I’m preparing for Bible study tonight. God reveals himself to us by his names. His name revealed in Exodus 17 is “Jehovah-nissi” – which means, “Jehovah my banner”.
So I am doing a study on the word “banner” and got sidetracked by the Song of Songs.
3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Cant. 2:3-4)
In the history of the church, it has been noticed that there is a parallel between God’s love for his bride and a man’s love for his bride. This parallel is seen in the Song of Songs. In order to understand it, one first has to understand the ordinary language. This is a bride in love, praising her groom and overwhelmed with his love for her.
She sings, “His banner over me is love.” “Banner” in this instance is a flag. It is used as the flag identifying the tribes as they journeyed through Israel, similar to state flags today. A flag is a rallying point, an identification, a symbol that symbolizes the essence of the social structure.
Think about these words. His banner over me is love. Run it through your brain for a moment. Think about a man and a woman in love. Now think about the basis of a marriage covenant. What flag would you put over your covenant that sums it up completely – Authority and submission? Command and obedience? “Two ships that pass in the night?” “Two separate flags” “The male flag held up by a tired woman?”
Maybe a quick example. Most frequently in CBMW circles, you hear this advice concerning wives and husbands. “A woman gets her say, but if the man and the woman can’t come to an agreement, then she must submit to what he says.” It sounds like good advice. And I know that I am finite and can’t possibly exhaust every possibility, but I cannot, for the life of me, think of an example of how this would work.
When I ask, I get something like this. “He wants to buy a motorcycle. She thinks it is dangerous and a waste of money. They can’t agree. Eventually, she must submit.”
Hmmmm. I guess I see things differently. If the banner over her is love, that brings to mind another question to the husband. “Why do you hate your wife so much that you are willing to cause her so much unrest and unease over something so trivial as a motorcycle?”
Take another example. “He thinks we must homeschool the children. This causes her great anxiety and she does not believe she can do it. They do not agree. She must submit.”
Really? If the banner over her is love, why doesn’t he love her enough to listen to her concerns? Is she not also a believer led by the Holy Spirit? Do her gifts and abilities matter so little to him? Is his commitment to a principle so important that he is willing to sacrifice his wife on that altar?
Do you see where I am going? It changes the question from authority and submission to one of love.
And a simple reading of the Song of Songs will show that true love of a woman is not the same thing as love for a pet or love for a possession. Love is not the attachment one has to property, but value, honor, respect, attraction, desire, longing. It upholds personhood and dignity, choice and opinion. Love desires communication and connection.
And when we have this straight, we have a tiny glimpse into who God is and what Christ has done for us. He also longs for us as we long for him. His banner over ME is love. And yes, this love changes my nature and my affections so that I more and more die unto sin because I know that my beloved hates it. But that is not the same as “authority/submission”. That dynamic was the dynamic of the Old Covenant, which was broken (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
And so, as the great Song prophesied, the Groom comes for his Bride, and his banner over us is love.
Like marriage, this dynamic changes everything.
How you think of your marriage will affect how you think of Jesus. How you think of Jesus will affect how you think of marriage. They go together.
And the question for both is this: Whom do you truly love? Yourself, or your wife?
Yourself, or Jesus Christ. Is your faith simply a love affair that you are having with your own sense of superiority? Or is it a living faith in a living savior? Do you long for the coming of the bridegroom, or are you more concerned about losing your position and your social status.
It’s something to think about, anyway.