NOTEworthy July 25

I Am the Rose of Sharon

Ivo Antognini

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Song of Solomon 2:1-7

Song of Solomon. Token “spicy” book of the bible. That non sequitur book with far more written about romantic intimacy than clear spiritual doctrine. This chapter, like most others in this Song of Solomon, is one with many interpretations. Some see this text as a prophecy, with Jesus as the Lily of the Valley. I personally see this text in a more straightforward manner, with the text alternating between male and female lovers as they express their feelings for one another.

One of my favorite debates about this text has to do with verse 3, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” Apparently, in the biblical scholar world, there is debate on whether this text implies that the wedding banquet implied by this text has already happened or whether it is going to happen.

I find that ambiguity far more beautiful than the clarity either position would offer. How much more beautiful to hold onto both the spark of a new relationship and the depth of a mature partnership.

I think the very inclusion of Song of Solomon in Biblical Canon is an invitation to live our life, romantic and spiritual, a bit more that way.

Protestants like us love to turn to Paul for guidance. To be fair, he is hard to avoid. As if his New Testament ubiquity was not enough, Paul speaks in a manner that many find appealing. He speaks as a theologian in prescriptive mandates that make us feel safe if we follow them well enough. In this way, his letters are rather simple to understand, and they can make us think that God is simple to understand, too.

But Song of Solomon, Psalms, Proverbs – these books invite us to treat God as a lover, a partner, a friend. No matter how many years we’ve spent in the church, how many times we’ve read the bible cover to cover, how many Sunday School Lessons we’ve led, there is still more to learn about God.

There are banquets before us and banquets behind, but the joy of all of them is discovering even more about the God we love.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
Psalm 25:8-9

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church