Love Is Strong as Death
Father of Mercies, the God of all comfort, deepen my faith, stir up my zeal, and lead me to obedient trust.
Read Song of Songs 7:9-8:14
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
What kind of love can be as strong or as fierce as death? If you have known it, thank God!
The Song concludes in perhaps a somewhat odd way. There is less of a narrative to it than a series of short lyrics in different voices, possibly of brothers at one point (8:8), which adds to the sense that this is somewhere between a dramatic narrative and an anthology. Perhaps vs. 6 and 7 would work better as a conclusion, a summation of the power of love that has been celebrated in different ways in the preceding chapters. I have to admit that I always hear it in my head in the glorious setting of “Greater Love” by John Ireland which, in its choice of New Testament verses to continue the thought, sets it in a more obviously Christological context. And why not? The author of those two verses knew a great deal about the meaning of love. At one level, it is telling the truth about love as passion, where the right translation for “strong” would be “fierce.” At another level, it would be about value, where the fool who offers money for love is simply scorned. It isn’t like that–you can get a replica for money, but not the real thing. It is also a fire, but the kind of fire that can’t be put out with a bucket of water, like lust can (temporarily, at least).
The Song operates at a number of levels. First, it tells a truth about the birth of love when the lovers are young, vigorous and beautiful in each other’s eyes. Second, it is a great literary poem. Third, the various interpreters who spiritualized or interpreted this Song allegorically were not running away from the eros in it; rather they were responding to the depth of the insight into love, a love which makes us human, in the image of God, and, as Augustine says, restless until we find our home in him.
If you love intensely, it is possible to be intensely hurt. Can you recall when you were hurt in such a way? How did God help you to handle it?
Thank You, Father, for all the love I have experienced in my life. I want to live as a loving person and only You can help me be and become that way.
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