“Heaven Meets Earth Like” . . . (Song 2:1-17)
Chapter 2 opens with the woman’s words: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”
The first home my wife and I moved into in Warsaw, Indiana had a large backyard that was overrun with rose of Sharon. It is an enormous, flowering bush that grows like a weed and spreads absolutely everywhere. However pretty it may be, it is a nightmare to get rid of. A lily of the valley is similar in that it grows in abundance, covering the ground in vast colonies. What is the implication here? This is purely my own interpretation, as I have no idea what these plants would have looked like when this poem was written – long before selective breeding and human meddling; but one thing is obvious about these two plants from my own experience: they’re fertile!
Loaded with sensual imagery and euphemism, as we can possibly see in v. 1, it is clear in this chapter that the lovers are excitedly awaiting the day when their love will be consummated. When reading the Song as an allegory, the lovers’ anticipation of a sexual union appears to symbolize Israel’s eager anticipation of the heavenly Kingdom of God, wherein Israel enjoys the physical blessings God promised to Abraham, and the physical presence of God among his people. The woman speaks of her lover bringing her “to the banqueting house” (lit. “the house of wine”; this is the only time this noun is used in the Bible), placing a banner over her to identify her as his own (v. 4). Central to Israel’s identity as a nation was the deep conviction that God had set aside a place for them, Jerusalem, where he would meet Israel and place his name on the city as a beacon of hope and restoration for the world. When I read this passage, I cannot help but think of Jeremiah’s prophecy:
They shall be my people, and I will be their God . . .
The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill theJeremiah 32:38, 33:14-16
good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior
Themes: Anticipation and Consummation
As lovers eagerly anticipate the consummation of their commitment to each other in a sexual union, Israel longed for the day when God would fulfill his covenant with them, meet them on earth, and bless them with the greatest gift of all: his physical presence. Paul writes in Romans that those who are in Christ – even non-Israelites – have been grafted in to share in God’s promises. Therefore, we too eagerly anticipate the day when we will be in the presence of Jesus, God incarnate, who “leaped over the mountains and bounded over the hills” (2:8) to rescue us from our sin and call us to himself; who will meet his people like a husband meets his bride. You’ve probably heard John Mark McMillan’s famous song How He Loves. It turns out “sloppy wet kiss” is a tame description of the collision between heaven and earth. The Bible tends toward an even more intimate metaphor.