September 22 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.” ~Song of Songs 4:9

OLD TESTAMENT

The world we live in has hijacked much of God’s beauty. In fact, it is in man’s sinful nature to abuse beauty. However, as ancient philosophers assure us, abuse does not cancel or destroy proper use (the Latin expression is abusus non tollit usum.) People abuse authority, but authority exercised properly is not evil. People become lazy, but taking a well-earned rest is not evil. People abuse sex, but the relationship between a husband and wife is not evil and neither are feelings of attraction.

Martin Luther posed a rhetorical question: “Men can go wrong with wine and women; shall we then prohibit and abolish women?” The extreme answer to a problem is rarely the best one. If we are to live in this world without getting mired in its excesses, we must learn to redeem creation rather than renouncing it as others have done (the monks, for example).

In this book, Solomon revels in the beauty of God’s creation and His gifts of love and physical attraction. He sings to his lover. He looks at her body and enjoys it. He is taken by her eyes, her mouth, her hair, and her figure. And Solomon’s friends approve: “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink you fill, O lovers” (Song 5:1). They celebrate their friends’ love.

As the story continues, Solomon, so much in love, cannot sleep. He wants to be with this woman he’s fallen for. He goes to her in the middle of the night. She awakes and puts on her robe, slightly miffed by the intrusion (Song 5:3), but that feeling quickly dissolves when she realizes it is her Beloved. He is reaching out to her, desperate for her, longing to celebrate with her, but it isn’t time. They are not yet married. So Solomon hurries away before his lover can even open the door. The beloved one returns to her bed (eventually) and thinks about him! Wow!

Yes, this is in the Bible! Among other things, this book teaches us the beauty of love. God created desire and the excited anticipation of two lovers waiting to be together at last (or again)! Romantic love and physical attraction are gifts from Him! “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (Jas. 1:17). There is no question that the world has abused the good things God has given, but to abandon them is not the answer. Instead, let us reclaim what is ours by rejecting sin and the temptation to mar beauty. Enjoy the gifts. Rejoice when others do the same. And always glorify the Giver.

NEW TESTAMENT

Paul challenges the Corinthians, who are constantly questioning him, to examine themselves. Are they truly followers of Christ (2 Cor. 13:5)? Ouch! Don’t misunderstand his intention here. Paul doesn’t believe that he is somehow above ecclesiastical scrutiny. He is not saying that anyone who questions or challenges him is not a Christian. He is calling out the Corinthian church for its arrogance. They have taken their questioning of him too far. Paul is a man of ministerial integrity, an apostle with a proven track record of faithfulness to Christ and the church. However, the Corinthians, in their pride, are constantly calling his credentials into question because they don’t like what he is telling them! They have resorted to ad hominem attacks, which is what people often do when they don’t like the message. Kill the messenger, so to speak.

And so, Paul finishes his second letter to this church by calling into question the salvation of those who are his most ardent detractors.  He isn’t getting even; he is genuinely concerned that what he sees in their lives is not the fruit of true faith. If we don’t like a message we’re hearing, before we plot to kill the messenger, perhaps we need to examine our own lives.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.