Most of us grew up with stories and songs written for children. Over the past decade, Hollywood’s been turning those same materials into more mature versions on the big screen. Snow White became The Huntsman, Sleeping Beauty became Maleficent, and The Snow Queen became the very popular Frozen. Along with this awakening came the realization that most of what we knew as Grimm’s Fairy Tales were based on folktales that were more violent and twisted than what we normally thought suitable for children. The adaptations meant for children however do not include all the gory details of course… Thank God!
While considering a name for this blog, I had a moment of inspiration. I remembered a Sunday School song that goes like this:
My Beloved is mine and I am His,
His banner over me is love; (x3)
His banner over me is love.
I was very familiar with this song since I was a child, It suddenly dawned on me that I have not looked up the context of the Bible verses that inspired the lyrics. Could there be more behind those words than what a child could understand? After all, the Bible contains some of the most passionate and violent stories that mankind has ever heard. I have to find out…
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. – Song of Solomon 2:16
Uh-oh. the first line of the song comes from the Song of Solomon, a book about the romance between a man and a woman, often depicted sexually and certainly not suitable for children. The verse itself describes how lovers see themselves possess their counterparts and are themselves the possession of their lover. It revealed how people in love see their love relationship – a treasure to own and to be owned. Something very precious.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick. – Song of Solomon 2:4-5
The next two lines from the Bible sounds like a scene from one of Disney’s old Fairy Tale movies. A young girl receives an invitation to a banquet from her prince charming. The prince tries to impress her with a banquet whose banner or theme is love. The girl falls for her prince, gets lovesick and could not live without her lover’s supply of cakes and fruits for her. I can see how cakes and fruits would be appealing to children too, but the context of this verse is one of passionate lovemaking, made very clear by the verses that follow…
His left hand is under my head, and his right-hand embraces me.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases. – Song of Solomon 2:6-7
Singing About the Birds and the Bees
So yes, we have been singing about the birds and the bees in Sunday School all this time while thinking it was a song about some kind of party in God’s kingdom. Surely something is missing here. As I recall, there was something in the song about a celebration in heaven as well and it goes like this:
He lifted me up into heavenly places,
His banner over me is love;(x3)
His banner over me is love.
This line, unlike the others, is not from the Song of Solomon, but from Ephesians. It describes some kind of banquet or feasts as well.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus“ – Ephesians 2:4-6 (KIV)
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. – Matthew 22:2
Phew! So the song is about a party in heaven. God invites all his beloved children to attend in celebration of a wedding between Jesus and the church. As attendees, we will have raisin cakes and apple treats. There will be singing and dancing and lots of celebration. Now, these children can attend, with parental guidance.
Thing is, we are called to attend the wedding not as guests but as the bride. The church who is getting married to the groom, God’s one and only Son. The deeper meaning behind this children song happens right after the banquet, where there is consummation between lovers as they enter into a covenant relationship of marriage. Like in real life, this happens in secret, often in darkness, but definitely away from the children. It is the most wonderful thing in life that results in new life, and God chose to use this as the metaphor to represents what it is like to have Jesus in your life, as your Lord and Saviour.
You cannot be a Christian without being a lover of Christ. There is an old saying that the word Christian means “Without Christ, I-Am-Nothing”. That is not far from the truth as you have read in the Song of Solomon. Everything about being a Christian involves Jesus. Jesus is everything to a Christian at the beginning and all the way to the end. He is our inspiration, our sustenance, and our best friend (forever). Jesus teaches us to love and take to care for his creation. He makes us better versions of ourselves by completing us. He is altogether lovely.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. – John 15:4 (KJV)
As children, we may not understand adult things like marriage nor complicated things like doctrines; But we do instinctively understand that love is good and through songs like these know that there is a banquet waiting for us in heaven where the most wonderful person we will ever meet is dying to love us.
So what was your favourite Sunday School song?