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Death's equal

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Song of Songs 8.6

Today concludes our preaching series in Solomon's Song of Songs. And what a note to end on! The bride's appeal and declaration amount to a confession of faith by Jesus' bride, the Church: that our love for him, initiated by God himself, should bind us to him who loves us to death - his own. The original Hebrew word which is here translated "like mighty flame" includes the suffix "-yah" which refers to God. The notion of love being "as strong as death" points us to Jesus and how he expressed the full extent of his love by taking responsibility for our sin and dying as a sacrifice in our place.

That would have been it - an heroic yet tragic betrothal, cruelly ended - had not Jesus' love been equal to death and so, having paid the price, he broke its hold on himself and on us. From a creaturely perspective there is no way back from death but... what is impossible for creatures is within the grasp of our Creator. And so, far from signalling the end of the affair, Jesus' death cleanses his bride so that he may present her to himself in a "marriage feast" which heralds the moment when Jesus returns and heaven and earth unite into the New Creation.

That is the grand narrative of love, within which we live out our own relationships, at the heart of which is the marriage bond. A man and a woman living faithfully and generously together provides the best environment for nurturing children who contribute to the flourishing of society and ensure its future. While the marriage bond is exclusive, its influence is pervasive and it thrives on the support of family and friends. That is the message of Solomon's Song of Songs: a high and inclusive calling which orients us all to the even higher vocation we share as those who, together, are "betrothed to Christ".



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