Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Midnight Bride Meditations on The Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon remains one of the most difficult and controversial books of the Bible. In conjunction it stands as one of the most if not the most poetic and exceptional books of the Bible. It is unique. It is often classified as Wisdom Literature but breaks the mold in its romantic and mystical qualities. Scholars argue whether interpretations should focus on earthly relationships, physical relationships, The Church and Christ's relationship, historical narrative, poetic construction... the list goes on as more and more genres claim the mysterious text. I make no pretense at anything beyond everyman Biblical scholarship, and I've read very little on The Song of Solomon (actually the only thing I've read is Mark Driscoll's rather graphically sexual interpretation from his mini-book Porn-Again Christians); however, I have always been swayed by allegorical interpretations focusing on the poem as a prophetic description of relationship with Christ.

For no easily apparent reason I was drawn to Richard Wurmbrand's The Midnight Bride, which is a later edition of The Sweetest Song put in devotional format by The Voice of the Martyrs, an international missionary agency which focuses on the persecuted church. Richard Wurmbrand founded the agency after many years of torture in communist prison for his faith. You can read his story in Tortured for Christ.  

In a Christian culture that produces and devours masses of devotional books, I have somehow managed to avoid such literature until now. It's not that I despise devotional literature, but I tend to be rebellious and desire to keep my time alone with God unstructured beyond His word and prayer and unconfused by any voice beyond His. That said, I have been enjoying The Midnight Bride immensely. Wurmbrand takes a highly expository approach to illuminate a mystical interpretation surrounding Christ's relationship with His bride the church. The concepts are illustrated with powerfully poignant stories from the persecuted church. The combination is impacting and leads to daily meditations on a single verse and how it reveals the heart of God. I can highly recommend the book and I will probably attempt to find a similar expository, meditation and scripture centered devotional in the future.

In conjunction with these meditations are interpretative notes I add to the margins of my Cambridge ESV Wide Margin. The verse per day meditation creates a rich experience that seems necessary in order to unpack the full nature of the Song of Solomon (and I'm sure I'm only scratching the surface). My notes don't always reflect Wurmbrand's exposition (there are occasions when I find his focus too narrow), but their often informed by his direction. Wurmbrand's understanding of the text is influenced by Jewish mysticism which views the Song of Solomon as one of the most sacred texts and sees the work as a highly mystical and prophetic message of love and romantic interaction between God and Israel, which Wurmbrand extrapolates into the New Covenant to reveal Christ and His bride, the church.

Song of Solomon 2:8-10

 8The voice of my beloved!
   Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
   bounding over the hills.

9My beloved is like a gazelle
   or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
   behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
   looking through the lattice.

10My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
   and come away,

 These verses are some of the most beautiful and touching revelations of grace and love in the whole of the word of God. Like the father runs to the prodigal son, Christ leaps and bounds to the believer shouting with joy at the arrival of His beloved bride. His voice stirs excitement in our hearts as He overcomes all obstacles between us: He comes to us. He's compared to a gazelle, meek but vigorous. He remains separated from us only by the windows and lattice. Now we see Him through a glass darkly but soon face to face. The only separation between us is this temporary flesh, which even now is passing away as we wait for the Bridegroom's return. His voice calls us to Him, beckoning us to ruse from our sleep, our weariness, sin, darkness and shame to come away with Him into an intimacy which introduces eternal and everlasting pleasure of the spirit.

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