(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Song of Solomon 8:5-14
mark this: 8:6-7 —
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Wow. Now those are some lyrics. When we are reading Song of Songs, we are looking at some of the most powerful, yet exquisite poetry ever written. (I suppose that only the Word of God has the ability to smash us like a wrecking ball, while delicately slicing us like a scalpel, both at the same time.) I know that I certainly cannot do it justice- it’s akin to trying to describe the Grand Canyon over a text message.
Most of our world’s attempts to comprehend or express real love end up sounding like this:
“Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,
Everything that’s wonderful is what I feel when we’re together, Brighter than a lucky penny…”(Leslie Gore)
Honestly, I don’t know if I could do much better. So I am going to leave all the hollow and watered down efforts of the recording industry and Hollywood behind and instead focus on the similes given in the Scripture.
A few words or ideas come to the forefront in these verses. Furious. Uncontrollable. Unrelenting. There is nothing plastic or prefabricated about them. The love of God cannot fit into our safe and sterile boundaries. We can look back at some of the recent natural disasters to give us a small glimpse of that kind of scale. Think of the California Wildfires of 2009. In one year, in that state alone, 336,020 acres (525 sq. miles) of land was consumed by at least 63 different blazes. Very often, the brave firefighters were at the mercy of the weather to extinguish these wildfires. The familiar images of planes or helicopters dumping water were the equivalent of us trying to spit out a campfire.
That is the kind of scope and power this passage is describing. God’s love is more furious than any fire we’ve ever experienced. We see this relentless and untamed attribute of God clearly in the rest of the Bible. There is fire literally everywhere, especially concentrated in the Old Testament. Smoking swords, flaming firepots, burning bushes, pyrotechnic pillars, melting mountains, scorched sacrifices, melted ministers, grilled grumblers. (1)
Both the Old and New Testaments use the image of fire to convey not only the attributes of God (e.g. His glory, wrath, power, and love), but also to describe each member of the Blessed Trinity (2). God is ablaze and glorious and relentless in all He is and all He does. Deuteronomy 4:24 best sums this up: “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God,” a statement that is later repeated in Hebrews 12:29.
The sad thing is that many of us “Christians” have tried so hard to turn this blazing Biblical love into a cheap, chintzy, saccharine-filled imitation. We want a flashlight-like Jesus that we control. But we end up with a Jesus who is a cross between Richard Simmons and Mr. Rogers. (Father forgive us!)
So my goal for today is not to neatly define, categorize and label God’s love. I can’t squeeze Him into any man-made container that I can control and manipulate. No, my goal is to step back and submit, to let the unquenchable, unbridled, untamable love of God run wild in this life. It isn’t easy, but it beats the heck out of any cutesy sunshine or lollipop bit.
(1) The words may have been altered for alliterative purposes- but each of these events are in the OT.
(2) Isaiah 29:6, Matthew 3:11-12, Acts 2:1-4