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Today as we begin our look at the Song of all Songs, I want to introduce the cast of characters.

Before I jump in too far, I want to state that there are dozens of interpretation of this Song. We will explore some of them next week. I mention it here because some variations of interpretation can actually change the cast of characters.

Some believe that scripture can only have one interpretation. I'm not in that camp. I believe that many of the various interpretations have great value. God’s wisdom is so magnificence that we can glean much from looking at this wonderful jewel from many different perspectives.

I did pick one. I will refer to others from time to time, but for the most part, I'll be looking at it from this perspective.

Many translations and paraphrases have blocks of text marked with the speaker named. It might say “THE BELOVED” and “LOVER” the like. These are not in the original text and they vary from translation to translation. For the most part, we'll ignore these notations.

The Song is much like a play so most of the lines are in a character’s voice. The only thing we have to determine the speaker is the context. If the descriptions given use feminine adjectives and nouns we can assume it is the man speaking, or visa versa. There are some places where groups are speaking, and so based on the context we will make suggestions as to who is speaking in such places.

For the most part, there are 4 voices in the song.

The Shepherd King

The Maiden, referred to also as the Shulamite, or the Bride

Women of Jerusalem

Watchmen

These last 2 are groups. They act much like the chorus would in a Greek play. They take on the character of different people at different times. So the voices and attitudes here may shift from passage to passage.

There are some readers who split the Shepherd King into two characters, and this can be another valuable perspective. For my part, I am going to treat them as one man.

Next week I will break down the various interpretations, and you will see where we fit in the Song.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Come on back again soon.

Ben

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As awesome as an army with banners.

Song of Songs 6:10

The Shepherd King completes His description of His bride’s maturity of faith and devotion with a glorious military simile.

In this phrase He speaks not of her beautiful character, but her victory over all the things which would keep her from Him.

What victory?

She has conquered  many an adversary.

She has defeated the internal foe of her sin nature. She was dark but beautiful, dark with the filth of the her sin nature. As she gave herself to His care, she was washed in His righteousness. The battle of sin and guilt in the bride’s life is won at the cross. He fought the battle giving us the victory.

She banished the enemy of fear that kept her in her chambers when He invited her to run with Him in the hills and conquer the mountains with Him. This victory came as He displayed His awesome might before her. He showed her the place of safety He prepared for her, in the cleft of the rock, and again she wins.

She untangled the lie of abandonment as she pursued Him in the night, and bore the marks of His suffering at the hand of the watchmen. This was likely her hardest test as she faced her own desire to quit, to sulk, to wither without Him. But in that dark night of the soul she rose up and went after Him. She declared to any who would listen her deep devotion to the Love she could not see, to the indwelling of the one she couldn’t sense.

Many more victories belong to her, and for each she carries a banner announcing to her foe – the enemy of the believer – the accuser of the brethren – that she is to be feared.

‘Awesome’ is better rendered ‘Terrifying.’

An army on parade with victory banners flying strikes fear in her enemy’s hearts. Our enemy once thought us lambs for slaughter, but to the bride there is a different end in store:

Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:36-39 NASB

nora and papa at the table, benThanks for coming by.

Walk in the light!

Ben

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There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
And maidens without number; 

Song of Songs 6:8 

Confession time:

The temptation to skip this verse was strong because - well – queens, concubines and maidens?

I've read a few other people's comments on it, and thought about outright plagiarism – not a good choice.

So I went into that solemn place of prayer with my Father and said “What in the world?” (this is prayer number 42 in Ben's common book of prayer)

And my mind went back to community (as it is want to do.)

Look around you – who do you see in your community of faith?

See any queens?

Any like the Shulamite who have given themselves completely to the Shepherd King? Any who have taken the garden of their souls and turned them lock, stock and barrel over to the one who bought them.

Any who can say with her:

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine,
He who pastures his flock among the lilies.

Song of Songs 6:3 

These are the queens. These are those who have married their Beloved and know Him in His chambers. These are those who know Him, and allow themselves to be known of Him. To the queens, creeds are not words but passions. To the queens, worship goes on when the music stops, when the words stop, when the sun goes down and when it comes back up again.

Notice – these are few among the multitudes.

Next we see eighty concubines.

Who are these concubines? Their relationship with the Lord is much less formal. The know His deeds, but not His ways.

Psalm 103 says:

He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.

Psalms 103:7 

Moses KNEW God, Israel knew His deeds.

Jesus says to His disciples in John 15

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. - John 15:15 

Do you see the difference?

I am not here going to try to determine who is in the faith and who is out, who is saved and who is lost. I simply say, in the congregation of the righteous there are queens and there are concubines.

Finally we hear of maidens without number.

These are folks who perhaps have seen Him and loved Him after their own fashion, and from afar.

This is where our Shulamite started if you remember all the way back to the beginning.

She looked on Him from afar as a maiden without any knowledge of who He was. Then she thought Him a simple shepherd, and she knew not that He was the King. Her heart beat for Him, but He was not Her Master, Lord, King, Husband. He was simply a beautiful thought, a wish as yet unfulfilled.

The most wonderful news is that there is a path from maiden to queen! Her declaration then was: "May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.” (1:2) and her greatest two-fold wish was: "Draw me after you and let us run together!” (1:4)

Are you on the path?

Men – I get that it is uncomfortable to head toward queenship – don’t let the language keep you from the point.

As children of God we must be walking this path from acquaintance to intimacy. [Tweet This]

As the princes said in the Muppet Frog Prince “I want to quee the bean!” (translated – I want to be the queen!)

So who is in your community? Are there queens? Are there concubines? Are there maidens? Last question: Are they (we) progressing?

Ben NelsonThanks for checking in today.

Have a great weekend.

Ben

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I offered up the idea a few weeks ago that the narrative in Chapter 5 of the Song of Songs is not failure but testing. Many views of this love song look at this as the backsliding of the saints, but I prefer to think of it as tension the Lord draws us through as we follow Him.

Even in the 23rd Psalm the shepherd draws the sheep from beside still waters to the valley of the shadow of death.

One of the markers I see that tells me this is not the story of a backslidden saint is the way the Shepherd King calls His bride out of her rest.

Open to me, my sister, my darling,
My dove, my perfect one!
For my head is drenched with dew,
My locks with the damp of the night.

Song of Songs 5:2 NASB

He calls to her with four different terms of endearment.

My sister

As I love to point out, as believers there are many aspects to our relationship with the Lord. In the Song we look closely at how the admirer or Christ moves to friend and then to bride. A Christian is at once the servant (bond servant or love slave) of the Lord, and yet can also be His friend, His brother-sister, His son-daughter, and His bride. We don't leave one to become another, but as we mature, we hold each aspect of relationship together.

Here we find the Husband calling His bride sister. There is nothing derogatory about sister, in fact it is quite an elevation. Paul points out that we are sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus. It's not by any means a step down from bride, but a declaration of our inclusion in the Father's immediate family.

It is always astonishing to me that though I am an adopted son of God, He treats me as He treats His own Son, the Only Begotten of the Father. No – I am not the one with a Name above every other, but I am a joint heir of all that the Father has given Him.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, - John 13:3 NASB

All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. - John 16:15 NASB

and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. - John 17:10 NASB

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. - Romans 8:16-17 NASB

It was all sounding so good, until I got to the end there where it promised me that part of my inheritance was His suffering. I thought I could get the glory without the suffering. But apparently, I am not greater than my Master. If they hated Him, they will hate me too. – sorry – chasing rabbits. Back to the point…

Do you see that Jesus is not calling to a backslidden bride, but to His partner, His sister, His co-laborer in the world He came to redeem?

He says to us today

Rise up My sister, My bride, and let’s work the works that the Father has put before us while it is day. [Tweet This]

Will you answer the call today?

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for stopping by.

See you again next week for more of this wonderful Song.

Ben

If you joined us in the middle, you can track back to the beginning of the song and drink from the deep well here.

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This Song of Songs moves back and forth between narrative, moving the story of the Shepherd King and His maiden bride, and intimate conversations.

The narrative sections depict for us the progression of the life of a fully devoted believer’s walk from interest in the things of God, through intimacy, and into partnership. The conversations give us beautiful pictures of who Christ is to us and in us, as well as how He sees us from His heavenly perspective.

The last bit of narrative had the bride giving her garden, her life, over to the Lover of her soul with nothing held back.

Now we move into a period of the testing of her faith. The Lord will test both areas of her devotion. From the start we've traced her progress on two fronts – intimacy and partnership – the two requests she made of Him in the beginning of the Song. “Draw me after you and let us run together!” (Song of Songs 1:4 NASB)

The Song:

I was asleep but my heart was awake.

A voice! My beloved was knocking:

Open to me, my sister, my darling, 
My dove, my perfect one! 
For my head is drenched with dew,
My locks with the damp of the night.

I have taken off my dress,
How can I put it on again?
I have washed my feet,
How can I dirty them again?

My beloved extended his hand through the opening,
And my feelings were aroused for him.
I arose to open to my beloved;
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the bolt.

I opened to my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and had gone!
My heart went out to him as he spoke.
I searched for him but I did not find him;
I called him but he did not answer me.

The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
They struck me and wounded me;
The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
As to what you will tell him:
For I am lovesick."

Song of Songs 5:2-8 NASB

Many commentators look at this as failure – sin – in the maiden, but we will not take that approach. I believe that just as when Abraham finally had his promise in hand and the Lord asked him to give it up, so we can see that the maiden’s resolve is tested on both fronts. I first had this turned around for me by Mike Bickle in his series on the Song of Songs.

This is a meaty passage so don’t miss it.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Don’t forget to shine in the darkness surrounding you.

Ben

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A garden enclosed
Is my sister, my spouse,
A spring shut up,
A fountain sealed.

...

A fountain of gardens,
A well of living waters,
And streams from Lebanon.

Song of Songs 4:12, 15 NKJV

These two stanzas from the Song bring us four different pictures of water. Over the next few installments we will look at each.

A Spring Shut Up

The idea behind a sealed spring is that it was not the public water supply. The setting here is the Middle East, where wells were of the utmost importance to survival. Every center of population had to have a water source, and most would have a public fountain or well. Many stories in the Bible take place at public wells, where people would come to get water for their homes, or to water their animals.

Since this water supply was a common area where anyone could bring their animals to drink, they would naturally be unsanitary, and certainly not private.

Someone with money or stature might have a spring of their own, and it would be sealed, locked, perhaps fenced and gated, so that the common crowds could not approach and defile it.

When the Shepherd King calls His maiden a sealed spring He is bringing attention to her purity and dedication. She is a source that is protected from the filth of the world. Interestingly it is that filth that she once despised in herself.

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

In her earlier days her own assessment of her life was always marred with the corruption the world leaves. Now though, she is a locked garden, set apart for her Lover only.

Another aspect that strikes me is that a spring is a water source. We always think of God as the source in all senses and aspects of our relationship with Him, but here we see the Groom looking to the maiden as His source of refreshment and sustenance! Can you imagine! We supply something the Lord desires.

Jesus said of the believer:

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. - John 4:14

The concept here is similar to the idea that Jesus is the light that lights everyone, but He tells us to shine, not reflect, but shine. He gives us light, and tells us to shine. He gives us living water, and equips us to be a spring of life for those around us.

Are you bubbling with life today?

Lord, I pray the spring of life in me would be refreshing to you this day.

Ben Nelson

Thanks for stopping by,

Come again soon.

Ben

Do you Facebook? I would love to get to know you there!

photo credit: Mr. T in DC via photopin cc
photo credit: Mr. T in DC via photopin cc

How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
And the fragrance of your oils
Than all kinds of spices!

Song of Songs 4:10

It was all the way back in the second line of the Song that our Shulamite maiden called out to her heart throb, this Shepherd King that His love, then just an imagination to her, was better than wine.

She looked at Him from afar, dreamed of a day when He would hold her, when she would breathe Him in, when they would spend luxurious mornings together talking, laughing, loving.

Now they are married, on their honey moon, and the dream is a reality, and the words echo back to her from her past, and from His lips.

This wonderful Shepherd King has taken His place in her life as her King, her Love, her Brother, her Everything, and He breaths those words back to her.

How much better is your love than wine.

This brings me back to the realization of how far Jesus travels to make our relationship work.

Many speak of the Christian life as though it is hard work to keep up our relationship with the Lord, a struggle, a striving, just to keep your faith.

But in this wonderful Song, this picture of the relational nature of faith, we see that her (our) moves are slight, and He (Jesus) is the one leaping over mountains, bringing army’s to bear, and making call after call, pursuing us relentlessly.

One turn of her head, and glance of her eye toward Him and His heart beats faster.

I love that the Lord travels all the distance that separates us when we turn our desire toward Him.

The work of faith is to look to Jesus, turn your eyes on Him.

What a great Savior!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Walk in blessing in 2014.

Ben

Please take a minute to help get the word out by liking my Facebook page. - Thanks!

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Remember the old cereal boxes where there would be a secret message hidden on the outside of the box, and “magic” glasses enclosed so you could “decode” the secret.

lucky_charms_magic_glasses_-_Google_Search[Spoiler alert – I am about to give away the trick] They would print the message in red, and obscure it with blue ink, and give you red glasses to don in order to receive your “private” message.

The simple trick employed here is that when you put on the “magic” glasses, which were simply blue cellophane, your eyes could no longer see the blue ink, and so the red secret was revealed.

Today we hear the Shepherd King say to His Shulamite Bride:

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
And there is no blemish in you.

Song of Songs 4:7

Knowing that this is Jesus speaking to me, I wonder if He is wearing those red cellophane glasses. How can He look at me and not see the mess I have made of so many situations.

Doesn’t He see the people I have hurt with my sarcastic “whit” and sharp tongue?
Doesn’t He see the promises I have not kept?
Doesn’t He see the lies I have told, and the truth I have withheld?
Doesn’t He see the lust that lies beneath the surface?
My laziness?
My apathy?
My selfishness?

How can He possibly say I am altogether beautiful and there is no blemish in me?

Does Jesus really not see any of this?

Let me lay out one of those massive scripture tensions for you, and I think it will help here. This is actually one of those points where if you take one line of theology and run with it in either direction you will end up in error, so let’s see if we can get right in the middle of it, and push out toward the edges.

On one hand we have this truth:

He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we [us] might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus.] - 2 Corinthians 5:21 [bracketed text, mine]

God actually did make Himself a pair of sin colored glasses. Jesus had two “mount of transfiguration” days in His life on earth. Once with the boys when He met with Moses and Elijah to chat about the other, the day He was transformed into sin, so that the Father could look upon you and I and see Jesus.

So then, it is clearly true that when God looks at us He can no longer see our sin, right? How is it then that the Holy Spirit can so precisely convict me of the areas in my life where I am still entangled? If God forgot my sin, how does He lead me to further freedom by that wonderful path of conviction and repentance?

God knows us altogether, inside and out, and is aware of every fault, every sin, every shadow of turning that remains in us. His wonderful destination for us is, in fact, Christlikeness!

When the scripture tells us God will not remember our sin:

"They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." - Jeremiah 31:34

it is not saying He cannot remember, or He forgets, it is saying He chooses not to call to memory, or better, He does not remember it against us, or use it as an accusation.

When our accuser stands before God and says:

“Your honor, the defendant lied, and Your word says all liars must go to hell.”

Then your memory kicks in and says:

“Yes Lord, it’s true, I’m guilty as charged. I do in deed deserve to go to hell. I am not worthy to stand before you here today.”

God does not say “No he never told a lie, your both confused” Rather, the judge, that High King of Heaven, looks at His book, see the offence, and can clearly see that it has been blotted out, and obscured by the words “paid in full.”

Well – that is the way it plays out in my mind anyway.

Let me be clear here. I don’t believe we can hide behind a cardboard cut out of Jesus, and just continue to sin, counting on God’s forgetfulness to get us into heaven.

God is working in us to perfect us. The conviction of the Holy Spirit works to create a spotless bride for Jesus. He brings to mind the things that are broken in us, like my list above, and walks us through repentance so we can be free, and grow into the beauty that only He can see in us today.

Will you pursue the beauty that God can already see in you? [Tweet This] Will you run hard after Him with me today, and allow Him to create the spotless bride He sees?

Lord, I thank You that You do not hold my sin against me, and that You have a plan that culminates in Christ’s image in me. Lord, help me to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as You create in me a clean heart.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Come back again soon.

Ben

Note: For a look at how conviction and repentance leads to true freedom check out this article:  Repentance – the path to Comfort

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I thought I was done with Song of Songs chapter three, but then I ran into this beauty, and realized there is a ton of buried treasure here. So stick with me one more week, won’t you?

Go forth, O daughters of Zion,
And gaze on King Solomon with the crown
With which his mother has crowned him
On the day of his wedding,
And on the day of his gladness of heart.

Song of Songs 3:11

Our maiden is finally married to the man of her dreams. She has entered into a covenant relationship with this Shepherd King. No longer is she the invited dinner guest who comes for a visit and stays in the guest chambers, but now she is family.

No longer does she look at what her Husband is doing and wonder if she is worthy or up to the task. Now she is part of His life for keeps.

She has come through some trials and testing to get to this place, hasn’t she?

In chapter one she was faced with her own sin. She plugged into ministry and failed to keep her own house in order.

In chapter two, along with an increase in intimacy, she also faced the fear and timidity it took to step into the life she longed for.

Remember her two part desire, draw me and we will run.

He has drawn her to His side, and now they are ready to run.

We see her response to this vast outpouring of love and protection He has lavished on her on their wedding day, is to turn her eyes toward ministry. She is now the one doing the drawing, and this outward facing posture will continue and grow as her life with the Master endures and as her intimacy deepens.

She calls to the “daughters of Zion” and invites them to “gaze on King Solomon.”

We have seen this man depicted as first Shepherd and now King. This is an interesting contrast. Solomon as the third real king of Israel would understand the concept of a shepherd king since his earthly father was of course the classic shepherd king of all time, David.

David demonstrated as a boy, standing before then king, Saul, that when Israel thought they needed a king what they really needed was a shepherd. When they thought they needed a warrior with sword and spear, what they really needed as a boy with a sling and a stone. I digress.

Today we see a King, Solomon to be exact, standing here as a type of Christ at His own wedding, the wedding of the Lamb, to His beautiful bride the Church, and in particular, you, His beloved.

The maiden, now bride, calls to those in the Church, and in her circles of influence to come and gaze on the beauty of this King.

The term Christian is falling out of favor in our day, possibly due to the way we have tossed the name around and put it on everything from music and tee-shirts, to TV channels and news services. Many have turned to the title Christ follower, and I’m OK with that, or perhaps Jesus lover, which I like too. But in reality what we used to call a Christian is a person who has entered into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. The only real Christian is one who is the bride of Christ, a full partner in the ministry in which Christ walked and into which we are commissioned.

As our maiden enters into covenant, she takes up the cause, and begins to see others and their need to enter into this covenant as well. So her call to the others in her circles – come gaze on my Wonderful Husband!

This verse reminds me of what the writer to the Hebrew Christians says:

photo credit: helgabj via photopin cc
photo credit: helgabj via photopin cc

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

1 – It has the same exhortation – fix your eyes on Jesus

2 – It explains one of the joys set before Jesus; the day we would say “I do.”

There comes a day when we sit at a heavenly wedding feast! In the mean while, let’s partner with the Lover of our souls, and bring many brothers and sisters to that table.

Lord, I am so glad you called me, and allowed me to hear your call. Use me to call others to this wonderful covenant.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

See you next week.

Meanwhile… Shine where you are plugged in.

Ben

 

Many Waters - SoS headerWe have been talking for weeks about the signs of life, and it all started when Jesus, or perhaps I should say the Shepherd King called to our maiden to come out of the secret place and join Him. He has been telling her of the wonders of this newly arrived season. Now He is once again going to repeat His call for her to join Him.

Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!

But on the heals of this reiterated call, we have one of the most compelling and comforting invitations you will ever hear.

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your face,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your face is lovely. ~ Song of Songs 2:13-14

Now let me make it clear here. Jesus is calling His bride into ministry. He is calling her out of her comfort zone, to leap and run in the hills and mountains.

Have you ever been around when someone tries to get you to minister using guilt or shame? How bout those emails? If you love Jesus you will send this email to everyone on your email list right now. If not, Jesus will be ashamed of you when He returns. (when I type this I wonder if I should even capitalize Jesus name, because they are certainly not talking about the very Son of Very God when they are threatening my eternal life because I clicked [delete] instead of [spam all known addresses.]

This is not how Jesus woos His woman into ministry.

He calls her His dove. As we have said before, the dove is faithful and has a single eye. [Click here for a refresher on the dove.]

Then He makes one of the most beautiful promises in the Bible. I will protect you! If you come with me, you will be safe. I will hide you in the cleft of the rock. You may feel like we are leaving the secret place of intimacy, but I have a secret place of ministry!

The phrase cleft of the rock is really significant. Clearly the Bible teaches that Jesus is the rock. He is that rock that Moses struck in the wilderness, and out of the cleft of that rock flowed the water that brought the Lord’s people life for 40 years, the river of life.

Jesus is that rock – the veil torn asunder by the Father – and that is where He will hide us. [Tweet this] In His broken body – in His resurrected body – In HIM – Jesus is the cleft in the rock. He wants you to be hidden in Him.

I am going to take you to a place where no one can touch you. No weapon formed against you will prosper. I am a strong tower, and you are hidden in me.

Not only will you be safe, but we will be together. I am not sending you, but asking you to join me. The call is not GO away, but COME away. This is so wonderful!

Jesus says to YOU – Let me see your face, let me hear your voice. Your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. I have chills running down my spine as I hear Jesus say these words to me.

Come away with me.

Listen, do you hear it?

Come away with me.

I will hide you in the cleft of the rock.

I want to hear your voice, I want to see your face

Your face is lovely, your voice is sweet.

Ben NelsonSee you soon beloved

Ben

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