potential of pushing him on to better writing. Those of us who are pre-published also learn from contests or exercises like the Spec Faith “Shredding” held a couple weeks ago. Any objective opinion can serve as correction from which we can learn and which we would be “stupid” to ignore.

The second thing that came to mind when I read Ridge’s article fit with something I was praying about this morning. It seems to me that false teaching which so often stems from inside the Church and has its origins in Scripture develops in large part because the one who diverges from the truth does not, will not, receive correction.

I thought first of Solomon himself. Unlike his father David when he was caught in sin and repented, Solomon hardened his heart and drifted further from God. Because Solomon took up the idol worship of his foreign wives, God sent a prophet to him telling him He planned to divide the kingdom, taking all but the tribe of Judah from his descendants. Instead of getting on his knees and repenting, Solomon acted like Saul had in regard to David and went after the man anointed to take the throne, intent to kill him.

God said? So what, Solomon seems to say, I say I can do what I want.

And isn’t that what false teachers do? The Bible says, No one knows the day or hour when Christ will return, but the false teacher says, I know.

All have sinned, our righteousness is like filthy rags, and even Peter had to confess his hypocrisy toward the Gentile Christians, but the false teachers says, I no longer sin.

And what about the one who ignores the clear counsel of Scripture to love our brothers, our enemies, our neighbors, and justifies mean-spirited, judgmental attitudes and behavior?

Or how about the universalists who are so sure they know better than God that Mankind is just too deserving of “fair” treatment than they are of punishment?

I could go on and on. So many different false teachings, and the people behind them claim Scripture. Except, not the verses that contradict their position. Those they explain away.

For example, I’ve had a discussion with someone in the Holiness crowd (those who claim they no longer sin because in Christ they have a new nature). I pointed to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians about the brother who was living in an incestuous relationship and the church that was divided by bickering and greed.

Look how Paul addresses them:

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling (1 Cor. 1:2a)

Yet just a few verses later, Paul confronts and reproves them for the quarrels in the church. Then in chapter three he says

for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:3)

But in the very same chapter he says

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16)

You’d think such a clear example would demonstrate that Christians in fact do sin (and need to repent). And if not this example, then surely Paul’s clear statements in Romans 7 that the things he doesn’t want to do he does, and the things he wants to do, he ends up not doing. He concludes, Oh wretched man that I am, but thanks be to God.

Clear. Unequivocal, right? Yet those I’ve held this discussion with have ways around each of those verses. They do not accept the correction of the Word of God, saying instead that they understand more fully what these passages intended, all so that they can hammer Scripture into the shape of their theology.

It is no different than the emerging conversationalists who style themselves as Christians, but to do so they must “re-image” Christ (see for example the discussion that would not die – “Attacks On God From Within”). In the end, they are no different than those of the liberal persuasion who bowed to higher criticism to determine what they would or would not accept of the Bible. Since the presupposition was based on rationalism, anything supernatural had to go. Out went the virgin birth, healing the sick, raising the dead, Christ’s resurrection itself, and all you were left with was a milquetoast Christ who sat around saying platitudes that have formed the basis of today’s “tolerant” society — stand for nothing and accept everything.

Well, well, well. I could keep going, but I think the point is clear. Scripture itself is the corrective, but if someone rejects it … what was it Proverbs said about him?

Published in: on February 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm  Comments Off on Wisdom, Correction, And False Teaching  
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Fooled Or Foolish

This week I am once again participating in the Christian Carnival, hosted today by Annette at Fish and Cans. Some interesting articles again this week. I might recommend David R Wells article “Half-Calorie Christianity” posted at Revelation 3:10 – Blog. Here’s a flavor of the article:

It seems to me that these half calorie Christian leaders are treating the Bible like the old saying of “take the good and leave the bad.” That is very dangerous. The Bible is full of instructions and they are all meant to be followed.

David’s article is actually a good lead into this fooled/foolish topic.

In his Colossians letter, Paul talks a little about his struggle on behalf of the Church — that believers will gain “a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.” He goes on to explain why he’s putting such emphasis on Christ: “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” [Emphasis here and in the following verses is mine]

A few verses later he adds,

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

As if that’s not enough, he revisits the issue again:

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head (Col. 2:18-19a)

Paul is making a case for Christians to focus on Christ and who He is so they won’t be fooled by the false teaching that had begun to seep into the Church.

It’s such a timely warning for today too. Health-and-wealth Christians or name-it-and-claim-it believers pull helpless, hurting people into their wake, but so do the universalists who promise no hell. Others, with arrogance, teach that Christians don’t sin. Another group wants to re-image Jesus, and a bunch more want to ignore the entire book of Revelation.

False teaching to the left, false teaching to the right, and so many Christians being fooled.

At the same time, there are Christians holding other Christians up to scorn because their work for Christ isn’t artistic enough or profound enough or nuanced enough or purposeful enough. It seems we’ve forgotten what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, … so that no man may boast before God. (1 Cor. 1:27, 29)

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should purposefully go out and do a poor job of the tasks God gives us so that He has a weak thing with which to work. The fact is, He already has a weak thing with which to work — humans.

Not so long ago, I had what was at the time, an epiphany: I am small. I wasn’t so much thinking that I am a small, unimportant human among the powerful rich, famous, and politically connected. Rather, I realized my smallness because of God’s bigness, His unfathomable bigness.

Then He makes it clear in His word that His plan is to use His people — all of us small ones. Jesus, the head, wants His body the church to hold fast to Him so that we can grow with a growth which comes from God (Col. 2:19b). With growth comes fruit and the fulfillment of the Christian’s directive to make disciples.

None of it happens because we are clever or eloquent or intelligent or personable or influential. The Church grows with a growth which comes from God.

Jeremiah sums this up nicely:

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jer. 9:23-24)

It seems to me, the foolish, though they may be criticized by fellow Christians for their inadequacies, are the people God can use, and the fooled — those so enamored with the “traditions of men … the elementary principles of the world … inflated without cause by their fleshly mind” who don’t keep seeking Christ — are the ones who aren’t available.

Published in: on October 12, 2011 at 1:54 pm  Comments Off on Fooled Or Foolish  
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Grumbling And Disputing Revisited

Before I forget, I’m taking part in a blog carnival, a kind of blogger magazine in which submitted articles are collected and linked at a host site. My chosen carnival is the Christian Carnival, hosted this week by Thinking In Christ. The topics may vary, but all have one thing in common — the worldview of the author. It’s a great way to take a peek beyond our usual online circle to see what other people think and what they’re concerned with.

Grumbling, again??? You might think we covered this topic to completion.

Almost, though I think we could take a look at a lot of areas and spend some time thinking about how Philippians 2:14 applies. Such a short verse, so easy to read quickly and move on:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing

The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword

But when I take time to think about the implications, I am caught, pierced by the sharp point of the Sword of the Spirit.

We’ve already seen that we’re not to grumble against God, even though our circumstances seem to put us where we don’t want to be, and even if things seem to turn worse, not better, in the face of our prayers.

We’ve also considered that the “all things” of this verse preclude our grumbling against governmental authorities or against our church leaders.

If we wanted to stay on our response to those in a leadership role, we could talk about how we deal with our parents, our bosses, even our spouses. But this “all things” part of Philippians 2:14 doesn’t let us think the verse is only about how we’re to behave when we’re in a subordinate position.

No, we’re to be different from the world in all our interactions — with our neighbors when they have a party late on Saturday night, playing loud music well past bedtime. We’re not to grumble or dispute when a commenter to a blog post calls us names. We’re not to grumble or dispute when another driver cuts us off so that we end up slamming on the brakes and missing the next light.

Is this possible?

Are we to turn into doormats with a “Come one, come all, good foot-wiping available here” signs over our heads?

I don’t think so. I don’t infer that a prohibition against grumbling and disputing is also a prohibition against speaking our minds when we disagree. This is not the Bible’s “peace at all costs” policy.

Lots of other Scriptures convince me of this. We are to remove the wicked from among us (1 Cor. 5:13), for example, and we are to turn a sinner from the error of his way (James 5:20) — hard things to do if we are to avoid confrontation.

In his third letter John took on a member of the church in rather harsh terms:

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. (vv 9-10)

Paul held nothing back when he was warning against some of the professing Christians who proved false:

for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica … Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching. (2 Tim. 4:10a, 14-15)

These don’t sound like statements from doormats.

Here are a couple principles I can glean from these scriptures and others.

1) To obey God in this area of doing all things without grumbling or disputing does not require more self effort. It requires me to walk in Christ — to be so in tune with Him that I want to relate to others the way Christ would relate to them. And to rely on His grace and His power, not my own self-effort.

2) If I must speak about someone else’s wrong doing, it must be for some purpose other than vindictiveness.

3) If I am to confront someone regarding their sin, I must do so in love.

4) If I am to voice a different opinion from someone, I am to do so in humility.

I think that last point is critical. Paul brought up this issue of doing all things without grumbling or complaining right after writing to the Philippian church about being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intend on one purpose.

Those things could be achieved, he said, when believers didn’t think only of their own interests but of others, too. Ultimately, he said, be like Christ who was the epitome of humility, emptying Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and eventually going to the cross. With all this in mind, then he said, do all things without grumbling or disputing.

Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm  Comments Off on Grumbling And Disputing Revisited  
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