Rise and rise again
until lambs become lions.
That’s a line from the movie Robin Hood (2010) with Russell Crowe. It means you must do something over and over until change happens; in this case, you must repeatedly summon the courage for battle until the fearful become fighters.
Recently, while teaching through the book and video series, The Mingling of Souls: God's Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matthew Chandler and Jared Wilson, I came across something I wrote almost twelve years ago. It’s a reflection on the way King Solomon repeatedly praises his bride in the Old Testament book the Song of Solomon (also sometimes called, the Song of Songs).
I wrote it for my then fiancée, now wife, Brooke. But I also wrote it for myself. I hoped it would shape the type of husband I would become, even as it (hopefully and subsequently) would shape my wife. Perhaps I could summarize what I wrote in this way:
Praise and praise again
until brambles become lilies.
The point is that a husband is to praise his wife, so constantly, so faithfully, that it changes her.
I don’t think the poetry in my line is as strong as the original from Robin Hood; I’m missing the alliteration of “l” (lambs, lions). But my line does have an allusion to Song of Solomon and the way he praises his bride. In 2:2, he says, “As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.”
All of this to say, I gave the below reflection on the Song of Solomon some fresh polish, as well as making it more generic so that I could share it with you. May God use it as a helpful reminder—for me and husbands everywhere.
* * *
Right in the middle of the Old Testament, there is a Hebrew love poem written about King Solomon and his bride. In the book, she is not named, though she is referred to once as the “Shulammite” (6:13).
There are a number of different ways to interpret the book. One popular and, I believe, helpful approach is the “chronological” view. (This, by the way, is the view taken in The Mingling of Souls). In this approach, the eight chapters are understood to follow the couple’s relationship from their initial attraction, to their dating, to courting, to wedding, to honeymoon, and finally through married life.
But one thing is for sure: Solomon’s bride is not a rock of security and self-confidence, or at least not originally. In 1:5-6, she says to her friends,
I am very dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother's sons were angry with me;
they made me keeper of the vineyards,
but my own vineyard I have not kept!
Can you hear her insecurities? “Do not look at me.”
Apparently, she was not from a wealthy family; her brothers made her work all day outside in a hot vineyard while her “own vineyard,” that is her body and personal appearance, she didn’t “keep.”
If you only read the beginning of their love song, however, you would not expect the Shulammite woman ever to say, “Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits” (4:16b). Yet this is precisely what she whispers to Solomon on her wedding night. She almost sounds like a different woman. And in many ways she is. Something changes, something massive changes.
Throughout the book, Solomon devotes himself to praising and prizing “[his] sister and [his] bride” (4:9). In fact, of all the twenty-one verses that Solomon speaks before chapter five (the consummation of the marriage), not a single verse is missing a praise of her physical beauty, strength of character, or an expression of his desire for her to come away with him.
Solomon praises her eyes three times; her cheeks, fragrance, and lips twice; and her neck, teeth, lips, mouth, breasts, tongue, and her chastity are all admired once. And he pronounces her beautiful six times (1:8, 15 [twice]; 4:1 [twice], 7).
The amazing thing to ponder is that this practice doesn’t cease after the honeymoon. It doesn’t even appear to slow down. He’s like the Energizer Bunny of Praise. Four times, he calls her beautiful (6:4, 10, 7:1, 6). In fact, in the sixteen verses that Solomon speaks after 5:1, only his closing verse (8:13) does not contain overt praise of his wife. Yet even in this line, he expresses his desire to hear her voice.
And this, as I understand it, changes everything.
Husbands, praise and praise again until brambles become lilies.
[Picture by Rachael Crowe / Unsplash]