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Many Waters - SoS header

We have come to the place in the Song that has kept it out of Sunday School for a hundred years. But today, we will boldly go where no Sunday School teacher has gone before. [slight exaggeration there]

Your stature is like a palm tree, 
and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit.

Song of Songs 7:7-8 ESV

Let’s clear the air here. Solomon uses the “B” word liberally here in chapter 7. When we looked at this back in chapter 4, I said that Solomon speaks of breasts in two ways. In chapter 4 He speaks of their beauty. The beauty of Christ is described in the fact that He the embodiment of both Grace and Truth, His life is a marriage of both mercy and justice.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14 ESV

Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. - Psalm 85:10 NASB

Notice I did not say grace and truth are in balance in the life of Christ. I’ve heard many speak of a Christian life in balance, but I don’t think that’s what is called for. Jesus is not 1/2 full of grace and 1/2 full of truth. He doesn’t temper His grace with truth, or visa versa. He is full of grace and He is full of truth.

Today Solomon speaks of breasts and their role in nurture.

We said last week that the palm tree grows where few can grow - reaches deep into the earth to find sustenance and then produces fruit that offers that same life to others.

Our Bride has walked through trials and temptations, and has learned how to stay connected to the Vine even in the desert times of life. She has learned the truth in Christ’s promise dwell with and in us, come what may.

I hear many quote the promises of the Lord to always be with us and in us, but have you ever notice that every one of these promises (that I have found anyway) is in the context of our going?

Christ famously promises His presence with us to the end of the age:

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. - Matthew 28:20 NASB

But notice, this is the Great Commission - He is promising His presence with us ‘as we go.’

John 14 gives us another great example of this. In Verse 12 tells us that believers will do greater works than He did during His earthly ministry. In verse 13 and 14 He promises to do anything we ask in His name. This is all followed by some of the clearest declarations of His promise His presence in us and with us in verses 16 – 31. There we see a promise that Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be with and in the believer’s life as we follow Him and partner with Him.

So it is in the Song. Our bride has come to a place in her life where she is ministering, even when His presence is not felt. Her very life is an evangelistic tool in His hands. Her passion for Him demonstrates how wonderful it is to be in relationship with the Groom.

He promises to go up and take hold, and I take this to mean that Jesus will support the fruit of Her life and ministry. He will not let her stand alone as she supplies those around her with the fruit borne in her life.

This is a great promise for us as we take what He has done in us, and bring it to the world around us.

Lord, Help me to be a palm in the spiritual desert of this day. Allow me to be a source for others who are starving and dehydrated. Let it be said of me that rivers of living water flow out of his inner most being. I thank You that You are the source of all life, and You give it freely to those who come to You.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Stay connected to the vine.

Ben

Your neck is like a tower of ivory.

Song of Songs 7:4

Thrice before in the song we have heard about the Bride’s neck, or necklace. Each time from her Lover’s point of view. Today we see the view of her companions. They see her neck as an ivory tower.

Ivory is an interesting choice here.

Today, due to the fragile nature of the elephant population and global condemnation of the ivory trade, ivory has to a great extent fallen out of favor. Throughout history it has been a highly sought after commodity, and a symbol of wealth and honor.

In telling of the kings of the world who came to honor Solomon we read:

For the king had ships which went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks. - 2 Chronicles 9:21

Solomon made himself a throne of ivory overlaid with pure gold. (2 Chronicles 9:17)

Ahab (ok - stop that boo-ing in the peanut gallery) built a house of Ivory. (1 Kings 22:39)

The point is, an ivory tower is not a tower of strength, but a tower of honor and beauty.

The neck, as we have seen before in our study is that part of us which turns our affections toward the Lord. Our maiden does not have a stiff neck from the Lord’s vantage point as the prophets said of Israel who refused to give the Almighty their focus and attention.

However, from the outside view, from the view of her admirers, her neck is immovable. Her face can not be turned from following the Lord. Her eyes are fixed on His.

It’s beautiful.

It’s elegant.

It’s magnificent.

Your single hearted devotion to the Lord, and unbending attention to His face, His call, the glance of His eye is a tower of ivory. Your neck - set toward Him - not in hopes of gaining honor or an attempt at self beautification, none the less brings you honor among the faithful and is beautiful to behold.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

Blessings

Ben

If you want to read about the neck from the Lords point of view, check these earlier posts:

What’s In A Neck

What Do You See In Her

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Many Waters - SoS header

Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
Which have come up from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young.

Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.

Song of Songs 6:5-7 NASB

Today we find the Shepherd King once again describing His maiden. In fact this description is one He has used before. You can find the exact words mingled with another description from Song of Songs 4:1-3

The last time He spoke these words was directly after their wedding. We saw the wedding procession in the end of chapter 3, then chapter 4 begins with the Grooms enthralling description of His beautiful bride.

It was also before the testing she walked through in chapter 5.

At their wedding, He was affirming what He knew was within her, even though it had not been tested by fire, it had not been given a chance to grow. He gave her credit for these marks of maturity (as we will see) before they were visible, even to her.

What this means to us is that God calls those things that are not, as though they are.

He speaks into our future.

And not only into our future circumstance (because that is what consumes our attention)

but

He speaks into our future character (because that is what consumes His attention.) [Tweet This]

The day that He breathes the breath of life into our spirit
The day He calls us His own
The day He adorns us in His wedding garment
The day He burns the filthy clothes we arrived in
The day He chooses us out of the liar’s orphanage
The day He gives us His own name

That is the day He plants His character in us.
That is the day He grafts us into the tree of life.
That is the day He clothes us in Christ.

And that is the day His view of us is 100% Christ and 0% us.

But now we find our maiden, our bride, (ourselves) having come through the fires of trial and what was...

germ
seed
vision
prophecy

...on our wedding day, now is blooming and bearing fruit.

She is (your are) no longer a dark but lovely stranger to grace

Not simply in possession of a promise and a future

She is becoming the image of Christ, being fashioned by the hands of the Potter into something beautiful.

Next time we will look at the specifics of this declaration of Christian maturity Christ sees in His bride, but for today know this.

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

IMG_2337Thanks for coming by today.

Walk in the light.

Ben

 

 

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photo credit: sjdunphy via photopin cc
photo credit: sjdunphy via photopin cc

Last week we looked at ten character traits our Maiden loves in her Shepherd King. She explains to her girl friends why she is so willing to search for and wait for her Lover.

Today the other maidens, these who have been questioning her have another question.

Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
That we may seek him with you?

Song of Songs 6:1 NASB

Her ten-fold praise of Jesus has had two profound effects.

First – Praise makes you beautiful.

This is easy to miss. Have you ever met someone who outwardly is completely beautiful but had a bad attitude? They complain about everything, or are contentious. Their constant criticisms turn them from a beauty into something awful.

By the same token, take a plain person with a heart full of praise, and before too long, you will find that she/he is beautiful in your eyes. You will desire to spend time with them.

Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.

Psalms 147:1 NKJV

I love that – Praise is pleasant and praise is beautiful.

You are beautiful when you enter into wholehearted praise. When you worship with abandon, you are irresistible to the Lover of your Soul, and you are beautiful to those in attendance too.

Next – Praise is the most genuine form of evangelism. Her passion, her adoration for the Lord turns into pure evangelism. This evangelism is not motivated out of fear or guilt. It is not stilted nor does it seem pre-planned. This is true evangelism, that which is a simple outflow of what her heart knows of Him. Her words are not an argument, or a defense, but rather they flow from her heart, and express how the deep love of the Father has touched her and changed her, until He is her whole desire.

Her love for Him just pours out. This looks nothing like religion, which has motions to go through to keep accounts up to date. She has been deprived of closeness to Him, and has been deprived of ministry and that which fulfills her and yet, her contact with others still flows in ministry.

After sitting and hearing her speak of Him, they want to know Him too. They want to find Him, they want to follow Him.

Praise is great evangelism. No advertising budget can beat a satisfied customer.

BN Writers Page 150Will you come and follow my beautiful Jesus with me?

He is worthy.

Ben

 

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Many Waters - SoS header

The Shepherd King has been silent in the Song for quite a while. We have not heard His voice in the Song since the middle of chapter two when He was wooing her to come with Him, out into the hills and mountains, out of the cocoon and into ministry, out into the fulfilling of her initial prayer, “Draw me, and we will run.”

Now that He has demonstrated in no uncertain terms His incomparable ability to protect and defend her, and care for her needs, He is going to speak into her life.

So I ask Jesus today, what do you see in me? He steps closer and replies:

How beautiful you are, my darling,
How beautiful you are!
Your eyes are like doves behind your veil;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Mount Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes
Which have come up from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young.

Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.

Your neck is like the tower of David,
Built with rows of stones
On which are hung a thousand shields,
All the round shields of the mighty men.

Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle
Which feed among the lilies.

Song of Songs 4:1-5 NASB

His answer rocks me, because He sees in me, what I can’t even see myself, and more than that, He sees in me the design of my Maker. When Jesus looks at me He sees what I am created for, He sees my potential! He sees how the Father knit me together from various skeins, with strands of talent, and various colors of passions and desires.

He speaks into my life what it can look like. He sees my love for Him and my care for what pleases Him as mature, not as they are today.

So what does He see in me? What does He see in you?

You are beautiful!

We understand that because of the cross of Christ, we have been washed, we are clean. That which was so ugly in us, that which pursued Christ to His horrible death, is gone. Your sin is not what Jesus sees when He looks at you. Your sin is not your defining character trait. Your sin does not even enter into the conversation, when Jesus is describing you.

As Solomon’s Song describes eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth temples, neck and breasts, those things that create a vision of great physical beauty, Jesus is looking at seven areas of inner beauty, and draws us to Himself, and to our own potential.

So what does He see in me? What does He see in you?

Dove’s eyes:

What Jesus sees in our eyes is faithfulness. One thing that sets the dove apart from many other birds is it’s monogamy, it mates for life, it is uniquely faithful.

The other aspect of a dove’s eyes that is significant is that that dove has a sort of tunnel vision. It can only focus on one thing, and has virtually no peripheral vision.

So the Lord looks at us, and counts us faithful to Him, to have eyes only for Him. The call to the maiden is to fix your eyes on Jesus.

If you are new to Song of Songs Saturday, you might want to check out the post from earlier this year that goes into much more depth about dove’s eyes here.

Long Flowing Hair:

Aside from bringing attention to her youth and vigor, this reference to her long flowing hair harkens back to the Nasserites of the Old Testament. These men would completely dedicate themselves to the Lord for a period of time. During the time of their vow, they would not cut their hair or shave. They would also stay away from the fruit of the vine, and keep away from anything that could make them unclean. They were considered holy unto the Lord for that season.

Jesus is seeing in the maiden a dedication to Him and the life and ministry that He had created for her/them to walk in together.

Teeth:

It interests me how focused He is on her mouth. There are actually three features of her mouth that attract Jesus, and draw out His comments.

The first is her teeth. I am pretty sure, though I have not done primary research on this fact, that in the day of Solomon, the better part of a millennium before Christ, dentistry was not what it is today. To find a woman with a full mouth of bright white teeth, each one with its match on the bottom, and its companions on each side would be fairly remarkable all by itself.

But the real point here is the function of teeth. Her teeth speak of her ability to eat. It sounds funny as a romantic comment this way, but the idea is that it is beautiful to the Lord when we chew on, or meditate on His Word. The word used for meditate in the Old Testament give the idea of the cow chewing it’s cud. In Psalm 1, David contrasts the blessed man to the one who does not embrace the Word. He says of the one who is blessed, that he meditates, or chews on, the law of the Lord day and night.

Lips:

Lips speak of her speech, and the strand of scarlet points to the fact that her speech is redemptive. It is said that there is a scarlet thread that runs through the Bible from front to back. This gospel thread is God’s redemptive plan devised from before the Father breathed the breath of life into Adam.

This scarlet thread is first seen when the blood of an animal was shed to cover the nakedness and shame of Adam and Eve in the garden. Notably, when Israel attacked Jericho, Rahab was instructed to hang a scarlet threat out her window as a sign that she and her household were chosen, and so they were saved. So these scarlet lips are lips that constantly speak the gospel and share the redemptive message of life.

Mouth:

Here we look at another use for the mouth. One character trait that distinguishes a Christian is his vocabulary of praise. The praises of our mouth are so attractive to the Lord that it beckons His presence in our lives. Consider:

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. - Psalms 147:1 NKJV

and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself'?" - Matthew 21:16 NASB

And thou art holy, thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel. - Psalms 22:3 DBY

As you can see from these passages, praise is beautiful, attractive to the Lord. He is drawn to it, dwells in the midst of it. Psalm 100 tell us that it is our method of entry into the presence of the Lord.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise. - Psalms 100:4 NASB

Temples:

Her temples or cheeks display our emotion, or passion for Him. There is still an excitement, a thrill in our heart when we see Him.

There is a convicting passage in Jeremiah that speaks of Israel’s spiritual leadership, and how they were not helping the flock, but rather placating them with empty words. In the midst of this rebuke is this declaration:

Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done?
They were not even ashamed at all;
They did not even know how to blush. –

Jeremiah 6:15 NASB

This may be the other side of the equation, but the heart of the Lord for us is that we would be able to feel – feel passion for Him – feel the hurt and need of those around us – and feel our own need for Him when we fall, so we would run back to Jesus for restoration.

Neck:

Our neck speaks of our will. The neck turns our head, and so sets our direction. The inclination of our neck toward the face of our Savior, demonstrates our will to follow Him.

In the writing of the prophets, Israel is spoken of as having a stiff neck, meaning it’s will was set against Him. Here we see just the opposite, She has strength of will, but it is turned toward Him. Even when she was resistant to obedience, her desire was toward him

Solomon says of her neck that it is built as an armory (NKJV) and set about with the shields of a thousand men. Her resolve is set toward Him. There is no shadow of turning in her will.

I love that He speaks this prophetically into her life right on the heals of a fall and a failing of her will. If you will remember with me:

  • She wanted to follow Him
  • He invited her to follow Him
  • She was fearful and pulled back

But here what He sees in her is a will that is set only on Him. I love that the Lord looks at us and sees His design for us, and His character in us, as we walk out a life that ebbs and flows.

Breasts:

Ok – honestly – the fact that Solomon mentions breasts in the Song is why a huge chunk of the church does not look at the Song. But let’s not be shy here.

There are two senses in which Solomon speaks of her breasts. Sometimes he speaks of her ability and desire to nurture, but here he is speaking of pure beauty. Jesus highlights the beauty of the Christian life, when grace and truth are in equal measure. John 1:14 says of Jesus.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

This marriage of grace and truth, of mercy and judgment, create a tension through out the Word, and when they are in equal measure they are beautiful.

Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. - Psalms 85:10

It is a beautiful picture of our Lord. And this is what He is looking for, and sees, in us. He wants His people to be a people in whom Mercy and Truth dwell in equal measures, neither one trumping the other. When truth rules without mercy, we miss the Spirit of the law, and when mercy reigns without the restraint of the truth, we have lawlessness, and lasciviousness.

Another beautiful paring in the Christian life would be faith and love. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, it does not matter how great our faith it, without love we are just noise. The writer to the Hebrew Christians tells us, right on the other hand, that without faith it is impossible to please God.

These marks of the blending of seeming opposites are what bring true beauty into the life of a Christian.

I know there is a lot to chew on here, but I hope you will here the Lord’s voice calling out in you the beauty that He has given you, and called you to. He sees you as you will be, not as you are today, and there is great hope in that calling.

You are beautiful! Take a step back today, and see yourself the way that Jesus sees you.

  • Faithful
  • Devoted
  • Given to His word
  • Ministering life
  • Full of Praise
  • Full of Passion
  • Will set on Him
  • Full of grace and truth – faith and love

Can you see it? He does!

Sorry for the length of this post. I know it is way more than usual. I hated to break this passage us, though I suppose many more people would have been likely to read smaller pieces. Thank you for reading all of it.

Ben NelsonHave a great weekend.

Stay Calm and Keep Shining!

Ben

 

If you are like me, you have probably sung worship songs that call Jesus the “Rose of Sharon.” There are those who consider this verse to come from the Shepherd Kings voice.

Nevertheless, I believe this is actually our maiden speaking here.

I am the rose of Sharon, The lily of the valleys. (Song of Songs 2:1)

For the second time our maiden speaks about herself.

The first time she made a declaration of who she was back in Song 1:5 she said she was “Dark but beautiful.” Dark because of the effects of living “under the sun,” in the world’s system, beautiful through what the Lord was doing inside her.

Here we see her declaration has altered. As she hears the words of her Savior over her life, her own perspective of herself is shifting.

We have these beautiful flowering bush/tree plants in our yard. They are called “Rose of Sharon,” but I don’t actually think this is what she is calling herself today.

She is talking about a rose from a place called Sharon. Below is a description of this land called Sharon from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

shar'-un
(1) This name is attached to the strip of fairly level land which runs between the mountains and the shore of the Mediterranean, stretching from Nahr Ruben in the South to Mt. Carmel in the North. There are considerable rolling hills; but, compared with the mountains to the East, it is quite properly described as a plain. The soil is a deep rich loam, which is favorable to the growth of cereals. The orange, the vine and the olive grow to great perfection. When the many-colored flowers are in bloom it is a scene of rare beauty. (See More Here)

Now when she looks in the mirror she sees the rare beauty she has become. And what brought her to this place of unmatched beauty? It was the loving words and care of this Shepherd King.

rose bud 2The Rose is like the international symbol for Love. She no longer views herself as alone. She is one who is in love, and has a lover. It changes your whole perspective. When you are in love, you can’t feel like a loser. You are on top of your game.

Next she says she is a lily of the valley. Again, I believe she is talking about a lily growing in the valley rather those beautiful spring surprises that pop up along my driveway every April.

A lily speaks of purity, and her lover chimes in with:

Like a lily among the thorns, So is my darling among the maidens. (Song 2:2 NASB)

He sees her purity, and points out that it separates her from her peers. She no longer is one of the many grey and dusty “tents of Kedar” (1:5)

Ben, what does all this have to do with me?

When we get up close to Jesus, we can hear His words over us, and we begin to get His perspective on our “all things new” life.

This is a huge reason we need to become worshipers.

I recently heard Kris Vallotton say: (I paraphrase here)

  • Thanksgiving revels in the things the Lord has done for us.
  • Praise revels in the who the Lord is.
  • Worship revels in the presence of the Lord.

This last one, a response to the Lord’s call in Psalm 27:8 “Seek My face” is where we begin to see what the Lord is doing in us.

Sometimes Christians get hung up on how much work the Lord has left to do, and we beat ourselves up. But spending time in the presence of the Beautiful One will open our eyes to the beauty He is creating in us.

And not just beauty (rose) but even purity (lily.) His intention is not for us to feel like failures unable to ever conquer our temptations, but as we press into intimacy with Jesus, we gain the ability to walk as He walked.

BenPress in today!

See you next week.

Ben

How handsome you are, my beloved, And so pleasant! Indeed, our couch is luxuriant! (Song of Songs 1:16 NASB)

She has been gazing on Jesus – eyes (dove’s eyes) fixed on His wonderful face, and it’s growing on her.

In this first chapter of this wonderful song, she has come from a distant admirer with a crush on this seemingly unattainable man – the Shepherd King – to a place now where they have found one another, and are in love.

As she gazes on Him, and hears His love declared to her, His beauty in her eyes grows, and fills her every thought.

What is it that is so handsome about Jesus?

Isaiah prophesies that He will not be physically attractive:

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. (Isaiah 53:2 NASB)

So what is His great draw? His holiness.

Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:9 NKJV)

There is a beauty to holiness that is not immediately evident. As you behold, gaze on, and ponder the wonderful holiness of the Lord, that which the world despises begins to grow in beauty, until we join in with the words of Keith Green “Oh Lord, You’re beautiful, Your face is all I seek.”

As we draw near to Him and He to us, we come under His correction – sometimes with out a word spoken, and His correction is for one purpose “…that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10 NKJV)

This is our process of transformation. It comes in drawing closer to the Lord and letting Him have access to and reign over more and more of our lives.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV)

BenLet’s press into that holiness today.

See you next week.

Ben

My Beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms In the vineyards of Engedi. (Song of Songs 1:14 NASB)

Ok – here we go again with these cryptic references to things and places we don’t know.

Let me start today with another “I’m no scholar” disclaimer. I will say that there is great value in scholarship, so please don’t take my admission as any dishonor to the scholars in our midst. Not at all!

That said – here is what I understand:

Engedi was famous for it’s gardens and vineyards. They were mature and well maintained, and famous far and wide for their beauty and sweet fragrances.

Here is the thing – the beauty and fragrance of her Lover point to the fact that unlike her first encounters with religion  - (remember the bucket brigade?) – which were burdensome and full of stress, when she actually gets up close to her Shepherd King it is a sweet fragrance and beauty that can only be compared to this world famous garden.

Throughout the Song we are going to view the vineyard as the personal spiritual life of the believer. As she gazes on Jesus, she sees that a relationship of this kind is nothing like religion.

Sadly, it is all to easy for the most rigorously spontaneous of us to fall into religious patterns, and lose sight of the fact that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

O beloved, there is such a wonderful freedom and blessed joy that comes with our yoking ourselves with the Lord Jesus.

I pray the Spirit that anointed Jesus for the liberation of each of us would set you free today.

Breath deeply of the fragrance of freedom today.

Ben
Come back next week.

Ben

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