I’m going to start by saying this: I love a good love story.
The culture-driven side of me tells me I should be ashamed in my admitting this. I am a guy, after all, and culture has told me that one of the chief and defining goals of masculinity is to bottle up one’s emotions so as to give off what I can only assume is supposed to be an intimidating or perhaps somehow appealing (?) aura. Yet another side of me tells me the opposite: it tells me that man and woman alike were wired to express love above all else, and it tells me that I should be unashamed in expressing that which I’m designed to express. Hence why I have decided to not be ashamed: I love romance.
And perhaps it is for this reason that Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs, as many might know it) is one of my favorite books of the Bible.
Song of Songs is a controversial one, that’s for sure. Many churches seem to write it off as taboo given the blatant eroticism lying within many of its flowery and extravagant metaphors, but then there are others who have compared it to the Holy of Holies, the sacred dwelling place of God that only the high priest could enter. Even the Jewish rabbis of old made this comparison, so keep that in mind: just as the Holy of Holies lie in the center of the temple, Solomon’s song is found in the middle Bible, sandwiched between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah – the meaning of life on one side and prophecies of the coming King who will provide such meaning on the other.
If you can’t tell already, I fall into the category of people who think the book is something beyond extraordinary. Though the name of God is mentioned not even once, I believe it tells the best love story ever told, drawing home the true meaning of romance by displaying how a proper relationship should go. Its literal interpretation teaches of the ideal relationship between a man and a woman, while its allegorical interpretation preaches of the divine love affair between mankind and God.
All of this being said, I came across a pretty interesting realization recently, and I realized that there’s a question about Song of Solomon that definitely needs to be answered…
Why is there no wedding scene?
I’ve read the Song cozens of times, but it wasn’t until I was leading my Bible study through it just yesterday that the revelation truly hit me. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that there’s no wedding at all, but instead pointing out that the whole “You may kiss the bride” moment is strangely absent from the narrative of the text. There’s this huge build-up to the wedding in chapters 1-3 as we follow the couple through the stages of flirting, courtship, and engagement, culminating in this huge wedding procession in the last six verses of the third chapter. Yet by the time we hit chapter 4, the couple has already retreated to the bed chambers to…consummate their relationship.
So what’s the deal? The greatest love story ever yet we don’t even get to see the big moment? As I came across this realization, the hopeless romantic in me nearly had a heart attack. But then an even greater bombshell hit me, and so I decided to write a blog post about what happens in between chapters 3 and 4.
Yep, you read that right: You are reading a blog that’s literally based on reading between the lines.
You see, after much thought, I came up with two reasons why the wedding scene is absent, as best I can deduce. I will remind you that I’m just a 19-year old college kid with limited seminary experience, so take my two-cents with a grain of salt:
First, I believe that the moment of marriage is one that defies explanation, explaining first and foremost why the scene is absent from the Song of Solomon narrative. I mean, just think about the emotion behind that moment: man and woman coming together, families being united, responsibilities being accepted, blessings and privileges blossoming…what words can describe that moment? Given the flowery language of Solomon’s song, I have a feeling that even attempting to capture such a moment would induce enough chapters to put the book of Psalms to shame. If we look at marriage as a parallel with Christian conversion, I think the same can be true: Who can describe such ecstasy?
Second – and this is my driving point – I think it’s important to note that we shouldn’t need the wedding scene. In all honesty, I’ve already proven this point when I made mention of the fact that there was obviously a wedding despite the fact that the wedding didn’t happen before our eyes. At the end of chapter 3 it talks about Solomon’s wedding day, and then chapter 4 starts with the couple getting ready for sex. Chapters 1-3 present the Shulammite woman as a poor girl falling for some shepherd boy, whereas 4-8 present her as a queen, having married that shepherd boy who was in fact a king the entire time – Solomon, the king of Israel, in fact. Without seeing the “kiss the bride” moment, the marriage is so extremely evident so that there is no question that it happened. We saw the preparation, we saw the excitement, and we see the aftermath, hence why it took me a dozen readings through the Song before I even realized that the wedding itself isn’t described. The language of their love is so evident that where they stand in their relationship is never left to question.
How beautiful is that?
I want to take a theological approach to this, however, because that’s where the flower truly begins to blossom. It’s no secret that since the beginning of time marriage has been meant to serve as a picture of the church (Bride) and Christ (Groom), so let’s zoom out and see what this revelation tells us:
Just as the Shulammite falls for Solomon throughout the opening chapters of the song, the unbeliever begins by simply flirting with the idea of God. They see the appeal and start showing interest, just as is the story of Song of Solomon in the first two chapters. The unbeliever begins to casually “date” God, perhaps attending church occasionally and beginning to entertain the idea of worship, trying to decide if it is something they want to commit to. Then things begin to get serious as they teeter on the edge of belief – this is the courtship of Solomon and the Shulammite, detailed in the first five verses of chapter 3.
Then comes that fateful moment, 3:6-11: before the unbeliever even realizes what is happening, the Groom comes to claim His Bride. The pieces all fall into place as the Bride realizes that the shepherd she fell in love with was in fact more than that: a king. The Good Shepherd is realized as the King of Kings.
And now comes the time for me to present a challenge to you. As I mentioned earlier, the moment of conversion is one that defies explanation; it is the most important decision one can make, yet that exact moment of marriage is not clearly defined – is it at the “I do” or at the kiss? (I guess it would be the “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”) My point is this: In the same way that we don’t need that wedding scene, people shouldn’t need to know your moment of conversion.
…BUT IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS THAT THE WEDDING HAPPENED.
This is so, so important, my friends. Just as we don’t need to read of that kiss to infer that Solomon and the Shulammite are married, people shouldn’t need to ask, “Is *insert your name here* a Christian?” They should be able to tell just by looking at you! The metaphorical ring should be boldly placed on your finger, leaving no one to question where your allegiance lies. You have married the King of all kings, so remember that you are royalty now! Your love for the Shepherd should shine so bright that nobody needs to see the wedding scene to know that it happened. We are called to be the light of the world, but how can a light shine if you are trying to cover up the source that light, He who lives within you?
In a marital covenant, husband and wife come together to become one flesh, living together in each other’s near-constant presence in both sickness and in health, loving each other with that ahava, “I’m not going anywhere” kind of love. They reflect each other’s qualities, they seem to run on the same wavelength, and they go to each other to voice what’s going on in their lives. They are in constant communication, they long for each other, and even when they are away from one another, the other’s influence on their life is evident in the very way they carry themselves, the things that they talk about.
Is this not how we should be with God?
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…the Church loves speaking of Jesus as our heavenly Groom, but so many of us fail to live like we’re married. We go to church on Sunday, feel inspired for a few hours afterwards, and then fall back into our same old habits, unchanged from the viewpoint of the outside world. We read our Bible in the mornings, feel this inner peace form inside of us, and then go out into the public and let that peace fade away at the first moment of strife. We have that relationship with God, but it definitely doesn’t seem like a marriage – it seems more like an allotted time set aside for Him, and then you go back out into the “real” world.
This isn’t how it should be! If we are going to treat our relationship with God like a marriage, then we need to start living with Him. It shouldn’t be a presence that fades away the moment some outside thing challenges us – it should be a light so bright that not even the blackest darkness can muffle its gleam.
And this is, in the end, my challenge to you: Don’t leave your faith up to question. If people have to ask whether or not you are a Christian, I’d argue that you are doing the whole “Christian thing” wrong. Salvation is a product of grace and not of works, but if you have a relationship with God, then I would say that works should be a natural by-product of that relationship. To experience such grace and happiness…shouldn’t you be bursting at the edges to go and share that gift with the people around you? Be a light to the world, shining bright amidst all the surrounding darkness like a lighthouse before a stormy sea. You have been saved by grace, granted salvation by a God who loves us despite all our shortcomings. Despite our lowly state, the King has come for us in the grandest of wedding processions, and He has welcomed us into His kingdom “on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced” (Song of Songs 3:11, NIV). So go share the news! There are plenty of Shulammites out there in desperate search for their Solomon, and you can be the friend who introduces them to the love of their life. Let your life and your words be the proof of your marriage: let the wedding band on your finger gleam in the sunlight! Stop being a pocket Christian and let your voice be heard – let the joy of Jesus Christ be like a walking infomercial for our faith. When people see you, they should say, “Dang, I want to be like that.”
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:13-16, ESV
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post encouraging you to start #LivinLikeMary, but now I want to change that a bit: it’s time to start #LivinLikeYou’reMarried. Let your light shine bright, my friends, and start living with that constant remembrance that Christ is your Groom and you should reflect His loving nature and attitude in your day-to-day life, serving as an ambassador of His love to all those in the surrounding darkness. Be unashamed and unafraid, boldly and loudly declaring that you have married Him who your soul desires.