Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Belong to My Lover

“I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10).

Song of Songs is, on one level, about marriage & marital intimacy. But Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:31, 32 that marriage is about much more than simply marriage. It is a shadow of Christ & the church. Taking our cues from Paul, Song of Songs is about the intimate relationship to which we have been called in Christ.

I belong…

We know from verses such as 1 Peter 1:19 that we belong to God because he bought us with the precious blood of Jesus. But this is a merely legal ownership. Song of Songs speaks of an ownership based on mutual desire, a covenant in which both partners willingly forsake all others to belong to one another. Exodus 21:2-6 gives laws about Hebrew slaves and brings out the difference between these two types of ownership. By law, Hebrew slaves had to be released after serving 7 years. “But,” the law says, “if the servant declares, ‘I love my master…and do not want to go free’…he will be his servant for life” (Ex. 21:5,6). One slave serves his master then takes his freedom. Another gives up his freedom & himself out of love for his master. Many came to Jesus to be fed, healed, or delivered, then went their way. Ten lepers were healed but only one worshiped the Lord. Crowds thronged after Jesus but only 12 gave themselves to Him (Mark 10:28).
Another poor, but functional analogy would be buying a cat. Once we pay the price, the cat is released from her pet store cage & comes to our home. She belongs to us, but whether any affection or closeness develops is another matter. Likewise, we may be purchased, we may belong to Jesus, we may enjoy being fed by Him and reap the benefits of being in His household, but intimacy with Him is another matter. It is this belonging of intimacy that Song of Songs presents.

I belong to my lover…

I belong to my Lover—not to one who expects me to please him; not to the 10 commandments; not to ministries; not to a denomination. I belong to my Lover. I belong to Him who is so taken with me that He says, “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance from your eyes” (SOS 4:9). He is the King of kings. All authority in heaven and on earth rests with Him (Matt. 28:18). But I know Him in His chambers, where His kingly garb is gone, where His scepter is laid aside, where His commands are the kisses of His mouth (SOS 1:2).

I belong to my lover, and His desire is for me.

His desire is not for me to do something or be something. His desire is for me, period. Before His eyes, I am uncovered and laid bare, but He says, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Heb. 4:13; SOS 4:7). His response to my nakedness is desire. There is no shame, no reproach. His arms enfold and cover me. His banner over me is love (SOS 2:4, 6).
We need to hear the viewpoint of our Lover: “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens,” “your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely,” “Sixty queens there may be…but my dove, my perfect one, is unique” (SOS 2:2, 2:14, 6:8-9). Sometimes we may secretly feel that God merely tolerates us, that He is obligated to put up with us because of the blood of Jesus. We may acknowledge He loves us yet feel that we can’t be very appealing to Him. Song of Songs shows us that there is no such mixture in God’s thoughts toward us. His desire is for us. He wants us. He is head over heels in love, without reservation, without cold feet. Only by knowing the totality of His love for us will we be changed and love Him unreservedly in return (1 John 4:19).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Crucified Yet Living Temple

Ezekiel’s temple shows us the nature of eternal life and of being the body of Christ. The temple bears the mark of the cross, a cross formed by the outer and inner gates which lead to the altar at the temple’s center. Living water flows from the Holy of Holies, where the glory of God dwells. We who are the temple and body of Christ have been crucified with Christ and bear the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 2:20, 6:17). It is by the marks of the cross that Jesus is identified. Jesus’s disciples knew Him by these marks after His resurrection, and we who are raised with Him are now the body that carries this identifying characteristic. It is the mark of the cross, applied by the work of the Spirit in our lives, that shows we belong to Christ, not our confession of Christianity or our attendance at church. We have been raised with Him by the glory of the Father, and rivers of living water flow from our innermost being (Rom. 6:4; John 7:38, 39).
This is eternal life: being crucified and raised with Christ, being the temple in which the death and life of Jesus are revealed (2 Cor. 4:10, 11). Ezekiel’s temple also shows us that because death works in us, life works in others—the river flowing from the temple flows into the Dead Sea, and wherever it flows things live (Ezek. 47:8, 9; 2 Cor. 4:12).
The reality of Ezekiel’s temple must affect us deeply. It must be more than a mere teaching or idea, it must be more than theology. Jesus is not our collection of religious practices, beliefs, morality, and worldview. He is a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). He doesn’t want us to obey Him merely. He wants us to be His dwelling place. He doesn’t want servants who are unaware of His business but friends who share His business of laying down His life for His friends (John 15:12-15). Unless we understand and are about His business, there will be no life flowing from us into the sea of dead people around us. We cannot substitute evangelistic programs or missions campaigns for life. The difference is preaching the word versus people being able to see, hear, and touch the Word in us (1 John 1:1). The Holy Spirit must open our eyes to these things, and He must transform us according to the vision of Christ Ezekiel presents. As we are increasingly apprehended by the truth, there is no response but to cast our independent lives away in order to take our place in the temple which is crucified yet lives.