5

meadows

As we consider the Sabbath and the Red letters, we come to today’s groundbreaking idea. Jesus seemed to thrive on turning the religion of the day on its head, and He sure did with this statement.

Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."- Mark 2:27

With this statement, Jesus is changing the framework through which we see all law (well all of God’s law anyway.)

Have you ever wondered how David could write that poem with 176 stanzas about his love affair with the law of God.

David understood something about the law of the Lord. I have an old Bible that has this verse on the title page:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. - Psalms 119:18

This is often my prayer as I open the word.

And when I read it, or pray it, I can’t help but see the word pair – “behold Wonderful” – so that my prayer runs more like this.

Lord, as I open Your word today, help me see Jesus, the Wonderful One.

The law, as we saw a couple days ago, and specifically the Sabbath was a gift from God to His people. The Sabbath is not intended as a curse or burden.

One indicator that you don’t understand God’s law, particularly under the new covenant, is when it becomes burdensome. Believe me, this happens to all of us. We look at what God is calling us into, some new level of discipleship or commitment, and we think “God, why are you putting me through this?”

When we do as the old song suggests, trust and obey, when we walk by faith and not by sight, He will lead us into more joy, more passion, more victory (perhaps more persecution, more trouble, more fiery furnaces) and ultimately more of His presence.

How often do we wield the law like a battle-axe to break others? That is what the Pharisee’s were trying to do with Jesus and the disciples. They were always finding fault. But the law of the Lord is meant to be a mirror. Consider this:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. - James 1:23-25

As I read this, I wonder if we are getting close to an answer for the question I posed on Monday. What is the Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a believer?

The Sabbath was made for you! It’s a gift. It is intended for your good. As you embrace it you will find that you “will be blessed in what he [you] does [do].”

Oh, while we are on the subject of the benefits of the law, and in particular the Sabbath, I have to throw in one of my favorites here.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

The law, and in particular, the Sabbath is a gift. It was made for you.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by. I will be back on this, so come back again.

For now, for today, press in!

Ben

5

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

 

Press Here to Exit

Yesterday, after I blogged about prosperity, I had a great day. I meditated on the word and everything I put my hand to prospered, just like Psalm 1 promised.

How blessed is the man who does not
walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalms 1:1-3

So I decided to do a little experiment.

Late in the day, I decided that rather than glory in my wonderful Lord and Savior, I would feel sorry for myself. A couple of stupid circumstances that were out of my control, or perhaps I should say were the result of my inaction, got up in my face and said to me:

“Isn’t life unfair?”

Well, I decided to agree with them for a bit –
just as an experiment you understand
in the interest of science
for you, my readers

And I am happy to report back to you that the Bible is exactly correct! (who would have thunk it, eh?)

It was as though these little, stupid (can I say stupid in a G rated blog?) circumstances had a 200 horse power leaf blower and they pointed it right at my day’s prosperity.

All my joy blew out of the room.
All of my motivation seemed to be tumbling toward the door with it.
My productivity, my focus, my drive, my plan all cycloned together and exited, stage left.

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Psalms 1:4-5

To test my theory just a little further, I went to bed with my eyes directly on my own plight – self-pity central.

You won’t believe what happened!

When I woke up I was right there in my funk. Can you believe it? A good night sleep didn’t clear things up at all.

So here is the big secret.

The gates that lead to the presence of the Lord, where there is ample joy, pleasure, productivity, prosperity and life for all of us to enjoy, say “To enter be THANKFUL”

Inside those gates there is one of those automatic door buttons with a sign above it that says “press here to exit.” The button itself read “Self-Pity.”

The great news is that I did eventually wise up, get up off the ground where I had been rolling in – well – you know – shook myself and began to thank God for everything I could think of.

And here’s the best part – I could here His voice almost immediately – “Welcome back son, how did that work out for you.”

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben