Posts Tagged ‘Solomon’

Art by Lilis Boyer

Art by Lilis Boyer

The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) found its place in the Jewish canon by its sheer beauty and poetry. It is not really a complete piece at all, no matter how artfully publishers identify the man speaking or the woman speaking, it’s still just a series of fragments. We will never know the whole of it. And so it is about a fragment that I will respond.

Set me as a seal over your heart,
        as a seal upon your arm,
for love is as strong as death,
        passionate love unrelenting as the grave.
Its darts are darts of fire—
        divine flame!
[Song of Songs 8:6, CEB]

And another, repeated twice in the book:
Make a solemn pledge,
        daughters of Jerusalem,
        never to rouse, never to arouse love
        until it desires. [Song of Solomon 2:7; 8:4, CEB]

Love is powerful force that has gotten washed out by dime store romances and flimsy chick flicks. It’s been downgraded by pornography and trivialized by teen angst. Even Valentine’s Day has played a part in corrupting its message. Purveyors of cheap love are laughing all the way to the bank.

When love is roused at the wrong time or at the wrong place, the power of it and the joy are sucked out of it. It is sex without love, masking the truth of it, manufacturing a feeling but it is not transformative love. But when the moment is right, when there is a mutual selflessness, when it is about the giving away of it moreso than the absorption of it, then the power of God can be unleashed. This I believe.

I know, there are different words for love in Greek, but in the Hebrew, both verses use the same feminine noun, ‘ahabah אַהֲבָה which can be translated as love: human love for a human object (man to man, man to himself, man to woman, sexual desire, and incidentally, God to man too).

And so I ask myself and all of us, is my love toward others with the same intent as God’s love?

God shows love to people over and over again whether its through grace or miracles or the sacrifice of the One Son, Jesus. God’s love is pours out without measure. Jesus taught, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” [Luke 6:38, NIV]

But no, not me. I confess, I am hungry to be loved more than to love. Lonely. Overwhelmed. Shaken by circumstances. Distanced by disappointment still. Hardened by losses, speaking into the wind.

I am no stronger than the one beside me. My years in Christ clear my vision and for this reason, I understand why the saints and desert fathers of old cried out, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Art by Cyra R. Cancel

Art by Cyra R. Cancel

Or why St. Francis wrote:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Let me know and give love as strong as death.

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Duped by our circumstances, our relative comfort, our culture, we are missing a reality that God is offering. For us, for human, that life appears like a paradox where loving an enemy is the norm and humility is the paradigm.

Revelation 3:17-18a
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire . . .

I have been intrigued by the “refiner’s fire” for some years. In fact, I remember when it started, at a Sunday School class. I remember we were talking about Solomon and the completion of the Temple [see II Chronicles 7] when the fire came down, consumed the offerings and then the Glory of the Lord filled the Temple. No one could enter for a time. This appeared to be a consuming fire, but it was really a cleansing fire. Everything of value remained. It was a distinguishing fire.

This is the same Refiner’s Fire that God promises to use on us. And like all of the seemingly self-contradictory statements in the scriptures, this fire will not destroy us either.

If we want to see beyond the every day, if we want to see God in our midst, if we want to enter into the mysteries of God, then we have to accept the refiner’s fire. It’s a leap of faith because this fire may consume the things we have held onto for years, our “things” that have given us a semblance of security.

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Photo by P Dorowski

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m pretty clear that my wisdom quotient (WQ) is way below my IQ. Doesn’t everyone need more wisdom? Is there such a thing as too wise? Don’t think so.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

So, why don’t I ask for wisdom every day? There are so many things I put before my God: guidance, help, protection, transformation, and so on. But I don’t specifically ask for wisdom. Wouldn’t that particular answered prayer help with all the other ones? Doh!

Based on James, God doesn’t find fault or hold back wisdom in the face of our mistakes. God doesn’t say, “No wisdom for you today, you’ve made too many mistakes.” There’s a lot of grace, then, in the gift of wisdom. It’s a helper, just like Eve was intended to be in the first story about men and women.

I’ve often wondered if Solomon was disappointed with his gift of wisdom and simply stopped using it? I mean, how else does a person go from doing everything right to accumulating so many women (700 wives & 300 concubines) and so much stuff that he finally tears the kingdom in two by the time of his death. Clearly, his WQ hit rock bottom by then.

I’m wondering today, is wisdom a like Manna? Does it have to be refreshed each day, given each day anew, or it becomes corrupt if someone tries to hold on to it beyond the time, the moment, the day?

I could really use some wisdom just to get through this night. And tomorrow, I think I’ll check in on the wisdom handout again. Thank you God.

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Cloud of Witnesses by Jean Moore

Is it really Abraham and Isaac and Jacob? What about the disciples or maybe a few of the women who managed to get their names in the book? Or what about all the unnamed saints? Is it one cloud for all of us? Maybe they’re color coordinated.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Honestly, there are a lot of dead souls between the Old or New Testament times and now. Who are these people? And what do they see?

I would assume that most traditional Christians believe these cloud formations are all the folks in heaven, especially the long-gone relatives and extended family who are cheering them on. Big family: big cloud.

But I’m not from a big family nor have I done much in the genealogy department to scout out family members I never knew I had. I suppose the cloud could be my “church” family but then, let’s be honest, do I believe they would keep checking on me if I’m not connected to that “building” where they met me in the first place?

I know I’m being flip, but I want to challenge the concept in my own head. What have I speculated over the years? I’ve read this scripture hundreds of times. It always sounded nice, the uncountable numbers celebrating when a “lost one is found” like the lost coin of the old wife [Luke 15:8-10] or the shepherd who searched until he found his lost sheep [Luke 15:4-6].

But I’m not lost (at least I hope I’m not). Instead, I’ve been treading Christian waters for thirty years: is the cloud still around? Are they applauding or are they waiting for me to get on with it? Is the cloud “individual” or corporate (like the “hive mind” of the Borg in Star Trek)?

Or is it time to let go of the literal image and consider the essence of this verse?

Didn’t Solomon capture it: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9] Our cloud of witnesses faced similar challenges to the ones we face today: they grieved and laughed, they grew families and lost them, they saw success and failure, they laughed and cried. Life goes on. They did it, we can do it. They lived by faith, we can live by faith. They trusted God, we can trust God.

It’s a cloud of love, a cloud of hope, a cloud of humanity that made it through and learned the deep lessons. They are part of the realm that the Holy Spirit embodies. And just as we have access to the Holy Spirit; through that same Holy Spirit, we have access to the cloud who lived and live still outside our understanding.

So, I thank you “cloud of witnesses” and I thank you Holy Spirit. Keep me running and mindful of your presence. Keep me in the race.

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I don’t want to sound like Master Po from the popular television show, Kung Fu by saying, “Grasshopper, wisdom is the highest level of understanding.” And then a chime dings. But maybe, just maybe, wisdom is just another word for character or plain authenticity?

Ephesians 5:15-16
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

For me, it’s still a challenge to live wisely: I have thought about wisdom for a long time. I even had a bible study group for a time, seeking wisdom, studying the words of wisdom, and the promises from operating in wisdom.

I’m putting the cart before the horse, as they say. Wisdom, or character, evolve as a by-product from our individual days and choices. There are no wise children. Their life experiences are not fully formed.

And yet, it’s not about the age of a person. It is our responses to life, to people, to God, that grows wisdom.

I’ve become so caught up in Solomon’s request for wisdom [I Kings 3:1-28] and the scriptures that encourage me to “ask” for wisdom [James 1:5], that I keep thinking of it as an anointing. If I ask, God will answer and wisdom will drop onto me like a mantle.

In verse 18b of this chapter in Ephesians, Paul says, “. . . be filled with the Spirit.” This is more likely the true foundation of all things wise.

Potentially, anyone can have wisdom from life’s challenges, sorrows, and successes. This kind of wisdom is rooted in the mind. But God’s way of wisdom involves the Spirit. And when Paul speaks of making the most of every opportunity, it’s about our relationship with Spirit. Historically, I have thought about being filled with the Holy Spirit as a “swooshy” kind of thing. I had that initial experience as a young Christian and I know it does happen. It’s a kind of anointing, an empowering presence, a wind.

But, Paul is talking about a different kind of filling here. I believe it’s part of this journey of the inner way, keeping all avenues open by avoiding those things, situations, and people that block the light and draw veils over the soul.

Most people know the proverb passage that says, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. . . ” [Proverbs 9:10] but we sometimes forget that this word for fear is closer to reverence than anything else. And where and when do we experience true reverence for God?

Photo by Irm Brown

In my mind, the desire for “places of reverence” encouraged the initial designs of beautiful churches and cathedrals. Intentionally, they were created as places where people could feel awed almost immediately. I can appreciate this reasoning today so much better than I could before. Our contemporary churches have lost this aspect of the worship experience.

In that first study group, I asked them, where do you experience that kind of reverence or fear of God? Their answers were varied but clearly, their answers were all choices to be in those places, with those things or people, and there we are filled with the Spirit.

What conscious choice can I make today to enter the wise way, to be in a place of reverence?


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