Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Song

The Church is the bride of Christ. Please be careful how you speak to His wife." Dave Campbell, Life in the Spirit conference.

Over the last few years I've been working my way through what Barry Webb calls the 'Five Festal Garments'. I've spent time in Esther and Ruth and Lamentations this week with members of my team.
I'm especially struck this week by the fresh stuff I've seen - this was probably the start of my fourth run at Ruth and the middle of the 8th on Esther and I'm seeing all sorts of fresh stuff. Ruth is so rooted into God's story once you start pursuing the Moab connection rather than just viewing Ruth as any Gentile - and Esther is increasingly clear to me as a story with a Christian shape, one that starts to make sense once you pursue the Amalekite connections. Lamentations is still a 1st attempt but I'm enjoying pioneering with Tuck.
I've also spent time in Ecclesiastes though not since the Autumn - I think I preached on it this time last year, the week my trustly laptop did an Ecclesiastes and died on me.
The one missing piece is Song of Songs...

Matthew Mason writes on the not sex, but church & Christ angle as does Daniel Newman, running with the Puritans and others, albeit with corresponding lessons on marriage (since marriage echoes Christ and the Church). Meanwhile Andrew Jones goes with it being about sex. Many other modern authors go the same way (CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll for example).

I sympathise with both and I'm not totally sure which way to go. Though I'm probably on my way back to the first from the second. Not least because I can't help but thinking that the modern angle is a reaction against over sexualised worship songs of the modern era (aka "Jesus is my boyfriend"). Also, it takes something significant to dismiss the Puritans.
Moreover, all Scripture is about Christ, right?

I definitely want to study this book more and soon. To grow my love for the church? To grow my love for Christ?

Ros Clarke writes: The Song provokes a greater love for Christ, a deeper admiration for the land, a more passionate desire for the consummation of our marriage, a more confident assurance in our beloved status and a more patient endurance as we wait for our coming king. Perhaps if we understood this better, we might begin to see a resurgence in the pulpit popularity of this, the greatest of all songs.


  1. I'm interested that you are "returning to the first from the second."

    I've sat through talks and read the arguments that suggest that the puritan view is a consequence of their rather prudish view of sex, but....I've wondered...

    Could it be the case that so often modern readers do not have a comparable experience of the depth of communion with Christ that enabled so many puritans to see in the Song of Songs a description of the relationship between Christ and his church?

    Could it be the case that when we read the Song of Songs and conclude that it can only be talking about sex we reveal the poverty of our experience of communion with Christ?

    Keep up the great posts

  2. Great points.

    I think the 'first view' has not just the Puritans, but a long history of Jewish exegesis as well as other sections of the Church throughout history in its favour as well.

    I wonder if the 'Puritan had a prudish view of sex' kind of argument really accords with the reality of the Puritans themselves - there are a lot of other myths out there about those nasty, small-minded, hard-line Puritans!

  3. Ros Clarke's assessment of SoS is the best concise yet comprehensive summary I've seen. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. I'm sure you have and this is my laziness poking through - but have you blogged anywhere on what you call the 'Amalekite' connection in Esther?

    Are there any resources you'd recommend? Or any commentaries?