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Paul J. Bucknell
9 “To me, my darling, you are like My mare among the chariots of Pharaoh. 10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, Your neck with strings of beads. 11 We will make for you ornaments of gold With beads of silver” (Song of Solomon 1:9-11, NASB).
Relationships are two–sided. A person can dream and long for the company of another for a month or even a year, but in the end, the real test is the other’s reciprocal interest. In fact, for a strong relationship, we need to see mutual desire turn to a deep commitment. This commitment is not hinted about here; it is too premature in this budding relationship where we are only looking at a few snapshots of their developing love. There are three aspects of this new and growing relationship.
We are not sure how she actually got to meet the shepherd. Did she actually walk up to the shepherds and introduce herself to him? Probably not. The advice in 1:8 was not the kind she could follow. The path might lead to the shepherds’ meeting area but there is little chance that she sought him out. More than likely, she happened upon some special opportunity enabling them to be acquainted. We love to hear such tales, but here we are left to our speculation. Although we do not know how he met her, he is now giving forth his own expression of love.
1) Prizing the presence of the maiden (1:9)
The mark of relationships is the way one prizes one person above others. They choose to spend time and money with one person in particular. They choose to limit their activities so that they can do the same thing whether it be a walk, a drive, or eat out together. The issue is not so much what they are doing but that they are together.
He shows his preference of this maiden by the way he compares her with others. He finds that she is more special to him than all the others. “You are like my mare among the chariots of Pharaoh” (1:9). This shepherd was not a regular shepherd for he owned not only own sheep but also horses. And though we might have difficulty identifying with his illustration, it is easy enough to know that he means that she is the star of his life. She has a special place in his eye that others do not have.
This is also seen in his endearing phrase, “My darling.” Though the word is always used with special affection, this context demands it. In English, we might call someone “My honey.” Honey does not connotate love but a sticky sugary syrup made from bees. However, used in a certain context, everyone knows honey pictures the delight he has in her as one who delights tasting honey.
2) Adoring the maiden's features (1:10)
Verse 10 records his fascination for her. Whether the poor vinedresser possesses these actual ornaments at this point is rather moot. The most important aspect is that he sees her in such a way that she totally pleases him. He mentions the special way her cheeks and neck please him.
Mentioning the physical parts of one’s lover simply describes his general affection for her. One could compare her cheeks and neck with other girls, but this is not what most people do. I doubt this is what he has done either. The physical enchantment goes deeper than the surface. Pornography focuses only on the body parts to stimulate oneself, but here each body part highlights his delight in her whole being.
Cherishing a person is enjoying their presence.
3) Acceptance from others of the relationship (1:11)
Here in verse 11, we find again that familiar “we” chorus of voices. Surely at this point, any former reservation or jealousy that we saw hinted at in verse 8 is now gone in the excitement of a real relationship. Speculation has turned to reality in the affirmation of his love for her.
Growing relationships are confirmed by the other’s voice. This is true of God’s love for us in Christ. We can sense a desire in our hearts for God, but there is nothing like hearing His own love for us seen in the cross and His Word. We might wonder at the word ‘hear,’ but we should realize that God speaks to us differently than a person would speak. But He does speak. He speaks through the Word of God and reassures our hearts. Often a word or phrase or even picture might come to mind that reminds us of His love for us.
Many Christians tend to miss this aspect of the relationship between God and man. Evangelicals tend to pride themselves on calling their life with God a relationship but often ignore the practical aspects. They might be saved and consider the relationship settled but stop there and forget about the acts to demonstrate their love for God. For example, they might not spend time with the Lord in spiritual devotions.
If we have missed or forgotten the first step of realizing our sin, the relationship will be one of presumption, “God ought to be glad He has me. Look what He can do with me.” Or more commonly even still, “God ought to love me.” We never can get close to God with these attitudes which are totally based on false notions, but if we remember our humble start, then we can enjoy the love of God.
This means that we can hear His words of endearment and His love for us in Christ for in Him our sins are cleansed and wiped away so that our relationship will continue forever. This type of awareness allows us to be honest with God and let down our guard as He comes closer and closer. If we forget that we are saved by grace alone, we will assume that He loves us because we are lovable in ourselves. We are not. The relationship did not start off on an equal basis. We love Him as the perfect and completely desirable One. He loves us out of choice and delight to bring His love to us. The dullness of worship usually stems from forgetting we are saved by grace.
Marriages get dull when couples think love is deserved. Love is born of grace and thrives on a continual commitment to the one we love not based on what that person is or has done but on the commitment we have made toward them. In order to get the right kind of commitment in marriage, we need to watch our understanding of love early on.
“Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 10:15).
So let’s hear the words of our Great Lover. Let them soak deep into our hearts so that it is His love that motivates us to do good. God doesn’t just love our soul but our bodies too, being intertwined.
How does one do this? At the tail end of devotions, or a special reflective time upon the scriptures, quiet yourself still and ask Him if there is anything He wants to say to you. One should be able to do this during worship services but often we have too much going on to be still and quiet. Wait for an answer. As you wait, reflect on His Word, what you have been taught and what challenges are up ahead. Speak to Him gently that you want to hear anything He has to say.
We should recognize that God has made the universe including the angels to watch what He is doing among men for it is only here that His great love and grace can be seen.
“In order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10, NASB).
“And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23, NASB).
Clearly, we see through these phrases, “now be made known” or “that He might make known” we see God’s great plan is being made known. It already was a great plan but carried out in time so that others might observe it and join in celebrating the glory of God.