Christ Wins the Contest for the Church’s Love
Sermon Manuscript on the Song of Solomon 3:6–5:1 by Brian Mann
Sermon manuscript below, scroll down to the bottom for video links to the message delivered.
There is the temptation in ministry to come to the platform per se and seek to get people to like the subject, the sermon, etc. so that every week becomes a pastor getting up to get people to like what he has to say. No one every really learns in that environment.1 The approach must be consistently that the listener comes already determined to like the matter, and the speaker is explaining the matter for the people’s joy in God. Jesus has already won the church’s affections, and in this we rejoice, we are coming to hear more about it. We are already sold on the idea, and we are set to understanding it better. We are not in a relationship between pastor trying to get the rest of the congregation to like this—we don’t have a congregation if they don’t already like this. It would be more of a treadmill of performance that would require us selling tickets at the door to be consistent. It is the difference between prostituting the gospel and proclaiming it; is the difference between judging the gospel and receiving its goodness and joy.
Solomon is the villain in this wisdom book called Song of Songs or Song of [or concerning] Solomon. He is typical of the world seeking to captivate the church by power, force, and seduction. He is in contest with the true shepherd lover, the one whom the Shulammite’s soul loves. The Shepherd wins the contest for the church’s love. This is the case negatively because…
Solomon is a sick man.
In 3:6–7 the scene is not of a wedding (as some subtitles state) but more of a funeral. Solomon is being carried on a bed (consistently translated as a sick bed elsewhere cf. Mark 7:30; Rev. 2:22). Solomon is on a stretcher being guarded by night by 60 mighty men. There is “terror” there. This word is translated in Exodus as follows:
Exodus 15:16 ESV “Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased.”
Solomon needed protecting from the terror of night because he was in a sin-sick situation. The passage is one of sarcasm, behold the sickbed of Solomon. The previous bed in v.1 was one of love, standing in contrast to Solomon’s sick-bed here. Solomon had 1,000 wives, and 300 concubines. He had violated what was instructed him concerning kings (Deut 17:17), and even what his mother instructed him (Proverbs 31:1-9). His kingdom was divided, he was a sick man.
Jesus promised to throw the sexually immoral into a sick-bed in Revelation 2, saying
Revelation 2:19–29 ESV ““ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Unbelieving Jews did this in the first century as they played the prostitute on the back of Rome. But people still do this today as they play the prostitute with the world while they call themselves Christians. Remember the divided kingdom that Solomon left. Remember the destruction that Jerusalem left. Do not go the way of the sin-sick world. No amount of mighty men will be able to guard you from the terror of the Lord!
Solomon is a self-made man.
In vv.9–10 (11) King Solomon is noticed for what he made. The “carriage” translated “palace” in the Genevan Bible.2 It is often translated carriage due to an contextual interpretation and not a literal one. The word “made” is repetitively used in 1 Kings 5–10, reminding of his building the temple and then his “palace.” The same language is used here to speak of a stationary structure as the word “posts” especially illustrates. The word “posts” v.10 is always used of “pillars” as in 1 Kings 7:2–6. They certainly could speak of something that could travel, but not in a way that could be carried altogether in a carriage. For example, Exodus uses the same term for parts of the tabernacle, which had to be broken down and moved. The point is this is not some wedding ceremony. The reference is to what Solomon made for his palace where the Shunnamite was kept among the harem. So, in v.11 one reads one of the leading harem women tell “the daughters of Zion” to go look on King Solomon’s crown of his crown, meaning the beautiful woman he took for himself by force, power, and seduction. The whole thing is full of sarcasm. The “daughter’s of Jerusalem” is a post-exile reference to the “daughters of Zion.” In Isaiah 3 for example, God says,
Isaiah 3:16–17 ESV “The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.”
And in 4:4,
Isaiah 4:4 ESV “when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.”
Jesus corrects these in the New Testament saying,
Luke 23:28 ESV “But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
To make it clear that these were unbelieving Jews who were later judged in Jerusalem, Jesus follows these words with,
Luke 23:27–32 ESV “And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
In Revelation we read of the fulfillment, written at that time to come upon these unbelievers,
Revelation 6:12–17 ESV “When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?””
Isaiah writes just before his references to these typological unbelievers,
Isaiah 2:19–21 ESV “And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.”
The point is that self-made, sin sick men cannot escape the terror of the Lord without the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Except that Solomon turn to the Lord, he could not be saved. I tend to believe Solomon was saved because he is called a son by the Lord by virtue of prophecy, but these are called daughters of Jerusalem and Zion, but are not saved. All of the glory of Solomon was meaningless without the glory of Christ. The beauty of the field, according to Jesus was more glorious than that of Solomon in all of his kingdom. Here is a man portrayed as sick and self-made, sarcastically in no condition of true praise from God or believing men.
Are you self-made and do you pride yourself in such? The things you make are of no lasting glory. It is important for us as believers to not fall for the glory and pomp of this world. However great a thing they make, or that we make, it is nothing worth our attention like that of Jesus Christ!
Solomon was a seductive man.
In 4:1–7 Solomon objectifies the Shulammite undressing her from taking away her veil in v.1 (a symbol often of a prostitute like we see Tamar in Genesis) down to her breasts in v.5. For Solomon he would think it the way to flatter a girl, but it was nothing but a pornographic mind unfolded. He is consummed by what is behind her veil (v.1, 3), but this bride has not lifted it for him. He is undressing her. She is beautiful to him, and the world for that matter, but he and the world are not beautiful to her. The eyes and heart of this bride are captured by her shepherd-lover.
What are your eyes being captured by? Do not let your eyes and heart be captured by the pomp and circumstance of this sick, self-centered/made, seductive world. You have one far more faithful and beautiful to cling to. You dear believer are not impressed with sin-sick, self-made, seductive worldlings, but with Christ!
The True Shepherd-lover calls his bride away from the wilderness.
In 4:8 The Shepherd-lover calls his bride away from, to depart from the wilderness and anxious places, from the dens of lions and from the mountains of leopards. She of course was one who worked in a vineyard because of the abuse of her mother’s sons and perhaps her own sin, but this Shepherd-lover calls her away from there to himself. This is no less what Christ has done for the church.
The True Shepherd-lover speaks to his bride like a sister not like a prostitute.
In 4:9–15 the shepherd lover repeatedly uses the word “my sister, my bride” and speaks of her love (v.10) not merely her body. When he speaks of her body it is respectful and different. It is different in that this one also addresses the lips, but this would be appropriate as the betrothal kiss back in chapter 1:2 was thought upon by the bride herself. Neither of them could forget that kiss of betrothal. This was not merely a kiss, but a kiss of promise from a faithful shepherd, not a fling. A bride likely had other kisses and had been sexual active to her shame, but he spoke of her as “A garden locked…a spring locked, a fountain sealed” (v.12). He highlighted her garments, not her most secret body parts (v.11). He did not offer her the wine mixed with myrrh of Solomon (4:6; Mark 15:23) but love that is better than wine (4:10). He spoke to his bride with respect as of that of a sister not a prostitute, no matter her past. Such a man would make a woman who may have been abused, divorced, hated, or any other thing feel to be a pure virgin and like life just began. And is that not what Christ does for the sinner!
In John 4 when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he taught her about water than was living water, flowing streams from Lebanon per se. Her anxious thoughts were exposed, and she knew she was before Jesus as he told her all about herself, and offered her life.
The True Shepherd-lover merited a positive response from the bride and others.
In v.16 she states clearly that she returns the invite of the one who invites her. She invites her “beloved” to come “to his garden and eat its choicest fruits.” What a reminder of the contrast between the fall and the Garden Genesis 1–2!
The invite is received in 5:1 and it is portrayed in the words of the Exodus with milk, honey, and wine. The milk and honey depict the land of promise that was triumphantly conquered by God’s grace. The wine on Passover was mixed three parts water and one part wine—it was celebratory, clean, and refreshing—not a promoting of drunkenness (cf. Tyndale New Testament Commentary study on Wine in the commentary on this book of Solomon).
Others celebrate with them, because this is more than just a story about two lovers, but about Christ and his church! God saved his church to go out and conquer the world like Israel was saved out of Egypt to conquer the land of promise. The Shepherd-lover has won the contest. We are our Beloved’s and our Beloved is ours! We are Christ’s and Christ is ours! (cf. 2:16)
I learned this matter in a random intro to an educational video and applied it here as it seemed a fitting way to introduce this message today.
The Genevan Bible was the Bible that was trusted by the early pilgrims to America. It contained things that King James detested including the idea of resistance theory that was responsible for the founding of America.