Recently I’ve been teaching our ministry school students various things about the Bride of Christ and Jewish marriage customs. As a result, we’ve spent quite some time in the books of Song of Solomon and Hosea where there’s a treasure trove of things to be mined.
You know what that means? At least a few blog posts on some fresh manna Holy Spirit’s been dropping on me, obviously.
Here’s another nugget worth chewing on.
Many Individuals Make Up the Bride of Christ
Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and yet there is only one song of his in our Bibles out of the 1005 he wrote (see 1 Kings 4:32). We’ve only been given the song of songs, or the best of them all.
This whole song focuses on one woman and one man, with other supporting characters throughout. Theologians and scholars have different interpretations about if she was a composite of the perfect woman in Solomon’s mind, or if she was based on his first wife, or if she was his favorite out of the many that he had.
It’s worth realizing that however we approach the woman in the song, Solomon is a type of Christ. Types of things in the Old Testament are but shadows of the realities that would come later. The woman likewise represents a type of the Bride of Christ, the Church.
That being said, what are the 700 wives and 300 concubines of Solomon, compared to the multitude of saints that have been wed to Christ in the New Covenant? We are all one Bride.
Solomon had a lot of marriage experience in one sense since he had over 700 wives to learn about love and sexual life with, not to mention the number of concubines, whose purpose was to provide their owner, the king, sexual pleasure.
Don’t ask me to explain how God allowed various kings and figures in the Old Testament to have more than one wife but yet this is sinful and we’re to only have one spouse. I do not know. That’s another one of those things I’ve never understood myself.
At any rate, this is the best song he’s ever written, and focuses on “one woman”, not many.
Called to Invite Others To Become The Beloved
It appears as though the Shulamite, or the type of Church in the song is constantly “evangelizing” the daughters of Jerusalem, to try getting them to have the same love relationship with her lover that she has. If we think of it in the natural, it’s like if one of Solomon’s wives were trying to get other people to join the harem and also become one of his wives along with the rest.
One of my students disagreed with me that she was evangelizing and trying to get the “daughters of Jerusalem” to become brides along with her. I think a case for interpreting it can be made either way, but she is definitely singing his praise and making such an impact on them that they want to know more about him and become more fascinated as the song goes on.
In the same way, we’re reaching out to the lost and dying world around us inviting them into this same love relationship and to become part of the Bride of Christ as well. Despite our imperfections, weaknesses, and flaws, Christ still loves her, sought her, and laid his life down by dying on the cross so as provide her the opportunity to unite with him through his gift of salvation ((Check out my post, The Wedding at Cana: Why Did Jesus REALLY Make the Wine?)). He made the first move and gives her the chance to reciprocate.
If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem
If Jesus loves the Church, you and I as members of it should love it as well. We can’t use the excuse that the church has too many hypocrites in it or has screwed up too many times. Disillusionment is one thing, but remaining bitter and using that as a way to avoid helping prepare the Bride for her groom is not acceptable.
Despite all of our imperfections, Christ’s love for His Church hasn’t changed over time the more we’ve spent as members of his Bride.
It may be true that on earth we’ve seen The Bride in rags and tatters, stained and ugly, despised and persecuted, and sometimes making a hypocritical fool of herself. But one day she will be seen for what she is, nothing less than the Bride of Christ, “free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement,” without blemish, beautiful and in all her glory thanks to her groom, Jesus. It’s to this constructive end that Christ has been working and is continuing to work.
Don’t let anybody teach you that through a works-based theology that we are to prepare ourselves for that day. The Bride does not make herself presentable. The Bridegroom labors to beautify her in order to present her to himself. We respond. He chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-6). He had us in mind as endured that cross, despising its shame for the joy set before him (Heb 12:1-2). He doesn’t sleep or slumber, but ever lives to make intercession for us to stave off every accusation the enemy makes (Heb 7:25).
It’s for this reason I cringe when I see how trendy it is of some, old and young, to have such a fixation on all the hypocrisy of the Church. I know of entire blogs and “ministries” that exist to spend time finding all the faults in the Body of Christ in the name of “heresy hunting” and protecting against bad doctrine.
But in the midst of such I see so little if any effort made to help strengthen and edify the Bride.
I haven’t been married very long yet, but I already know that if I were to treat my wife the way some preachers treat the Bride of Christ, she’d have left me already. Threatening her with the consequences of unfaithfulness is not going to entice her the same way as showing true love does.
Christ will finish what He started (Phil 1:6) and bring to completion His work in His bride.