Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, & Job

In the span of a week, we looked at three books that fall into the “wisdom literature” genre. You may be familiar with the book of Job and with Ecclesiastes; both are fairly well-known books. What you may not be familiar with, however, is the Song of Songs, also called the Song of Solomon. There is a great deal of debate among scholars and among those who interpret this book with regards to what this book is addressing. Interpretations of this book generally fall into two camps. Some think that this book is an allegory for God and the church, thinking that God is the “groom” and the church is the “bride” of this story. Others (myself included), think that this book is about a literal groom and bride who are celebrating their marriage with physical intimacy. A lot of people are uncomfortable with this perspective, but in my thinking (and in the thinking of many others), why would God not want a book to be included in the Bible about marriage and about the physical relationship that goes along with marriage? At the Fall, the relationship between men and women was damaged (Genesis 3:14-19); why wouldn’t God want a book in the Bible about the restoration of this relationship? From this perspective, we can see many beautiful truths about marriage (and about singleness) in this book. For one, the couple of Song of Songs (I don’t believe the groom is Solomon, by the way, but that’s another story) pursues one another and is intentional about showing their love to one another. Another excellent truth to pull away from this book is the idea of purity in singleness. Physical intimacy is a gift from God, but it is one that He has reserved for marriage, as is shown in the bride’s constant admonitions to her friends to not awaken love before it desires. If you have never read Song of Songs, or have always looked at it from an allegorical perspective, I would encourage you to try reading it literally, as a bride and groom celebrating their marriage. This book gives us a beautiful picture of a marriage based on unity and love.

As we move into studying the prophets, my next post will include some tips on interpreting prophetic literature, and we’ll take a look at the book of Amos. It only takes about half an hour to read Amos. Thanks for praying for Michael this last week; he feels good about his Joel teaching, and will post a summary of his lecture soon.


Ecclesiastes

Main Idea: All is vanity without fear of the Lord and obeying His commandments.

Reason Written: Written to show the way in which life is meaningless without fear of the Lord.

Timeless Truth: Life is meaningless unless God is the center of one’s life (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11;2:1-26;12:1-14).


Song of Songs

Main Idea: A celebration of the intimate physical relationship God intended for marriage.

Reason Written: Written to show the way in which God intended marriage to be the appropriate expression of physical intimacy.

Timeless Truth: Physical intimacy is a healthy expression of love within the context of marriage (Song of Songs 1:1-8:14).


Job

Main Idea: God’s perspective on suffering is greater than man’s finite wisdom.

Reason Written: Written to show the sovereignty of God over suffering.

Timeless Truth: God’s ways are beyond man’s understanding (Job 38-41).

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1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles

We covered 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles in one week of SBS – a lot of work, but extremely necessary. I know before SBS I didn’t really relish reading these books, especially 1 & 2 Chronicles. I wondered, “What is the point of having these books in the Bible? It’s just a repeat of everything I’ve already read!” While Chronicles does tend to repeat a lot of Kings (that’s one of the reasons we do these books in one week), these books are foundational for understanding the historical background of the prophets. As we begin to study the prophets, it’s vital to know which king was in power when prophecies were made, the history of Israel and Judah, and whether the leadership of God’s people was focused on Him or focused on everything but Him. There are 737 prophecies in the Old Testament, and less than 2% of these are about Jesus; less than 1% of these are about what we would call the “end times.” So what are these prophecies about? Historical events that actually happened, such as the exile of Israel to Assyria in 722BC, and the exile of Judah to Babylon in 586BC. Why is this important? We know that the vast majority of the prophecies of the Bible have already come to pass, which means we can rest assured that the other prophecies will be fulfilled – Jesus will return. To truly understand these prophecies and their fulfillments, however, we need to understand the historical background of Israel and Judah. That’s where Kings and Chronicles comes in.

We studied this book by doing profiles of each and every king that ruled in Israel and in Judah from the time of David through to the time these nations were taken into exile. All too often, the kings did not follow the law, did not follow the Lord, and did not keep the covenant with God. Through reading and understanding these books and the lives of the kings, we can come to understand God’s justice when it comes to the exile of Israel and Judah, and God’s mercy when we consider how many opportunities His people had to turn back to Him.

The next books to read are Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Job. Altogether, these books take approximately three hours to read. On another note, please keep Michael in your prayers, as tomorrow he will be teaching the (very challenging!) book of Joel.


1 & 2 Kings

Main Idea: Overviews the history of the northern and southern tribes (Israel and Judah, respectively) and the kings that led them, showing how Israel and Judah ended up in captivity to other nations.

Reason Written: Written to show the exiles how their breaking of their covenant with the Lord (under their kings’ leadership) resulted in their exile.


1 & 2 Chronicles

Main Idea: Overviews the history of the line of David as kings of Judah, and the prophets that spoke to the kings in the hopes of bringing them back to their covenant with the Lord.

Reason Written: Shows how Judah ended up in captivity, and how under Cyrus, the Judeans were permitted to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of the Lord. Also shows how God tried to get the attention of His people through His prophets.

Timeless Truth (for both Kings & Chronicles): A leader is called to be humble before the Lord, putting God first, rather than becoming prideful (2 Chronicles 32:24-26).

1 & 2 Samuel

When David was born, his parents likely believed that he would live a life that wouldn’t add up to much. He was the youngest of his brothers. He cared for his father’s sheep. His admission to the royal court did not come with trumpets and fanfare, but as a musician to soothe Saul’s troubled soul. Who could have guessed that he would go on to set the standard for kings in Israel? Who could have guessed that he would go on to be anointed by Samuel as king, because God desired a “man after his own heart” to be in leadership, rather than Saul? Who could have guessed that he would be an ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ?

If you don’t think you add up to much, if you don’t think you have a place or a purpose in  life, I would encourage you to look at the life of David. God plucked him out of obscurity with a specific task in mind: to lead His people. While you or I are likely not going to become the leader of a nation, appointed by God, God has a specific task for each of us. Whether it’s sharing the Gospel with the nations, encouraging believers as they grow in their faith, or whether it’s raising your children so that they know the love of God, God values you, loves you, and has a specific plan for your life. He doesn’t care about whether you are great in the eyes of the world – He knows your heart.

The next books are 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Together, these books take eight to nine hours to read.


1 & 2 Samuel

Main Idea: The people of God ask for a king, though God is still the Ultimate King; Saul, the people’s choice for king, meets a tragic end, while David, God’s choice for king, is blessed by the Lord as a man after God’s own heart.

Reason Written: Written to show the institution of the monarchy and to show the way in which David was God’s appointed king.

Timeless Truth: God values a person’s heart over their worldly status (1 Samuel 16:6-13).