“The Heart of God’s Lover”
August 30, 2015
By John Partridge
Scripture: Song of Solomon 2:8-13 1 John 3:2-4 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Have you ever been to a wedding? Certainly, almost all of us have and of all the things that we always remember at every wedding is how beautiful the bride was. It doesn’t really matter what kind of a wedding it is either. It could be a traditional wedding, a country and western wedding, a formal wedding, an informal wedding, they are all the same in that the bride does her very best to look beautiful. I once performed a wedding in which our church secretary got a phone call from the court house, in the morning, from a couple who was there getting their wedding license. They wondered if the pastor could marry them that afternoon so that they could be done and home before the kids got home from school. It seems that they had been living together for eight or ten years and the groom was finally in a mood to get married, and so the poor woman knew she didn’t want to waste her chance. They dashed off to the courthouse, got a wedding license, came down to the church with another couple as witnesses, and got married in my office. And even then, the bride took the time to stop at home and make sure that her hair and make-up got a little extra attention.
At any wedding, it is the love that the bride and groom have for one another that makes them want to look their best for the one that they love.
It is that principle that I want you to keep in mind.
Throughout scripture, God’s redeemer and rescuer, the Messiah, is described as the bridegroom. The prophet Isaiah said that (Isaiah 62:5) “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
In Matthew 9:15, Jesus describes himself as the bridegroom saying, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
And in John’s Revelation the bride is revealed to be all of those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life, that is, the followers of Jesus Christ, his church.
It is these sorts of lessons that bring the Old Testament into sharper focus. We always knew that the Old Testament was full of interesting stories but aside from revealing things about the basic morality of the Israelites, a bit of history, and a lot of weird stuff about the old system of worship and sacrifice, we often had a hard time understanding it. But, with the arrival of Jesus and the fulfillment of prophecy, we can go back and revisit some of those books that we thought were old and dusty, and see them in an entirely new light. We can see them differently, because we can now see them through the lens of Jesus.
For example, let’s look at the Song of Solomon. We always knew that this was a great book about love and sex, but if we think about Jesus as the bridegroom, our understanding of the story changes completely. (Song of Solomon 2:8-13)
8 Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
It’s easy to picture a bridegroom peeking through the lattice at his beloved, singing with joy, but when we re-imagine that scene where it is God that is peeking at us, where God is filled with anticipation of being with us, because of his passionate love for us, then the whole thing takes on a completely different, and amazingly wonderful, flavor.
If God loves us in this deep and passionate way, then we are more than simply loved by God, we are the beloved of God or, in other words, we are God’s lover.
But if God is in love with us in this amazing way, then how are we, as the Bride of Christ, to prepare ourselves for our wedding? What does it look like for us to, spiritually, do our hair and make-up and beautify ourselves for our bridegroom?
If we look, we can find the answer directly from the lips of Jesus. In Mark chapter 7 the Pharisees take issue with the behavior of Jesus’ followers because they are not following “the rules” of the law and so are living lives that are unclean. Because of this, these church leaders attach Jesus. (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)
7:1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
The issue for Jesus, you see, is, and always has been, an issue of purity.
In 1 John 3:2-4, John puts it this way:
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
The way that we beautify ourselves for our bridegroom is to purify ourselves and Jesus wanted to be sure that we understood that purity isn’t about washing our hands before we eat, or rinsing cups or kettles, or blindly following old traditions.
Purity is all about the heart.
Purity is all about what’s on the inside.
As we prepare ourselves for our beloved, and for our wedding day, our goal isn’t to get rich, or to elect the right political party, or be famous, or to do so many other things that our culture thinks are important. Instead, as James (James 1:27) taught us,
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
God loves us deeply and passionately and our goal is to prepare ourselves for the day that he will call us to live with him in his pure and perfect home. To do that, we must deal with a serious heart condition. We must purify our hearts, filling them with the word of God and other things of purity, and we must do the things that God has called us to do.
Because the heart of God’s lover…
…is our own.