Many years ago, a good friend of our family and a fellow pastor wrote a lovely song based on the Song of Solomon. His opening line was, “The Song of Solomon, it tells of Jesus and His bride; this wondrous message the Spirit will not hide.” Our friend’s first stanza stated very clearly what he believed the Song of Solomon is about. His interpretation was that Solomon wrote an allegory of the love Christ has for His church. He said the Spirit will not hide this truth.
Many Bible interpreters seriously doubt this is the spiritual message of the book, and to them, the Spirit has well-hidden its meaning. In fact, many argue strenuously against this interpretation with suggestions of many others. I can assure you that settling the question is not easy, but I believe our friend was right. The book is about the adoring mutual love between Christ and His bride, the church.
With this said, some of the imagery is surprising. I do not feel the need to point out specific words and phrases—you will see them as we go through the book in our congregational reading. Because of the imaginative writing, some believe it is not suitable for public reading. I do not see how this is possible since all the word of God is good for doctrine, reproof, and spiritual understanding. God’s word does not stir illicit thoughts except in those whose minds tend towards illicit thoughts.
Is it suitable that a preacher should preach this book in a way that stirs those thoughts? Several months ago, I listened to a sermon by an independent Baptist preacher who thought he was clever and wise and could unlock the meaning of certain words and phrases. His basic premise was the Song of Solomon is an erotic book, and being a self-proclaimed “expository preacher,” it was his duty to dig down into veiled references to put his spin on their meaning.
First, I want to say the Song of Solomon has been taught for centuries by some of the wisest men of God. They did not see it their responsibility to speculate on what the Holy Spirit meant. God can say exactly what He means. If these other things are meant, the Spirit would have told us. As our friend wrote, “this wondrous message the Spirit will not hide.”
Secondly, the eroticism the preacher imagined is not in the text. The expositors of the past did not concern themselves with arousing sexual tension in mixed company, because they never sought to attach meanings to words and phrases the Holy Spirit did not intend. The preacher I listened to left little to the imagination as he described activities reserved for the secrecy of the bedrooms of married couples. If a preacher preaches the book with this intent, he is guilty of mind pollution. He shames Christ, the church, and individuals who seek to purify themselves even as Christ is pure (1 John 3:2-3).
As we read through the book, it is not spiritually uplifting to try and make exact correspondence of metaphors with their reality. As one commentator on the text said, “There is no exegetical way to decide what the various jewels, flowers, scents, oils, and other sensual pleasures named in the poem represented in the author’s mind. He purposely leaves them vague. The symbols are therefore not necessarily meant to have any one-to-one relationship with corresponding realities; rather they are general emblems of beauty and desire.”
In today’s sexually charged society, a preacher should never use the pulpit to stir unholy interests. Read the Song with the beauty and holiness of Christ in mind. Satan seeks to obstruct this purity. A preacher ought never to be his willing accomplice.
Pastor V. Mark Smith