As long as I can remember, and I’m told well before that, “Why are we here?” has been a familiar refrain in sermons. I’m not sure if other churches ask this question so religiously, but in mine it’s trundled out every Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and at least once more on other Holy Days and/or Sabbaths throughout the year.
The answers are equally familiar by now: “Because God called us,” “Because today is a commanded assembly,” “Because you’ve been given understanding the rest of the world doesn’t have.” Last time I heard this question was a few weeks ago, and that time I tried to think beyond why I was sitting in an uncomfortable blue-upholstered chair on a Saturday afternoon. When we really boil it all down to the question of why God called us in the first place, why are we really here? What is our purpose as followers of God?
A Great Mystery
From the very beginning God’s focus has been on relationships. Looking back to Genesis 1, we see God speaking the world into existence, and proclaiming that it was good. Finally we come to the pinnacle of God’s creation.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26)
This is the first time in the Bible where we see both The Word/Jesus Christ and God The Father talking about something together. I’m sure they collaborated on the rest of creation as well (Eph. 3:9), but mankind is the one creative act where They made sure we knew They acted together. “Let Us make man” is a collaborative, relational statement, announcing Their intent to make people “in Our Image,” and therefore capable of relationship.
The specific way humans were created also points out the importance of relationships. With other creatures, both male and female were apparently created at the same time. With humans, however, man was created first. This gave God a chance to point out, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). As Paul explains much later in the scriptures, the marriage relationship created here is a picture of the relationship God wants with His church.”
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)
Here, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to teach us a great mystery about the relationship between Jesus Christ and the New Testament church. At its core, the goal of “Let Us make man” was to build familial relationships. We are made children of God and co-inheritors with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:15-17), and betrothed to our adopted Brother (2 Cor. 11:2). We are designed to be in relationship with our Creator.
Lovers of God
In 2 Timothy, Paul describes “the last days,” warning that bad things are going to happen because men will turn away from loving God.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:4-5)
Note that these people have a “form of godliness.” As bad as they sound, they aren’t just people outside the churches — there are some inside our groups as well trying to pass themselves off as godly. But because they are not truly “lovers of God,” they are denying His true power and refusing to walk in His ways.
What does a “lover of God” look like? We’ve quoted John 14:15 several times over the past few weeks, where Christ says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He expands on this idea through chapter 15 as well.
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)
Obedience is key to being in a relationship with God. If we ignore His commands, we’re telling Him we don’t care about a relationship with Him. But if we keep His commandments, we’re saying how much we love Him and want to be close to Him.
When was the last time you heard Song of Solomon quoted in a sermon? For that matter, how many Christians do you think would have included it in the Bible if canonization had been up to them? No one seems quite sure what to do with it. My KeyWord study Bible says that portions of the Song were sung at Passover, though, so with that coming up next week maybe today is the perfect time to take another look at the Song of Songs.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah and Lamentations all use this metaphor; the rabbis merely amplified what they had already found in the Bible. The Song of Songs, to the rabbis, was the completion of the metaphor. The prophets may have denounced infidelity but the Song of Songs spoke of reunion and love, the kind of love that the believing rabbinic Jew felt for God. Even the Psalms do not talk about God as the lover or bridegroom of Israel. The Song of Songs is seen as a dialogue between God and Israel, and this provides the book with a unique religious intensity.” (Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, “Why Do We Sing the Song of Songs on Passover?”, page 4)
Scholars can’t agree on who wrote the Song of Songs or when, much less how to interpret it. Some claim that it’s nothing more than a secular love song, others say it only has allegorical applications. The more balanced view is that it operates on two levels — as an account of human love, and as a picture of Christ’s love for the church and/or God’s love for Israel. That’s the one I like, and there is much to learn when we read this book looking for insight into our relationship with God.
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Song 7:10)
Do you feel like this about your relationship with Jesus? We should, for we do belong to Him since He desired us so much that he redeemed us by giving His own life. The only time we see God’s name in the Song of Songs, it is not translated into English. It’s in chapter 8:6, and “Thus at the end of the Song the woman describes her love for her man as being like ‘YHWH’s Flame,’ the love between them will not only be as strong as death; it will be as strong as YHWH’s love for His people” (Andrew Greele, quoted by Scolnic, page 6). With a love so strong offered to us, we should offer all our love to God in return. What’s why we are here — to be lovers of God.