Passionate God, Passionate People (@nicolahwriter)

Songs

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When I realized that my debut on the Big Bible project was going to be on Song of Songs I immediately felt that this could go one of two ways. Firstly it could be great, what an unusual book and what an under used book. Secondly I thought, this could all go quite spectacularly wrong. Any book opens with the line ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!’ surely contains a few pit falls for the would-be commentator!

Risky Business…

On some further explorations it turns out that I am not alone in this view. In the history of the book Song of Songs has divided its readership with some wondering what on earth it is doing in the Bible at all and others describing it as the ‘Holy of holies’. The text itself is unusual in the Bible in many ways not least because it makes no mention of God! There is no direct religious teaching to be found, no ethical instruction, no mention of the people of God and no direct mention of worship.

God in love…

For this reason the book has often been read as symbolic. It has been suggested that it represents a deeper truth than the plain reading of a woman crying ‘you have stolen my heart!’ as she chases after her lover and he replies with his own song of love ‘O, how beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you.’ Readers have speculated that perhaps the text refers to the love of God for his people, for Israel and for the church.

Wandering a little with this idea I found it quite enticing. Applying this idea to the text it reveals that God is not sterile or passionless but chases after his bride, his beloved people. He declares that ‘love is as strong as death, its jealousy as unyielding as the grave’. The bridegroom will not give up his beloved and goes to the ends of the earth to find her.

Surely this is a deeply relevant image for the God who out of sheer depth of love became one of us in Jesus, and lived and died for his people? His love really was as strong as death, so far goes his love that he would even experience death to make us free.

A celebration of passion…

But the more straight forward reading of the text, perhaps as a love song at a marriage feast, has spoken strongly to me too. Because the very fact that a song celebrating the depth of human love and passion is to be found in the Bible reveals in itself something of the nature of God even if the song wasn’t first written about him.

That the songs find a place in the Bible reminds us that what we are as human beings, in all our richness and experience, has a source. Our love, worth more than ‘all the wealth of [any man’s] house’ is holy. Love and sex was created and it is blessed by the one who made it. There is a place elsewhere in the biblical text for well needed ethics around relationships but the Songs present a celebration of human love at its most passionate that needs to be heard too.

The great news of the Songs…

Whichever way you read it I’ve become convinced that Song of Songs is really great news. It celebrates our humanity and some of our deepest passions and emotions. It marks these out for what they are, a gift of God and a reflection of His character and love for us.

The God of the Songs is not a disapproving kill joy but the source and author of the deepest human experiences and emotions. That the Bible contains such a range of books that it even extends to Song of Songs is what makes it what it is, rich, full and packed to the rafters with wisdom.

So, over to you! What do you hear in the Song of Songs?

About Nicola Hulks