28 May 2016

Stone 21 - Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs

Last week we looked at Proverbs and a very brief look at the wisdom found there. This week we will cover two books as part of our attempt to get through 66 books in 52 weeks. This will also wrap up the five books that make up the wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs).

A short, seemingly cynical book with a powerful message. This book begins with the claim that everything is futile (Ecc 1:2). We also will find several references to a "chasing after the wind". The author takes a look at several things and finds them to be meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Wisdom - Ecc 1:16-17
Pleasure - Ecc 2:1-2
Possessions - Ecc 2:11
Work - Ecc 2:22-23

I appreciate the point being made here. We spend so much time focused on these things - and for what (Ecc 3:19-20)? In the end, when we die, we will have none of it. So then, what is the point of chasing after these things?

Many of you have probably heard the song Turn, Turn, Turn by The Byrds - did you know that it is based off of chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes?

Of course, the point is that there is a time for everything. Are the Byrds calling us to turn towards peace? Perhaps. That is, after all, the time-frame when the song became popular. While none of us will see peace in our lifetimes the call to turn from our wicked ways, to repent, is wise counsel. Seek God and follow Him that we may have peace after our time here is over. As they sang - "I swear its not too late!" While you still have breath, there is time, but it can change very quickly (Ecc 9:12).

There are parts of life that really suck (Ecc 7:15). Enjoy this life while you can - this is a theme that emerges but it is not some sort of invitation to reckless abandon in pursuit of pleasure. I think, rather, that all of the futility and chasing after the wind that has been mentioned in this book can be summed up this way - Life is meaningless without God.

The book concludes in Ecc 12:13 with a call to fear God and keep his commands as it is for all humanity. This is all that matters.

Song of Songs
Over the years growing up I have thought of this book as simply a mushy book of love but have come to look at it differently as I age and do more study.
I have read about two different messages from this book, though I will only address the first in relatively short form here as it has a current and practical significance that we all struggle with.

First - Rather than just being mushy - there is a very real offer of wisdom to take away from how the relationship between man and woman look.

Second - As an allegorical text it has been viewed as the love that God has for his people Israel or as Christ has for His church.

In the first chapter we can see how strong the attraction is between the two lovers. However, notice that there is no interaction between the two sexually at this point.

In the second chapter and part of the third we see the couple continue to seek each other - a courtship - hard work and effort (SS 3:2). We also notice a charge to the younger women not to stir up love until the appropriate time. One must wait until marriage.

In the rest of the third chapter we have some symbolism of the wedding taking place (SS 3:11).

Chapter four gives us a look at what might be the honeymoon and the happiness between the man and woman.

Chapter five shows some continued love but some struggle as well (Ecc 5:6). It might seem that the intimacy is not always so readily found. Even the young women sort of question the persistence of the bride (Ecc 5:9). Commitment even in times of struggle.

Chapter six may be considered a call to maintain some time with your spouse amid all the busy schedules and interruptions caused by children, work, etc.

Chapter seven might be considered a deepening of the love that the two share.

Finally, chapter eight brings a child born of the love shared by the couple

The marriage described in this book, as mushy as it may seem, paints a real picture of the stages of a relationship. It is not without struggle and it requires a great deal of effort, it requires some boundaries, and it requires faithfulness, dedication, and commitment.

Here is a video on the Song of Songs from the Bible Project. One of the things I thought was a great statement from the video is that love is "...both beautiful but also dangerous. Like fire, love can destroy people if it is abused, or be life-giving if its protected."

Next we will travel back to investigate the prophets within the nation of Israel during the time of Kings. We will start with Isaiah.

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