Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes

Last week was so amazing studying Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs) and Ecclesiastes!

When I first read Song of Songs out loud, I honestly didn’t have a clue what to make of it. It is one of the most debated books in terms of why on earth it made it into the bible – I think I read about five different theories.

Most of the church believes it’s an allegory displaying the relationship between Christ and the church. But after studying it on my own, having no bias toward any one theory, there really is not much basis to believe it’s an allegory. There’s a lot of evidence (I won’t go into it here) that has convinced that he wrote it for the Israelites of his day, not necessarily with the church in mind. 

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We do our our laundry at the Fluff & Fold 🙂

Studying this book ended up being so much fun because it’s highly figurative and left a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to highlight different things to each one of us. One of the main ideas a couple of us saw was the friendly and very passionate affection the two lovers had for one another throughout their marriage. God’s idea for marriage was that these affections last, which requires a basic friendship, though these affections definitely have to be worked on after the initial “honeymoon phase” and in times of serious conflict and trial. The friendship and affection would help to keep the marriage thriving and joyful, and work against feelings of contempt and/or grudge. 

I also saw the writer speak to the value of love. She (it could have been the man, it’s interpretative) was imploring the other to hold love in a high regard, and not neglect it or become unfaithful. Love was to be the highest priority: 

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
    passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
    a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
    neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
    all the wealth of one’s house,
    it would be utterly scorned.

Song of Solomon 8:6,7

I love the last two lines where she says that “wealth….would be utterly scorned.” The author is saying that wealth is less valuable than love! 

Ecclesiastes was world’s different than Song of Solomon in that it was pretty much straightforward and concrete: nothing in this world can ever possibly satisfy the human need for contentment and satisfaction other than God. 

Even though it was so tedious to study, seeing the same main idea come across over and over again in chapter, I definitely experienced a lot of intense spiritual warfare as a lot of wrong beliefs and other junk started rising up within me. 

I always heard that contentment can only come through God, but to actually surrender to that notion is the hardest thing for humans to do. Solomon makes it very clear that nothing, absolutely nothing, can satisfy like the fear of God can. We are humans made for eternity, and the only thing eternal is God Himself. Therefore everything else leaves us empty – it may even make us hate the earthly thing we put our hope in because of how empty it makes us feel in the end. 

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:17

 

I think King David was probably one of the most content men in history. His mind was utterly consumed with thoughts of God. He truly enjoyed His presence and thoughts of God more than life itself:

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
 when I think of you on my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:1-8

The reason why it’s so hard to live out Psalm 63 is because it takes hard fast devotion to God. It takes faith. It takes perseverance and time. It takes humility and willingness to learn.

It’s much easier to cling to our achievements in life…money…people…new experiences…sports…whatever it is, these things are familiar and easy to obtain.Even putting all hope in learning to live wisely is unfulfilling (though important if you want a higher quality of life):

I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:16,17

The Holy Spirit was also convicting me of trying to control my circumstances to maximize pleasure, comfort and security. But to live a controlled life like this would mean I would sacrifice a life with the fullest of blessings. Reminds me of the famous “Oceans” song by Hillsong: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.” 

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Do I believe this? That God Himself, without my striving and help, will provide all that I need for comfort, joy and fulfillment? That he will enable me to enjoy life the way it was truly meant to be enjoyed?

See, this alone I found, that God made human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes.

Ecclesiastes 7:29

God has made us all simple, straightforward. He didn’t design us to take our life circumstances in our own hands to maximize pleasure and comfort. The truth is, any extra striving to improve my current situation is futile, and in fact, makes life worse even if I do end up achieving the result I strove for.  

I knew all this, but discovering the truth of it on my own (which is what inductive study is) has freed me in a way that I’ve never been freed before. I think I was finally convinced that this was true, as opposed to “knowing” it but not really living it out. In other words, my inner spirit began surrendering to this truth.

I’m so thankful for this, because one thing I desired coming out of this school was to be filled with the fullness of God, which includes finding completely contentment and rest in Him. I see how God is leading me to this point, and couldn’t be more thankful for His faithfulness and kindness toward me in every season of my life. His eyes are always fixed on me, providing for me, guiding me, and fulfilling the deepest desires of my heart. He never leaves me nor stops fighting for me.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Psalm 16:11

 

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I didn’t think the sunrises at this base could beat the ones at Kona, but….God proved me wrong.

Wisdom from Proverbs and Psalms

Every single week we begin a new study and every time it’s a new adventure with God. He’s doing so much in me through this school, and I feel so blessed.

Proverbs is definitely one of my favorite books  – right up there with 1 & 2 Samuel. In short, it just made really prioritize asking God questions throughout the day, whether big or small ones, and waiting for the answer. Sometimes I have to keep asking and keep searching depending on how deep and forward-thinking the question is (i.e., what is God’s perspective on the end-times, not man’s perspective). But sometimes I need a solution for just an every-day situation, and He guides me in it each time in the proper timing! It’s such a delight!

For the Lord gives wisdom; 
from his mouth come knowledge and
     understanding…
…for wisdom will come into your hearts,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your
     soul;
prudence will watch over you;
   and understanding will guard you.
Proverbs 2:6,10-11
 

Proverbs also makes it quite clear that there are two distinct voices in this world: one of foolishness and one of wisdom. God speaks only wisdom, while the other comes from the enemy.

I’ve heard that before, but God has been challenging me to really put this into practice in every day situations. For instance, when I’m listening to someone, the voice of fear always wants me to think of what I have to do next, or about something else that’s going on in my life or around me. But the voice of wisdom advises me to listen and understand that person, and that I don’t have to fear that I’m “missing out” by focusing my attention on that person. Homer

Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’
     and call insight your intimate friend.

Proverbs 7:4

It definitely takes trust in God to listen to His voice alone. But this is fear of the Lord, and God is taking me to higher levels with it.

God is also teaching me to come to Him for everything. Everyday, something or another bothers me. Sometimes I ask God about it, but other times I don’t.

Over the past couple of weeks,  a few things have bothered me about the school. I love studying the bible and everything that God is teaching me, but there were some things about work duties or rules that got me really upset. I decided to just “get over it,” because I was being “rebellious” if I didn’t, or just needed to have an “attitude change.” But this didn’t work, and all the things that bothered me just started to fester!

Finally, one day, it all came to the surface after one little thing tipped me over the edge and I just started crying tears of frustration in the middle of lecture because I couldn’t even hide it anymore!

It probably wasn’t a coincidence that the lecture I was crying through was on Psalms. Interestingly enough, the majority of psalms are “laments” as opposed to praises or declarations of thanksgiving. So seeing David cry out to God so much gave me permission to express negativity to God, too!

Look on my right hand and see —
     there is no one who takes notice
          of me;
no refuge remains to me;
     no one cares for me.
Psalms 142:4

David complained that there was no one who took care of him, but that obviously wasn’t true, because God was his provider. But this was how David honestly felt, and turned to God with his honest feelings, even if he seemed to lack “faith” in God.

I know it sounds elementary, but for me, this was huge! God was telling me it was okay that I struggled…it was okay that I felt things I “shouldn’t” feel, or that are “ungodly”…I just had to get them out somehow and be real about it, even if it exposes some kind of character flaw of mine.

It’s so freeing to be able to turn to God and not be “punished” for feeling or behaving negatively. It has seriously brought me so much closer to God, knowing that He will never reject me. He gives me grace in my negative attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, etc.

The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
     none of those who take refuge in him
          will be condemned. 
Psalms 34:22

So much more happened during this week. God’s giving me His heart. He’s revealing more of His grace and acceptance. He’s softening me. He’s humbling me.  He’s helping me surrender to the fact that no one but Him and His love for me will satisfy me. He’s helping me accept that I’m a sensitive woman, created in His image, and that I shouldn’t despise my sensitivity even though the world may view it as weak. God is sensitive – not overly sensitive, or easily offended, just sensitive. God is vulnerable, God cries, and God is very intimate.

My friend Annie put it all so simply:

It’s funny how as we get stronger and at the same time our hearts get softer.

King Saul and King David in the Books of Samuel

This week we studied 1 & 2 Samuel and it might have been my favorite book so far because there are so many amazingly rich stories!

I never realized it, but God was basically showing the original reader what true relationship with God looked like through the life of Saul and David. God rose up Saul as the first king, however God rejected him in the end. Even though Saul did things that might have seemed “good” on the outside Saul’s heart was far from God.

Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”

Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lordsent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.

1 Samuel 15:17-21

Saul just didn’t get it. He thought he was honoring God by sacrificing the best of the best. But God didn’t want Saul to do things that seemed nice to Him on the outside. God wanted Saul to obey Him, which required a heart to heart connection with God. So Saul’s works, even though they seemed honoring to God, did not show that he had any true faith in God.

And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice…

1 Samuel 15:22

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Painting to get our minds off studying the Bible!

Sometimes God may ask us to take a season of rest and timeout from serving, but I think a lot of us have a problem with that, listening to accusations that we’re lazy or should be “sacrificing” something to God. But God just wants us to follow His voice, even if that means on the outside it doesn’t appear like there is no “sacrifice” or “service” happening. Relationship is what God values more than “sacrifice.”

That’s why God raised up and established David as the second king. David exemplified fear of the Lord. He didn’t let outside pressure of man to prevent him from obeying God’s word. He wasn’t a people-pleaser. His heart was sold out to follow God in all his ways and from all of his heart, not because he wanted to impress others, but because he was truly in love with God. 

Then David rose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He went into the house of the Lord, and worshiped; he then went to his own house; and when he asked, they set food before him and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive; but when the child died, you rose and ate food.”  He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:20-23

After David’s son died, David decided to stop fasting. On the outside, this appeared to his servants as a “not right.” But David wasn’t concerned of whether or not he was appearing right to others or to appease the voice of guilt in his head. His heart was to fast so that he could save his son from dying, and when he died, there was no more need to appeal to God on the matter.

Another example:

But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes…

2 Samuel 6:20-22

Michael didn’t approve of his dancing. She didn’t think it was the “right” thing to do. But David told her that his worship was from the heart, and he didn’t care if other people approved of it or not.

Everything David did, David did unto God. Rules didn’t matter. The disapproval or criticism of even his wife didn’t phase him. He was confident that everything he did was pure. The only voice he listened to what the voice of God, and when God rebuked Him for his adultery and murder, he listened.

Reading the story of David has helped me stop listening to the voice of the accuser. I don’t have to worry that other people might mistake my heart or not really think what I’m doing is for God. As long as I’m convinced in my own heart that what I choose to do is based out of love and trust for God, then that’s what counts. I can trust He will convict me when needed and listen to no other voice but His!

Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

Romans 14:2-5