Love Renewed: Song of Songs 3-4

Last we left our bride and King, she seemed dismissive of His pleas to follow Him and tend their vineyard, while still longing to receive all the benefits of their relationship.

Thus, Ch. 2 ends with her saying:

Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved


See the 2 previous episodes to catch up to speed:

Now, let’s consider the broad story of Chs. 3 & 4:

  • The King is distant from her throughout the night (3:1)
  • She decides to search for him (3:2)
  • She inquires of those watching over the city; similar, perhaps, to us seeking out leaders when the Lord seems absent (“they are keeping watch over your souls,” Heb. 13:17) (3:3)
  • Though she finds her love shortly after encountering the watchmen, she also moves past the watchmen, to embrace Him directly (3:4a). If the watchmen represent our leaders, this is a warning to utilize their wisdom, yet we also need to encounter the Lord for ourselves (not in proxy of our leaders).
  • From here, she goes to 2 beginnings:
    • The beginning of her life, with a focus on her mother (“I had brought him to my mother’s house, the room of the one who conceived me,” 3:4) – here she is recalling the source and beginning of her life.
    • Their wedding day, with a focus on her husband (3:6-10) – here there is focus on the source and beginning of her marriage
    • In Revelation 2:4-5, those who, “abandoned the love [for Christ] you had at first,” were told to, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” And in Galatians they were warned of beginning in the Spirit, but now going astray by the flesh. Again, Paul calls them back to their beginning in the Lord (Gal. 3:1-5). A similar warning and call comes in Ezekiel 16. There, God shows how far astray they had gone, and calls them back to their humble beginnings of grace. All to say, God’s answer for re-invigorating and course-correcting is often to go back to the beginning of your life and romance with Him, focused especially on Him and His work in bringing you into new life. “For whoever lacks these qualities [of growth in Christ] is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Pet. 1:9)
  • After a focus on Him as the beginning of her new life (3:6-10), the King washes, cleanses, and calls her to action by His words toward her (4:1-15), even saying, “there is no flaw in you,” (4:7)!
    • Note the parallel of Ephesians 5:25-27: (1) The relationship begins with Christ and His sacrifice: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (2) It then moves to Him cleansing her by His words: “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Of course, this perfection is only possible through Christ’s sacrifice. It is, “in Him,” alone that we are forgiven and seen as flawless before God: “You, who once were alienated…doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you HOLY AND BLAMELESS…” (Col. 1:21-22). Much of the New Testament is spent explaining this truth. In fact, it is found at the beginning of virtually every letter of Paul’s: You are totally perfected in Christ. And, FROM THAT UNDERSTANDING, you are now called to walk out in the new life He has given you. In like manner, Song of Songs 4:1-15 seems a fresh calling of her new beauty (that comes after a consideration of the Husband’s glory on their wedding day, 3:6-10). We must be told and re-told this glorious gospel. THEN, we will walk in power with the Lord. Though 1 more thing is also needed…
  • There must be a movement of the Holy Spirit within us: “Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden…” (4:16a). At the birth of the church, the Holy Spirit had to descend, “like a mighty rushing wind,” (Acts 2:1-4). Thus, just as Paul’s letters begin with the declaration of our perfection IN CHRIST’s finished work (like Song of Songs 4:1-15), so they proceed to talk about, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Col. 1:27). In other words, Christ indwelling us by his Holy Spirit, to grow in fruit to Him (Gal. 5:22-24; compared with Song of Songs 4:16). Only as we grasp those 2 realities: (1) our perfection in Christ and his sacrifice, (2) Christ’s Spirit living in us, will we be equipped to be a well-pleasing garden for the Lord: “Do you not know that all of us…were baptized into his death.” “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” (Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 6:19). Much loss has come due to lack of a revelation of these 2 things.
  • The results? She is now prepared to give freely of herself to her Lover (in contrast to the more self-centered love we saw in 2:16-17): “Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” (4:16b)

Love’s Benefits: Song of Songs 2

In our previous episode, we saw the beginning of love and romance between the King and his beloved (see Awakening Love: Song of Songs 1).

Now, in Song of Songs 2:

  1. She feels un-special in herself (“I am…a lily of the valleys.” 2:1)
  2. He teaches her that there is new life in her that sets her apart from the cursed world (“As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.” 2:2, compare Gen. 3:18 – curse = thorns and thistles)
  3. He, unlike all others, has legitimate food and good things for her to receive (“As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men…his fruit was sweet…He brought me to the banqueting house…raisins…apples…” 2:3-5)
  4. He is drawing her attention toward him (“His left hand is under my head,” 2:6a)
  5. He is drawing her being toward him (“his right hand embraces me!” 2:6b)
  6. This love cannot be imitated or manufactured (2:7)
  7. She sees the overcoming life in Him (2:8)
  8. He calls on her to draw near to Him, explaining that death and darkness has been overcome for them both (“My beloved speaks…’Arise, my love,’…the winter is past…flowers appear…the fig tree ripens…” 2:10-14)
  9. He calls on her to confront what threatens fruitfulness (“Catch the foxes…that spoil the vineyards…” 2:15)
  10. At this time, her main focus is on the benefits of his love (“My beloved is mine…” 2:16)
  11. And thus she is not yet willing to join Him where He has called her; she is waiting for a more “opportune” time (“Turn, my beloved…” 2:17)

Note that in 2:16 she says: “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Whereas later, when she matures some, she reverses the order: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” (6:3). At this point in ch. 2, she is looking primarily to the benefits of His love, but seems unwilling to fully invest herself toward Him.

Stick around for how He changes all that.

Awakening Love: Song of Songs 1

Meditating afresh on Song of Songs 1, I was struck by the awesome parallels between the bride’s burgeoning relationship with the King, and the beginning of our relationship (and romance!) with the Lord.


  1. She starts by talking with others about her longing for Him (“Let him kiss me;” 1:2a)
  2. Then she talks directly to Him about this longing (“your love is better…” 1:2b)
  3. Though she wants to follow Him, she needs Him to carry her; she lacks power in herself (“Draw me after you;” 1:4a)
  4. The King immediately draws her into intimacy and nearness with Him (“The king has brought me into his chambers.” 1:4b)
  5. As she draws toward His presence, she perceives how unworthy she is compared to Him. His light reveals her darkness (“I am very dark…Do not gaze at me…my own vineyard I have not kept!” 1:5-6)
  6. Yet she also knows she is loved in Him (“I am…lovely,” 1:5)
  7. She wants to be beautiful for Him, and asks how (“Tell me…where you pasture your flock…why should I be like one who veils herself…” 1:7).
  8. Though He knows she is dark in herself, He also finds her desire to follow Him beautiful (“most beautiful among women” 1:8)
  9. He tells her to (A) follow those who have gone before her in His ways (i.e. be discipled by true followers of Jesus), and (B) pass this on to those she shepherds (i.e. disciple others) (“follow in the tracks of the flock and pasture your young goats…” 1:8)

If such a love for the Lord seems foreign or long ago to you, I implore:

  • “The report was true that I heard in my own land…I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me.” (1 Kings 10:6-7 – the Queen of Sheba says of Solomon; but it finds its ultimate fulfillment in us adoring Christ, see Matt. 12:42)
  • “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)
  • “I [Jesus] have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Rev. 2:4-5)

Strive To Rest

The book of Hebrews is an urgent appeal for Christians to NOT GO BACKWARDS in their pursuit of God. Namely, don’t go back to trying to be righteous through works of the Old Covenant. Instead, know that Christ has fulfilled the Law / Old Covenant.

Following Him supersedes following the Old Covenant rules and regulations. Christ is greater than angels (ch. 1-2), greater than Moses (ch. 3), greater than any high priest (ch. 5), and is Himself the beginning of a new covenant built on Him as the Only High Priest (ch. 7), etc. In all this, Christ/Christianity is shown superior to the Old Covenant of following God.

And in Heb. 3-4, we see that Christ is greater than a regular sabbath rest (another staple of the Old Covenant). Instead, faith in Him brings God’s people into a permanent rest from all other efforts of righteousness. And that is the TRUE SABBATH:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, strive to enter that rest, so that no one will perish…

(Heb. 4:10-12)

After saying this, God continues to plead with these Christians NOT to mix faith in Jesus WITH Old Covenant works in order to fulfill righteousness and follow God. Instead, to those tempted to go backwards to attain righteousness through works of the law:

  • “let us hold fast our confession [that faith in Jesus is sufficient to approach God]” (Heb. 4:14)
  • “go on to maturity,” (Heb. 6:1)
  • “It is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened…and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance,” (Heb. 6:4-6)

Then he continues his argument with Abraham (see Heb. 6:11-20).

Here he explains that Abraham inherited the promise, “through faith and patience,” (Heb. 6:12). Not faith PLUS works. Rather: faith PLUS patience.

This formula of faith PLUS patience (over faith PLUS works) becomes even more startling when contrasting the mistake Abraham made before he received his promised child (Isaac) through faith and patience. Namely, he first trusted in his own works to attain God’s declared promise. He set out to fulfill God’s righteousness through his own works, and produced Ishmael (Gen. 15-16).

This Ishmael would later antagonize the promised Isaac (Gen. 21:9; Gal. 4:29). And in Gal. 4:24-31, Paul sets these 2 sons as pictures of something much greater:

  • Ishmael = Israel after the flesh, trying to work out their own righteousness
  • Isaac = God’s people after the spirit/promise, who trust and rest in God’s word and righteousness alone

So, today, when God tells us to rest in His finished work, we must STRIVE to stop working for our righteousness. It will go against the first instinct in you. This prideful striving to prove our righteousness is the basis of every religion except true, biblical Christianity. But we must press on by resisting to trust in our flesh and works. We must be as one who, “rests from their works,” and, thereby, “strive to enter the rest,” (Heb. 4:11).

And the kicker is, when we trust in God’s righteousness in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection ALONE for our righteousness, we will end up doing FAR MORE true and right works for the living God than if we start with a trust in faith PLUS works.

Consider the outcome of Abraham’s promise (Isaac) who was attained through faith AND patience (alone):

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.

James 2:21-23

And those works/actions will happen without us even realizing it many times (Matt. 25:37-40). They are the testimony of God’s life in all of us who trust in Jesus ALONE for our righteousness. So we can join Abraham in inheriting our promise through faith AND patience.


Scripture or Christian Leaders: What is our Authority?

Here is a non-exhaustive survey of God consistently exalting Scripture as the HIGHEST authority.

King God

1 Samuel 8 – Israel rejected God by wanting a human king to rule over them. They said, “Now make us a king to judge us LIKE ALL THE NATIONS,” and, “the LORD said to Samuel, ‘…they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them,'” (verses 5-7).

In contrast, God desired Israel to “keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…that you may not mix with these nations…” (Josh. 23:6-7).

God’s way = follow His word, go to Him directly, and be distinct from the nations.

Israel’s way = follow the nations by having a man over them.

Scripture Over Kings, Prophets, Judges, Priests

The anointed leaders of the Old Testament were: kings, prophets, judges, priests.

However, when those leaders taught things contrary to God and His words (which did happen), the people were NOT TO FOLLOW them.


  • Kings: Exodus 1:17; 1 Kings 18:3-4
  • Prophets: Deuteronomy 13:1-5
  • Judges: Judges 8:22-27
  • Priests: Numbers 16

Jesus’ Teaching and Example

Here are examples from reading over only 1 gospel (Matthew’s):

  • Matt. 4:4-11 – Jesus appeals to Scripture alone as final authority when confronted and tested by Satan (“It is written” – vv.4,7,11). Note: the authority most recognized by Jesus and Satan was the written Word of God
  • Matt. 7:29 – Jesus’ words were considered authoritative, whereas those in “positions of religious authority” were not
  • The official and authoritative Jewish leaders of that time: taught that Jesus was from Satan (Mt. 12:24), were “blind” (Mt. 15:14), tested Jesus (Mt. 22:34-35), mocked Jesus (Mt. 27:41-43), plotted Jesus’ death (Mt. 12:14; 26:3-4,15,47; 27:1), etc.
  • Mt. 12:1-8 – these Jewish leaders condemned Jesus and disciples for not following their tradition and interpretation of the Bible
    • 12:3-7 – Jesus rebuked them by quoting 3 passages of Scriptures as His authority (“have you not read” – vv. 3, 5)
  • Mt. 15:1-9 – Jesus plainly taught that Scriptures have authority over religious leaders and traditions
    • 15:1-2 – religious leaders and traditions condemned Jesus and disciples (note: the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that Moses delivered 2 laws to Moses, and both were perfectly preserved: (1) written law, (2) oral traditions later recorded by religious leaders. They were condemning him on the basis of one of these “oral traditions,” but Jesus showed that the Scriptures have authority over that. See the respected Albert Barnes on this note.
    • 15:3-6 – Jesus says that the Scriptures hold authority over religious leaders and their traditions
    • 15:9 – Jesus calls the traditions of the religious leaders “commandments of men”
  • Mt. 16:6,11-12 – Jesus specifically warned His disciples to NOT FOLLOW the teachings of those in current positions of religious authority
  • Mt. 21:33-45 –
    • 21:33 – the “vinedressers” were appointed by God, and represented the Jewish leaders throughout history, including Jewish leaders of that day (cf. 21:45)
    • 21:34 – the “servants” were sent by God and actually had His words (think Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.)
    • 21:34-41 – “authoritative” Jewish leaders have rejected God’s word through His prophets and His Son, and will be destroyed if they do not repent
  • Mt. 22:29 – Jesus says the reason the religious authorities err is firstly because they did not know, follow, and teach the Scriptures
  • Mt. 22:34-46 – Jewish leaders continually test Jesus, but He consistently appeals to the authority of the Scriptures and rebukes them for not appealing to this same authority
  • Mt. 23 – Jesus rebukes the official and current religious leaders, saying: They love being called “teacher” and”father” (vv.6-10), they are hypocrites who do not enter God’s kingdom (v.13), they make pretense in long prayers (v.14), they do missionary work, but are “sons of hell” (v.15), they are “blind guides” (v.16), they are”fools and blind” (v.17), they outwardly appear righteous (v.28), they are “serpents, brood of vipers!” who are condemned to hell (v.33)
  • Mt. 26:57-68 – the high priest (who was anointed as “the” leader and even received true words from God, see John 11:49-52) condemned Jesus to death and accused Him of blasphemy

Scripture Has Higher Authority Than The 12 Apostles

All 12 apostles were wrong in their beliefs about Jesus and obedience to Him (Mt. 26:8). All 12 apostles left Him at His greatest time of need (Mt. 26:56). All 12 opposed Jesus’ purposes at times (see Mt. 26:8-9, for instance).

Judas Iscariot — had an “apostolic ministry,” (Acts 1:25), was appointed by Jesus as 1 of the 12 apostles (Mark 3:13-19), was commissioned by Jesus to “preach” (Mk. 3:14), and empowered to heal and deliver from demons (Mk. 3:15). YET…Judas had Satan enter into him (Jn. 13:27), and led a crowd in betraying Jesus (Luke 22:47-48; Acts 1:16), committing horrible wickedness (Acts 1:18).

Peter — “appointed” as an apostle (Mk. 3:14-16), given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 16:18), an “elder” of the church (1 Pet. 5:1). YET…spoke false things about Christ (Mt. 16:22), Jesus called him,”Satan…an offense to Me…not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men,” (Mt. 16:23), denied Jesus (Mt. 26:34), disbelieved and disagreed with Jesus’ words (Mt. 26:35), disobeyed the Lord (Mt. 26:40), taught others wrongly and compelled them to play the hypocrite (Gal. 2:11-14 – note that Barnabas and others were rebuked for following Peter here).

John — an apostle (Mk. 3:14-17)…writes to all believers “you do not need that anyone teach you,” (1 Jn. 2:27), quotes Jesus commending Ephesian believers because, “you have tested those who say they are apostles” (Rev. 2:2), and says, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits…many false prophets have gone out into the world,” (1 Jn. 4:1)

Paul — appointed by Jesus as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8)…writes: “If we [apostles] or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8), and, “Test all things,” (1 Thes. 5:21). (See more of Paul’s words below).

Peter, Paul, and Barnabas — all appointed as apostles (Mark 3:14-16; Acts 14:14)…BUT, when they presented doctrine inspired by the Holy Spirit, the church leaders did not initially accept it as certain. Only after James pointed out the Scriptures did they receive it as truth (Acts 15).


Antichrist in the Scriptures is depicted as someone who comes from within the church (1 Jn. 2:18-19), appearing as a leader in the church (2 Thes. 2:4), looking like Jesus (Rev. 13:11), but is a “false prophet,” (Rev. 19:20), whose words are from Satan (Rev. 13:11). In fact, Judas (a true apostle chosen by Jesus) is linked as a type for Antichrist (compare John 17:12 with 2 Thes. 2:3). With this in mind, we should never trust someone on the basis of their “apostolic” status alone, but must use Scripture as the standard to see if they are speaking truth.

Don’t “Think Beyond What is Written”

In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebuffs the Corinthian Christians for making too much of the apostles and their wisdom. He writes, “I planted, Apollos watered…neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase…Let no one boast in men,” (1 Cor. 3:6-7,21). And then he explains: “These things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written,” (1 Cor. 4:6). In other words, the Scriptures they wrote hold authority, but any “wisdom” and words they share beyond “what is written,” does not hold the same authority, and the Corinthians were rebuked for making too much of these.

Ephesian Elders

In Acts 20, Paul addresses the Ephesian church leaders and says: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church…after my departure savage wolves will come in AMONG YOU…from AMONG YOURSELVES MEN WILL RISE UP, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch…” (Acts 20:28-31). Deception would come from among the Holy Spirit ordained church leaders. Not outside of them.

Noble Bereans

Acts 17:11 says, “These Jews [Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word [of Paul and Silas] with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They are called “noble” for examining and testing the words of the apostles by comparing them with the Scriptures daily.

Paul’s Last Words

Consider some of the last words Paul writes in the New Testament: “the Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation…All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be COMPLETE, THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED for EVERY GOOD WORK….Preach THE WORD!…For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…” (2 Timothy 3:15-4:3). According to this, the Scripture makes a man (or woman, by extension), “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Thus, if there is any truly “good work” God is calling you to do, and it is not supported somewhere in the Bible, Paul and God are liars according to this passage.