Thoroughly Equipped: Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valley

Today’s reading is Song of Songs 1:1-4:16, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, Psalm 50:1-23, Proverbs 22:22-23.

Solomon, inspired by God, wrote this passage, and though we call it a “book” of the Bible, it is actually written as a song; and therefore it is often called Song of Solomon.  But according to 1 Kings 4:32, Solomon wrote many songs.

He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.

                                                                                    1 Kings 4:32

Other translations refer to this book of the Bible as Song of Songs.  This title comes from the very first verse in the book:

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

                                                            Song of Solomon 1:1

The words of the first verse set the tone for what is to come.  These words are superlative words.  Given that Solomon wrote 1,005 other songs, this verse tells us that this is the best song of all of Solomon’s songs.  I have always referred to this book of the Bible as Song of Solomon, but the translation I am reading right now refers to it as Song of Songs, and I like that.  I like that it is Solomon’s best.  Study tells us that it was written early in his reign, probably around 965 BC.  As you remember, Solomon started out strong and finished weak.  Toward the end of his reign, his heart was divided.  He did not wholeheartedly follow God because his many wives turned him toward their false gods.  But when he wrote Song of Songs, his heart was purer, more devoted to the One true God.

As we begin the book of Song of Songs, there are a couple of ways we can look at these passages.  I read Song of Songs right before I got married.  In it, there were several passages that I could relate to, given the fact that “I found him whom my soul loves” (Song of Songs 3:4)  There are many wonderful human to human relational passages from which we can relate and learn.

Yes, there are many ways we can look at this book as a human love story.  But I believe it is greater than that.  It is the love story of our Savior with us.  He is our true love.  Only His love makes our earthly loves eternal.  Without His love, there is no eternal life and love cannot exist in eternal death.  Many scholars feel that it is a close representation of the love between Christ and His Bride, the church—all of us.

So, as you are reading through Song of Songs in the next couple of days, ask the Father to show you glimpses of the truth of the eternal love given to us by God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Today, one verse stood out to me with a reminder of Jesus, my greatest love.  The Beloved is described in this way:

“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”

                                                                             Song of Songs 2:1

In old hymns we often hear Jesus referred to as the Rose of Sharon, such as in this one by Ida Guirey and Charles Gabriel.

            Jesus, Rose of Sharon, bloom within my heart;

            Beauties of Thy truth and holiness impart,

            That where’er I go my life may shed abroad

            Fragrance of the knowledge of the love of God.

Why do we refer to Jesus as the Rose of Sharon?  Because of today’s passage in Song of Soloman, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Actually, commentators disagree as to whether Jesus really referred to Himself with this term, or whether the term was intended to refer to us, the Bride, the Church.  However, for those who see Jesus symbolically as the Rose of Sharon, they are referring to the beauty of His presence, the sweetest of his mercy, and the fragrance of His love. The Rose of Sharon plant that was found along the roads in the Promise land was abundant and accessible.  The rose of Sharon bloomed in the Sharon valley along the ground.  This was not a flower found only in private gardens.  It was found in abundance and was accessible to all.  And so it is with Jesus, who offers us abundant life and is accessible to all who call upon His Name.  Just as a groom may bring roses to his bride to express his love, so Jesus has brought Himself to His Bride, the Church.

For those who see symbolically that the Rose of Sharon was referring to us, should not our lives be a sweet smelling sacrifice?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

                                                      2 Corinthians 2:14-16

William Wilberforce was a leader in the movement to abolish slave trade.  One of his tactics was to take influential people on “tours” of the slave ships.  Once they entered the ship they experienced the “smell of death.”  And the unpleasantness of this made them want to rid themselves of slavery.  My husband Mont says that we as Christians should appeal to the senses of non-Christians.  They should see our good works, they should hear our truth spoken in kindness, they should feel our love, they should “taste and see that the Lord is good” by our friendship, and they should smell the fragrance of Him upon us.  This fragrance should be that of life, causing them to want to break free from their own forms of slavery and end their smell of death.

As we think of roses, we may also think of thorns.  We find from Genesis 3:18 and Numbers 33:55 that in the Holy Land, the ground was cursed with prickly weeds, or thorns.  Often, we become aware of thorns along our path.  These may be “thorns of the flesh” like Paul described in 2Corinthians 12:7-9:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Do you have thorns to deal with right now?  We all will at one point or another in our spiritual journeys.  These can be a constant source of irritation or temptation or pain. And as Paul discovered, when He asked for his “thorn” to be removed, God is enough.  His power is made perfect in our weak, thorny spots.

What are we supposed to do with these thorns?  Turn to Jesus.  He took the curse of thorns on Himself when he allowed the crown of thorns on His holy head.  And when the curse is gone, the healing can begin.

We may also find that those thorns are attached to roses.  I have heard it said:  I can complain that roses have thorns, or I can rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.

The latter part of that one verse in Song of Songs says that the Beloved (Jesus) is the lily of the valley.  We don’t often remember the lilies when we are in the deep, dark valleys of life.  But He who promised to never leave us nor forsake us is surely in the valley with us—guiding, helping, sometimes carrying us.  And He will provide lilies in the valley—sweet blessings to refresh us and strengthen us.  Most of all he will give us Himself, the ultimate Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valley.  Praise Him today for His faithful love.

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