“Arise, my love, my fair one…”
Song of Songs 2:8-13
Today’s scripture comes from Song of Songs, from our lectionary reading today. I do not know how many times you have heard any preacher preaching from this most controversial book in the Bible, but I have to tell you that it is my first time ever preaching from Song of Songs.
Song of Songs is the most controversial book in the Bible partly because it does not contain any direct reference to the name of God, but mostly because its erotic languages describing human sexuality between a woman and man one can find plentifully in it. Traditionally, Song of Songs has been interpreted allegorically the love between God and Israel in the Jewish circle, and Christ and his brides in the Christian circle. As I was praying and trying to choose the text for this week, as I was reading the lectionary reading for today’s portion, Song of Songs, I was moved to tears feeling the promptings of Holy Spirit to have our people ready for our Lord’s return.
God also directed my focus on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival, which falls this year on the 9th of September. Rosh Hashanah starts with blowing the shofar, ram’s horn, signifying the “returning of the King”, so alarming God’s people to awake from their spiritual slumber and commands them to repent of their sins to prepare for God’s dwelling with them. As a matter of fact, Jewish people observe Yom Kippur, the day of atonement/repentance ten days after Rosh Hashanah and five days later from the day of atonement, they celebrate the festival of booth or tabernacle. The deeper spiritual meanings of all these observances and the festivals if we meditate, we can clearly see that with the blowing the ram’s horn, we Christians are to be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and his return as our king. With the blowing shofar, we have to awake from our spiritual slumber and to repent of our sins of forgetting his love and sacrifice, to prepare us for the tabernacle of booth, which signifies God dwelling with us in the tabernacle on earth, in the millennial kingdom on earth before the “great white throne judgement”.
We will read today’s scripture in line with Rosh Hashanah, with blowing ram’s horn for us to awake from our slumber to prepare ourselves for the king’s return.
Let’s start with verse 8, it says, “Listen! My beloved, my lover! Look! Here he comes.” We all know that Jesus is depicted as our bridegroom, and we Christians are the brides of Christ in the New Testament. If we read verse 8 allegorically and typically, we know that this woman who says about her lover is us, Christians, -his brides-, and “he”, – “her lover” or “beloved” – is Jesus, our bridegroom. From verse 8, we can see that his brides can hear him coming, “Listen” it is “my beloved”, his footstep! Look! Here he comes. Are we brides of Christ? Do we hear him coming? Do we sense that he is already at the door?
Verse 9 says, “…he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice. Instead of coming into our chamber to have the intimate relationship with us, he stands behind our wall. What is in the way for him to come in? The wall of our unbelief, fleshly desires, lukewarm-ness, backslidings, and ingratitude is between us and our bridegroom, –the wall that separates us from God, which prevents God from fully present to us answering our prayers. Isaiah 59:2, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God…” Yet our bridegroom does not leave us, but staying behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice to get our attention to have a relationship with us, -broken hearted-, wishing and desiring for us.
Verse 10, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” The brides of Christ hear his voice saying, ‘Wake up, arise from where you are, and come with me’. It is time to wake up, it is time to leave where you are, – the sinful place, – it is the time I have come for you! Do we hear his voice?
How do we hear his voice? We hear God’s voice through the scripture. We hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit’s promptings. It is a question of whether we open our bible to listen to his voice. It is a question whether we are spiritually sensitive enough to listen to Holy Spirit’s promptings. The more we listen to God’s voice through the scripture, the more we are being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we realize how lost we are. When we are in darkness, we do not know whether our face is dirty, whether we need to wash our face, but when we are getting closer and closer to the light, we can even see the smallest dirt or speck on our face. Bible is our mirror seeing our true state! If we seriously study the Bible, no matter where we read, it is all about Christ’s love and his work of salvation for us, the lost ones.
Verse 11, Our bridegroom says, “The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.” Winter symbolizes being unfruitful and miserable due to ignorance and sin, and rain symbolizes being punished for our failures, our wickedness, as we see in Noah’s flood story. Verse 12 says flowering and singing season has come, the summer since the cooing of doves is heard in our land”.
In Israel, there are two seasons: winter and summer. Winter is the rainy season, whereas Summer is almost rain-free. In order to understand verses 11 and 12, we have to know what “the cooing of doves is heard in our land” means. Dove can signify many things, but in our text today, with rain and all, we have to understand dove from Noah’s flood story. In Genesis 8:8 -12, after the ark has landed on the mountains of Ararat, Noah sends out a dove a couple of times to see how far the flood waters have receded. The first time it found nothing and returned to the ark. The second time it brought back an olive leaf, so Noah could see that God’s punishment was over and life had begun again on the earth. Do you know why? Because olive leaf is a symbol of peace, and the image of a dove holding an olive branch continues to be a symbol of peace to this day as we see that in one of the UN flags.) Peace has come in our land that is God- with- us, Immanuel land. Only when the Christ comes, peace is established on earth.
Verse 13, “The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling: my beautiful one, come with me.”
This verse contains a very important information for us today. Christ says to us that the fig tree forms its early fruit and the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. He says, therefore, ‘Arise, come my darling; my beautiful one, get ready to come with me.’ What does the fig tree mean in this verse? What does “The fig tree forms its early fruit” means? We have to know these to really understand the text today.
Fig tree symbolizes Israel as a nation. As we all know, Israelites were dispersed among nations being punished for their rebellion against God. For two thousand years, they had been in “winter and rainy season” being punished for their sins against God. But there are prophecies in the Bible prophesying that there will be the time when God forgives and restores their nation bringing them back to their own land. As God restores Israel as the nation and when all Israel recognize Jesus as their Messiah, that is when Christ shall return again, and that will be the consummation of the human history.
Regarding the end time, flowering and singing season for Israel as a nation, Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:31-32, “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and put forth leaves, you know that summer is near.”
The biggest, best, most juicy figs come into their own in September as it gets closer to the last Jewish holidays: Rosh Ha Shanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles respectively).
Figs, –the nation, Israel–, are being formed its early fruit, -a sign of Christ coming as the king in the end time. The stage is being set and the prophecy is being fulfilled. The “coming up” (aliyah, in Hebrew) is taking place now in Israel with the massive influx of Jews from over a hundred nations. Now the people are back in the land and are still coming back, and the nation is now waiting for its full restoration. Trump moving US embassy to Jerusalem, it is a step closer to its full restoration. We know that the full restoration will be a spiritual revival, and all Israelites greeting their Messiah Jesus Christ, saying “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, “Baruch Haba Hashem Adonai!”
Most importantly, before its full restoration, before the second coming of the Christ, Christ will come and meet his brides in the air, which is “rapture”. The “rapture” can happen any time, any moment, since the full restoration of Israel is getting closer and closer as Jewish believers are adding their numbers every day these days, and we see the signs of Jerusalem becoming the capital of Israel once more. Therefore, our bridegroom, our Lord, says to us, ‘Arise, from where you are, wake from your slumber, repent and be ready to come with me’. Do you hear the voice of our bridegroom saying it? He wants us to be ready to meet him in the air in the twinkling of an eye!!