I have shared recently how I have really been wrapped up in 1 John 4:14-18. I put some thoughts out in this article and this article. You can also listen to the 2 messages I shared with our church here and here.
In all of this, I have been closely drawn to the reality that God actually wants us to know, truly know, that He loves us. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. Plenty of us, or all of us, go through times and seasons of doubt with all sorts of things. But I am convinced our Father wants us, as His dear children, to know that He actually loves us. This is one of the things John is trying to get across in these handful of verses in 1 John 4.
And John was persuaded that the Father wanted us to know this same life-changing love, this love that he himself both knew and believed (see vs16), knew and believed as he saw, listened to, and touched the word of life become flesh (see 1:1). Even more, this perfect love, actually gives confidence towards the Father and destroys fear (and a whole host of other things).
You see, I thought I would remain in 1 John 4 for quite some time, and while it is deeply embedded in me, I was taken into Song of Solomon last week. And that’s where I find myself frequently, not being able to get away from 2:10-15.
Some of us might not know what to do with this poem. I mean, we could discuss whether or not we would want our 14-year old’s reading a few of the details scattered throughout. And then some of us are wondering why this guy is comparing the girl’s hair with a flock of goats or her neck with the tower of David. Something weird about ancient Hebrew culture I guess.
But here we have a provocative and poetic account. I am not sure this is making it into children’s Bibles even in the 21st century. It’s not in my 2-year old’s.
So, yes, I do believe this is an actual love account between Solomon and a Shulammite girl. But I also believe there is an encounter to be had with the text that is even more ecstatic than that between a man and a woman. There is an encounter with someone beyond the text, if we can dare think that God would desire such with us. And I don’t even need to quote Eph 5 to support the notion. I suppose Hebrews were pondering the same thing well before our friend Paul came along.
As I said, the few verses I am most drawn into at this current time are 2:10-15. Here they are if you want:
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
11 for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
14 O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
15 Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
My beloved speaks….come away.
Maybe come away for some time of retreat and refreshment, but I suspect I don’t only need to schedule a weekend away with my wife to come away with her. Yet the seasonal language does suggest there are times of more ripened fruit in the vineyard. It’s probably a both/and situation.
God’s vineyard is just as He says it is above – flowering, singing, ripening, blossoming, fragrances, etc. And interestingly enough, the beloved (he) says to the lover (her) that her voice is sweet. Oh, the voice of God is sweet. And maybe we ought to let Him talk first. But to think our voice is sweet in the ear of the beloved, that actually does something in me.
A book I was recently reading reminded me that the ‘Lord’s prayer’ (though it is what Jesus taught the disciples to pray) begins with, ‘Our Father.’ The prayer Jesus gave to his followers doesn’t begin with, ‘Our Judge.’ It begins with, ‘Our Father’. Could we, could I, ever make it over the hurdle to regular refer to God as Abba, as Daddy, as Papa? We can refer to Him in a plethora of ways, no doubt. But the prayer, the prayer, Jesus taught us began with this address – Our Father.
I could go on. But the text really does speak for itself. It burrows deep into our imagination as to what our Father desires, what Christ desires, and what John desired for us to know about the love of the Father. I just hope to give it more and more space to speak.