Sunday, April 2, 2006

The Consuming Fire

The passage of interest in this article can be viewed from multiple angles. Some interpret it to be the bride speaking, some the bridegroom. Being poetry, I think it's equally valid to see it from either perspective as they both provide useful insights. The line leading up to this passage says 'Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?' The bride and bridegroom are so close that it?s hard to distinguish between them. This may be why this passage is so hard to assign a speaker to. It's like a duet, where they're both singing the same words to express their heart. For the purposes of this essay I'm going to approach it as if the bride is speaking to her groom.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7
Set me like a seal on your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
No amount of water can quench love;
torrents cannot drown it!
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Herein we see the love of God expressed as a consuming fire. The Shulamite is saying 'Sear my countenance into your heart. Engrave my name on your arm stretched out for me. Your love is a violent flame that cannot be quenched and I want to know its power in my heart.' Rivers of water cannot quench this fire. I think of an underwater crack in the earth's crust where liquid rock flows out from the center of the planet. All the water of the ocean cannot cool the fire deep within.

Just like the Shulamite, it's our heart's cry to love and be loved fervently. But in order to give our hearts over to this, we need to know that the one we're giving ourselves to is worthy of our trust. That person is Jesus.

One day two men were walking down the road. Their hopes and dreams had been crucified with Jesus a few days prior. They were confused, lost and wondering what to do next, like me at times. They had heard rumors of the resurrection, but they didn't know what to make of them. Their world was turned upside down as they traveled.

To this place of despair, in the loving kindness of God, the Lord himself shows up. He patiently takes them through the Old Testament and unfolds to them His identity. He shows them the loving God reaching out to humanity throughout history all the way to the cross. He gives them seeing eyes, hearing ears and understanding hearts. In the same way he does for me and so with them I can say with my first century brothers 'Did not my heart burn within me when He opened the scriptures to me?'[a]

Jesus comes to us just as he did them. Like Thomas, He shows us the wounds He received on the cross that pierced His side and arms. Out of love, we've been set as a seal upon His body. Within His heart burns a raging, violent fire of love, stronger than death, more unyielding than the grave. Our heart's cry is best met when we're touched by His holy flame and allow ourselves to be kindled by it. It's in this place that Jesus' prayer[b] that the same love the Father has for Jesus might also be in us is fulfilled. It's from this place that, like Thomas, we can fall at His feet, giving ourselves to Him in adoration and worship.

  1. See Luke 24:13-33 for the complete story.
  2. Part of Jesus' High Priestly Prayer in John 18:21.