Before showing how I outlined Song of Songs, let me give you some of the factors that must be considered before preaching or teaching through the book. I included some of this content in my sermons as I preached through the book.
Some introductory comments on the book of Song of Songs.
(1) It’s hard to understand – Hebrew experts struggle with how to translate different aspects.
(2) Who is speaking is sometimes hard to grasp? The titles "she," "beloved," "her," "he," are not in the original. So sometimes some translations make slightly different calls regarding who is speaking.
(3) What is Solomon’s role?
(4) Is it a chronological story?
(5) Is it about marriage, sex, how specific?
(6) Is it about Christ and the Church?
(7) And this is a sensitive subject.
We’re affected by living in a fallen world, where sin has led to shame in the area of sex and it means this is a tricky subject for those who are single. It’s also a tricky subject for those who are married. It may mean you will have to deal with things in marriage, or in singleness, and ultimately get to know God. It’s an area - sex, marriage, singleness - where there can be much shame and huge pain because we live in a fallen world. But it’s in the Bible and it’s addressed to us.
In fact, some singles might think this isn’t for them; yet, it could be argued that single women, in particular, are the main people who are being addressed in this book as there is the repeated refrain spoken by the main female speaker in the song to other young women!
My thoughts on Song of Songs as a book.
(1) It is a song – that means it’s written to be sung, and may well have been at marriages
(2) It’s not all to be taken literally – believe you me, some of the descriptions would just be ludicrous if we did!!
(3) The song does not run in a chronological order – some scholars have seen it in that way, but to me that doesn’t make sense. It is not a narrative prose but a song with a chiastic structure, hence the reason for my sermon split with overlapping repeated themes.
(4) It’s not so much to inform our head simply with correct doctrine, but to spark our love, our emotions. This sort of book will challenge a guy like me, who is more comfortable with logic and problem solving. We aren’t meant to solve the problems of poetry, we’re meant to feel them!
(5) It’s about love in marriage – the church in the past and through the middle ages didn’t really allow this to be interpreted this way, but I think it’s hard to argue that it is not about love in marriage. So they may have under-sexualised it and said things like the "sachet of myrrh that lies between [the bride's] breasts" (1:13) symbolizes "Christ in the soul of the believer, who lies between the great commands to love God and one's neighbour." I think this is probably talking about the body parts and we don’t want to dismiss the plain reading of the text.
(6) And yet more recently there is danger in people over-sexualising it by stating that this relates to this particular aspect of sex and then describing it. That’s missing the point It’s a song, full of symbolism and we’re not to interpret every detail as something specific. It’s a song!!
(7) It points to Christ’s love and the Church – we know this because it’s in the Bible as a whole, Scripture, all of which as Jesus said, points to him. The New Testament sheds light for us on the meaning of the Old Testament…and yet that doesn’t mean every verse relates to a specific aspect either. It’s clear that there is so much other imagery in the song - from Eden, marriage and banquets - that are picked up on in the rest of Scripture. This tells us that surely this does point to Jesus, and God’s great story as a whole, and we therefore shouldn’t miss that!
1:1-2:7: Intimacy is better than wine
2:8-3:5, 5:2-6:3: Longing and Loss
3:6-5:1: You have stolen my heart
6:4-8:14: How beautiful you are