Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Preaching The Song of Songs
I've been preaching Christ from The Song of Songs this term. It's a daunting task and I feel my own weakness and limits faced with the task. Still 10 of 11 weeks done, one to go.
My interest in The Song stems from reading the affectionate puritan Richard Sibbes' sermons which are devotionally rich and deliciously Christ-focussed. Thanks Mike Reeves for steering me to Sibbes.
I edited and self-published some of Sibbes 20 sermons a few years ago. They’re for sale at cost price via Lulu or you can ask me for a PDF copy. http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=1051001
Resources on The Song vary considerably depending on the approach to the text. Some read it as simply about human relationships, some as exclusively about Christ and the church.
My approach has been a both Christ & the church and human relationships approach and that shapes who I've found most helpful. The text isn't easy to work with, and most people have never heard it preached before. Some struggled to see that it was about Christ, others have loved spending time with a long cherished friend. I've sought to be a bit artsy, evocative and poetic in handling a poetic text, to paint verbal pictures, to weave the intertwining themes of relationships, what it means to be human, and the gospel together. Some sermons have leant more one way than the other.
No claim to have mastered the book, but I hope the Lord has mastered me a bit more through it.
We bought and showed Andrew Wilson's This is About That video a couple of times in the series to emphasise the connection between marriage and the gospel.
Most older commentaries tend towards just being about Christ, and occasionally get very speculative. Charles Spurgeon's sermons which are free online are a really positive example from 150 years ago.
If I was limited to three books the following are my friends. They all work through consecutive passages of the Biblical text. Amazon Wishlist Version http://amzn.eu/b7a7ers
1. Charlie Cleverly. Hodder & Stoughton. 2016.
This is a warm, devotional, pop-level read more than a technical commentary. There’s good engagement with the text and some great insights, and a keenness to let the Song shape our prayer life. This was the last book I picked up in preparation for my series and it’s been a good help and an enjoyable read.
2. Robert Jenson. Interpretation. 2005.
I’ve read and re-read this commentary over the past few years. Each section is clearly structured to engage with the text, then apply to Christ before applying to relationships. Jenson’s style is refreshing and often draws out deep biblical themes that others might miss and has sparked joy for me at several points. Also, under the floral dust-jacket is the brightest green hardback you’ll ever own. While occasionally obscure, Jenson captures the playful evocative feel that a commentary on poetry should have.
3. James Hamilton. Christian Focus. 2015.
This is well structured and careful to observe biblical and theological threads that run through the book. His notes on the theological themes of the lovers songs about each other are eye-opening and brilliant. Points for clarity over the other two, but a less gripping read. The book is basically his 2012 sermon series with some additional material and application questions. The sermons can be downloaded here http://www.kenwoodbaptistchurch.com/resources/sermon-audio
Additionally I’ve found Ellen Davis' 2004 commentary particularly insightful in places. This book is more technical, and comes in a volume covering Solomon's other wisdom books, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Her impressive scholarship makes some assumptions I disagree with but is detailed and thoughtful and illuminating.
The excellent Ros Clarke bears significant responsibility for my interest in The Song of Songs due to her thesis on it. http://beginningwithmoses.org/oldsite/articles/songofsongs.pdf, so also Barry Webb's Five Festal Garments (NSBT) which got me reading The Song, Esther, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Ruth which if you're allowed favourite bible books...
Worth playing Bernard of Clairvaux's 12th Century hymn based on The Song of Songs as you read the text.
My sermon series for Beeston Free Church.
A FIRE KINDLED FROM HEAVEN
1. Love Desires (Song 1:1-8)
2. Love Delights (Song 1:9-17)
3. Love Tastes (Song 2:1-7)
4. Love Together (Song 2:8-17)
5. Love Treasures (Song 3:1-10)
6. Love Feasts (Song 4:1-5:1)
7. Love Lost (Song 5:2-8)
8. Love Wins (Song 5:1-6:1)
9. Love Renewed (Song 6:1-13)
10. Love Allures (Song 7:1-8:4)
11. Love Divine (Song 8:5-14)
Forthcoming (Scheduled to preach on 23rd July)