D. A. Carson teaches on the Christian’s relationship with the Old Testament Law

I know I’ve dealt with this subject in a few places already:

But since it continues to be a hot topic (from the time of Paul until the present), I will probably keep on writing about it 🙂

In this case, I want to highly encourage people to watch D. A. Carson’s excellent teaching (“How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law?”):

It is a touch scholarly, but well worth your time and effort, in my humble opinion 🙂

Brian

Response to “Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday?”

A friend shared this with me: Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday? [13 min 19 sec].

Before I respond, I want to make sure I outline his basic premises.

He states:

  • God kept a Saturday-Sabbath in the first week of creation (Gen. 2:3).
  • God then told Israelites to “remember the Sabbath” in honor of God’s ordained Saturday-Sabbath (Exod. 16:29; 20:8-11; Lev. 23:3), which God took very seriously (Exod. 31:14-15).
  • Jesus said He didn’t come to break the Old Testament law, but on the contrary He came to fulfill it, and tells others to not break the least of the commands (Matt. 5:17-19)
  • Even Gentiles are to join the Jews in honoring the Saturday-Sabbath (Eph. 2:11-13, 19 and Isaiah 56:6-7).
  • THUS…any true Jesus follower would honor the Saturday-Sabbath (as outlined in the Old Testament)

My response:

Quite frankly, I’m sad and disappointed that this speaker is making such categorical statements when he does not seem to seriously engage the serious arguments that people (like me) would put forth for why Christians are not judged based on their observance of a Saturday (or even Sunday) Sabbath.

For instance, he states, “There’s not even a single verse in the Bible that tells us that Jesus replaced the Sabbath or became the Sabbath,” (see 8 min, 59 sec).

Yet we read things like, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink…or a SABBATH DAY. These are a SHADOW…the reality, however, is FOUND IN CHRIST.” (Col. 2:16-17).

The point of Colossians 2 is that Jesus forgave our sins by His sacrificial death AND “canceled…our legal indebtedness” at the cross. That is, what we owed God based on the Old Testament Law has now been completely fulfilled in Christ. Earlier in Colossians 2 we see people insisting on physical circumcision (as the Law prescribed). But then Paul shows that our faith in Jesus’ death and our baptism into Him is how we fulfill circumcision. By doing this we are spiritually putting to death and cutting off our sinful self (called the flesh). That is the ultimate meaning of circumcision.

Even more, he starts Col. 2:16 by saying, “THEREFORE do not let anyone judge you…” And he goes on to list out all sorts of Old Testament rituals they were formerly judged by: eating and drinking…festivals…SABBATH DAY.

Just as Jesus is our spiritual circumcision, He is also, “the reality,” (v. 17) of all these things. He is our “Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7), helping us to keep the spiritual “Festival” of Unleavened Bread by our holy lifestyle (1 Cor. 5:8). He is our Firstfruits festival (1 Cor. 15:23). And He is every other festival.

Such things were “shadows,” but Jesus is the fulfillment. In this way, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17)

And what is our work then? “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29).

In fact, Hebrews 3-4 compares this work of belief/trust in Christ’s finished work as our KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY!

From the beginning of creation, God worked, and then rested. Yet at the end of all his work, Adam and Eve were created. After God worked, they were now to rest. They rested in his finished work.

This rest was alluded to by Moses and Joshua in Israel going to the Promised Land. There, they were going to, “a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant” (Deut. 6:10-11). See the pattern? Israel didn’t work, but was going to live off of God’s labor in bringing them into something they did no work for.

But even after this, in Psalm 95 (which was written hundreds of years later), God still talks about a rest: “Today, if you hear his voice…” he offers you rest.

Hebrews 3-4 ties all of these things together:

  • The Sabbath rest of the creation week
  • The Promised Land rest
  • The rest promised in Psalm 95

And says this startling statement to Christians he is writing to: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:9-11).

The resting from our works comes through faith in Jesus alone: “Now we [Christians] who have believed enter that rest,” (Heb. 4:3). And even in the Old Testament: “they were not able to enter [the rest], because of their unbelief,” (Heb. 3:19).

This is startling. Hebrews 3-4 spells out in amazing details how our Sabbath is to believe in Jesus. We rest in His finished work. We have no more works to show our worthiness to God. But if we try to add work to this, then we are breaking the Sabbath.

Doesn’t that give such a richer context and sense of the Sabbath? It shows how sabbath really was a “shadow,” (Col. 2), while Jesus/the gospel is the “reality” or “substance” (Col. 2).

Even further, think of the context of the book of Hebrews.

This was written to Christians who were beginning to go backwards, and think they needed Jesus PLUS works of the Old Testament to satisfy God. So God comes along in Hebrews and shows how Jesus is the ULTIMATE substance of the whole Old Testament. He is better than the angels who gave the Old Testament (Heb. 1-2). He is better than Moses (Heb. 3). He is better than the weekly Sabbath (Heb. 3-4). Etc. So why are you “putzing around” trying to go back into Judaism – “let us move beyond…be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation…” (Heb. 6:1). The whole point is: don’t go back!

If you want to take 1 day (or a period of days) to rest like they did in the Old Testament Sabbath, do so. God writes: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Rom. 14:5).

The problem is that this person in this video defies God’s word here. He is not giving people the freedom in their conscience to choose which is best for them. Instead, he is bringing people back into a “must” of Judaism that Jesus fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). And those who follow Him also fulfill and go beyond by repentance and faith (and being led by the Spirit, see Gal. 4-5, for instance).

Finally, small point:

In the video he says that there is no indication early Christians celebrated on Sunday (instead of Saturday), but that’s not the case. In addition to Acts 20 (which he brought up), we also see 1 Cor. 16:2. And we have evidence (from what I recall) that VERY early on they started celebrating Sunday as “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). Later councils of the church only ratified what was already practiced.

This doesn’t mean it’s the replacement Sabbath! See above 🙂


See also Further Thoughts on the Weekly Sabbath.

Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice

I recently finished reading Thaddeus Williams’s book, Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth.

To quote the famous Christian book reviewer/blogger, Tim Challies, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth is the book I’ve been waiting for!”

I sense that many in the church have been concerned and perplexed by the growing “social justice” movement in our society. At least, I can say that I have been for these reasons (and more):

  • while “justice” is rightly seen as a biblical issue (there are 138 references to this word in the ESV), and Jesus calls it part of the, “more important matters of the law,” (Matt. 23:23)…
  • the people I saw the most vocal about “social justice”-type of issues were simultaneously professing to not be Christians (and even, in some cases, saw biblical Christianity as part of the “enemy”)
  • our society has been shown (via poll after poll after poll) to be the most biblically illiterate and god-less that the nation has ever been. Where 124 of the first 127 colleges were explicitly Christian in America (as I’ve read before), today the top colleges are quite anti-Christian (see George Yancey’s research on this, for instance). Yet this is the society that has “seen” and been “woke” to social justice issues that all other generations in America (who are more biblically literate and Christ-centered) have missed? Even more, college campuses (which are the most extreme in their anti-chrisitan ideology) are the places where the “woke” and “social justice” movements are most enlightened? Sadly, this reminds me more of Israel when it was at it’s lowest points morally saying things like, “The way of the Lord is not just,” (Eze. 18:29), and, “Where is the God of justice?” (Mal. 2:17).
  • when I’ve conversed with some (not all) who are zealous for “biblical justice,” and tried to talk through biblical justice versus the current “social justice movement,” stances, they seemed cold to me for bringing up the gospel or the Bible. Not that they disagreed with these things, they just didn’t seem as interested in talking through a gospel-centered, biblically holistic version of biblical justice. Yet the Bible teaches, “It is NOT GOOD to have zeal without knowledge…” (Prov. 19:2)
  • The modern “social justice” movement seems firmly aligned with the democratic/liberal party, at least in terms of “justice” issues. Yet this is the same party who voted to remove God from their platform and have endorsed and even celebrated abortion and infanticide (unarguably the most socially unjust things done today). Again, this just makes me suspicious that such a movement “stumbled” upon true, biblical justice in certain areas while totally missing it in other areas.

Saying all this, I’d hasten to re-state my first point: “justice” is rightly seen as a biblical issue (there are 138 references to this word in the ESV), and Jesus calls it part of the, “more important matters of the law,” (Matt. 23:23). That is, we should find a comprehensive and biblical view of justice, and seek to be “doers” not just “hearers” of true, biblical justice. Whether we feel like it or not!

With all this background, enter Thaddeus Williams’s book: Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth.

It is just the book that addresses both the “hearing” and “doing” of James 1. In other words, it seeks to faithfully hear what the Bible says about justice and challenge the reader to walk in this.

Specifically, he takes the reader through 12 questions that every Christian should ask about the social justice they are participating in:

Does our vision of social justice…

  1. take seriously the godhood of God?
  2. acknowledge the image of God in everyone, regardless of size, shade, sex, or status?
  3. make a false god out of the self, the state, or social acceptance?
  4. take any group-identity more seriously than our identities “in Adam” and “in Christ”?
  5. embrace divisive propaganda?
  6. replace love, peace, and patience with suspicion, division, and rage?
  7. prefer damning stories to undaming facts?
  8. promote racial strife?
  9. distort the best news in history?
  10. make one way of seeing something the only way of seeing everything?
  11. turn the “lived experience” of hurting people into more pain?
  12. turn the quest for truth into an identity game?

See also the trailer:

If this sounds like a book you’re interested in reading, please contact us. I’ll send a free copy to the first 3 people to write 🙂

Brian

Focus on Jesus, Not Satan

Jesus Exposes Satan, Demons, Darkness

It is inevitable that following Jesus (“the Light of the world,” John 8:12) will cause collision with Satan/darkness. Jesus’ own ministry revealed demons and Satan more than any other figure in the Bible (I believe I heard there were 60 run-ins with demons Jesus had, by one count). And Jesus himself connected the entrance of His kingdom with Spirit-led deliverance of demons (Matt. 12:28).

Further, it is to believers that God warns: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Eph. 6:12). And, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Focus on Jesus

Saying this may cause us to fear, but that’s only because our focus went in the wrong direction. It’s true that you are no match for the enemy (e.g. Psalm 18:17), but Satan is no match for Jesus/God (e.g. 1 John 4:4; Rev. 12:8). Focusing on Satan and self will inevitably bring fear, but focusing on Jesus will bring faith and boldness. Thus, Jesus/God himself says things like, “fear not, only believe,” (Mark 5:36). In fact, Richard Wumrbrand said that the phrase “Fear not” occurs 366 times in the Bible, which he (and I) surmise is so that we see that God commands us to stop fearing afresh EVERY DAY of the year (including leap years!).

In any case, consider:

  • Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” – notice you can be in the presence of enemies, and still have a banquet before the Lord. Don’t get distracted by the enemy, enjoy the banquet.
  • Psalm 110:2: God tells Jesus to, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Again, Jesus will rule. That’s a fact. And He will have enemies. God doesn’t say rule in the absence of your enemies, but “in the midst of,” them. They do not stop Jesus from focusing on his mission of ruling, nor should they cause us to stop focusing on our mission of following Him.
  • Psalm 25:15: “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” This seems a strange place to look when there is a net down at your feet! But we are to point our eyes to the Lord, despite traps around us, and He will take care of us.
  • Numbers 21 – In this episode there are lots of snakes attacking Israel. They wanted to be done with the snakes and even asked Moses to remove them. But, instead, God told Moses to hoist up a dead snake on a pole. Then, “everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live,” (v. 8). Notice the remedy? God didn’t take away the snakes in their midst. He just told them to change their focus, and look upon this dead snake on a pole. Well, guess what? In John 3:14-15, Jesus tells us: “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” The serpent dead and judged, lifted on a pole, was a picture of the work Jesus would complete on the cross. Our belief and focus on Him is like the Israelites looking up to the serpent hoisted up. When they got their attention off of the serpents attacking them at their feet, they actually had relief. We will not find relief by looking down at the serpent/Satan slithering around to attack us. Power comes from focusing up.

Confront Satan

And when it’s clear you need to confront Satan, do so with the authority of the Lord in you:

  • Acts 16:18 – “Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”
  • James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (notice the order here)

For, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4).

Only Christ & The Gospel Can Save

If the Bible is God’s authoritative word, as Jesus professes (e.g. Matt. 4:4; John 10:35), we must seriously consider all of its own claims regarding salvation.

Specifically, the Bible teaches, that, “all have sinned,” (Romans 3:23), and, “there is no one righteous,” (Romans 3:10).

Compared to God and His standard of righteousness: “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we all deserve God’s, “wrath” (Romans 1:18) and the sentence of, “death” (Romans 6:23).

However, there is 1 way out of this horrific dilemma: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:8-9).

Thus, anyone meeting God who has not received Christ’s free gift of salvation through repentance and faith in Him will have to bear the penalty that we all deserve (but that Christ graciously took on our behalf). They will die condemned and judged in their sins, receiving the just penalty that Christ would have taken on their behalf; but they rejected that offer. I take no pleasure in writing this, but pray my words may point people to Christ alone.

Objection: If this is true, isn’t God unkind and unloving?

This common objection should be seriously considered as well. Here I want to address it from 4 angles:

Angle 1: Can God Compromise Who He Is?

What if it is not a matter of choice, but of necessity, that God must punish and reject all sin from His presence?

Consider that there are things impossible for God to do. For instance, “it is impossible for God to lie,” (Heb. 6:18). And, “with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning,” (James 1:17 – meaning, He can’t change who He is).

Likewise, it says that it is impossible for light to dwell with darkness or holiness to dwell with sin (see 2 Corinthians 7).

If this is true, then it’s not a matter of God being cruel or unkind to reject and punish sin. Instead, He would cease to be God if He TOLERATED sin. It’s like us not being able to tolerate any drop of poison. It is built in to what it means to be human, and has nothing to do with us being kind or hurtful toward the poison.

Angle 2: Was God Cruel Toward Jesus?

Further, if people could be saved without Jesus having to die for their sins, wouldn’t that be cruel that God the Father forced Him to endure such a tortuous death when it was unnecessary?

Consider Matthew 26:39-44 and Luke 22:42-44, for instance, where Jesus is in agony about being crucified. He begs God the Father that, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” (Matt. 26:39).

Surely if His death and payment for sins was unnecessary for salvation, then God the Father is exceedingly cruel to make Jesus go through all that excruciating agony for nothing, isn’t He?

Angle 3: Does God Know Things About Fairness and Kindness We Don’t?

Likewise, if the Bible says clearly that God must punish sin, and that Jesus taking that punishment is the only way for sinners to be forgiven, wouldn’t it be arrogant of us to assume we have a better grasp of “fairness” and “kindness” than God Himself who is the source of fairness and kindness?

To illustrate, my kids have thought many times that things we were doing were quite “unfair.” And sometimes, though we know what we were doing was very fair, their little minds can’t comprehend the fuller picture we see, and so it’s almost impossible for us to convey the fairness of our actions to them.

How much more would there be a gap between us and God?

Thus, is it likely that our limited perspective may give us a warped and skewed view on what is truly fair and kind? If so, shouldn’t we trust God’s words and thoughts (as found in the Scriptures) over ours?

Angle 4: Has Mercy Been Shown?

Finally, if, indeed, all are unworthy to be in God’s presence, and all sin/sinners must fairly be punished for our sins, then would you agree that it is actually a MERCY that God willingly took on an “iddy-biddy” human body (like ours), lived a common life, and died a shameful, merciless, excruciating death He was never obliged to?

He would have been totally just to have all people take on the punishment themselves. But instead, He took the punishment in our place.

In light of this, wouldn’t it be cruel for us not to tell the world about this amazing offer–that ALL OUR SINS AND PUNISHMENT have been paid for in Christ?

And would it likewise be offensive toward Jesus/God for us to reject this VERY COSTLY payment made in our stead?

Love’s Longing: Song of Songs 6:4-8:14

And now we’ve reached the final installment of reflecting on Song of Songs.

To recap, we’ve seen thus far:

  1. Awakening Love: Song of Songs 1
  2. Love’s Benefits: Song of Songs 2
  3. Love Renewed: Song of Songs 3-4
  4. Love Refined: Song of Songs 5:1 – 6:3

In this final episode we will see how the bride has been transformed throughout these 8 chapters. She has paradoxically been satisfied in new ways while longing for more than she had before. Those who know Jesus will recognize that feeling: being filled with Christ yet always longing for more.

  • The King/Lover gives his fullest description of her beauty: “your feet … thighs … navel … belly … breasts … neck … eyes … nose … head … locks … stature … breasts … breath … mouth …” (7:1-9a). Earlier he could rightly speak of her beauty in Him. Now he can add more as she is becoming more beautiful and maturing more through the process (just as God says that those who are perfect in Him are YET being perfected SIMULTANEOUSLY: Heb. 10:14). This description begins with her feet. Before (in chap. 2) she was unwilling to go toward Him. But a change happened in ch. 5 where she did arise from her bed and walked toward him. Yet he was (temporarily) absent. She kept walking and would not be satisfied until she found Him. Then, upon finding Him, He begins by seeing her feet as beautiful — which also ties to our heart to seek and save the lost with Him (as will be seen later): “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom. 10:15 cf. Is. 52:7).
  • In response, she wants to satisfy His longings and desires: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” (7:10). Notice the progression: “My lover is mine and I am his” (2:16) –> “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine” (6:3) –> “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” (7:10). She increasingly is thinking less of self and more of Him, and how to satisfy Him.
  • Now, she is the one telling Him to “Come,” with her (7:11). Specifically, she wants to go with Him to look for new life. In the wake of new life, “There I will give you my love,” (7:12). She recognizes that this new life is the only thing that satisfies Him. She wants to find it in herself and in others, and wherever they find it together, she wants to offer it to Him: “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15) “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Rom. 6:13).
  • In 8:1-3 she is looking for new ways to more fully express her love for Him. For instance, if they were brother and sister they could have openly kissed (though obviously not in a passionate way) without anyone thinking twice about it. She senses the confines of the state they are currently in. Like the bride of Christ who is betrothed to Him, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1 Pet. 1:8). In other words, we love what we know of Him. We were given the down-payment of His Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13). Yet we still groan to be more completely with Him (see 2 Cor. 5:1-9).
  • In 8:5 we have the 2nd mention of one coming from the wilderness. The first time was Solomon on his wedding day (see 3:6). There we only saw Him coming in full power, with a place of rest prepared for His beloved who would sit and yet travel with power with Him (see 3:9-10). Now we have the bride herself joining Solomon as one coming out of the wilderness (just as God’s people, Israel, were also taken by Him out of the wilderness; Exodus – Deut). But notice that she is “leaning on her beloved” (8:5). This is the ultimate maturity. Not greater independence from God, but greater DEPENDENCE on God. We are the “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7) who must rely on our Husband, Christ to bring us out of the wilderness of sin, Satan, and darkness.
  • 8:6 recounts her earlier beginnings with Him (compare 2:3).
  • She now has seen the power of Christ’s love toward her, that it is more trustworthy and powerful than any force against her (8:6-7, compared with Rom. 8:38-39).
  • As a more mature bride, she is able to counsel others who are also developing in their love (8:8-9).
  • It is good to be a wall toward all other lovers, instead of a door (8:8-10). In such a way we keep our spiritual, “marriage bed…undefiled,” (Heb. 13:4).
  • She recognizes that ALL of her fruit belongs to Solomon: “you, O Solomon, may have the thousand [pieces of silver],” (8:12a). The worth of the entire vineyard is “a thousand pieces of silver” (v. 11), and she sees that it all belongs to Him.
  • She also sees that there is value in others helping to steward and guard our fruit to be kept for Christ alone, and not given to false lovers (think of overseers, or people discipling others): “the keepers of the fruit two hundred,” (8:12b). These are like the ones guarding their little sister (8:8). The bride recognizes the value they play in helping give the full increase to Christ (typified by Solomon). What’s interesting is that when someone takes what doesn’t belong to them, they are supposed to return the full value of it, and, “add a fifth to it,” (Lev. 6:5). In like manner, it seems, the bride is recognizing that her/our vineyard never belonged to us. We trespassed in using it on our own, for our own purposes (compare Song of Songs 1:6). So she, under conviction of this sin, sees that the full value should be given to Him who owns the vineyard, and then adds a fifth to it, for those helping Solomon get the full fruit He is due (compare Lev. 6 – “trespass offering”).
  • Finally, He prods her to say one more thing to Him (8:13), and the last words she speaks to Him are the sweetest yet: “Make haste, my beloved,” (8:14). These match, precisely, the last words of the Bride (in cooperation with God’s Spirit) at the end of the Bible: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.'” (Rev. 22:17).

Thus, she ends her journey as a matured bride: (A) recognizing the value of those tending to the next generation of brides (8:8 cf. 8:12b), (B) Speaking wisdom to the next generation of brides (8:10), (C) seeing that her Lover/King/Christ deserves the full increase of his fruit in us (8:12), and (D) being fully in love with Him, left longing for more (8:14).

May it be Lord Christ – “Make haste, our beloved…Come.” (Song of Songs 8:14; Rev. 22:17).

Love Refined: Song of Songs 5:1 – 6:3

So far we’ve covered:

Now we come to a point where the King leads his beloved into a time of darkness, trials, and separation–with the result of refining and maturing her love for Him in the end:

  • The fruit produced by the bride satisfies the King, and others (in that order; 5:1). Just as the greatest commands are to (1) love the Lord, and (2) love others (in that order–in fact, we are to love God with “all” our heart, so only when we give “all” to Him are we granted abundance of love/fruit to share with others).
  • She excitedly follows her Lover into the “night,” where he had (temporarily), “left” her on her own (5:2-6)
  • The watchmen who are posted to help her, and previously did so (3:3-4), turn against her (5:7). And her friends who formerly encouraged her in Him (1:4b) now question his worthiness (5:9). Like the woman anointing Jesus before his burial amidst scorn from his apostles (Mark 14:1-9), or Job worshiping God when his wife and friends discourage him, or Paul following Him when, “everyone deserted me,” (2 Tim. 4:16), or Jesus Himself obediently dying on the Cross when, “all the disciples deserted Him and fled,” (Matt. 26:56)…there comes a time when Jesus will call us into new levels of obedience that will be discouraged by those around us–even persecuted by those who have helped us previously and we have respected. He is looking to see if we love Him alone. If we trust Him alone. He leads us into these times of darkness to refine our love for Him.
  • This questioning and hurt caused her to consider afresh Jesus/the King directly. Specifically, she had a new appreciation and revelation of His beauty and worthiness: “My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head…his hair…his eyes…his cheeks…his lips…his arms…his body…his legs…his appearance…his mouth…” (5:10-16a). Everything about Him is beautiful, precious, and worthy. Even when He Himself leads you into a cold, dark night where you are beaten and all around you question the value of your lover…He is more than worthy. The key is to re-focus your gaze on Him. Just as the book of Revelation begins with a vision of Christ, and each church sees glimpses of this picture before they are told how to walk in His ways, so all Christian progress (and endurance) comes from a fixation and revelation of Christ. You will not be able to reject the wine of this world without a revelation of the one whose, “love is more delightful than wine,” (1:2). Similarly, you will not endure to the end by sheer will power. It comes through a fixation on Him and his worthiness. From that point obedience follows. Thus…
  • At the end of her revelation of His beauty, she calls Him, “my lover…my friend,” (5:16). Note that Jesus says his friends: “do what I command,” and have special revelation of Him and his purposes (John 15:14-15). To see Him as friend means we see Him as one to be obeyed while also having intimate knowledge of Him that a servant does not. In the case of the beloved, her intimate knowledge and revelation of His worthiness leads her into such a friendship.
  • Then, remarkably, after enduring this cold and harsh night, once she gains new revelation of His beauty and worth, she ALSO supernaturally knows where to find Him. Specifically, she now recognizes that He can be found looking for the fruit from us that is rightfully His: “My lover has gone down to HIS garden.” (6:1-2).
  • Finally, notice how her view of their relationship has shifted and matured. When the love was more self-focused, she firstly saw her Lover as hers to be possessed: “My lover is mine and I am his” (2:16). But NOW…after the dark night of wandering…after being beaten…after being questioned…after her Lover is de-valued by her friends…THEN she saw his worthiness and beauty anew…THEN she knew where to find Him…and THEN, she rightfully saw that she had it all backwards. NOW she says: “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine” (6:3). We firstly are here to satisfy Him. Then, afterward, when we take such a view, He will also satisfy us in ways that will make our self-centered concept of love seem silly and small (compare Luke 17:8 and 1 Cor. 7:4 where a similar truth is shown).

There is even yet more maturing to happen in the final chapters. Stay posted, and by God’s mercy I pray that everyone reading these posts will experience at least a measure of such love themselves from our Lover, “Jesus Christ,” who, “is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Heb. 13:8).

Brian

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

2:17

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.