The Shulamite’s (and our) progress in spiritual growth can be likened to ascending stairs from one level to the next. The lovely truth is that Shepherd Lover was so intentional in His desire for her fellowship that He designed opportunities for her to respond to Him (just as He does for us). At every level new and different challenges presented themselves. But so did new and different victories.
Of course, the enemy was right there at every level with his own intentions and ‘opportunities’. He is personally acquainted with the concept of levels:
“But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.” Isaiah 14:13-15 NASB
As a result, he would like nothing more than to tempt us to illusionary heights, only to dash us to the ground and drag us into the pit with him. If we don’t go kicking and screaming, apathy works well too.
In this ages old face-off for the affection of the Shulamite, her story is still today our story.
In spite of the enemy’s ploys that threaten to overwhelm us and if successful, take us down, I marvel at the steadfastness of our Lord and His ability to create longing within our heart that can only be filled by Him. The love of He who is Love, is magnetic. It was to this ‘pull’ that the Shulamite was responding…
The Song of Songs records three confessions of love made by the Shulamite. That to which she testified is a revealing expression of the place her heart resided at each level of the Shepherd’s engagement. We, like the Shulamite, start from the same place she did: at the beginning of the stairs that would lead her to the very chamber of her Beloved’s heart.
Confession #1 – Eros
“My Beloved is mine, and I am his…”
Song of Songs 2:16 YLT
It wasn’t that the Shulamite did not love her Shepherd Lover; she did. In her own way.
“How do I love Thee? Let me count the blessings, name them one by one.”
She was aware that Shepherd Lover offered more than what she had experienced up to the present. Remembering her disgruntlement and frustration, she had determined she must seek out that for which her heart was longing. That came in the form of Shepherd Lover.
Blissfully, He brought blessing where there had been nothing but disadvantage. She was receptive to all the good and pleasant things He had to offer her. His supply to her need did not seem to lack. In fact, she could relate to this for it was not so different from being kept in the palace.
It was a good and righteous thing to relax into this state of grace – where she belonged. His offering was worthy of shifting her affection. To lay claim to Him (“My Beloved is mine…”) was a total game-changer.
She was a bit too receptive, though, to all the faithful pleasantries. For all Shepherd Lover’s care and provision, the only game-changing effect was now based on the ebb and flow of His giving her what she wanted. To the degree that she benefited from this relationship of service and attentiveness, one could measure her sense of priority through her self-importance, self-centeredness, and self-serving attitude.
Though she claimed Him as her Beloved, the Shulamite was rather self-ish. Nonetheless, she could hear and understand some things of a spiritual nature, so her confession included, almost as a postscript, “…and I am His.”
A little earlier she had adoringly declared, “Because Your ointments have a lovely fragrance; Your name is as ointment poured out; on account of this the virgins love You.” (SS 1:3)
Adoringly, because there was significant reason why the maidens had affection for Him. His name and His character aligned in ways that other suitors’ did not. The virtue His name elicited was like purified oil, literally oil which is emptied from one vessel to another.
The Shulamite was finding contentment in His emptying richness of things into her. Blessings. That which He could do for her and give to her. Her appreciation was genuine, though her proclamation of ‘love’ was as a direct result of the blessings received. Lessened flow equaled lessened trust in His love.
Her first confession, the lowest step on the stairs, was founded on eros love; the only love she could currently muster, perhaps because so many other relationships had fed only on this lesser, carnal love. At this level, her capacity was limited to self-gaining responses to a one-way love flowing toward her.
Her confession revealed her spiritual condition. Though she could be content only to rest there and continue receiving that purified oil, Shepherd Lover had higher expressions of love for her partaking.
The virgins and the Shulamite were on to something. Yet unknown to them, because of His name, He was intent on bringing about the changes within her that would befit sharing that name with His Bride.
From the stairway,
Shammahs Field LLC/Shammah Ministries is the biblical counseling, life coaching, and spiritual growth ministry entrusted to Wayne & Nancy Bentz. You can learn more about the resources they have to offer at www.shammahsfield.com.