The Song of Solomon is a love song between lovers and for lovers. Perhaps it was a play or designed to be dramatically played before others. Perhaps it was designed for the king’s courtiers as entertainment. Perhaps it is a record of poems between two lovers. However we explain its original context, its rhetoric and poetry evoke even to this day what love is.
I thought I’d record some initial suggestions today about what love is like from this great Song of Songs.
First, love leads lovers to poetic expression. Simply saying “I love you” isn’t always enough — sometimes the poetic fire flashes and the lover must erupt into evocative language: “Tell me, my soul’s beloved, where do you graze?” (1:7) Now she could have asked “What is your address?” No, she evokes his earthy vocation along with his sexual energy and we are left wondering what she means. That’s poetry.
Second, love leads lovers to delight in one another. As I read the Song I am continually impressed with their delight in one another — they’ve got something between them no one else knows and something no one else can share. Their eyes are attached; their hearts yearn for and know one another; what they share is theirs and theirs alone. They bring one another deep pleasures and joys.
Third, love leads lovers to playfulness with one another. If you get too serious and too reverent with the Song of Songs you’ll ruin it — it records delightful linguistic play between two lovers. I love the question of 1:7 because of the response it gets in 1:8 — and I tend to think the response is said by the women of Jerusalem — they women/chorus say what is obvious: “You want to know where your man will be at midday? Well, think about it Ms. Beautiful. He’s a shepherd. He’ll be where the sheep are.” I think this is playful; it’s not directions for a lost lover.
Fourth, love leads lovers to trustful words. She sticks her neck out; he does too. The choir participates in the trusting relationship. They say things to one another that are vulnerable, risky, and heart-felt — for words like this to work the listener must not only delight in such words, but the listener must be ready to come back with words as delightfully trustful and vulnerable.
And what to do if you and your lover are not right now capable of this? Seek help. Talk to one another. Begin small. Start yourself being a listener to the vulnerable word and one that cultivates such vulnerability rather than one who tramples on the vulnerable word. And if your lover tramples? Seek help … and at the same time never trample back. Listen and love and hope and … pray.