A Friend Who Sticks Closer than a Brother (S of S 1:2-7)
No other book in the Bible presents the passionate and pursuing love of Christ, as the Song of Solomon. On the other hand, no other book in the Bible presents the Christian’s love so fragile and insecure as this book. The opening scene of the Song of Solomon sets the stage for the entire book; it is a scene of hurt, distrust, vulnerability and the open wound of personal failure. Without apportioning blame directly to them, the girl’s brothers have used their authority—perhaps abused it—over her. She has been made to serve in the open fields and now appears weather-beaten. The AV uses the word “black,” but we should not think of this as a racial identity, it is simply to say that she has become “very dark” because of exposure to the sun.
In any event, she is disgraced, she is deeply hurt, and the weather-beaten skin has left her emotionally scarred (1:5). The point is that this girl brings a lot of baggage to the story and it has a huge impact on her personal life—she has lost out; she has not fulfilled her personal responsibilities and it is an open wound.
We all bring baggage to the Christian life and our relationship with Christ. Some people are very good at hiding the ugly baggage, but no matter how well we hide it, we all have a history. Consequences of a previous life, scars of our youthful follies. We often pick up this unwanted baggage as we continue through life. Furthermore, much of our baggage involves broken relationships. Relationships break down, friends come and go, pain and hurt follow. To compound the problem, the hurt deepens when those failed relationships are among families as we see in our text (vs. 5). The sad irony of a broken world is that those closest to us are the ones who are likely to hurt us the most. This is where the Shulamite is at the beginning of the story, and throughout the book, she struggles with issues of trust, lack of confidence and insecurity.
So, how does this Shulamite deal with her baggage? The answer is quite simple—she struggles. If you read through this book, you will discover that any time that Solomon, the bridegroom speaks, he is either telling her directly that he loves her or describing how lovely she is. He never uses the term “lovesick,” yet she uses it twice (2:5; 5:8). She is “lovesick,” because while she does truly love him, she struggles to trust him or to rest and recline in his love.
Do you see how this Shulamite’s life experience was not too dissimilar to our own! While the Scripture speaks of God’s passionate and pursuing love, and pastors try to convincingly explain the loving fatherhood of God, yet the only model of a father that many have is of an absent and abusive tyrant, or a drunken or doped authority-figure? While pastors try to convincingly explain the love of Christ as our bridegroom—the lover of our soul—the only love we see around us is corrupt, selfish, and unpredictable? Divorce has gone through the roof and marital infidelity is celebrated and love is reduced to the satisfaction of fleshly lust.
And so, we, like the Shulamite, struggle to love, we struggle to lean on Christ and to trust in His love. Like the Shulamite, there are times when we hide from him (2:14), we put him off and ignore him knocking at the door (5:2). There are times when the little things—the little foxes—interrupt and hinder our happiness (2:15). There are even times when we put ourselves in danger avoiding him and seeking our own security (4:8). There are also times, as in our text here when the baggage of the past seems to overwhelm us—and we just have to vent (1:6).
And yet in the midst of all of this failure and folly, the Shulamite prays. She prays because she loves him and she wants to love him. If I was to put a title on the Song of Solomon, it would be this; “Learning to love the beloved.”
Does this not mirror us in a fallen world, learning to love Him amidst all of the din and distractions, the hurts and the broken relationships, the pain and the resentment. Learning to keep our focus, learning to respond to his call, learning to trust him as the One alone who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
So, let’s look at how she learns to love him; she prays. In these first few verses then this Shulamite makes three requests. As we have already noted, she loves him, but we see also that she knows him. These requests are not wishful thinking or shots in the dark. Her prayer is motivated by what she already knows about her beloved—He loves her; she prays for a tangible manifestation of this love (“let him kiss me…” 1:2). He is the king; she prays that he would exercise his influence over her (“draw me…” 1:4). He is a shepherd; she prays for guidance and provision (“Tell me…” 1:7).
First, she prays for tangible evidence of his love (“let him kiss me…” vs. 2). More and more we are living in an environment that demands evidence—we no longer trust mere words. The era when “a man’s word is his bond” is long since gone. So many people in so many places and in so many ways have lied, deceived and duped that it is difficult to trust anyone. We want to see delivery on those election promises, we want to see that the product “does exactly what it says on the tin”—if you can remember the old Ronseal advertisement from the 1900s. Many parts of the world are like how Paul described the Cretans—”always liars” (Titus 1:12). In Jamaica distrust is so systemic that they have a proverb— “a promise is a comfort to a fool.”
God in his mercy has given us tangible evidence of his love for us—He has answered the Shulamite’s prayers and “kissed us with the kisses of his mouth.” Bernard of Clairvaux, the 12th century Abbot, makes the point that it is the “kiss” that is emphasised here—he does not say “let him kiss me with his mouth,” but “Let him kiss me, with the kisses of his mouth.” There is the one who kisses (God) and the one being kissed (the believer), but Christ is the kiss that unites God and man together. God has kissed the world with the gift of his son.
But, you say, that was 2000 years ago, and that kiss has gone! Has it? Has he not also given us His written Word? Are you not, even today, holding God’s kiss in your hand? Furthermore, has He not also pressed that kiss home to your heart and given you His Holy Spirit to live in you, so that Paul could say, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)” (Romans 10:8, ESV).
Second, she prays that he would rule and exercise his influence over her (“draw me…” vs. 4). The Shulamite is in the grip of a difficult past. She had been hurt by her brothers and the memory of it still haunts her (vs. 5-6). But here now, she has met the king and she prays that he can exert his influence over her and draw her away from it all protect her from it and cause her to forget it.
This is an interesting prayer, given that she had been hurt by the authority exercised by her brothers. It is tempting for us to throw off Divine authority because we have been injured by some earthly authority. But here we learn to seek that true and just authority. We may struggle with the horrors of the past, feel the burden of the baggage of life and the injuries of an earthly authority figure. But we should not lose sight of the King of Kings whose ear we have.
Whatever else is going on in our lives, whoever else is dominating and manipulating circumstances that affect us and hurt us, we have a Saviour who is the King of Kings, He can draw us to Himself. He will prove to us that despite our resistance, our insecurities and vulnerabilities—he is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He will overcome our insecurities; he will overcome our inconsistencies. We can trust him. We may resist Him and ignore Him and wrestle against Him—but He will pursue and persuade, and He will draw us and bring us into His chambers where he will show us the extent of his luxury and the bounty of his treasure.
Now, notice how he answers this prayer throughout the book despite her resisting. She prays “draw me…” and then, like an insecure bride, stubborn and willful, she resists and wrestles and hides and ignores Him. How like us! So, He calls her (2:10), he knocks for her (5:2; Revelation 3:22), he withdraws from her in order to draw her out in search of him (5:6).
Finally, she prays that he would shepherd her (“tell me…where you pasture your flock” vs.7). We can leave the past, forgetting those things that are behind and look to the future (Philippians 3:13). He is not just the King; He is the Shepherd-King. He does not just rule over He will not only draw us away from the sorrows of this fallen world and draw us to the realities of another world entirely, but He can feed and nourish us, He can build us up and He can give us rest.
We have a Shepherd who can give us rest, enable us to rest in the heat of the day, lead us beside still waters, prepare a table for us and cause us to eat. Interesting, is it not, that she does not mind the burning sun now if she is with him. She suffered the heat of the sun under the authority of her brothers, but she can bear it if she is with her beloved.
The first scene in the Song of Solomon contains these unfortunate words; “my mother’s sons were angry with me…” In verse eight, the man speaks for the first time and he immediately addresses her fears and insecurities; “Oh most beautiful among women…” Through the rest of the book, the bridegroom proves to her that he is one who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), and in the end, she is convinced (8:6-7).
This is our beloved, He is more than a friend; He is the lover of my soul, He is my King and He is my Chief Pastor. Let us be convinced today, that we have a true friend in Christ, One who sticks closer than a brother.