I have compared you, my love,
To my filly among Pharaoh’s chariots.
(Song of Songs 1:9 NKJV)

This always reminds me of the scene in the movie A Knights Tale where William Thatcher is trying to woo the maiden Jocelyn and well sticks his hoof in his mouth.

She asks him to speak beautiful words to her, and this is what ensues.


William: "I will win this tournament for you."

Jocelyn: "Excuse me?"

William: "I'll win this tournament in your name. I'll defeat each knight for you. Your beauty will be reflected in the power of my arm and my horse's flanks."

Jocelyn: "Wow—Really?—Really?—lts flanks?"


Not his finest hour.

But the real issue here is that we don’t understand life in a completely agrarian society. Livestock and crops were the currency and wealth of the day. So much of what we will read in these pages relates to life in that society.

So what is our Shepherd King thinking when He compares the Shulamite to a filly among Pharaoh’s chariots?

There are a couple interesting things going on in this comment.

First off, this is the only time this Hebrew word is found in the Bible. Its root comes up more often, but this word specifically pointing to a filly or mare, some even think it should be a group of fillies, is unique to this verse.

Next, He speaks of Pharaoh’s chariots, not the chariots of Israel. He does not say “the Kings Chariots,” but rather points to the world famous fleet of chariots of His most impressive adversary.

Here is the thing.

She is feeling like a newcomer, one who is barely capable of caring for her own presentation. She looks in the mirror and sees dark and worldly. She looks around her in the community, and everyone is doing better than she is. She is totally frustrated at her inability to look like everyone else in the Church.

Then He likens her to one of the most prestigious, well-trained, talented, and impressive beasts known to man.

 

He is saying to her when I look at you, I do not see the dark and dusty woman of the world, stumbling at every turn. I see your potential as a one who is ready to lead an army into battle, one trained and well disciplined. I see what you are created to be, not where you are in your journey.

This helps me. I know when I fail or fall short, He sees me not lying on the ground in a heap, but victorious, then he helps me up, brushes me off, and sets me back on my path toward maturity.

Yay God. Thank you, Jesus.

This makes me happy.

Thanks for coming by.

Stop in next week and get a look at what else He sees in you.

Ben

2

If you yourself do not know, Most beautiful among women, Go forth on the trail of the flock, And pasture your young goats By the tents of the shepherds. (Song of Songs 1:8 NASB)

When our maiden asks how to get back into a good place with Jesus, He gives a three part answer.

Last week we looked two of the 3 – the bookends.

The first is to live in community—"go forth on the trail of the flock."

The last is to have leadership in your life—"By the tents of the shepherds."

Today I want to talk about the one in the middle. I kind of stepped over it last week.

“And feed your little goats” (Song of Songs 1:8 NKJV)

medium_2470532891

As you'll remember, she got into this mess by taking on everything anyone suggested for her. Too much responsibility before she had matured enough to hold on to Jesus in the midst of it. Believe me, if you hang around the church for a bit, you will find plenty to do.

But get this, the solution is not complete abstinence from participation, not pulling back out of fellowship and ministry altogether. Not at all.

The solution is found in walking in community, submitting to godly leadership, and taking on the care and feeding of YOUR little goats.

Let’s unpack that a bit.

Where the NKJV uses the word feed, the NASB says pasture and the NIV says graze. This young Jesus Lover is not told to come up with an amazing revelation for a mature flock, but to lead the ones that the Lord has drawn to her into safe and nurturing fields where they can graze in safety.

At one time in my life, there was a brand new Christian in my workplace. She was like a wonderful sponge and would eat up anything put before her. The biggest challenge was to keep her from listening to some of the crazies on the radio and TV and get her hooked up with some good safe Bible basics.

This is exactly the method Jesus used when restoring Peter. Do you remember? Peter had failed the Lord and really felt like he had no right to be taking up any more of Jesus time. He was ashamed because he totally blew it when he denied the Lord three times at the very moment that Jesus was in big trouble.

But Jesus came to him and asked him 3 times (once for each denial?) “Do you love Me?”

Each time Peter affirmed “You know I love you”

And each time Jesus said “feed my sheep,” with slight variations.

Jesus had the same restoration advice for Peter as he did for our maiden

But here is the important thing. He does not say, “get involved, do whatever they ask of you, ” He say to care for the ones I put in your care. Our involvement must be Spirit led and directed or it will crush us every time.

We were created for works that God designed for us and designed us for. These are the only works you will be able to do well long term. [Tweet This]

So today, start saying “No” when the Spirit is not giving you a “Yes” and start feeding the little goats that the Lord has drawn to your side.

Thanks for stopping by today!

See you next week

Ben

photo credit: zaser via photopin cc

If you yourself do not know, Most beautiful among women, Go forth on the trail of the flock, And pasture your young goats By the tents of the shepherds. (Song of Songs 1:8 NASB)

Now our girl has suffered some abuse and some frustration at the hand of her mother’s sons, and her heart cries out for only one man, the lover of her soul.

But God’s intention is that we live out our love affair with Jesus with some guidance.

The shepherds.

These are people in our lives who are throwing kindling on the warm embers of our passion and fanning it into flame. They draw us forward toward the place where the Good Shepherd is tending His flock.

Especially in the US, we have this fierce independence, and easily fall for the lie that ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ pastor,’ or ‘Jesus is my Pastor.’

That is a bunch of hooey!

We need to live in community with those who are headed where we are headed.

David lamented ‘No man cared for my soul.’

Don’t let your passion for Christ alone drive you away from His body. It’s not a perfect system, and you won’t find a perfect Church or a perfect pastor, but get a shepherd in your life.

Maybe they won’t have the title ‘Pastor’ but God has people around you for a reason.

BenDirector3CroppedThanks for stopping by.

See you next week.

Ben

…O fairest among women... (Song of Songs 1:8 NKJV)

He speaks! Verse 8 contains the Shepherd’s first words in the Song.

MagicmirrorFairest of them all!

With all our girl is stressing over:

  • The conflict of inner and outer cleanliness
  • The abuse of her mother’s sons
  • The disrepair of her vineyard
  • Her feeling of separation

See how He addresses her.

Most beautiful among women (NASB)

He sees her as beautiful—most beautiful—the fairest of them all!

The common meaning of the word fair does not do this verse justice. If it weren’t for Snow White’s evil witch and her mirror query, most of us wouldn't even know that fair can mean beautiful.

Let me explain something amazing about Jesus here.

Heb 12:2 says that Jesus, for the joy set before Him endured the cross. The reason Jesus went to the cross, is that He could see something about you and me that we, even today, are not seeing clearly.

You say, I am dark and beautiful, but Jesus says, I see the one My Father created unto good works. I see a completely successful, with fully realized potential, son or daughter. I saw you while you were still my enemy. I saw you when you were actively hostile toward Me. You are why I laid down my life.

Now you may not walk in your full potential, but God sees you that way. You are beautiful to Him.

raw diamondThink of the diamond cutter who sees the finished gem in the dirty rock. God can see what He created you for.

Don’t get me wrong, you will answer for what you do with all that potential, but when you turn your faces toward the Shepherd, He sees what you can be, and loves you and puts all His unlimited resources into action to get you moving toward that amazing ‘you’ that He envisions.

Turn your attention toward the Shepherd today and walk toward the ‘you’ He sees!

Remember:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB

There is much more to say – so come back next week.

BenDirector3CroppedYou’re beautiful

Ben

2

Tell me, O You whom my soul loves, Where do You pasture Your flock, Where do You make it lie down at noon? (Song of Songs 1:7 NASB)

Three major detractors pulled our maiden away from spiritual vitality into a kind of religious funk. She didn't like what she saw in the mirror, her elder brothers and sisters were dousing her enthusiasm and finally, her own relationship with the Lord suffered neglect. The intimacy she brushed up against in her first encounter with the Lord faded in her memory. The pull of ministry stirred by her early passion, under the pressure of her peers, caused her to step away from her first love.

Like the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2, she was getting the good stuff done, but leaving ‘One Thing’ undone.

Today, she get’s it. It drives her to prayer. And check the focus of her prayer

Tell me, O You whom my soul loves, Where do You pasture Your flock, Where do You make it lie down at noon?

The fastest way to bring life back to a withering vine is to reconnect to The True Vine.

Above the din of her distress, her heart cry makes itself audible once again—I just want to know Your tender care.

Let’s walk right through it.

First – You Lord are the ONE my soul loves – she identifies herself as a Jesus Lover. She knows her life has been out of balance. But her desire for intimacy with the Lord takes back the ground her distresses gave up. Her vineyard succumbed to the chaos of nature—the old nature.

Next – Where do You pasture Your flock? I want to be where You are. I know you will care for me. I know you will help me prune my vineyard. I know time in your presence will recenter my heart and life.

Finally – Where do You make it lie down at noon? I understand a sheep will only lie down and rest in the heat of the day after it has been thoroughly fed and watered. For the sheep to lie down it must be completely satisfied!

Here Solomon inserts into this Song of Songs a throwback to his father's wonderful Psalm, the Psalm of the Shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:1-3 NASB)

Her heart cries out for His tender and loving care.

If you're like me, the business of life and ministry can get you running so hard, you edge away from time spent with the Lord in the secret place. You see that Jesus, who faced every temptation we do, faced this pull too. When He learned of the death of John the Baptist, He longed to be alone with His Father, but the press of the crowd kept Him from immediate retreat. He pushed through ministry, not brushing anyone off, but still focussed on getting into the quiet place. (Mark 6:17-46)

Don’t let life and ministry be the undoing of your vineyard.

Call out today and tell Jesus, the Great Shepherd, that you want to be fed in the green pastures, and drink from the still waters.

BenSee you next week!

Ben

2

They made me caretaker of the vineyards, But I have not taken care of my own vineyard. (Song of Songs 1:6 NASB)

We have arrived at the third of three disasters that have presented themselves in quick succession to our Maiden. Keep our paradigm in mind, the Maiden is an individual, passionate—and at this point in the story—newly ignited, Christ follower.

Disaster one – she looked in the mirror and didn't see what He saw. In the light of His glory and grace she felt dirty.

Disaster two – she ran into the men and women of the bucket brigade who were put off by her passion and zeal, and did what they could to dampen—or drench—her spirit.

Today we find that our young woman is thrust directly into ministry. I hinted at this in an earlier post, but today we see the fruit of too much ministry and not enough intimacy.

Does this sound like anyone you know? (Check the bathroom – they might be in the medicine cabinet looking out.)

  • Every time the Church doors are open she's there.
  • She volunteers for everything in the bulletin:
  • Nursery work
  • Set up and tear down after the pot luck
  • Teaching Sunday School
  • Chaperoning the Sr. High retreat
  • Painting and Maintenance day
  • Spring cleanup
  • Leaf raking
  • Filling the communion cups
  • Cleaning up the communion cups
  • Dusting the pews Bibles (you wouldn’t want dusty pews Bibles would you?)
  • Collecting the art work left behind by the little ones after church.
  • She even signs up for creating sign up sheets.

Then she faces the problem of what to do next week.

You get the point. She is immediately overworked, and what happens next? Her spirit begins to call out for God. She remembers her intimate encounter with the Lord, and thinks “This is not what I signed up for.”

Her vineyard goes uncared for and begins to show signs of neglect.

Those who should be stoking her up and feeding her passion, are actually (and I assure you this is unintentional) drawing her away from what makes her so valuable to the Body of Christ – her connection to its Head.

In the song, her vineyard or garden is her personal spiritual life.

We (maidens) must make our own relationship with the Lover or our Soul of paramount importance in our lives.

We (church leaders) must make ‘How to love God well’ a major part of instruction for young believers. We must guard against allowing anyone to become over committed to program. When program trumps Spiritual life, program must die. Let's stop sacrificing young God lovers for the sake of keeping programs in place.

The first time I taught through this Song in a Sunday School setting, when we came to this third disaster in the maiden's life, there was a couple in the class who had been working with pre-k children in the Sunday School program since their college student had been pre-k.

They were so hungry, and their own vineyards ached for nourishment. Don’t get me wrong. They were not back-slidden, just desperate for some teaching that did not involve crayons. They craved something to dig their teeth into, that would help them tend to their own spiritual lives.

Does your vineyard need tending? Don't be afraid to set something down so you care for your own spiritual health.

Thanks for stopping by.

See you next week.

Ben

 

2

My mother’s sons were angry with me (Song of Songs 1:6 NASB)

For the last two weeks, we looked at the Maiden’s first big problem. She felt dirty on the outside but had beauty on the inside.

Today we get a look at a second crisis in her walk with the Lord – Momma’s boys.

It is interesting to me that she does not say “my brothers.” Instead, she calls them "my mother's sons." Are these some kind of wicked stepbrothers?

First, we have to understand the age-old question – who’s your momma?

The great commission in Matthew 28, puts the job of evangelism squarely on the shoulders of the Church. And throughout the ages since then the Church has been in a motherly role. It is her job to make disciples. A young babe in Christ is said to need mother’s milk of the word.

Consider:

Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal. 4:26)

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, (Gal. 4:19)

As apostles of Christ…we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children (1 Thes. 2:6-7).

The interesting thing to me here is that the Church is made up of people and these people are our brothers and sisters.

But as a new believer you might feel more like an outsider, and so we find the phrase “mother’s sons.” Our girl, new to the faith, feels a bit outside the camp.

Worse than that, after her intimate encounter with the King, she has a zeal and passion that sets her apart.

I know that many of you have been there. You are (or were) that passionate guy or gal who just won’t shut up about the Lord. You’re the ones in the lobby of the Church talking about your God encounters throughout the week, while everyone else is talking sports and fashion.

Ray Comfort (writer, speaker, evangelism teacher) says (I paraphrase here) that when he was a young Christian he had great zeal and passion, and told everyone he ran into about Christ. He was on fire. And over the years (long pause here) he has never cooled off. He is still on fire for the Lord with the same zeal and passion for the Lord as ever he had.

I love that. I feel like that is my story. I might say that years and experience have given me a different perspective on some things, but the passion is there, and one of my favorite things is to see a young Christian, full of that “first love.”

So here is the problem. There are many in the Church who have left their first love. And when they run into our maiden – our zealous, passionate firebrand – they feel a twinge of conviction.

So begins the unsanctified bucket brigade. They immediately start dousing our maiden’s fervor. They don’t want to be around her, they don’t have that same passion, and are not as consumed by a desire for the presence of the Lord like her.

This causes a reaction in the maiden—perhaps a twinge of self-righteousness? Our holy zeal can develop an edge of condemnation. Why aren’t they where I am? Why don’t they want to talk about the Lord? Why don’t they want to spend their Saturday on the street with me preaching to passers-by?

And so, strife infiltrates in the Body of Christ.

Take a step back today and consider – are you a firebrand in the hands of the Lord, or are you in the bucket brigade?

We all need correction, and I want you to stop and listen to the Lord today.

Put Down your Buckets!

Those of us in the Church for years need to be cheerleaders, mentors, equippers, throwing logs (or even accelerants) on the fires burning in our young brothers and sisters. Put down your buckets!

Those of us who are full of zeal and passion be careful with not to write off your elder brothers and sisters. Many have known your zeal and inwardly want it back.

God put us together for a reason, so we can “spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)

BenThanks for reading today.

See you next week

Ben

"Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, For the sun has burned me."  - Song of Songs 1:6 NASB

There are three books in our Bible attributed to Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. We know the Song is a love story, but Ecclesiastes is the musings of a man frustrated by the futility of life. In it, he uses the phrase "under the sun" twenty-seven times, in the NASB.

Solomon uses "under the sun" to mean "in this life," and throughout the book, it's a look at the natural life.

Where Ecclesiastes comes across as a huge "why bother" toward life in the natural, Song of Songs demonstrates that life in the Spirit sets a purpose in our hearts and a love for life and ministry.

Paul echoes Solomon's disparity in Romans 7.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. - Romans 7:21-25 NASB

And this is where we find our Maiden this morning. Right at the end of Romans 7.

Don't look at me. I'm ashamed of what I have become in my life "under the sun." Life directed by my old man, my lower nature, has left its mark on me. If you stare at me, I'm afraid it's all you will see. I'm marred by the sun.

When Adam and Eve surrendered to the will of the evil one, their first move was to cover up, and next, to hide.

LIfe lived in the shadow of shame leaves us hiding from the Holy.

It takes courage, and the call of the Spirit on our lives to cry out with David,

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. - Psalm 139:23-24 NASB

We'll get there, but today, we're hiding in the bushes.

Lord, we need to hear Your voice today, reassuring us that You are willing and powerful enough to heal the damage done by a life lived "under the sun."

Thanks for stopping by today.

God is able!

Ben

4

I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon. (Song of Songs 1:5 NKJV)

Our girl spent the evening in the King's courts and experienced His personal care for the very first time. Now she knows what Isaiah learned in the year that King Uzziah died.

Leonard Ravenhill

Leonard Ravenhill, the revivalist from the last century, often preached a sermon from this text (Isaiah 6) using the outline, Woe, Lo, and Go. You can listen to it, or even download it, at SermonAudio.com. It's wonderful.

He outlines Isaiah chapter 6 like this:

"Woe is me! For I am undone." (vs 5) When I get into the presence of the Lord the first thing that strikes me is how I really don’t belong here. I am filthy, dirty, DARK and unfit for the Kings Presence.

"Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." (vs 7) The blood of Jesus purges opens the way for me to enter this place, and not be consumed.

"Go, and tell this people." (vs 9) Intimacy leads to productivity. When I see how consumed my Holy Savior is with His people, I am drawn into His vision and His mission. My only response can is, "Here am I, send me." (vs 8)

So let's look at our maiden. She spends the evening in the King's presence and when she gets home she begins to examine herself. One look in the mirror tells her the whole story. She is earthy, from working outside and from the years in the hot sun of the Middle East.

She is dirty from "everything under the sun." This is the phrase Solomon used in Ecclesiastes to talk about the world's influence. Jesus told Peter to sit still while He washed his feet. Peter did not need a bath—just the cleansing from the dust of the roads of life.

Then she remembers His words to her—He says I am lovely—I picture this like the scene in West Side Story. Maria dressing for the dance. “I feel pretty,” and our dark beauty dances about the dressing chamber remembering her evening with the King.

Tents and Curtains

The tents of Kedar she speaks of dot the white sands of the wilderness. Made from dark animal skins, they stand out in stark contrast to the white sands. She highlights the dramatic contrast of life in the sands and dust of these base tents, to the pristine curtains she observed in Solomon's courts. These spectacular curtains adorned what was possibly the most beautiful palace of all time.

Dark and dusty on the outside, beautifully adorned on the inside.

So it is with you and I. Any time spent in introspection, gazing into the mirror of the Word, will turn up dirt—things you know you need to change—places you know you need to do better—things that stir up shame.

It leads you to repentance—to a clearing of yourself.

Then you take the bread and cup of God’s love and see that He has made you lovely and perfectly acceptable in His sight—more than acceptable—desirable! You are the apple of God’s eye, the rose of Sharon, the lily among thorns. You are the object of His passion. In the bread and wine, you can see the immense value the Savior has placed upon you, and the love lavished without regard to cost.

Like the coal from the altar in Isaiah's vision, the bread and wine remind you of your purged state. You may have the outward appearance of filth, but you have been washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb.

Hallelujah!

O the joys of the presence of the Lord!

Come back again next week, won’t you?

Ben

The work that follows is so beautiful and full of Father's heart, I implore you, read every word. Cheryl McGrath, who blogs at Bread for the Bride is a woman after God's own heart and brings her strong gift for words and her ability to connect with the heart ofGod to us in this posting. Follow the link to read the full post.Really—don't miss a word!

The Magnificent Pursuit

pexels-photo-24289-pursuitHe watched intently, wordlessly, as they departed the sacred Garden where all of them had walked together.  There they had communed, talking, laughing and celebrating each other’s presence, while Spirit-breeze, the Ruarch, gently caressed their faces and the sunset marked the end of another perfect day in Eden.  This day the sunset would not find them together, this day Eden would be lonely without the presence of the man and the woman.  This day would never be forgotten by either God or human. 

But even as His tender heart struggled with, endured and finally embraced the searing, unfamiliar pain of the unimaginable separation another emotion was rising forcefully within Him.  Resolve.  He had been betrayed and rejected.  The freedom which had set apart the man and the woman, created in His very own image, had become the means of their treachery.  Still, He would not have contemplated denying them that freedom.  To do so would have meant they were less than His image, like the beasts of the field or the fish with which He had filled the oceans. [Read more here]