A Lily among the Thorns (Song of Songs 2:2)

“Like a lily among the thorns,
So is my darling among the maidens.”

Song of Songs 2:2

Song of Songs or Song of Solomon is one of the more perplexing books in The Bible. Not because its subject matter is obscure or in some way difficult to determine, but because it is a mystery why it is included in the scriptures. Verses like this morning’s alleviate some of my own confusion.

There are two ways in which I understand this verse: the literal way and the metaphorical way.

In the literal, Solomon is speaking to his bride and giving voice to just how special she is to him. She must have been pretty special, because he had hundreds of wives and concubines and — as far as we know — he only wrote a song for one of them. Just one. She is special to him in a way that no other woman ever manages to be. In this, I find something approaching an application for me. Solomon wrote love poetry/a song for this woman he loved. I should take the time and effort and energy to perform gestures that my wife appreciates. Much of what she appreciates is what is commonly thought of as “the little things,” but that seems to make it more difficult for me, as men (myself included) seem wired to perform the grand, sweeping gestures sporadically rather than regularly performing the little, workaday gestures that some women (my wife included and especially) prefer. My wife is special to me. I need to be certain that she knows that.

The metaphorical understanding is substituting Jesus for Solomon and the church for Solomon’s bride. The church is called “the bride of Christ,” so that bit of substitution is not as far-fetched as some would have it. To Christ, His church; His bride is unique and beautiful and specially-beloved of Him. This means that I, as a believer, am beloved of Christ and seen by Him as special and unique. He does not address any two believers in precisely the same way. We are all unique. We are all beloved.

Before ending this entry, it should be noted that it is dangerous to spiritualize the song in its entirety and ends with a sort of “Jesus is my boyfriend” mentality that is frankly unscriptural. Portions of Song of Songs are frankly erotic. If some of it may be applied and other portions are dangerous, how is one to make the determination? My line is drawn between the declarations of love and those of desire. To tell my wife how special she is to me and how beautiful I find her is an expression of love and is meant to build her up — both things that jive with Christ and His relationship with the church; we are beloved of  Him and He does want to build us up. In other verses, Solomon says things that are erotic in tone which are expressions of desire. While desire may be given us by God — I certainly think it is within the context of marriage — it does not follow that there is something analogous in God Himself. There may be something higher of which desire is only a shadow, but I have not seen it explained anywhere in The Bible. So the line I draw is between love and desire; between the higher and the lower. It might be safer to take this book as a manual on how to continually woo my wife and for my wife to understand how to help me feel secure in our relationship … the bride has quite as much to say as the groom in this song.

Time to bring things to a close. First, I need to be sure that my wife knows how beautiful and unique and desirable I find her. She is a lily among thorns and I should be certain that she knows that. Second, Jesus sees me (and every believer) in a similar fashion. We are special and beautiful and different than what surrounds us. He loves us. Last, I need to be exceedingly careful when applying passages of this song to Christ’s relationship with the church. This book of The Bible is a love song and expressions of love will sometimes (but not always) translate from the lower (person-person) to the higher (God-person). If it flows, then it flows, but the application should never be forced.

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