Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson is devoting his annual spring chapel sermon series to what he said is “unquestionably the most obscure of all the books of the Bible”—Song of Solomon. Preaching the series’ first sermon on Feb. 10, Patterson provided a verse-by-verse exposition of the book’s first chapter.
Regarding his approach to the book, Patterson argued for a “literal/analogous” interpretation. In this view, the song depicts the real-world experiences of Solomon and his bride (referred to only as “the Shulamite”), but these experiences are analogous to the relationship between God and his people.
“Most people never think about it in this way,” Patterson said, “but I want to urge you today to see the intimacy that exists between a man and a woman as an expression of the intimacy that exists between God and man. Because you see, on the principles that God laid out, there should be only one man for one woman for life. And what they know of each other and experience of each other is absolutely alien to any other human being on the face of the globe, and so they know each other as no others are known. That’s true of God; God’s relationship to you is unique.
“It’s true that each has experienced new birth, and so we have that in common, but how God walks through the valleys of life with each of us is totally unique. The relationship that He has with every one of you is totally different, and the intimacy of human love imitates that.”
In reference to the literal reading of the text, Patterson said the book affirms the sacredness and nobility of the sexual intimacy that God created for marriage. The loss of an understanding of this sacredness, he explained, is the reason society is now plagued with so much sexual sin.
“Remember, God created everything, and until man perverted it, everything that God created was said to be very good,” Patterson said. “Intimacy in marriage is something that God created and is very good.”
Patterson proceeded to expound the first chapter of Song of Solomon, which details an interaction between Solomon and the Shulamite indicating their deep love for one another. At the conclusion of this exposition, Patterson stressed that the love pictured in the text is “unbelievably chaste.”
“The descriptions [in later chapters] are going to be frank,” he continued, “but they are always chaste, and those who have said that they are somehow degraded because they’re in the Bible miss the point entirely, because every reference is made with great chastity and great import.”
Noting the selflessness of Solomon and his bride evident within the text, Patterson explained, “What the Bible is telling us is that love is never about getting; love is always about giving. All through the song, we see two people who are eager to give. Yes, they do get in return, but they are interested in giving. You see a woman, the Shulamite, giving herself to her husband, and you see this man, Solomon, giving himself to his country bride.”
Patterson acknowledged that the chapel audience included married people, those who are not yet married, and those whom God has called to remain single. Even so, he maintained that the book’s message is intended for everyone and thus cannot be neglected by anyone. He explained, “Nothing will change your dating life; nothing will change your church life; nothing will change your home life; nothing will change any part of your life like understanding the simple truth that life is not about getting; life is about giving.”
To download, watch or listen to sermons from Patterson’s series on Song of Solomon, as well as view a complete list of chapel speakers, visit swbts.edu/chapel.