Surpassing

No human king’s glory can compare with the surpassing glory of the King of kings

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Read: Song of Songs 3

I looked for the one my heart loves…
I will search for the one my heart loves…
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”…
I found the one my heart loves. (Songs 3:1-4)

Who is this coming up from the wilderness
like a column of smoke? (Songs 3:6)

Look! It is Solomon’s carriage.
escorted by sixty warriors. (Songs 3:7)

Look on King Solomon wearing a crown
the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
the day his heart rejoiced. (Songs 3:11)

Reflect:

The juxtaposition of characters in this chapter is intriguing. The bride yearns and searches for “the one my heart loves” and the reader assumes this is her groom. But upon finding her “one”, she immediately describes the appearance of King Solomon in his royal carriage.

King Solomon is accompanied by 60 warriors, twice as many as King David’s famed chief warriors of 2 Samuel 23. He drives a carriage made by himself, which is replete with royal materials like purple cloth, gold and Lebanon cedar. Furthermore, it seems King Solomon wears his wedding crown.

So, is King Solomon the bride’s groom? Or is she just favourably comparing her beloved groom to King Solomon, wisest and richest and most powerful of Israel’s kings? I’m not sure.

But there is another comparison at play here in the text as well: King Solomon in all his splendour is seen coming “from the wilderness like a column of smoke”, a clear reference to the LORD who went before the people of Israel through the desert as a pillar of fire by night and a column of cloud by day.

King Solomon may be twice as mighty as his father King David, but here he is compared to the LORD himself, the King of kings. This King shall one day return rejoicing to claim his bride (the church) who yearns for him and searches for him eagerly.

Crux:

No human king’s glory can compare with the surpassing glory of the King of kings.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the King of kings, majestic in glory.

Your coming will be like that of a great king riding his carriage, made from the finest materials, draped in royal purple. All will see you coming on the clouds.

Your attendants are too numerous to count: the vast hosts of heavenly angels who serve you, the countless descendants of Abraham who shared his faith, the multitude of saints who believe in your Son.

You wear a crown, a crown of thorns, which was placed on your head by your own mother, Israel herself. On that day they celebrated your death on a cross, but you celebrated your union with your bride, the church.

It is not King Solomon, still less any human husband (including mine), who displays your glory in all its magnificence. These are but pale imitations. It is in Jesus the Christ, your Son and Heir, the Messiah, that the radiance of your glory shines fully.

May Jesus ever be praised; may he be forever exalted as the King of kings!

O how my heart loves him!

Amen.

Regrets

Do not walk willingly into immorality

Read: Song of Songs 2

[She] Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not awaken or arouse love
until it so desires. (Songs 2:7)

Reflect:

Although Jeff and I weren’t Christians when we met and married, I chose to read the first seven verses of Songs 2 aloud as part of our wedding service.* Songs 2:7 challenges me now as then: “Do not awaken or arouse love…”

When we married, I looked back on my previous relationships with regret, remorse and a certain amount of shame – though not yet with repentance at that time. I have long since repented of all my sexual immorality, and I know that I am forgiven by the grace of God. But I still wish I had learnt the lesson of Songs 2:7 long before my wedding day.

Sexual sin – whether in thought or deed – is no different to any other sin in that I need to not do it! And since I didn’t avoid this sin, I needed Christ to atone for this sin (along with many, many others) through his death on the cross.

For my present and future, I need to keep away from sexual immorality. I need to “not awaken” ungodly love. Since I’m now married, the only valid, godly expression of sexual love for me is shared with my husband. I need to flee inappropriate arousal, and whatever might feed it in me. I need Christ to purify my love.

Crux:

Do not walk willingly into immorality.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I thank you once again for the forgiveness and freedom you have given me in Jesus Christ. Please keep me from dwelling on the regret I feel for my past sin and instead help me to enjoy the peace and purity you have given me when you made me a new creation in Christ Jesus.

LORD, please help me to stand firm against sexual temptation and against any temptation to form inappropriately intimate relationships. Please protect me from Satan’s snares. Please counsel me and guide me by your Spirit so I do not ever willingly walk into immorality.

Please help me to teach my daughters especially – and also my ‘daughters in the faith’ – to not walk willingly into immorality. Please help me to show them the value and virtue of purity and fidelity, modesty and morality.

Amen.

* Songs 2 begins with a reference to my namesake, the fertile pasturelands of Sharon.

Kisses

The love between a wife and her husband is delightful

Read: Song of Songs 1

[She] Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth –
for your love is more delightful than wine. (Songs 1:2)

Reflect:

According to my Bible’s brief introductory notes, the songs in Song of Songs “are arranged to tell the courtship story of a man and a woman, of their marriage (described as a royal wedding) and its consummation, and of the beginning of their new life together.” A series of songs authored by or for Solomon, these are songs which celebrate the particular expression of love in the context of marriage. With the newest laws of my country conferring the right to ‘marriage’ upon same-sex couples, it seems prudent to me to re-read Song of Songs to learn or re-learn God’s ideal for marital love.

Songs begins with the woman seeking kisses! This is a shock to me, because somewhere along the way I caught the thought that the man must always be the initiator of intimacy. Hmm. I guess maybe that’s a cultural standard that isn’t necessary biblical.

I am thinking I need to memorise this verse to quote to my kids when they’re all “Ick, Gross!” because Jeff and I are kissing in the kitchen…

Crux:

The love between a wife and her husband is delightful.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for including Solomon’s Song of Songs in the Scriptures so I might learn better how to love my husband rightly. Please help me to understand, interpret and apply the words in your book wisely to my own life and to our marriage.

Please also use your words to give me words to explain righteous Christian marital relationships to others: to our children, to the women in my Bible study small group, to others with whom you grant me an opportunity to converse on this topic.

Please make me wise on the topic of marital and sexual love.

LORD, I also ask that you continue to grant me delight in the kisses of my husband. May our children see our affection and be inspired to seek godly spouses when your time for that comes to pass.

Amen.

Echoes

The Jesus who appeared to his disciples after his death was the same Jesus who died

Read: John 21

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” (John 21:10)

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. (John 21:13)

Again Jesus said, “Simon, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16)

Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:19b)

Reflect:

This final chapter of John’s gospel reads like a series of echoes of the events of Jesus’ ministry. It describes a third appearance of Jesus to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. The disciples didn’t at first recognise Jesus, but the sequence of events on this occasion must have reminded them of all that had gone before.

Jesus met them on the shore after a long night of fishing. I wonder if they recalled the day Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19)

Jesus took bread and fish and gave it to them to eat. I suppose they must have remembered the day Jesus fed 5000 men and their families and later declared, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” (John 6:35)

Jesus told Simon to feed and take care of his sheep. Simon must have thought of the day Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd… I lay down my life for my sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

Jesus told Peter to follow him, and he must have remembered that day just a short time ago when Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Crux:

The Jesus who appeared to his disciples after his death was the same Jesus who died – and his message was the same good news message.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the same yesterday, today and into tomorrow. You are the Alpha and the Omega; the First and the Last; who was, who is and who is to come. Holy, holy, holy are you, my LORD God Almighty.

Jesus, you are IT. You are the crux of all creation, the true centre of the universe. And the message you came to teach is the same message that changed all and changes all.

You call me out of my old life, making me new. May I leave that life far behind.

You feed, sustain and nourish me. May I eat and be satisfied.

You call forth my love for you and command me to love your “sheep”. May I love well and dearly.

You are the One Way to the Father, and you call me to follow you. May I follow in your steps all the days of this eternal life you have granted to me.

Amen.

Father

God the Father is now my Father

Read: John 20

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” (John 20:17)

Reflect:

In this gospel, God the Father is mentioned about 100 times. Always, up to this point, Jesus has spoken of him as “the Father” or, more intimately, as “my Father”. In his prayer (John 17), Jesus addressed God as “Father… Holy Father… Righteous Father.” As narrator, John the evangelist uses the words “the Father” or “his Father” to refer to God.

But here – and only here – Jesus refers to God not only as “my Father” but also as “your Father.” Jesus’ death on a cross and his resurrection from the tomb have changed the very fabric of the universe. No longer is God removed from his people: he is their Father, our Father, my Father, your Father.

Jesus accomplished the adoption of an entire kingdom, bringing me and millions of others into the family of God, so we may cry to God with the Spirit’s help, “Abba Father! Dearest Dad!”

I am no longer separated from God by the expanse my sin created and kept between us. Now, Jesus Christ is my brother and I am his sister. God the Father is my Father and I am his daughter. And just as Jesus ascended to be with his Father, so, one day, shall I.

Crux:

God the Father is now my Father!

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Jesus’ Father and you are my Father. This is immeasurably precious to me.

Abba, Dad, you have chosen me and called me to follow; you have adopted me and appointed me to belong. You set your heart of loving-kindness, grace, mercy and compassion upon me. You sought me and fought for me and bought me with Christ’s blood.

Now I am yours, your child, your daughter, forever more. I belong to you and can never be taken from your family. There will be no other family for me ever.

I belong to your family:
You, holy and righteous Father, are my Father.
You, dead and risen Son, are my brother.
You, wise and true Spirit, dwell within my spirit.

Thank you for wanting me. Thank you for winning me. Thank you for welcoming me into your family, the very family of God.

May I always live as a true daughter who cherishes her Father’s love and lives to love him.

Amen.

King

Jesus is King and his throne is a Cross

Read: John 19

It was the day of Preparation for Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:14-16)

Reflect:

Every single time I read this true story, I am shocked anew at the boldness of the Jewish chief priests in declaring, “We have no king but Caesar!”

The Jews did have a king: the LORD, the Almighty God was their king. But in this instant, it seemed to them that they would achieve their own ends faster and better if they denied God their heavenly king and proclaimed someone else, the Roman caesar, to be their king. What blasphemy!

Even if you take into account that these Jews did not believe Jesus was sent by God to be their king, it was still total hypocrisy to condemn one man to death for “claim[ing] to be king of the Jews” (John 19:21) while proclaiming another mere human man to be their only king.

I call it shocking, but I shouldn’t be shocked. I, too, often seek to enthrone someone other than Jesus as king over my life. All too often, I want to establish myself as my own king. This is my sin.

This is why Jesus died: He was king, not only of the Jews, but of me, of all people. And the throne upon which he was crowned was a Roman cross.

Christ on the Cross
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

Crux:

Jesus is King and his throne is a Cross.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I declare Jesus of Nazareth is King – not just King of the Jews, as Pilate listed on his crucifixion notice. Jesus of Nazareth is King of all the universe, and Jesus of Nazareth is King of me. May it ever be so!

May I always, in every moment of my everyday ordinary Christian life, humbly submit to my sovereign king: Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus your Anointed One, Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross for me.

May I be a willing and obedient citizen of Jesus’ kingdom. May I never seek to subvert Jesus’ rule or overthrow his reign in my life. May I submit and find joy and satisfaction in Jesus my king.

LORD, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Please help me to submit to Jesus, through the voice and work of your Holy Spirit in my heart. Please help me to exalt you as King in my life.

Help me to submit in a righteous and holy way to those human authorities you have set over me: my pastor-husband Jeff, our church elders Dawson and David, my bosses at work, my nation’s elected government and its officials.

Amen.

Willing

Knowing he was going to his death, Jesus went willingly

Read: John 18

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) (John 18:4-5)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)

Reflect:

Jesus knew what was going to happen to him and faced it resolutely and even willingly. He was determined to obey his Father all the way to death.

When I think of how disobedient I was to my (human) parents, how disobedient my children can be at times, it seems particularly remarkable to me how obedient Jesus was to his Father’s command. Of course, Jesus’ obedience is founded on the essential unity of the Trinity, the oneness of the Godhead. This is the same oneness that Jesus prayed would be a distinguishing feature of his followers.

What a pale imitation I am, we are! Yet glimmers of glory do shine through. Sometimes I obey my heavenly Father willingly and freely. Sadly, not nearly enough. This is why I need Jesus so much.

First Easter 1-1

Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

Crux:

Knowing he was going to his death, Jesus went willingly.

Reflect:

LORD God Almighty,

Please forgive my disobedience to you. Please show me my sin and lead me to repentance. Please forgive me and lead me to righteousness.

May I always walk in the Light of your Son, on the narrow way that leads to life. May I enter through your Son, the Gate, and come to your presence and be nourished as a sheep in fresh pasture.

May I find my joy and satisfaction in you and in obedience to you. May I remember that disobedience leads to death.

I honour you, Jesus, for your full and complete obedience to our Father. You are holy and righteous, blameless and pure. You are everything I am not. I desperately need and rely upon your righteousness imputed to me for my justification. Thank you for willingly facing the cross for my sake.

Amen.