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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 3:4 and Mary Magdalene

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, November 11, 2023

I had only just left them
  when I found the one my soul loves.
  I held him and would not let him go
  until I had brought him to my mother’s house,
  to the room of the one who conceived me.

The wife is still talking about the watchmen who found her while they were making their rounds in verse 3. This verse is perfectly simple to understand within the Song:

1, She didn’t know where her husband was.
2, She had been searching (longing) for him on their bed.
3, Then she went out into the night to look for him.
4, She was found by the night watch and asked about him.
5, After leaving them, she found him.
6, She holds him
7, She wants to bring him home to her mother’s house.

The “finding” is sudden and happens without any explanation. It is more likely that he has found her than the other way around, but in her highly emotional state, she doesn’t recognize this. This is also what happens with many Christians who think that coming to faith was their idea and not God’s intention all along. “You did not choose me,” Jesus said, “but I chose you and anointed you to go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).

The words, “I held him and would not let him go” are clear whether we apply the line to marriage or to our search for God, which is also the search for those who are already Christians as they want to deepen their understanding of God’s word. Sometimes the avenues for this kind of study are missed, or misunderstood.

1, The Sunday sermon. Your pastor uses this quarter-hour each week as the moment when he is able to reach most of his people with a clear proclamation of God’s word, including the law that shows us our sins, and the gospel that displays our Savior. His training has been with this especially in mind, and this is what the Holy Spirit has called him to do, through and for your congregation and you.

2, Bible study at your own church. This is your pastor teaching in a format that allows you to ask questions and to learn about the Scriptures at the feet of a called servant of the Word.

3, Reading materials published by our own church body. Not everything needs to be flashy or glossy. The content is what is truly important: Hear the word, and teach one another (Jeremiah 9:20).

4, Regular reading of your Bible. Daily Bible reading places God’s Word into our minds and hearts. It doesn’t need to be a lot, or we can become frustrated when it doesn’t seem like we have enough time. But a part of a Psalm, half a chapter of an Epistle, a single Gospel lesson, can be more than enough spiritual food to nourish us and to chew on (1 Corinthians 10:3), all day long.

5, Regular review of your catechism. This, too, should be brief, so that no one will be burdened by it, but will listen and take the words to heart to be familiar with them. One simple method for a family or a single person is to read one single part of the catechism before the evening table prayer. Learning the catechism and understanding the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, is truly the work of a lifetime.

6, Learning and memorizing passages for teaching and comfort. Memorizing anything is became a lost art among our young people. But remembering a few key passages can be a comfort for a lifetime. The Christian can easily begin with their own confirmation passage, or lines from the 23rd or some other Psalm.

7, Singing and listening to Christian hymns and songs. There is nothing quite as wholesome as singing a hymn. Paul and Silas did this in prison (Acts 16:25), and I have found it to be a favorite thing to do when I visit our people when they are home bound, especially when an older Christian’s memory or attention span begins to fail. “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

8, Be cautious about listening to Christian preachers on your TV, Radio, or online. This voice is not called by the Holy Spirit to preach to you. “They say, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled” (Ezekiel 13:6). Does he make it seem as if we are responsible for our salvation? If so, he is surely a false prophet! Does he point people to Christ, or away from Christ? This caution is aided by being familiar with the word of God and especially with the key doctrines, explained for us in the catechism.

9, Be cautious about listening to popular Christian music. Many of these songs are not written with right doctrine in mind, and a catchy line from a famous tune can confuse rather than encourage.

In the final lines of the verse, the wife talks about bringing her husband into “my mother’s house, to the room of the one who conceived me.” This is a problem if she is thought to be unmarried, since just the verse before she was looking for her husband. Or is her mother dead? If that is so, why would her cruel brothers who use her for cheap labor (Song 1:6) allow her to use their mother’s house for her home?

Is it possible that the language here is more explicit that we might expect, that her “mother’s house,” is the “mother’s house” of her own body (her womb and sexual parts)? If this is so, then the last line becomes an impossible paradox. However, the spiritual application vaults over all of these difficulties by seeing the mother of all believers as the church, and therefore the birthplace of one believer—the baptismal font—is the same for all.

The Venerable Bede (672-735, England) related this passage spiritually to Mary Magdalene looking for Christ who, on the cross and in the tomb, was absent from the church (in death). She came with spices to his tomb (Mark 16:1), found angels (the watchmen) instead (Matthew 28:5), and then found the one her soul loved, mistaking him for the gardener (John 20:15), and then when he revealed himself, she clung to him and would not let him go again (John 20:17), but he sent her back to deliver the news of his resurrection to the church (John 20:17).

What is satisfying about the Bede’s application is that it fits the Gospel perfectly, does not stray from the text, and builds faith. “For the love of Christ compels us,” Paul wrote, “because we came to this conclusion: One died for all; therefore, all died. And he died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him, who died in their place and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Every part of our faith is caught up in the gospel message of Christ, “the one my soul loves.” His obedience to the Father has eternal value for us: “The righteousness which is by grace is reckoned to faith or to the believers is the obedience, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ when he satisfied the law for us and paid for our sin” (Formula of Concord). Our doings, our searchings, and even our little discoveries and findings of delightful truths in the Word of God are not our own making; he is the one who has made, spoken the truth, revealed himself, and dealt with our sin in his own pain and blood. He already holds us and loves us, and he assures us: “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father” (John 14:21).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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