Night at the opera
Song of Songs 1: The Song — best of all — Solomon’s song!
I confess here and now that I don’t know what I’m going to do with Song of Songs. I can tell you this; my devotional journey through these eight chapters isn’t going to take long! As my beloved wife will tell you I’m not the most romantic fellow in the world so this portion of Scripture doesn’t really resonate very well with me. I can write about the technical side of things though. Song of Songs is, basically, an opera. There are different characters and they interact in telling of the passion of two lovers. The woman, the man, and a chorus sing to one another all through the opera. The KJV doesn’t make this very clear, so, for us who were introduced to this book by that translation, this was a very confusing book. The Message, and most current translations tell us who is singing when and that helps a bit. Some have “Christianized” Song of Songs by making it an allegory of Christ’s love for the Church. I’m not knowledgeable enough to debate the point but it seems to me that it’s more of a celebration of God’s gift of human sexuality than anything else. To be honest about it, I’m a lot more comfortable with the sexuality of Song of Songs when it’s left in that realm and not made into a spiritual allegory so I intend to leave it at that. Finally, Solomon is the writer and apparently the male character in the opera is based on him. Because of that, this book is also called Song of Solomon. When I remember how many wives Solomon had I have to smile and wonder which of his wives inspired this opera. However, I do understand that many of his marriages were political in nature, basically arraigned to seal some treaty between Israel and a neighboring nation. The actual identity of the woman is, so far as I can see, unknown to us.
Take Away: We believe this book of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, so we read it and consider it even when we don’t fully understand it.
Revelation 20: I saw all the dead, great and small, standing there – before the Throne!
The events described are challenging to say the least. There’s a 1000 years of peace on earth as the old dragon is bound in the pit. Is it a literal thousand years? Is the peace total or just the general condition of the earth? At the end, it seems there’s a good chance that the story of the human race is about to start all over again as the dragon is released and goes to work. But it’s not to be. Time is up. The dead are called forth and Judgment Day has finally come. Two books; one detailing the deeds of each life and the other listing those who’ve given themselves to the Lamb are the witnesses. The separating of the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares takes place. It’s the end. It’s the beginning. Everything that’s happened has been the prelude to eternity. As is plain to anyone reading my devotionals on Revelation I really don’t have a clue. I’m lost as to both timeline and actual events. However, even someone as clueless as I am can have a handle on this final event. I’m going to stand before God. My life is going to be an “open book.” At that point, my only hope will be that second book, the Book of Life. If I’ve given my heart to Jesus and lived for him, it’s that book that’s my hope: my hope of life. Is your name in the Book of Life?
Take Away: Ultimately, that’s the only question that really matters.
Loving the people of God
1John 5: The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome.
Before moving to other things John says a bit more about love in action. He’s already insisted that to be a follower of God requires more than words or even sincere desire. Again, “love,” to him is an “action” word rather than a “feelings” word. To love God is to love the Son and to love the Son is to love those he’s brought into the family of God. So what does it mean to love the children of God? Immediately, John takes us back to action. I love God’s people, not by feeling a certain way about them but, rather, by treating them in a certain way. John reminds me that God has given me some commandments concerning how I’m to treat my brothers and sisters. If I love God, I’ll keep those commandments and in doing so I’ll “love” those who are part of this great family of God. If I want proof of my love of God I’ll find it in how I treat his people. John adds that this isn’t that big a deal because this “love in action” that’s required of me isn’t all that troubling. I’m to love people as I love myself. That is, I’m to care about the needs of their lives, their comfort, and their security. Loving self isn’t about feeling a certain way about myself but is, rather, about the action I take on my own behalf. That’s exactly how I’m to love God’s people.
Take Away: To learn about your relationship with God, take a good look at your relationship to his people.
Breaking the “me centered” way of life
1Peter 4: Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.
Peter’s target audience is Christians who are isolated and suffering for their faith. He doesn’t suggest to them that suffering in itself is good but he does tell them that their suffering for the right reason gives them reason to rejoice. If the same people who hate Jesus hate us because they see Jesus in our lives their poor treatment of us may be unwelcome but in it we can see a compliment. He also tells his readers that suffering tends to wean us from the idea that we’re always supposed to get our own way. As infants, we all start off there, caring not at all about the needs of those around us, but instead, totally focused on what we want and having it right now. To some extent we never outgrow that. Peter says that suffering (something no one wants) helps break that “me centered” way of life. This, in turn, sets the table for allowing the One who knows and loves us best to have his way in our lives. Again, the suffering isn’t a good thing, but the result can be a good one. My earnest desire is that I’ll learn these lessons early and well as the Lord uses the ups and downs of my life to benefit me and his kingdom.
Take Away: If we’ll allow it the Lord will use both the ups and downs of our lives to our benefit.