Monday, October 24, 2011

How the Song of Songs Helps Us Better Understand Love for God

One of the books I'm reading for my Christian Ethics class this quarter is Ellen Davis's book Getting Involved With God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. She is basically looking at various books and passages in the Old Testament and revealing how important they are for us today. So far it has been an excellent book.

In one of the chapters, she explains how beneficial the Song of Songs is for the church today. She points out how we have often misunderstood this book and many of us consider it to be a little too racy to be in the Bible. However, the Song is incredibly beneficial to us because it speaks of divine love and sexual love as a healthy expression and desire in the midst of covenantal faithfulness.

One thing she points out how toward the end of the chapter is how the Song affirms that "longing for intimacy with God is a necessary desire for a healthy soul." She goes on to mention how there are two kinds of love of God. The first is grateful response to experiencing God's mercy, generosity, and blessing. This is frankly how I generally understand love for God and probably the way most of us do. However, look at how she explains this second love:
But there is another love that is even more precious. It arises in us not from anything God has done for us, but spontaneously, becuase our souls were made to delight simply in God's being, and God's being with us. One great modern mystic, Rav (Rabbi) Abraham Isaac Kook, taught that all the rich imagery of the Song of Songs exists precisely for the sake of making vividly real this rare love that does not derive form material benefits. The Song shows us love in its purest form.
i was struck by this because it's hard for me to think of times I don't express love for God apart from seeing his love or grace given to me. I'm reminded that God is worthy of my love purely because he is God, before I benefit from anything he gives me (including forgiveness, sonship, etc.). His majesty and glory and holiness and beauty are aspects that I need help seeing. I'm thankful that the Spirit is alive and is faithful to increase this type of love for him.

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