Peter Krol

Song of Songs: The Intoxication of True Love in its Time

Church history is filled with the debates over whether to read this book as an allegory of God’s love for his people or as a literal picture of human marriage. Frankly, I’m not convinced we have to choose only one of those options. If it’s not about human marriage, then the metaphors of God’s relationship with his people would make no sense at all. And if it’s not also about God’s relationship with his people, then Paul, Hosea, and Ezekiel (among others) wouldn’t have gone there. This book gives us much wisdom for dating, marriage, sex, and conflict. And in so doing, it shows us the paradise of knowing Christ and being known intimately by him.

When the Lord God made the heavens and the earth, there was only one thing that he declared was not good: the man’s being alone. So God promptly invented romantic love, and his word is very clear about how such love works. It begins with the problem of loneliness, which is not a result of sin but simply a result of being a created being. It proceeds when boy meets girl, and things start to feel really awkward. And the only way to make progress is with poetry, song, and celebration. The World’s Greatest Song (aka The Song of Songs) is here to help.
Literary Markers
The poetry in the Song of Songs flits about from character to character, as the woman, the man, and the daughters of Jerusalem all lift their voices in an intricate back-and-forth befitting the subject matter. As a result, the poetry can appear quite mysterious and dense. Thankfully, the poet makes use of two refrains that serve, with minor variations, as paint blazes on the trail to help us follow his train of thought.
Each refrain occurs three times in the book. The first refrain is “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song 2:7, 3:5, 8:4). The second refrain is “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:16, 6:3, 7:10). These two refrains provide the chief applications to the unmarried (do not awaken) and the married (join in mutual possession). And in addition, they help us to mark many of the book’s divisions.
In addition, the flow of most of the poems moves from separation to union (or reunion). The arcs of each section follow this general pattern where the lovers begin apart from one another and move toward one another to be together.
Walkthrough
The chief audience for the Song of Songs is the virgin daughters of Jerusalem, who are addressed all throughout the book. In this way, this book is something of a complement to the book of Proverbs, whose chief audience is the young men of Israel. This doesn’t mean that men have nothing to gain from the Song, but it helps us to understand why the woman is in the spotlight for much of the book.
After the book’s title (Song 1:1), we’re immersed right into the intoxicating nature of love, which is better than wine (Song 1:2-4). Then in the first main poem, the couple delights in the playful back-and-forth of getting to know one another and finding ways to spend time together as their attraction develops (Song 1:5-2:3). As they draw close, however, and move into a place of profound intimacy (Song 2:4-6), the woman emerges from the chamber to warn the virgins of Jerusalem not to awaken such love in themselves until the time is right (Song 2:7).
The second poem (Song 2:8-3:5) focuses on the wooing and courtship, but completely from the woman’s perspective. She describes the man coming to see her (Song 2:8-9), before quoting what he says—or what she hopes he’ll say?—to win her heart for life (Song 2:10-15). She longs for them to achieve mutual possession of one another (Song 2:16) but must still say goodbye at the end of the evening and send him back to his home (Song 2:17). This leads her to dream of what life would be like without him—a reality she cannot bear to accept (Song 3:1-4).
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5 Reasons to Read Your Bible Beyond Practical Application

Reading your Bible saturates your mind and heart in the love of God for you, which will motivate you to even greater obedience in the future. Though you may not get a nugget of practical application right now, the good news will inflame your desire for such obedience in perpetuity.

I believe in practical application. Here are more than ten biblical reasons why you should do it. But the dangers are legion if you come to your Bible reading with nothing but practical application on your mind. You might rush—or even worse, skip!—your observation or interpretation for the sake of that practical nugget. Your application might come unmoored from the text and take you in exactly the wrong direction. You might fall into the well-worn path of failing to identify any applications beyond the Big Three.
And there is a major opportunity cost involved. Treat personal application as the only consistent outcome for your Bible reading, and you may simply miss out on these other benefits the Lord wishes for you.
1. Storing Up Now for the Coming Winter
A regular habit of Bible reading is worth maintaining, even when no urgent or timely application comes readily to mind, because you are depositing divine truth in the storehouses of your soul from which you can later make withdrawals. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). “My son, keep your father’s commandments … bind them on your heart always … When you walk, they will lead you … For the commandment is a lamp … to preserve you from the evil woman, from the the smooth tongue of the adulteress” (Prov 6:20-24).
We ought to consider the ant and be wise (Prov 6:6-11, 30:24-25), not only with respect to our work ethic but also with respect to our truth ethic. It is foolish to abstain from Bible reading because it’s not practical enough for today. When the time of temptation arrives, you will have an empty storehouse—an empty heart—with no stockpile of resources available to supply your resistance.
2. Receiving Comfort Amid Sorrow
It is true that suffering people need time and space to process. Yet may it never be that our “time and space” isolate us from the Lord, when they ought to bind us more tightly to him. The laments of the Bible are wonderful for giving us words when we don’t know what to say, and feelings when we don’t know what to feel. The Spirit who intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26) is the same Spirit who inspired the words of the prophets and apostles to give expression to such groanings (1 Pet 1:10-12).
Read More

5 Reasons to Read Your Bible Beyond Practical Application

Reading your Bible saturates your mind and heart in the love of God for you, which will motivate you to even greater obedience in the future. Though you may not get a nugget of practical application right now, the good news will inflame your desire for such obedience in perpetuity.

I believe in practical application. Here are more than ten biblical reasons why you should do it. But the dangers are legion if you come to your Bible reading with nothing but practical application on your mind. You might rush—or even worse, skip!—your observation or interpretation for the sake of that practical nugget. Your application might come unmoored from the text and take you in exactly the wrong direction. You might fall into the well-worn path of failing to identify any applications beyond the Big Three.
And there is a major opportunity cost involved. Treat personal application as the only consistent outcome for your Bible reading, and you may simply miss out on these other benefits the Lord wishes for you.
1. Storing Up Now for the Coming Winter
A regular habit of Bible reading is worth maintaining, even when no urgent or timely application comes readily to mind, because you are depositing divine truth in the storehouses of your soul from which you can later make withdrawals. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). “My son, keep your father’s commandments … bind them on your heart always … When you walk, they will lead you … For the commandment is a lamp … to preserve you from the evil woman, from the the smooth tongue of the adulteress” (Prov 6:20-24).
We ought to consider the ant and be wise (Prov 6:6-11, 30:24-25), not only with respect to our work ethic but also with respect to our truth ethic. It is foolish to abstain from Bible reading because it’s not practical enough for today. When the time of temptation arrives, you will have an empty storehouse—an empty heart—with no stockpile of resources available to supply your resistance.
2. Receiving Comfort Amid Sorrow
It is true that suffering people need time and space to process. Yet may it never be that our “time and space” isolate us from the Lord, when they ought to bind us more tightly to him. The laments of the Bible are wonderful for giving us words when we don’t know what to say, and feelings when we don’t know what to feel. The Spirit who intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26) is the same Spirit who inspired the words of the prophets and apostles to give expression to such groanings (1 Pet 1:10-12).
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What Should We Make of Paul’s Shipwreck Narrative?

Observations of the primary narrative tension and its accompanying resolution gave us hope that we could sift through the flood of details to discern the author’s main point in this chapter.

When our church’s team of preachers decided to preach through Acts, I knew chapter 27 would be a doozy (notice how I cleverly ignored this chapter in my interpretive overview of Acts). I have always been confused by this chapter and its role within the book, and though I’m sure compelling sermons have been preached on this text, I have yet to hear one of them. I’m used to hearing otherwise fantastic preachers punt on this chapter, in the name of practicality, to talk about “weathering the storms of our spiritual lives.” So the extraordinarily detailed travelogue of Acts 27 is reduced to a parable and a few minor observations (typically surrounding verses 23-25) seeking to inspire us toward deeper trust in Christ—a wonderful thing to be inspired toward, of course!
Therefore, since I’m in charge of managing our sermon schedule, I made sure to assign Acts 27 to someone else. Pro tip: When you don’t know what to do with a text, require a friend or colleague to deal with it instead. This resulted in one of the most exciting “aha!” moments in my Bible study this year.
A Key Structural Observation
The sucker fortunate fellow to receive the assignment was a good man and marvelous student of the word named Tom Hallman. Tom eagerly set himself to observe the text inside and out, to give him the raw materials for a series of interpretive questions. Our practice is that our team of preachers gives feedback on every sermon before it is preached. We collaborate in two phases: the study of the passage and the delivery of the sermon. So in that first phase, Tom regularly laid before us the fruit of his study for comment and evaluation.
And Tom made a key structural observation that shed tremendous light on the passage for me. In following the narrative’s plot, Tom observed that the main conflict centers on the centurion’s failure to listen to Paul’s counsel in Acts 27:11. This led Tom to recognize a few arcs within the plot:

Acts 27:9-20: Paul speaks, and the centurion pays more attention to others. The result is that all hope of being saved is abandoned.
Acts 27:21-44: Paul speaks, and the Romans start listening to him. The result is that all are brought safely to land.

These observations of the primary narrative tension and its accompanying resolution gave us hope that we could sift through the flood of details to discern the author’s main point in this chapter.
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