GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
SONG OF SOLOMON 3:5
5 Daughters of Jerusalem,
Swear an oath to me, by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.
This verse is identical with Song 2:7. The purpose of the verse is the same, as well. Just as the couple moves toward an intimate moment in their marriage, the text draws our attention away with this oath not to arouse love until it desires.
The first time we read this command, we considered the warning as it applies to physical intimacy, as well as the spiritual application of the invitation to faith that comes through the gospel. But surely there is another application that brings us to the very heart of the mystic union of Christ and his Church. That is to say, the long delay in the sending of the Savior after he was promised to Eve in the Garden.
Paul says: “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). This means that when the long-awaited time had finally arrived, and not a moment before. The time of the Law of Moses had been completed, and that is the very moment when Christ was revealed, and delivered us all from the Law. From a human perspective (like that of the wife in the Song), God’s love was slow in arriving, not aroused or awakened, although this was not really so. But the moment for God’s love to appear in the form of his Son had not yet come.
We can speculate about some of the things that God brought together to make the time the right time. Not until the Romans had put a general end to piracy on the seas and built up good roads and routes of travel could the gospel travel as quickly as it did through the apostles. Not until the Greek language became the general language of the world following the conquests of Alexander and Greek’s continuing use and spread under the early Roman Empire could preaching be as quick and clear as it was, when the New Testament, written in Greek, could be taken practically anywhere and most or all of the people could understand it.
In the same generation that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, pulled down to rubble and burned by the Romans, Christ had already come to be offered on the cross as the one true offering for sin that all other Old Testament offerings had simply anticipated and foreshadowed. A few were slaughtered and burned in that temple after Christ was crucified, but those were simply the conclusion of the temple’s day, as it were; the evening sacrifice for the final and true Day of Atonement, when all mankind was finally at one with God. Now, Christ assures us, “a time has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23), just as the time will come “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).
The coming of Christ (that is, the first coming) did not mean the establishing of a new Law to follow the old Law of Moses. Instead, at his first coming, Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses in every way, living a pure and perfect life as a human man born under the law. But since Christ is both the Son of God and the son of a woman (Galatians 4:4), that is, true God and true man, his life of obedience counts for all mankind, and benefits everyone who puts their faith in him. And in the same way, since the wages of sin is death, and sin brought death into the world (Romans 5:12; 6:23), Christ’s death “was for the Jewish nation” according to the prophecy of Caiaphas the high priest, “and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:49-51).
So we have here in the warning, a promise. The wife does not say, “Do not awaken love, for it will never come,” but “Do not awaken love until it so desires.” The love of Christ did not show in his incarnation when Eve’s first child, Cain, was born, although she hoped it would (Genesis 4:1). Lamech, the father of Noah, perhaps hoped that his own child would be the Savior, naming him Noah (comfort) and saying, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:28). He, too, was thinking of the curse and the promise in the Garden. But Noah only saved a few people from death in the flood, and brought the human race through God’s judgment– he did not save them from their sins. The Savior did not come as Sarah’s son Isaac, for Isaac was only the Lord’s ancestor and not the Lord himself. And so it continued through the generations. God told Abraham that his people would live in Egypt for four hundred years, and be enslaved and mistreated, before they finally came out and entered the land of the promise (Genesis 15:13). The conquest of the land was not the right time, nor the time of Israel’s great kings and prophets. It was not at the height and zenith of Israel’s power, but at the lowest point, the nadir. Then the rule was in the hands of the Romans and their puppet king Herod, who was an Edomite and not a Hebrew at all. The Levites and priests were not looking for a Savior. “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matthew 25:5). And when he finally came, he did not choose an army of Levites to guard him, but a handful of fishermen and lowly sinners to be his pupils and disciples.
His love for his bride, the church, meant his willing acceptance of pain, scorn, and ridicule. They spit on him, they blindfolded him, they struck him, hit him, beat him, impaled a crown of thorns into his head, and mocked him (Mark 14:65). They stripped him and struck him on the head with a stick (Matthew 27:28,30). Then they flogged him with a cruel whip (John 19:1). And he himself prophesied that all of this would take place (Luke 18:32). After this torture they made him carry his own cross through the streets of the city, out to a place by the roadside, and up a hill, where they nailed him to the same cross, set it upright in the ground, and there they watched him die, hurling more insults at him and playing dice for his clothes (Mark 15:24).
And in this love, he said nothing to reproach them or complain. He was a lamb taken silently to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). His love was aroused as he thought of their sins, and prayed “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
His love was aroused to show compassion to the repentant thief crucified with him, saying, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
His love was aroused to be concerned for his mother, entrusting her to his beloved disciple’s care and saying, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother!” (John 19:26-27).
His love was awakened and aroused, but his agony was infinite, for he was suffering the torment of hell, and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
And when his act of love was at an end, his body’s final needs on earth brought simple words to his lips with no condemnation for anyone. He only said, “I thirst” (John 19:28).
And after he received a bad drink of sour wine, the Redeemer of all mankind said the loving and compassionate words to prove the work was at an end: “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Then his love was awakened to pray one last time in life as death took him, and he cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). And after he had said this with a loud voice, he breathed his last (Mark 15:37).
Such is the love of the Lord of the church. He came when the time was right and not a moment sooner, and he ended the reign of the Law of Moses with his own blood, pain, and death. He had spoken that word, the voice and Word of God, and with his actions and words he put an end to it forever. Now, when we read in the New Testament that Christ teaches or interprets the Law, this is not part of our justification, but it is entirely in the realm of our good works. These are not done to merit salvation, but to thank and praise God for it. As we say in the simple language of the catechism: “He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” This is most certainly true.
Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – Song of Solomon 3:5 Love awakened