The Supremacy of Love
Song of Songs Chapter 1
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
November 6, 2005
I am really excited about the film adaptation of C.S. Lewis‘ ―The Chronicles
of Narnia‖ that are coming out later this year. Lewis, in an exercise of absolute
genius, created the ‗Chronicles‘ as a children‘s story with a much greater scope
in mind than just entertaining young hearts and minds. Lewis wrote the
‗Chronicles‘ as an allegory of the Christian faith – a story to communicate the reality of grace and the sovereignty of God in terms that are understandable and
appealing. His efforts were not in vain as the popularity of the ‗Chronicles‘
A contemporary and dear friend of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien also wrote
an epic sage that was turned into a film adaptation. Tolkien‘s triology, The Lord
of the Rings hit theatres a few years ago and became a cultural phenomenon.
Tolkien, like Lewis, was a man of committed faith. The discussions of Tolkien
and Lewis on matters of faith are legendary among those who have loved their
And perhaps that is why the Christian community has done something
incredibly foolish since the release of The Lord of the Rings. Almost concurrent with the release of the first movie in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring in
December of 2001, books began to show up on the shelves of Christian
bookstores with titles like ―Finding the Lord in The Lord of the Rings.‖ Author
after author began forwarding the idea that The Lord of the Rings at a minimum covertly presented the Christian faith and at most was an all out allegory in the
vein of The Chronicles of Narnia written by Tolkien‘s ―good mate‖ and colleague,
There is only one problem. When asked if he had meant to write an
allegory and weave his faith into every page, Tolkien‘s response was a resounding ―no.‖ In fact, when speaking about allegory in general Tolkien is
reported to say, ―I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always
have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.‖
1 He did not
deny that his faith had had an impact on the story, but he adamantly refused any
notion that his story was meant as an allegory.
Why do we this – insist that something is undisputedly and overtly intended
Christian, when in fact it isn‘t? I think part of the answer is so that we can be
culturally relevant. We want heroes that cross cultural boundaries – and make
no mistake, Christian culture and American culture, though sharing many touch
points, are two very different things. But I also think we feel the need to justify
our enjoyment of things that are not overtly Christian. Although, I believe, The
Lord of the Rings falls into the parameters that Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8 as
things we should feed our minds with – you know the one ―Finally, brothers,
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever
is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think
2about such things.‖ – we still feel the need to justify it because it comes to us
from what we would call secular society. In other words, we feel the need to
―holify‖ things. So we allegorize the story.
That‘s silly, isn‘t it? Justifying our enjoyment of a story that is filled with
great moral and ethical themes – such as courage in the face of danger, hope in the face of despair, fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds, and the
supremacy of love? Of course it is. But interestingly enough, this is not our most
grievous offense of this nature. As a church, we have allegorized another story –
to try and ―holify‖ it, to make it more palatable in the context of our cultural
understanding of the Christian faith. The gospel always comes clothed in culture,
the missiologists like to say. But sometimes a culture misses or twists the
Such is the case with the Song of Songs – commonly known as the Song
of Solomon. This morning we will begin an exploration of the Song of Songs.
We will start with an overview of how the book has been understood traditionally
in the church. Then we will explore our passage absent much of the allegorical
reading. Finally, we will explore the over-arching message of the text, in light of
what we find in the text.
I. An Uncomfortable Silence
2 All text taken form The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.
I have to admit, the first time I read the Song of Songs, there was this type
of uncomfortable silence in my heart. You know the silence – the one that
descends when a parent tries to talk to a teen about sex. It is a conversation that
both parents and teens dread – so much so that in many families it is avoided altogether until, of course, a teen pregnancy comes along or a sexually
transmitted disease or an emotional train wreck results from illicit sexual activity.
That was the way I felt the first time I read the Song of Songs – that
uncomfortable silence. How did such eroticism end up in the Scriptures? Thank
goodness that shortly thereafter I found an allegorical reading of the Song of
Songs. But around 1995, I heard a lecture by Dr. Cal Seerveld that rocked my
world – that challenged me to take another look at the Song of Songs.
The church traditionally has approached the Song of Songs much the
same way that I did – it seems to be in our nature to do so. We are so
scandalized by the language we find here and the ancient church was no
different. It had to wrestle with the reality that the Song of Songs came to us
from the Hebrew Canon and the book didn‘t seem to have a message about God.
Instead, it seemed to focus on human love and sexuality.
The church could not reconcile its own beliefs concerning sexual
expression with what it was finding in the Song of Songs. It held that sexual
expression was at best a means of procreation and at worst something impure,
unholy and at odds with spiritual development. Actually, renunciation of the
sexual self was seen as the best Christian response. In short, sex was bad – all
sex and to be avoided except for procreative purposes. So when it came to the
Song of Songs, the church could either maintain the uncomfortable silence or it
could allegorize – to see the Song in purely symbolic terms. It of course chose the latter.
Unfortunately, they chose wrongly. Now why do I say this? Because the
premise for their choice was wrong. In fact, this premise still has a foothold in the
church today and it is still as wrong now as it was over the past two millennia of
church history. Part of our problem is that we have confused God‘s good gift with
the twisted way we have used the gift. We must remember that when God
created everything he declared it ―good,‖ that would include sex. Apart from our twisting and misuse, sex remains good when enjoyed within the context that God
created it to exist – the monogamous, committed relationship of one man to one woman. In other words, marriage.
When enjoyed within the context of marriage, sex becomes more than just
the brute urge to procreate. It becomes in some sense a picture of the intimacy
and intermingled relationship that exists within the Trinity. Union of our bodies
image the in a way that goes far beyond any physical sense the union between
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is why Paul warns the Corinthians in 1
Corinthians 6:15-16 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with
a prostitute? Never!
16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a
prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one
II. A Look at the Text with New Eyes
This is obviously a high view of sex, possibly one that makes us
uncomfortable. Yet, what we find in the Song of Songs is a love song – a love
song of human love dripping with suggestive imagery. Try as we might to
allegorize the message, central to the theme of the Song is love between the
Beloved and the Lover. So with this central theme in mind, let‘s take a look at our passage for this morning. Song of Songs, chapter 1.
Listen carefully to these words.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more
delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like
perfume poured out.
No wonder the maidens love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
The king has brought me into his chambers.
While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.
My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts.
My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of
How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes are doves.
How handsome you are, my lover!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant.
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest 4 is my lover among the young men. He has taken me to the banquet hall,
I delight to sit in his shade, and his banner over me is love.
5 and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Strengthen me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.
6 His left arm is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
These are stirring words of love! It is hard to mistake the message of
these words. In fact as I read them, I find it hard to believe that the church ever
considered them allegorically, so explicit are their meaning. Over and over again
we hear the Beloved calling for her Lover to come and share with her the joys of
physical love. But this is more than just pillow talk, more than just saucy speech.
I remember when Kenny Rogers was at the height of his fame he made a
movie based upon his song ―The Coward of the County.‖ The main character –
the coward – finds himself in a truck late at night with a girl of reputation, if you
know what I mean. And he is drinking heavily. He begins drawing upon his
knowledge of Scripture to woo her – naturally he turns to the Song of Songs.
The more he quotes the more amorous she gets until she says breathlessly,
―With ammunition like any girl would surrender!‖
Well, the Song of Songs is more than ammunition for turning us on. It is a
picture of something greater. If you look at all of the language what you find is
language that is terribly intimate. What we find mirrored here is not love as we
have tainted it, but love as God intended it – as indicated by the phrase in
Genesis that describes the man and the woman as naked before each other and
yet unashamed. Here are two lovers who in mutuality and love give themselves
to one another unreservedly. Nothing is held back. In each other they find
perfect satisfaction and perfect rest
III. The Supremacy of Love
After all of this, one may ask what the purpose of the Song of Songs is.
What is this book that sounds like it should come with some sort of rating on it,
like, PG14 or R, doing in the Christian Scriptures? Dr. Thomas Constable in his
notes on the Song of Songs quotes J. Paul Tanner in saying, ―The Song of
Songs hearkens back to God's prototypical design in the Garden of Eden of one
man and one woman, in marriage, a relationship God designed to be mutually
exclusive.‖3 He is saying that in some ways it is meant to be a manual for us of
how to carry out our marriage relationship so that it reflects the one that God
intended us to have – what Adam and Eve shared before the fall.
I guess the question comes down to what makes the Lover‘s touch so
intoxicating? Is it that he is such a good lover that he blows the mind of the
Beloved so much that she is willing to give up her body for the mere sexual
pleasure? No. What makes his kisses intoxicating, his scent alluring, his touch
thrilling is the love the two share.
You see, what the Song of Songs is really about is the supremacy of love.
In the Beloved and the Lover we see how love can be – how deep and abiding,
3 Thomas Constable, Notes on Song of Songs 2004 Edition p.4
how overwhelming, and enveloping. We see how love can color our world if we will but surrender ourselves to it. But we must surrender ourselves to it for it to be all God intends it to be. We stop seeking our own, lay down our rights and desires, and seek the satisfaction, the fulfillment, the wholeness of the other. Only when then mark of our love becomes self-sacrifice will love be what God created it to be. That is true of love emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.