Okay, I’ll admit it. When I was around 12 years old, I would often read the Song of Songs during church. There wasn’t a whole lot else to do, I thought. It was a brilliant plan because not only was I reading something just as explicit as Dr. Ruth’s radio show, there was the added bonus of getting credit for reading the Bible.
“Look at Brother Pastor Redmond’s son. He may not be listening to the sermon but at least he is reading the Bible!”
They had no idea.
Then I grew up a little and was taught that chapter 7 was “not really” about red-blooded sex. It was a picture—albeit an R-rated one—pointing to our relationship to Christ as the Church. I didn’t see it, but I trusted those teaching me in Sunday School and from the pulpit and in all the books. But it was all so disappointing. And more than a little weird.
Then I got married and went to seminary. I will never forget the day my Psalms and Wisdom professor told us, in no uncertain terms, that this book was nothing other than a romantic love poem. Not only was this one of my better days in seminary, it confirmed those early instincts that this poem was the real deal. This was a man dreaming about the body of his wife.
I’m 45 years old and have been teaching Scripture for most of my life now, and I still cannot believe this is in the Holy Bible. But I also have grown to see something that does take a little imagination.
While Song of Songs is most certainly a love poem, maybe—like every other love poem, love song, and love story we know—it is also a reverse echo of the great love story of Christ and His bride, the Church. Paul makes the link clear in Ephesians 5 when he compares the relationship between Christ and the Church to the relationship between husbands and wives. That’s a pretty big comparison to make.
Think about it. Christ looks at the Church the way a loving husband looks at his bride. Follow me here: Christ loves the Church the way the husband in Song of Songs loves his bride. Christ’s relationship with the Church, while not sexual, is still all the more intense and real. He looks at us and loves us.
Let me say that again, because it is really hard to believe on many of our days. Christ looks at His people and loves what He sees.
All the great love stories by Austen, Dickens, and Berry are pointing to this. All the great love songs by Willie, Cash, and Merle are pointing to this. And all the great love poems of Shakespeare and Auden and Donne are pointing to this reality: Christ, who loved us and gave Himself up on the cross for us, looks at us and sees a bride worthy of His love.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond