Thursday, December 14: Song of Songs 6- How do I speak about my spouse in public?.

The woman says in this chapter, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine… (3a).

Security… she feels secure in her lover’s love.

Immediately after this he speaks forth his delight and love for her, he praises her in front of his friends (verses 4-9).

I began to replay conversations among friends, listening in my mind’s ear to how people speak about their spouse or significant other. It is not always pleasant. The more I think about this often it is not pleasant. How sad.

I am stopped in my tracks… How do I speak about my wife, and if I extend this thought a bit to add my children… how do I speak about them in front of other people, particularly when my spouse (or child) is present? Such is the situation in chapter 6.

I push the envelope even further… Is my natural reaction and speech to honor, bless and delight in them in conversation?  How would a transcript of my talk among friends about my wife read?

I hope, I pray, it would be honoring and positive, rather than cranky and complaining….

How about you?

Oh, Lord God, use my mouth and my words to bless my wife and children at all times but particularly when I am speaking about them in a public way and in quiet conversations with my closest friends. Lord, increase my love for my wife and give me practical ways to express my love for her to her. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, December 13: Song of Songs 5- Am I my wife's friend? .

Yesterday the heart of the lover for his bride filled the pages. Today the tables have turned; it is the beloved thoughts on her lover. My eyes filled with thoughts as I read the concluding sentence.

His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem (16).

“Am I?” I wondered. Am I my wife’s friend?

It is one thing to be her husband and her lover. But am I her friend? Do we relate on friendship levels? Do we enjoy each other’s company? Do we enter each other’s world? Do we simply like being together?

Friendship with one’s spouse is such a gift. Sadly it is too often overlooked. Rarely is spousal friendship portrayed on TV or in the movies. Watching a TV show with Susan yesterday she commented, “It seems like everyone on this show is married 2 or 3 times.” How sad that is.

I am blessed to be married only once and to my best friend at that. It is a gift I wish for every couple I know.

Thank You, Lord God, for this word about marital friendship… Your Word is spurring me on to treasuring this gift and causing me to make sure I do not take that gift for granted. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, December 12: Song of Songs 4- How well do you love your spouse?.

As I read this chapter my heart goes to my wife. At first I thought this wasn’t ‘devotional’ enough. Where are my meditations on God, Jesus and the Spirit? I wondered if my thoughts of my wife were carnal, but then I realized what a gift my wife is… a gift from the Lord and I am led to probe my own life making sure that I treasure her –a gift from the Lord –as He would treasure her.

Am I loving my wife as Jesus Christ loves his church?  Jesus laid down his life for the church. Am I expressing that kind of love for my wife?

I realize that God is speaking to me after all. The Lord is probing my in most being, discovering if it is aligning with His will for human marital life. And like every probe from the Lord, He reveals places I need to grow to be more like Him…

Thoughts of Galatians 5, the Fruit of the Spirit, pierce my heart… am I loving, joyful, peacemaking, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and filled with self-control in my exchanges and thoughts about my wife –my lover –my gift from the Lord?

If you are reading this and you are married, you might probe some of these same areas regarding your spouse.

If you are not married I am not sure where you might go… I believe the Lord will direct you as you ponder His Word.

Thank You Lord for the recognition that my wife is a gift from You and I must, repeat must treat her with the respect and love that Jesus shows His church. Please empower me to do so Lord, as I live to honor You. Through Jesus I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, December 11: Song of Songs 3- Love is not lust.

The world I live in is over sexed. Madison Avenue sells by sex. TV and movies are laced with sex and lots of it. Checkout counter magazines are filled with sex. Porn rules the Internet. Sex is everywhere. And the effect on our society is obvious.

The Beloved gives an apt piece of advice in today’s reading. In fact this is the second time she has offered this advice:

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires (5).

How true this is, but how hard it is to live by in our world. Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. All the images, stories, ads using it can’t help up awaken love… or at least the desire for love (sex, lust) in our world.

Younger and younger people are engaged in sex and as a result teen pregnancy is toooo high.

I don’t know what to do about this…

I am beyond the age where this advice is relevant. My love has been awakened and the Lord has grace me with a wife of decades who continues to be the love of my life!

I weep for young people who are caught in the grip of love (lust, sex) awakened too early. My hope is that the church will love them to wholeness, forgiving mistakes and helping them navigate life until they find true love and the love of Jesus.

Oh, Lord, help me be an example of faithfulness in love to a generation that doesn’t see enough examples of love Your way. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, December 9: Song of Songs 2- His banner of love.

When I was in college we sang a song based on verse 4. If my memory is correct it went like this: “He calls me to the banqueting table; his banner over me is love.”

That is a pretty accurate translation of verse 4, which in the NIV reads: Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.

I found myself contemplating his banner of love…

Taken at face value, how does a lover spread his banner of love over his beloved? Hmmm… by creating a safe space, a relationship of warmth, care, concern. These are the kinds of things that spring to mind when I try to visualize a ‘banner of love.’

So now I have to ponder how good a job I do spreading a banner of love over my wife and family? Do I create a safe space for them to flourish? Do I set an attitude of warmth, care, concern for my family?

The Lord cares how I husband and father my family…

When we sang that song back in the day, we were singing about the Lord spreading His banner of love over us. I switch gears and ponder God’s love over me… I believe God creates a safe space, a relationship of warmth, care, concern. And I am so grateful to the Lord because He really does love me and cover me in His banner of love…

So I spend time this morning leaning into God’s love…

O Lord thank You for your love which bathes me daily. And Lord please help me to translate Your love into practical love for my family and others in my life. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Friday, December 8: Song of Songs 1- Appearance and self-worth.

The Song of Songs is, for most of us, a strange book in the Bible. It is a romantic love story between a woman and the prince, Solomon. Is it meant to be an allegory of God’s love with His people? Is it a love story reminding us that love is God’s creation? There are many thoughts on this. I tend to read it for face value as a love story between a woman and her man.

I was struck by how sensitive the woman is to her features and particularly her skin color? Dark am I, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I had to neglect (5-6).

It struck me how large a role appearance plays in her self-worth. And if I am honest it is true for me and most of us as well. Add to the general situation that her appearance issue was being dark skinned. It surprised me that skin color was an issue in that ancient day, but apparently it was. In some na├»ve way I thought that my country’s struggles with a person’s skin color was an aberration on the landscape of humanity. But the more I consider this the more wrong I believe my thoughts are on the topic of skin color.  A friend of mine who is black grew up in Nigeria and never paid attention to what shade of black a person was. But when she traveled to South Africa, her shade of black was very important. She being a dark black felt discriminated against by lighter blacks… 

I wonder why this is? Is it as simple as skin color is obvious to everyone and cannot be easily masked??

How we treat people based on external factors saddens me. It is yet another case of the deep depravity of the human heart.

O God, this whole line of thinking exposes my deep sinfulness. If it is not skin color, it is height or weight or some other human trait. How easily sin-filled thoughts about others can erupt within me over the smallest distinctions and differences. O God, forgive me, forgive me, forgive me for the ways I discriminate and segregation people. It is a breach of Your will for us Lord and a break in Your trust of me as You son. I pray this through Jesus my savior. Amen.

 

Thursday, December 7: Ecclesiastes 12- Fear God and keep his commandments .

And so with this chapter the book of Ecclesiastes closes. The writer gives us his final wisdom. I love the connection between the first and last words of this chapter.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” (1).

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (13-14).

‘Youth years’ are notorious for years of wandering and exploration. Unfortunately this often means wandering from the Lord and exploring life outside faith in Jesus. In light of present life, I find the writers words spot on…  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Honing and hardening and strengthening ones faith during youth years can guide a youth through those tumultuous years and place them on the solid foundation of faith in Jesus for all their years to come.  Reaching youngsters and youth with the gospel will reap lifelong benefits for them and for the world in which they live.

For the writer when all is said and done and all his exploration is completed the anchor of life can be simply put Fear God and keep his commandments.

I find these powerful in their simplicity… a great personal mission statement.

Are you looking for a life verse? These words would work well.

Fear God and keep his commandments… yes that about covers it.

Lord, Thank You for this simple truth, words to live by… I am a sinner who cannot live these words without the constant work of Your Holy Spirit within. Come Holy Spirit energize and empower me to live as the writer commends, fearing God and keeping Your commandments. I pray this through my savior Jesus name. Amen.