Song of Songs 7-8

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” (‭8:6-7‬)

I always pictured love as fragile. It’s really hard to get someone to like you; not messing things up, keeping your cards close to your heart. Than once you do finally find love, you have to work at it to not “fall out of love” and grow embittered toward each other. 

But then I encounter this verse, and suddenly Love seems like the most powerful force out there, not fragile at all. As strong as death! A fire all the water in the world couldn’t put out! I must have love all wrong. Maybe Huey Lewis was on to something.

Awhile back, this verse really challenged me a to trust more in the people who love me. I could complain about not receiving love like I imagined it would be, but do I receive the love people try to give me at all? 

On the flip side, do you ever get frustrated when loved ones continue to self-destruct or self-deprecate no matter how affirming you are? Let’s all cut that out!! Receive love from one another! Let this unquenchable fire warm us! 

Can you imagine carrying your relationships like seals on your heart and arm; one for you to cherish, and one for others to see? Wow. I think that would get rid of a lot of my insecurities right there. 

Always, also entrusting ourselves to the love of God which casts out fear. I mean, if we can hold still and even being to receive His love, that’s something. I often find myself standing back to just stay warm by the white hot love He has. It’s too intense sometimes! It’s guaranteed going to make me cry, and it transforms as refining fire. So yeah, sometimes I’m not ready to change. 

But I challenge us, today, to receive love from each other and, yes also our Heavenly Father.

-Bethany 

Song of Songs 5-6

Why is your lover better than all others,
    O woman of rare beauty?
What makes your lover so special
    that we must promise this?” (5:9)

I laughed when I read this. Isn’t it so true? When you are tightly tangled by love’s grip, you think your person is The Person. Better than others, more attractive, less mistakes or flaws and overall just wonderful and lovely and they’re the best.

This is a gift, during the beginning stage of a relationship. It exists in almost every interpersonal relationship, and it makes it fun. “I love my new boss!” “I love my new roommate!” “I love my new church!” But then reality tends to set in and their mistakes glow. I vacillate easily between adoring and resenting someone; its a huge area of growth that I’ve been working on. It’s not that I’m not loyal (eventually), it’s that I look through an unrealistic lens when I’m getting to know someone. I set them up for failure. Propping them up on such a high pedestal only gives them further to fall, which they will.

The verse above reminded me this morning to hold a realistic expectation of someone. It’s exciting to be in a new relationship, platonic or romantic. But I need to approach it with grace, allowing them to be a person in process. I love meeting new people and making new friends, and I pray that I do this with a godly, realistic lens that soaks our future friendship in grace and understanding.

 

-Carly

 

Song of Songs 3-4

I am not great with poems. I am a more literal person. It was news to me the foxes in the vineyard had a poetic meaning. I was thinking, she works in a vineyard, he’s a shepherd, maybe this is how they flirtatiously meet?: “Yoo-hoo! Handsome man! Can you help me with my fox problem?”

I also have some intimacy issues so it’s sufficient to say, I haven’t studied this book a ton (except maybe for cheap thrills when I was in jr high or high school), but I’m very glad to be reading it now. I liked what the Bible Project guys pointed out: Love is a great gift from God. It made me think.

Even amid all the brokenness and danger in this world, people are still falling in love. The garden imagery harkens back to before the fall, when mankind had the ability to love perfectly. Sometimes, love can still feel perfect; when it’s selfless, when it’s complete, when it’s unconditional. Jesus told his disciples people would recognize them by the way they love.

Most songs, movies, books, television shows, etc. follow a storyline of love. We are all, on some level, obsessed with it. Why? Because it does have a tie to the divine. To a God who IS LOVE. I think that’s why there’s suddenly a collection of love poems in the middle of the Bible. It is the basic fabric of our humanity. The fact that we can’t decide if this is an allegory for love between God and man or man and woman, says something in itself.

So what about theses chapters? The beginning of 3 makes me chuckle, because love makes you bonkers, right? I once ran through the forest at night, and twisted my ankle falling in a hole, for love.

“When I found him whom my soul loves; I held onto him and would not let him go.” (3:4)

“You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance from your eyes.” (4:9)

That’s good stuff right there. It’s poetry! It’s a celebration of God’s greatest gift! Enjoy it! Get swept away by it! Don’t over think it! And don’t get discouraged if you’re single or haven’t experienced romantic love this way. Love is still beautiful when it’s in your family or among friends.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Don’t you dare downplay friendship. I’m convinced King David’s best relationship was with Jonathan. Friendship is beautiful.

Love is a gift. It’s powerful. And because of those two attributes, it cannot be forced. In fact, it’s really destructive when it’s forced. Which is maybe why she says this three times:

“Do not stir or awaken love until it pleases.” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4)

Thank God for the loves in your life. Even for the loves you’ve lost. And of course, for His Perfect Love.

-Bethany

Song of Songs 1-2

This is probably the book I’ve read the least in the Bible, so I’m looking forward to going through it! I watched the Bible Project Overview and it helped a lot.

My husband has always loved the verse ”catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (2:15). (There’s apparently an album by mewithoutyou named after it, although I’ve never listened to it.) This is why I occasionally love poetry; it says things eloquently and beautifully that could pose as boring or rude. The author is telling her beloved, “get rid of anything that could ravage and destroy our relationship”. Foxes catch, sneak and take. They scarf down hard-earned fruit from the garden, bite the neck of chickens and burrow holes in carefully raked soil. They destroy.

I lean more towards the interpretation of this book being an allegory for God’s relationship with us (as well as a healthy example of human desire). So I’m hoping to apply it to my marriage, but ultimately to my relationship with the Lord.

What are the foxes in my relationship with God? What needs to be taken out and possibly poses a threat to the fruit he’s growing? What am I prone to? What do I need to keep an eye on?

The better you know yourself, the more equipped you are to anticipate a problem that could arise and prevent it. For example, I’m prone to comparison and discontentment. Because of this, (except for a few classics), I try to avoid watching romantic comedies. I know! It’s silly. But sometimes I finish watching them and then pick a fight with Matt about why he doesn’t come barging in to rooms to announce to everyone why he’s in love with me. Or wonder out loud to him what it’d be like to be married to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Regular, healthy people are able to watch these movies and think “that’s unrealistic and cliche, oh well”. It’s silly and small, but it’s something that could potentially add unnecessary problems to my relationship with my husband, so I grab that fox and toss it out. It’s my way of working around my insecurities and protecting my heart in a culture insistent on tearing down marriage.

Satan prowls around like a hungry lion, stalking to destroy and take down (1 Peter 5:8). Have you ever seen a prowling lion? They’re quiet. Sneaky. You might not even see it coming until it’s too late. Stay alert and anticipate the problems that will arise between your relationship with God. It’s not a question of if there will be problems; we are human beings, the questions is what will the problems be and can I prevent them?

 

-Carly

 

 

Esther 9-10

“Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” (9:1)

Our lives are full of varied levels of hopeless situations; instances which bring us to our knees in anticipation. But God is powerful and He can bring victory, even the inauguration of a holiday, to the day of your disaster. To that very day. 

The book of Esther chronicles yet another time when God switched Israel’s doom to salvation. Most Israel’s festivals are in remembrance of God’s ability to rescue and preserve (ie. Passsover, Booths, Purim, Hanukkah). 

“as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” (9:22)

Maybe, for you, things haven’t been quite that extreme, but can you remember a time God turned your sorrow into gladness or mourning into joy? I’m not talking silver linings (which are also nice), I’m talking full turn around.

I can forget the weight of my own salvation, at times, as one raised in the church in the American 90’s. But I was dead in my sin, and God made me alive with Christ. I am seated in the heavenly places with Him! I once was “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) but now His blood has drawn me in. I’ve been brought near. I am no longer a stranger, a foreigner, an outsider. I am a part of God’s family! (Man, I love Ephesians).

God knows we remember the bad things more than good things; mean comments stick more than compliments. Sometimes it takes awhile to remember all the miracles God has enacted on our behalf, but it’s important to. God knows we need holidays and reminders. Create habits of gratitude and remembering the faithfulness of God. Our lives are a lot like the book of Esther: God’s work isn’t always pointed out for us, we need to keep an eye out for it and celebrate it. 

The world is full of war right now, but can I dare say: I am so happy God has brought Syrians into my life? I am incredibly enriched and blessed to know them. I have had many jobs throughout my life and businesses have shut down while I’ve been there. I can remember 4 off the top of my head. Sometimes God has to forcefully more us forward, but I am ESTATIC He has led me here. 

Keep a journal. Make thankfulness lists. Keep a record of your prayers so you can thank God when He answers them. Commemorate things. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking God isn’t there just because He hasn’t been named. You can lift His name.

-Bethany 

Esther 7-8

What a bad outcome for ol’ Haman. Don’t you wish all evil plots had an ending like this? The Bad Guy’s plan gets foiled and he ends up stuck in the trap he set for someone else; it’s ideal.

My Bible points back to the wisdom of Proverbs 26:27 “whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling”.

When do you set a trap for someone?

Even if it’s not on the scale of Haman trying to take out an entire race, the Scripture can still be applied to us. Do you try to catch people failing? Do you ‘throw someone under the bus’, to make yourself look better? Do you anticipate someone’s failures and try to benefit from them? This is not godly behavior. Instead, we are called to believe the best in people, set them up for success and help make up for their weaknesses. 

Esther has a great response. She doesn’t try to take down Haman herself. She brings the matter before the king and begs him to protect her people. This should be our response to evil as well: bring matters to the King and let him handle it. Revenge is mine, says the Lord.

Watch your intentions today. Is there a coworker, family member or peer who you try to set up for failure? Why? How is that turning out for you? If it’s a real problem beyond petty bitterness, bring it before the Lord and allow him to protect you. Don’t write your own revenge plan.

 

-Carly

Esther 5-6

I have always wondered why Esther didn’t make her big announcement at the first banquet, but instead asked for a second. There could be some cultural reason (second meetings are more important??), or maybe she panicked and wanted another day to collect herself, or during all the fasting and praying with her staff, they agreed this was a good idea. Who knows! In all cases, the delay makes this story much more interesting.

Last time I talked about favor being evidence of God, and today I’m saying it’s perfect timing. He is very present in the incredible timing of these events.

First off, let’s jump back to chapter 3 where Haman rolls the dice on when to kill the Jews and it falls on Adar, the 12th month, buying the Jews some serious time. Thanks God!

Now, jump to chapter 5 when Haman just so happens to spot Mordecai on the ol’ commute home, enraging him enough to spark a conversation with his family which results in the construction of gallows. Those will come in handy later.

Then, most fortuitously of all, that night the king is reminded he hasn’t thanked Mordecai for saving his life and decides to honor him ASAP.

Lastly, Haman again arrives to the right place at the right time (wrong place, wrong time from his perspective) to be roped in to Mordecai’s exaltation.

My favorite part, however, is when Haman goes home, in hysterics, to his family and they’re like, “yeah, probably shouldn’t have messed with Jews”. The nations still know the God of Israel is no joke!

The best reminder I can receive during an anxious meltdown, is the everything nature of timing. It is the most important part of any plan and it is completely outside of my control. I can only be faithful in it and patient with it. 

A quote I often recall is a Matt Wertz lyric (surprise, surprise) saying, 

“Let go. Time knows something we don’t.”

One night can change everything. One second can make a difference. We rarely see those times coming, but God knows all things from beginning to end.

Whether Esther had a premonition about the need for a second banquet or it was nerves, God orchestrated every detail. We can trust Him to do that. 

-Bethany