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

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Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
May you come with me from Lebanon.
Journey down from the summit of Amana,
From the summit of Senir and Hermon, |
From the dens of lions,
From the mountains of leopards.

Song of Songs 4:8

From the very start, the maiden’s deepest longing was to run with her heart-throb. At first she asked from a distance in 1:4:

Draw me after you and let us run together! ~ Song of Songs 1:4 NASB

Then she saw Him from afar and longed to an active passionate relationship with Him.

There were then attempts to follow Him into ministry, into the dangerous regions.

She tried on her own and burned out.

He invited her to come with Him and she chickened out.

He has now addressed her burnout with intimacy and her fears with an overwhelming display of strength.

The great thing here is that rather than let her dream die, and leave her feeling like a failure, He keeps coming back and asking her, in each new season, “will you come with Me now?”

Jesus is calling today!

He reiterates His call to her. Come! This call is throughout the Song – Come.

Often we sit in the Church and call on Jesus to come. We invite our friends to church and hope they will come, and when they do, we hope Jesus will come, but the real fact is Jesus has called us from outside the Church and He is calling us to come to Him.

Will you Come?

Today Jesus is calling us into the dangerous world of ministry, with the dangerous task of rescuing the perishing. [Tweet This]

He invites us to run and leap in the mountains and hills with Him. He is calling us to go come out in the face of the roaring liar lion and the stalking demons leopards

This love affair I have been writing about for over a year now is not about the comfort of a love nest, but rather it is a call to partnership with a fearless Savior, one who is willing to lay down everything to rescue those under the spell of our great enemy.

Will you come?

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today

Let’s join Him today.

Ben

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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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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

 

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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