Monday, December 12, 2005

The Inviting Shepherd

The first several verses of Song of Songs open with the bride's declaration of her delight in and desire for her betrothed. She has decided that she desires his presence. She doesn't want to be away from him and so asks in verse 7 of chapter 1:

Tell me, O you whom my soul loves,
Where do you pasture your flock,
Where do you make it lie down at noon?
For why should I be like one who veils herself
Beside the flocks of your companions?
She's asking here where she can predictably find him. She wants to know his routine so she can follow it to him. She doesn't want to be veiled next to strangers but unveiled in his presence. To her inquiry the groom responds in verse 8:
If you yourself do not know,
Most beautiful among women,
Go forth on the trail of the flock,
And pasture your young goats
By the tents of the shepherds.
He enjoys her presence. He finds her the most beautiful of women, and so he invites her: if you don't know the way, there are other's who do, follow along after them and the flock, and you'll find me.

One warm afternoon, Jesus was walking along the river bank, enjoying the cool air blowing off the water, when he passed his cousin John, standing in the shade of a tree with two of his disciples. John proclaimed 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' and the two disciples of John started following Jesus. Jesus turned and asked 'What do you seek?' And they said 'Where are you staying?' This is the same heart cry for intimacy which prompted the Shulammite to ask 'where do you pasture your flock?'. They're both questions expressing a desire for closeness. Jesus responded with a simple 'Come and see.' This too parallels the SoS passage with the same inviting response to come to that place of pasture and rest.

One of the two disciples that followed Jesus that day was Andrew. He went and got his brother Peter who also responded to the invitation. Later, many cried out to Peter on the day of Pentecost 'where do we go for this relationship'. Three thousand responded that day to the invitation. Through the centuries, this longing cry for intimacy still reverberates. And likewise, we're still invited to follow all those who've gone before on this path of extravagant, passionate pursuit of the One who loves us.