Posts tagged Solomon
It is poetic, full of passion and, at times, even erotic. It contains themes that are not exactly PG. In fact, if text similar to Song of Solomon were introduced into public school curriculum, most parents would be up in arms – especially Christian parents. So, why is this in the Bible?
Well, I think the answer requires some self-reflection. In fact, the better question might be, “Why are we so uptight about human sexuality?” Let’s face it, we were made this way. As Cherith Fee Nordling famously tells her seminary students, “Jesus had a penis!” (For an absolutely compelling talk from Cherith, click HERE.)
With his “Song of Songs”, as it’s called in some Bibles, Solomon seems to confirm what we’ve suspected all along. Those feelings – emotional and physical – that we experience when we are initially attracted to, then in relationship with and eventually married to another person – those are perfectly normal and legitimate. In fact, rather than discouraging them, Solomon seeks to put those feelings into proper perspective.
One thing that you’ll notice as the book goes along is that the actions of the “She” and “He” escalate. The first few chapters of the song are full of observation, with some physical touch. Lots of looking and dreaming with a little bit of kissing and embracing. Sounds like high school!
Then, in chapter 3, Solomon comes to make the woman his bride. It is an engagement of sorts. And the language changes. All of a sudden there is more longing, more expectancy of what is to come. Again, this is a very familiar feeling for those who have ever been engaged. You get the sense from reading the passages that thee two are just about to explode.
Then, in chapter 4, the language changes again. Solomon begins to call the woman, “my bride”. This is a transition into marriage, which is quickly followed by chapter 5:
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk. (Song of Solomon 5:1)
The “deed” has been done. And you notice the friends celebrating the consummation of the marriage (something that was common back then, but might be a little awkward today). From that point on, we see this back and forth where the “He” desires the “She” and vice versa whenever they are apart.
It has been suggested that Song of Solomon is an allegory for the church and our relationship with God. Some will insist on this fact (primarily, I believe, because they are so otherwise uncomfortable with the subject matter). Indeed, it may have been intended to serve that purpose. But even if it isn’t, I think this song serves a wonderful purpose. It reminds us how relationships should progress, the way that we become one with each other and the way our initial attractions and emotions blossom into unquenchable love.
In some ways, Song of Solomon points to a connection between the deepest desires of human beings and the deepest seeds of the creator. Everything good and every great pleasure comes from God and, on this occasion, Solomon seeks to remind us that to ignore the obvious pleasures of our human condition is to ignore a part of what God has created in us.
I guess Solomon had a penis, too!
Reading the book of Proverbs is kind of like taking the little slips of paper out of a thousand fortune cookies, putting them in a bowl and then drawing them out and reading them one by one. The proverbs are short and somewhat simple. They are arranged in a haphazard way. And, to be honest, they’re a little overwhelming.
However, there are some themes that we can already observe here. If we take a few steps back and try to see the forest, rather than being overwhelmed by the trees, we find that Solomon is keying in on a few main topics. Topics like:
Choose wisdom over folly.
Choose righteousness over wickedness.
Choose humility over arrogance or seeking honor.
Choose to serve rather than to be served.
There are a few others, but the one that is the most interesting to me is Solomon’s view on wealth. You see, Solomon, being a very rich man, doesn’t condemn wealth. In fact, he gives us advice on how to accrue wealth and what to do with our money. But Solomon also maintains healthy perspective about money. Look at just a couple of his proverbs:
Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil. (Proverbs 15:16)
Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred. (Proverbs 15:17)
The greedy bring ruin to their households,
but the one who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)
Solomon seems to be saying, “If you can earn wealth while honoring God, loving others and maintaining integrity, then go for it! But if you have to choose between honoring God and earning wealth, don’t be a fool who chases after money.” It seems simple enough and yet, so many times, we are guilty of chasing after the money.
We may not even realize that we are choosing money over God. We may justify our actions by telling ourselves (and others) all the great God stuff we’re going to do with that money. But, in the end, if we are choosing that money over our God, not only are we being foolish in the moment, we are probably fooling ourselves about our altruistic intentions as well.
In my experience, often the least giving (most selfish) times in a person’s life are when he or she is making more money than they ever have before. The more they have, the more they want to hold onto it or to spend it on themselves. I know I’ve seen this play out in my own life – not in some evil “It’s mine…all mine!” kind of way. It’s just easy to forget what’s important when you’ve got money rolling it.
So take Solomon’s advice. Choose God over money. If you discover that, while choosing God, you can earn a lot of money, go for it. Just remember that God loves a cheerful giver!
Solomon seems like a pretty “black and white” guy. His proverbs – bits of wisdom he has learned throughout the course of his life – seem simplistic at times. Good stuff happens to good people. Bad stuff happens to bad people. Kind people are likeable. Hard work earns you money. Simplistic stuff.
The problem, of course, is that we know it isn’t really that simple. That’s why Solomon’s proverbs, though they are in the Bible, aren’t part of “The Law”. These are fail-proof, fool-proof words. These are wise sayings – things that are generally true in one way or another.
For example, I can say with confidence that those who follow God closely are blessed beyond measure. I can even say that if you stick close to God, he make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to buy a Bentley and hire a butler. God gives his blessing and riches in different ways to different people.
The funny thing is, the closer you are to God, the more easily you will recognize his blessing in your life. You friends may not be able to see it as clearly, but you can see it. God is there and he is blessing you.
I have so many friends who I know are walking closely with God and who are experiencing his blessing. It doesn’t mean that they don’t face the same problems that the rest of us do. It doesn’t mean that their every desire is fulfilled. What it does mean is that when they look at their life, they wouldn’t have it any other way. That may be the true definition of blessing.
The personification of wisdom (and folly) in Proverbs is interesting to me. It is actually a great use of a literary device. It is one thing to say that we should seek wisdom. It is something else to suggest that wisdom is pursuing us, calling out to us, longing for us to come to her.
In today’s reading, folly is easily represented by the prostitute, but wisdom is more difficult to personify. I suppose if you wanted to put a face on wisdom, it might be that of a wise old sage who live in a house across the street from the prostitute. Wisdom is wrinkled and worn out, but has a knowing look. She calls out, but for some, she is not nearly as enticing as the perfumed beauty across the street.
Wisdom is what we should be attracted to, but folly is what we tend toward. That is why, as I pointed out yesterday, that Solomon says that getting wisdom is the beginning of wisdom. Choosing to go to wisdom’s house and sit down with her is the beginning of becoming wise. Choosing, of course, to go to folly’s house is the beginning of destruction.
And, as I’m sure you noticed, there is a sense of desperation in it all. Wisdom desperately wants you to come and sit down and learn. Solomon desperately wants you to do the same. He understands the destruction that folly brings. For 9 chapters, he has been urging you to make the right choice, as if your future depends on this exact moment. Because it does.
It depends on this moment and the next and the next. The pursuit of wisdom and the implementation of that wisdom is a lifelong process that never takes a day off. In fact, just one day entertaining folly can send your life in a dramatically different direction. Just ask any number of people who have let one indiscretion ruin their lives.
And that, I believe, is the reason for the intensity of Solomon’s urging. He recognized that we must be diligent and focused, never distracted or complacent. It’s a tough task, but I think it becomes slightly less difficult the more time we spend with wisdom. The more that wisdom’s…er…wisdom sinks in, the less enticing folly becomes and the more we realize that that old, wrinkled sage makes for pretty good company.
I love this passage from today’s reading:
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. (Proverbs 4:7)
It seems obvious – almost silly – but this is actually a pretty profound statement. You see, the key to becoming wise is that you must seek to become wise. Wisdom, Solomon seems to be saying, is not something that happens naturally or something that will just come to you accidentally. Wisdom must be gotten – it must be pursued. The beginning of wisdom is an active seeking of wisdom.
Step number two on the wisdom learning chart, then, must be “Keep it in your pants.” It’s interesting how quickly Solomon jumps to adultery when discussing wisdom. We must remember that this is a man who had seen the effects of adultery. His mother, Bathsheba, had had an adulterous affair with his father, David. The result was that Bathsheba’s first husband was killed, her firstborn son died shortly after birth and David was disgraced and forever changed.
Solomon had seen the aftermath of adultery. Even though his father and mother were married when he was conceived, he had spent his whole life living in the midst of that adulterous aftermath. He knew how destructive an indiscretion like David’s could be. And so, his advice rings out loud and clear:
But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself. (Proverbs 5:32)