So why is the Song of Solomon one of my favourite books in the Bible? It is the only book in my Bible that I have coloured highlights, like an English literature study.
(These are not written in order of precedence.)
- It is poetry (song) and though I don’t often choose to read poetry, I enjoy the painting of a picture with words through imagery. I love the way a story or image can say so much more than direct words.
- I like the fact it can be interpreted on more than one level: A celebration of the valuable and amazing relationship between a man and woman; and the personal relationship between Jesus and us.
- I am glad there is a whole book devoted to recognising the value of delight a man and woman can find in each other.
- But above all I love the fact that it also paints an allegorical picture of intimate worship between us and God.
Without intending to make people feel uncomfortable, I make this suggestion. There are three Greek words for love, often cited in church, but I learnt them when I studied ancient Greek: Eros, Philia and Agape. Eros is often explained as sexual desire although Plato interpreted eros as an appreciation of beauty. Philia we know is brotherly love, or friendship, and Agape is self-sacrificial love, the deepest and most powerful form of love. Agape was demonstrated and expressed by Jesus.
I have only ever heard philia and agape used to describe the love found in our relationship with Jesus. But I would like to suggest that eros has a place too and is reflected in the Song of Solomon. In the light of Plato’s interpretation of the word eros, when we appreciate the beauty of Jesus and what he has done, created, is doing, all he can and will do; when we take the time out to stop and contemplate his regal beauty; when we take the time to express our appreciation of that beauty; when we take time to think who he is, of his nature, we call that moment by another name. We call it a “time of worship” in our modern church culture. It is a time when there is often two way communication, when we speak to him and hear him speak back; a time when we often sense his presence more intimately. It’s like there is something spiritually physical in that moment.
We often feel driven in that moment by a passion to express ourselves. Music and song can carry that expression and passion beyond the realm of just words. Music is a very powerful and emotive means of expression. I believe God designed it ultimately to communicate with us and for us to communicate with him. As humans, we use it in many ways as a mode of communication and it is a means of communication that goes deep in touching the human spirit. We combine it with other art forms and the expression deepens. Is this why song throughout history has always accompanied devotion to God?
Does this explain why Song of Solomon has it’s place in the Bible? It is a song of devotion written as an expression between a man and woman that also sings a song of an intimate relationship between Jesus and his bride. It places importance on those moments of intimacy that any man and wife recognise as important for the strength of their relationship alongside the importance of taking time for intimate moments with Jesus to appreciate and express appreciation of his beauty. If we listen in those moments we’ll hear his expression and what he’s saying to us. We call it worship.
“…show me your face, let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.”
Song of Solomon 2:14