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Why You Need To Preach the Song of Songs

The smut is everywhere. On billboards, on TV screens, and eye-level in the checkout line at the grocery store, to say nothing of what is one click away on the device in your pocket or the screen on your desk. Beyond the superficial temptation of all the eye-catchers, the smut comes with a story. These sirens aren’t just singing an isolated hypnotizing song, they are selling a vision of the good life, appealing to your ideas about what pleasure is, about how you can have it now, and trying to convince you there won’t be a reckoning later. As though no one has ever foundered on the rocks trying to get to that shore.

These advertisements—from the billboards to the commercials to the mannequins—are all presenting themselves as icons that symbolize a wider story. They whisper in your ear: this is who you can be. This is how you can live. This is what you can look like. This is who you can have. And this life will satisfy all your longings.

But will it?

And if we’re convinced that there are longings deeper than the ones they’re stroking, how do we counter the intrusive message that saturates our surroundings? How do we convince other people that what they’re seeing is the harlot Babylon posing with that girl next door look? Can we woo them with something better, something that will entice them away from the lust that looses disaster?

Can I suggest to you that this is exactly why the Song of Songs is in the Bible?

What if there was something so beautiful it could break the spell of all that eye-candy? What if there was something so satisfying it would empower us to hear the siren song for what it is—an invitation to ruin and misery with the smoke of your destruction going up forever and ever?

Would God be so good to us that he would give us a book that could describe the lost intimacy of Eden? Not only describing it: holding it out as a possibility, offering it to us, inviting us to partake, inspiring us to imitate.

The Song of Songs, Solomon’s most sublime Song, is no more an isolated statement than those Viagra commercials are. The Song of Songs has to be read in the context of the story of the whole Bible.

That story starts with a couple in a garden, naked and without shame, in perfect harmony and bliss. Sin ruins their safety and shatters their intimacy, and they hide themselves from God and one another. God searches them out, and he promises a redeemer who will defeat the one who tempted them to sin. That redeemer’s line of descent is carefully traced, and eventually God promises that a descendant of David will rise up to redeem. When the prophets speak of what life will be like when he comes, it sounds like things will be better than they were in Eden before sin.

When God put that couple in the Garden in the beginning, he gave them to each other in marriage. Then when God made a covenant with the nation of Israel, he spoke of the relationship as a though it were a marriage. The unfaithfulness of Israel to the Lord was illustrated in the book of Hosea. The Lord commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute, and faithful Hosea stood for the Lord himself, while his wife’s promiscuity and unfaithfulness stood for Israel’s spiritual adultery.

The book of Hosea communicates the failure of the covenant between the Lord and Israel, leading to the “divorce” of the exile of the people from the land. There are plenty of indications in Hosea, however, that the Lord intends to make a new marital covenant with his people, after he has disciplined them for their sin (see esp. Hos 2:16–23).

If the book of Hosea presents a failed marriage, the Song of Songs presents a poetic success. The Song of Solomon depicts an idealized Solomon, scion of David, king in Jerusalem, who overcomes every barrier to intimacy between himself and his bride. This picture provides the wider backdrop that explains the way that carpenter’s kid from Nazareth came hailed as “the bridegroom.”

Once the Galilean had shown himself to be the long awaited Redeemer, the apostle Paul explained in Ephesians 5 that marriage exists so that the world will understand the relationship between him and his people: the new covenant between Christ and his Bride, the church. Then in Revelation 19 we read that the great celebration of his conquering kingdom is going to be a marriage feast.

The good life isn’t the lie of a non-stop, no-consequence orgy with the whore of Babylon. The good life is a permanent, exclusive, comprehensive union of one man and one woman in procreative marriage. In such marriages, husband and wife follow in the footsteps of the one who has made it so that the gates to the Garden of Eden stand open to those who keep his word.

Whatever those billboards say, your life is not about your looks and your identity and your pleasure. Your life is about God, in whose image you were made, and every marriage —including yours—is about Jesus and the church.

The Song of Songs is one movement in the Bible’s grand symphony. Heard in the context of the whole orchestral production, its movements, harmonies, and developments will ravish and purify, enrich and sanctify, deepen and delight. We need to listen closely. You need to preach it. So the Bride will be pure.

This article originally appeared at

On Wednesday, Oct 28, 2015, I’ll be leading a seminar on Preaching the Song of Solomon as Christian Scripture at the Expositors Summit at SBTS. 

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The Song of Songs: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation

Song of Songs CoverChristians have long read the Song of Songs as music that sings of the one who so loved his bride that not even death could keep him from her. If Hosea could present his relationship with Gomer as a kind of allegory of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel, why couldn’t Solomon have done the same thing in his very positive depiction of the idealized king’s love for his bride in the Song?

Not only am I convinced that Solomon intended an allegorical layer of meaning for his poetry, I’m also convinced that he understood the importance of his role as Israel’s king, as the scion of David, and as one whose life and writings contributed to significant patterns of events. These patterns of events lay the groundwork for the assertion, “One greater than Solomon is here,” and such historical correspondences and escalations in significance are typological.

If Solomon intended the Song to be both allegorical and typological, we can describe it as Christological. My biblical-theological exposition of the Song, which has just appeared from Christian Focus, attempts to be faithful to the text and apply the truth of Scripture to the heart.

I pray the Lord will use this little book to help people feel his love, stronger than death, a flame no waters can quench, and I pray it will heal and strengthen marriages, guide and bless Bible studies, and bring glory to the Bridegroom whose voice made the Baptist rejoice.

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Read the Bible: Kindle Reading Plan

Chris Dendy came up with the idea for the God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment Bible Reading Plan, and Lindsey Jacobs designed it. The plan pairs daily Bible readings with relevant sections from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, and you can read more about it here.

A number of folks requested that the plan be made available for the Kindle version of the book, and Chris and Lindsey have come through with one.

In addition to the two plans available for the print copy of the book, here’s a plan that will take you through the Kindle version: Kindle Reading Plan.

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Deuteronomy Section of GGSTJ Online

The section on Deuteronomy from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology has been excerpted and published in the latest issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT).

If you’re considering doing the GGSTJ Bible Reading Plan and want to sample the book, click on over and check it out.

This is an excellent issue of SBJTHere’s the Table of Contents:

Stephen J. Wellum, Editorial: Reading Deuteronomy for God’s People Today, 3–5

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Has Any People Heard the Voice of God Speaking … And Survived?, 7–17

James M. Hamilton Jr., The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment in Deuteronomy, 19–33

Peter J. Gentry, The Relationship of Deuteronomy to the Covenant at Sinai, 35–57

John D. Meade, Circumcision of the Heart in Leviticus and Deuteronomy: Divine Means for Resolving Curse and Bringing Blessing, 59–85

From Condemnation to Righteousness: A Christian Reading of Deuteronomy: Jason S. DeRouchie, 87–118

A.B. Caneday, “Anyone Hung Upon A Pole Is Under God’s Curse:” Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in Old and New Covenant Contexts, 121–36

Book Reviews, 139–57 — includes reviews by Stephen Wellum, Jarvis Williams, Matthew Hall, and James Parker

The entirety is available as a free PDF.

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Read the Bible

Are you planning to read through the Bible in a year?

Have you felt lost in the vast architecture and artistry of the Bible’s massive spaces and intricate designs?

One of my motivations in writing God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology was to provide a resource people could use alongside their daily Bible reading. I mention that in the “Strategy for Reading This Book” that precedes the first chapter, and Chris Dendy has taken that cue and created a Through the Bible in a Year reading program that pairs daily Bible Readings with relevant sections from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment.

This plan will enable you to take a guided tour through the Bible using the God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment reading plan. With it you can accompany your daily Bible reading with related sections of God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment to see key connections with other Scripture, literary structure of the passage you’re reading, and broader thematic developments.

My prayer is that many will grow in their understanding of the Bible by experiencing its power and glory first-hand.

Read the Bible. And if you need help understanding it, get a book like this one that will take you through the Bible and draw your eye to the way its authors deployed their artistry to display God’s glory.

The God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment Bible Reading Plan is available free in three formats.

Printable: This format can be printed (front and back), and then you can fold the pages in half to make a small booklet. This document has been updated to make it easier to print.

Digital: This format presents things in the order they should appear if you don’t plan to print the pages front and back and fold them in half.

Kindle: If you have the Kindle version of GGSTJ, this one provides your readings.

Is there any book more important than the Bible? When you come to the end, is there anything you will wish you had given more time and energy and mental effort to reading and understanding?

Don’t waste your life.
Read the Bible.
Behold the glory.
Know God.
Build your life on the book.

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The Final Page for Free

Thanks to Andy Naselli, you can read the last page of With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology online. Check it out.

And the first review I’ve seen is in an Australian Christian Newspaper called New Life (on page 15). Naturally, I disagree with him where he disagrees with me (because that’s what we do, isn’t it?), but I’m thankful for the positive review.

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What’s the Point of the Millennium?

Mike Wittmer, a fellow premillennialist, once asked me what the millennium does. Why is it there?

As I was pondering the Big Story of the Bible in preparation to preach an overview kind of sermon recently, the thought began to take shape in my head that the millennium provides another point of contact–a typological point of contact–between Adam and Jesus. Consider the parallels:

Adam was in the undefiled garden, living before God in Eden. The garden was invaded and defiled by Satan. Adam and Eve did not withstand the temptation but sinned and were expelled from God’s presence.

In Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 Paul discusses the way that Adam was a type of the one to come, Jesus, whose obedience would match and overcome Adam’s disobedience. Paul also makes clear that whereas in Adam all die, in Christ all shall be made alive.

In his first coming, Jesus obeyed where Adam disobeyed and gave life where Adam gave death.

At his second coming (Rev 19), Jesus will cleanse the land of the serpent and his seed, restoring creation to an Eden-like state. The thousand year reign of Christ in Revelation 20:4–6 matches the thousand year life-spans of Adam and other pre-flood figures (cf. Gen 5).

Having reigned for a thousand years in an undefiled, cleansed creation, Jesus gets another chance to succeed where Adam failed. Adam lived in undefiled purity and innocence but sinned at Satan’s instigation. Having established a millennial kingdom, a golden age of undefiled innocence, Jesus has subdued the earth, filling and ruling over it as God commanded Adam to do, when Satan is released from the pit (Rev 20:7).

We are not told where Cain got his wife at the beginning, and we are not told where Satan got his followers at the end. But we can see a clear contrast between Adam and Jesus:

Adam in Eden failed to stand before the Satanic revolt. He sinned and was exiled from God’s presence.
Christ at the end of the millennium will stand fast against the Satanic revolt. He will conquer and bring about the new heaven and new earth, the new Jerusalem, the new and better Eden.

It seems, then, that the point of the millennium is to begin the renewal of creation that will be completed once Christ has triumphed in circumstances similar to those under which Adam was conquered. Adam sinned in Eden, but Jesus will overcome Satan at the end of the edenic millennium. Whereas Adam was driven from the garden, the conquest of Christ opens the way for the edening of all creation, in fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose.

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:3–5). 

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So there could be a Jesus: TGC Interview on Ezra–Nehemiah

Hearty thanks to Kathleen Nielson for interviewing me on Ezra–Nehemiah for the TGC blog in the run-up to the National Women’s Conference on Nehemiah. Here’s a bit from one of my responses, reflecting on the way that their concern for the nation’s purity ensured the birth of Jesus:
In the mystery of God’s providence, we have the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah to thank for our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. God saved us through Jesus, and we see God’s sovereignty in tension with human responsibility as we consider how Ezra and Nehemiah worked to ensure that there would be a Joseph and a Mary so there could be a Jesus. They didn’t know that would be his name, but it was concern for him, hope for him, that drew Ezra and Nehemiah back to the Scriptures, kept them on their knees, compelled them to call the people to repent, and caused them to seek the rebuilding of people and wall.

The whole is here, and if you’re studying Nehemiah to prepare for the conference, how about we work through it together?

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SBTS Alumni Academy on Biblical Theology

Is there anything more important than the Bible? Jesus said Scripture can’t be broken, and he prayed that the Father would sanctify his people in the truth, then said, “Thy word is truth.”

God’s people need God’s word.

The word doesn’t work like a magic formula, however. We don’t just pass our eyes over a meaningless series of symbols. No, for the word to work it has to be understood.

To understand the Bible we need biblical theology.

Why? Because biblical theology enables us to understand the trees as they stand in the forest, and it enables us to see the shape of the forest formed by all those trees.

Biblical theology helps us see how the biblical authors understood the Scriptures and their own situations. Biblical theology shines the light on how later authors picked up the storyline started by earlier authors of Scripture, summarizing and interpreting it in their use of symbolism, imagery, typology, and significant patterns.

God has spoken to us in his word. We want to understand what he has said. God’s people need to hear his voice.

Are your ears trained to hear him?

We want to do biblical theology because we want to know God and love God’s people by giving them the fullness of what God has revealed in our preaching and teaching.

Join us at the next SBTS Alumni Academy for two days (Jan 8–9, 2015) of biblical theology. If we are to teach the nations to obey everything Jesus said, we have to understand what it means.

Register here, that all the ends of the earth might fear the Lord.

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An Excerpt from My Ezra–Nehemiah Book

Broadman and Holman allowed me to put an excerpt of my new book on Ezra–Nehemiah on The chapter excerpted deals with how to live a wartime lifestyle on a millionaire’s budget. Here’s a bit:

Can you imagine slaughtering an ox a day? I don’t know how big Nehemiah’s herd of oxen was, but he referred to a twelve year period of time in 5:14. Twelve years multiplied by 365 days per year is 4,380 oxen. He either had a herd big enough to sustain that or he had the money to buy that many oxen. He also slaughtered six sheep per day, and in twelve years that’s 26,280 sheep.

This is enormous wealth. Nehemiah trusted God and loved God’s people, so he did not exploit the privileges of his office. But I see no indication at all that he felt the slightest bit guilty about having the means to sacrifice an ox, six sheep, and enjoy “all kinds of wine in abundance” every ten days (Neh 5:18). There are poor people in the land. Nehemiah does not give any indication that he feels wrong about being extravagantly wealthy while others are poor.

The rest is here.

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Reading a Chiasm Helically

In his brilliant and thought provoking book, Deep Exegesis, Peter Leithart writes (167):

“In a book happily back in print, John Breck argues that chiasms are not ‘balanced structures, but instead are dynamic literary devices. He suggests that chiasms should be read ‘helically,’ moving not just from A to B to C to B’ and so on, but from A to A’, B to B’, C to C’, and so on. Read in this way, the text has a centripetal pull toward the central section. The corresponding sections, Breck argues, are related in the same ways that the strophes of a verse of Hebrew poetry are related. He says there is a ‘what’s more’ relationship between the corresponding lines: A and, what is more, A’.”

[the Breck book to which Leithart refers is The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond]

This idea of reading a chiasm “helically” (from “helical: of or shaped like a helix; spiral”) is exactly right.

I have argued that chiastic structures function this way across the books of Revelation and Daniel, and in my forthcoming book on the theology of Daniel, I suggest that Daniel’s chiastic structure influenced the choices John made in structuring Revelation chiastically.

This helical function can also be seen in the chiastic structure of 2 Samuel 21–24 (see GGSTJ, 174–75) and is likely at work anywhere you find a chiasm in the Bible.

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Spanish Translation of “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman”

I just keep cheering Saul Sarabia’s translation work into Spanish. I’m so grateful for the work he is doing on behalf of his fellow Spanish speakers, and so impressed with his industry. He has rendered yet another one of my essays, this time “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman,” into Spanish:


Please point any Spanish brothers and sisters interested in the Bible to Saul’s labors on their behalf.

Here are the other essays Saul has translated into Spanish:

Discipulado Familiar en el Antiguo Testamento: Que la Generación venidera Alabe al Señor

Una Teología Bíblica de la Maternidad

La Teología Bíblica y Predicación

La Gloria de Dios en la Salvación a través del Juicio: ¿El Centro de la Teología Bíblica?

El Centro de la Teología Bíblica en Hechos: La Liberación y la Condenación ponen de Manifiesto lo Divino

La Simiente de la Mujer y la Bendición de Abraham

¿Estaba el Espíritu Santo dentro de los creyentes en el Antiguo Pacto?

La Iglesia Militante y su Guerra: No Somos Otro Grupo de Interés

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Spanish Translation of “Family Discipleship in the Old Testament”

All families of all nations need to know what the Scriptures say about the training and discipling of children, so I rejoice that Saul Sarabia L. has rendered my essay, “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,” into Spanish:

Discipulado Familiar en el Antiguo Testamento: Que la Generación venidera Alabe al Señor

And here are Saul’s previous translations:

The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment

The Church Militant and Her Warfare

A Biblical Theology of Motherhood

Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts

Biblical Theology and Preaching

The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham

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Is the SBTS DMin in Biblical Theology for You?

A Guest Post from Miguel Echevarria:

Do you want to study biblical theology? Do you want to learn how to use it in your ministry? Would you like to be in cohort of men who have come to Southern for this very purpose? If so, we want to encourage you to enroll in Southern’s D.Min. in Biblical Theology.

The D.Min. in Biblical Theology will equip you to understand the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in accordance with the intentions of its Spirit-inspired human authors. Jesus taught the authors of the New Testament how to understand the Old Testament, and Jesus himself learned to understand the Old Testament from the way the Old Testament Prophets interpreted Moses. Our aim is to enhance your understanding of the interpretive perspective that is reflected in the writings of the Old and New Testaments, the interpretive perspective Jesus taught his followers. This is what it means to pursue Christian interpretation of the Bible—which will help you be a more effective minister of God’s Word.

Here is the course of study.

Hebrew Review Course: This course is designed as a refresher for those who fulfilled basic Hebrew requirements during their MDiv programs.

Old Testament Theology: An examination of the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors in the OT. A particular focus will be placed upon the big story they presuppose and the imagery, symbolism, and patterns they use to summarize and further interpret that story.

Greek Review Course: This course is designed as a refresher for those who fulfilled basic Greek requirements during their MDiv programs.

New Testament Theology: An examination of the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors in the NT. A particular focus will be placed upon the big story they presuppose and the imagery, symbolism, and patterns they use to summarize and further interpret that story.

Use of the Old Testament in the Old Testament: An examination of the way later Old Testament authors interpret earlier Old Testament Scripture.

Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament: An examination of the way the New Testament authors interpret the Old Testament.

The D.Min. in Biblical Theology  will be led by Dr. Jim Hamilton and will begin July 2014. This is a modular program and the application deadline is March 15, 2014. Only a few spots remain. Click on the following link to apply.

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Calvin on Typology

John Calvin’s essay “Christ Is the End of the Law” is included in Thy Word Is Still Truth, ed. Peter Lillback and Richard B. Gaffin. Calvin writes,

“For this is eternal life, to know the one and only true God, and Him who He sent, Jesus Christ, whom he constituted the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation. This One is Isaac the well-beloved Son of the Father, who was offered in sacrifice, and yet did not succumb to the power of death. This is the vigilant Shepherd Jacob, taking such great care of the sheep He has charge over. This is the good and pitiable Brother Joseph, who in His glory was not ashamed to recognize His brothers, however contemptible and abject as they were. This is the great Priest and Bishop Melchizedek, having made eternal sacrifice once for all. This is the sovereign Lawgiver Moses, writing His law on the tables of our hearts by His Spirit. This is the faithful Captain and Guide Joshua to conduct us to the promised land. This is the noble and victorious King David, subduing under His hand every rebellious power. This is the magnificent and triumphant King Solomon, governing His kingdom in peace and prosperity. This is the strong and mighty Samson, who, by His death, overwhelmed all His enemies.”

HT: John Michael Larue

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An Excerpt from What Is Biblical Theology?


I’m grateful that The Gospel Coalition put up an excerpt from What Is Biblical Theology? Here’s the opening:

What is biblical theology?

I use the phrase biblical theology to refer to the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. So what is an “interpretive perspective”? It’s the framework of assumptions and presuppositions, associations and identifications, truths, and symbols that are taken for granted as an author or speaker describes the world and the events that take place in it.

The rest.

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