September 21 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” ~Song of Songs 2:7

OLD TESTAMENT

We come now to another book of the Bible that has been greatly misunderstood, Song of Songs. One of the things I have enjoyed studying as a church history student is the history of biblical interpretation. One trend that crops up in this field of study is the subtle influence of a particular community on how some books of the Bible are perceived. Song of Songs is a case in point. During the height of medieval monasticism, a unique tradition developed wherein the Song of Songs was understood as a love song between Christ and the church. Clearly, monks were not sure what to do with the sensual language of the text—the celebration of the human body and the talk of physical attraction. So they declared it an allegory! Unfortunately, this particular biblical interpretation has had a long shelf life. Even a few early twentieth-century study Bibles (like Scofield) suggested this interpretive approach.

When we’re not comfortable with what a particular book of the Bible says, changing the interpretation isn’t the answer. We need to be open to the possibility that we need to change. There is no question that the world has some messed up views when it comes to the topic of sexuality. (The world messes everything up, not just sex!) However, Christians have often (foolishly) responded by NOT talking about the topic.

Song of Songs teaches us that romantic love and sexual passion are beautiful gifts from God. It is good and proper for men and women to be attracted to each other, even physically. The book also teaches that true love waits! Sex isn’t love; it is the celebration of love. The party happens after the wedding, and husbands and wives are encouraged to keep on celebrating (see Proverbs 5 and 1 Corinthians 7).

So if you have prudish views about sex and romance, this book will help you see and savor all of life as a gift from the most creative genius of the universe.* God, whom the Apostles’ Creed names as “the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” created the human body, physical attraction (how did He do that?), and marital love! What a genius! When we enjoy and celebrate these things, we are celebrating what God, and only God, could create. Ponder that. Ponder God. He is amazing.

* Tommy Nelson has given the modern church a gift in his popular devotional commentary The Book of Romance: What Solomon Says About Love, Sex and Intimacy.

NEW TESTAMENT

Most people don’t brag about their weaknesses. They may know their flaws and failures, but who would ever trot them out on a résumé? Yet Paul did. The Corinthians criticize him for his weaknesses (every minister has them), and he replies, I could brag about my education and experience. In fact, my résumé is better than anyone’s, but I’m going to brag about my weaknesses instead! In other words, he turns the Corinthian criticism right on its head. It is his weakness that makes him strong; he must rely on God’s grace. Checkmate. Hard to argue with that.

The beautiful lesson from the New Testament reading is this: we should praise God for our strengths (talents, training, experience, etc), and we should also praise God for our weaknesses. In weakness and through weakness, His grace becomes more evident. In my own life as a pastor, I have been given gifts from God—education, experience, and creative energy—but I have been endowed with my fair share of weaknesses too! I’m not good at everything. I have trials. I have struggles. These weaknesses keep me humble, dependent on God’s grace, and relying on others to help me (the latter is also a form of relying on God). When I lean on God in those areas where I’m weak, my weakness becomes a strength (2 Cor. 12:8). Where do you need His help right now? Ask for His grace and watch Him work through you in awesome ways.


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.