Psalm 77:10–15; Song of Solomon 1:1–2:7; Galatians 1:1–12

Psalm 77:10–15: The psalmist reflects at night (6) in tears (3) on his broken relationship with God–a God who seems to have disappeared–wondering, “Is His kindness gone for all time,/ His word done for time without end” (9). This is more than merely God’s absence due to his anger with the poet, for the absolution that God brings has also vanished: “Has God forgotten to show grace,/ has he closed off in wrath  His compassion?” (10)

The psalmist blames himself, “And I said, it is my failing,/ that the High One’s right hand has changed.” (11) He believes he is still doing all the “right” things in worship in order to maintain that relationship: “I recite all your works,/ Your acts I rehearse.” (14) He realizes that there are no greater small-g gods–“Who is a great god like God?”–and that in the past God has manifested himself to everyone: “You are the god working wonders./ You made known among peoples Your strength.” (15)

This is a stark reminder to us that there will be times when it feels as if God has abandoned us for no good reason. We believe our faith an worship has been constant, and that we are acting righteously, but that does not prevent God from seeming to disappear. This is why I am suspicious of people who claim they are constantly in God’s presence and never miss him.  It seems that the psalmist is reflecting a more realistic and yes, honest, relationship. We cannot control God to our desires and taste. I believe that it is entirely a part of the relationship between God and us that from time to time it will seem permanently broken. After all, that’s what happens in important human relationships such as marriage.

Song of Solomon 1:1–2:7: Too many evangelical scholars, IMO, have attempted to “theologize” this wonderful poem of the love between bride and bridegroom, making it an allegory for Christ’s love for the church. That may be fine, but we know that the poet who wrote it did not have Jesus in mind. And when we try to do theology, we miss romance and the sheer beauty of this poem, which is even richer in metaphor and simile than the psalms.

Was Solomon really the author of this “Song of Songs?” We’ll never know for sure, but I am certainly willing to give him credit. But if so, which bride is he writing about? We’ll never know that either. But rather than wondering about authorship, we’ll just reflect on the beauty of the words themselves…

The bride speaks first with opening lines that set the tone of the entire book: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!/ For your love is better than wine,” (2) There is the startling line, “I am black and beautiful,” (5) but then he darkness seems to be from long exposure to the sun due to forced labor: “Do not gaze at me because I am dark,/ because the sun has gazed on me./My mother’s sons were angry with me;/ they made me keeper of the vineyards,.” But the next line, “but my own vineyard I have not kept!” (6) certainly seems to suggest something far more intimate than getting a sunburn in a vineyard. This is the fun in reading this poem. It is full of sexual references, innuendo and metaphor.  I’m pretty sure this is one of them…

The bridegroom speaks next: “I compare you, my love,/ to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.” (9), which at first reading seems a very odd simile. But we have to assume that only the most beautiful animals were suitable to pull Pharaoh’s chariots, and that he is simply saying that his bride’s beauty is unsurpassed, which the bridegroom makes clear: “Ah, you are beautiful, my love;/ ah, you are beautiful;/  your eyes are doves.” (15).

The bride speaks again, “for I am faint with love.” (2:5) cautioning her friends that he love is so intense it is almost painful as she waits in anticipation for her marriage: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,/ do not stir up or awaken love/ until it is ready!” (2:7)

Galatians 1:1–12: First the seemingly endless troubles at Corinth, now at Galatia. Paul is bedeviled by the perversions by others of the clear gospel message with which he established these churches: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (6,7). 

This is so often the case: the very human tendency to add to the core message of Jesus Christ, to make it more appealing, or to asset that it produces material prosperity, to use as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement, or simply to make it more “interesting.” But I think the thing that vexed Paul the most–and still vexes the church today–is to make the gospel about the preacher and not the message. That the human communicator possesses insight and wisdom beyond the basic message. That is certainly what the Gnostic heresies were about.

Rather than abandoning ourselves to Christ, which is at the heart of the gospel, these proclaimers–and we– bring in the parts of the gospel that we like and use those parts to add to our own self-centered theology. That somehow we have a “special revelation” that in the end only amplifies our own pride.

Instead, as Paul asserts his apostolic authority, he makes it clear that the gospel does not arise out of human wisdom or insight. Rather, “I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (12). It’s clear to me, anyway, why these opening lines may have made Martin Luther sit up and take notice.

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