INTRODUCING THE CHALLENGE SERIES
Hi all! This here is a new series of posts, challenging you to go deeper in your relationship with God, specifically through your Bible reading.
THE SONG OF SONGS
Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices. — Song of Songs 8:14
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! — Revelation 22:20
The Song of Songs is a love song between King Solomon and his bride. As we learn in the New Testament, the church is to be the future bride of Christ. Reading the Song of Songs, as we listen in to the Shulamite and her Beloved, we find there an example of the similar affection Jesus has for His people, and the reciprocal love we are to show Him.
The challenge for this week is to read the Song of Songs from that particular perspective: that of Christ Jesus (the Beloved) and the church as His bride (the Shulamite), hoping that you find encouragement that Jesus sees you as the apple of His eye, stirring up in us a love as passionate and tender for Him!
Here is an excerpt from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, regarding this concept of the bride of Christ:
Bride of Christ
One of the New Testament metaphors for the church. In it Christ is pictured as a husband and the church as his bride.
Addressing the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul referred to himself as the one who gave the church to Christ, presenting her “as a pure bride to her one husband” (2 Cor 11:2, 3). In ancient Near Eastern culture the father gave his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom, assuring him of her purity. To Paul, understanding himself as the church’s spiritual father (1 Cor 4:15), the thought of the church as his daughter sprang readily to mind. To be Christ’s pure bride requires on the church’s part “pure and simple devotion.” Like a concerned father, Paul was worried that the young bride (the church) might commit adultery by her willingness to accept “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” or “a different gospel” (2 Cor 11:4). As between marriage partners, the relation between the church and Christ is governed by a covenant of mutual faithfulness. Disloyalty shatters the covenant.
The Old Testament furnished Paul a rich background for that image of the church. God’s covenant with Israel was commonly pictured as a marriage troth, with Israel as God’s bride. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said to Israel: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jer 2:2). He went on to lament the fact that Israel had been faithless; by going after other gods, she had actually prostituted herself and become an adulteress (3:6–9, 20).
The theme of Israel’s desertion of her lover (God) was explicitly treated in Ezekiel 16 and in Hosea. The terms “harlotry” and “whoredom” were used to connote disloyalty to Jehovah and allegiance to other gods. Thus, adultery and idolatry became synonymous. Through his own struggles with a faithless wife, the prophet Hosea experienced God’s agony over his bride Israel and his longing for her to return. Hosea was given a vision of a future day in which God would betroth his people to him forever “in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Hos 2:19, 20). That vision may have enabled Paul to transfer the image of Israel as God’s bride to the church as the bride of Christ.
In Ephesians 5:22–33 the relationship between Christ and his church is compared to the relationship between a husband and wife. The image is taken from the common understanding of the husband-wife relationship in that part of the world. The church’s submission to Christ is compared with the wife’s submission to the husband, but the stress of the passage is on the role of the husband: he is to love her “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v 25). Christ relates to the whole church on the basis of self-sacrificial love. Just as a husband is joined to his wife, with a mutual interdependence so intimate that they become one, so Christ and his church become one body (vv 28–33). As the man’s love for his wife intends her wholeness, so Christ’s love of the church intends her completeness (vv 25–27).
A variation on the theme is found in John the Baptist’s testimony to Jesus (Jn 3:29). John saw himself as “the Bridegroom’s friend” who, according to Jewish custom, takes care of the wedding arrangements. The Messiah is identified with the bridegroom to whom the bride (his messianic community) belongs and who comes to claim that bride. John may have known of a rabbinic tradition assigning the friend’s role to Moses in the “marriage” between God and Israel.
In Revelation 19 and 21 the metaphor of the church as the Messiah’s bride is further developed. The vision in Revelation 19:7, 8 announces the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) to the bride (church) who is clothed in the “fine linen, bright and pure” representing “the righteous deeds of the saints.” In Revelation 21 the vision depicts the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (v 2). Then the seer is invited to behold “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb (v 9) and to see the holy city “coming down out of heaven from God” (v 10). The “new Jerusalem” is identified as the people of God, as the bride of Christ, among whom and with whom God will be present forever.
— Manfred T. Brauch