September 02, 2018
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Mark 7:1-8, 20-23
The Voice of My Beloved
Vacation is Over
It is good to be back; I’m glad to see you all after my summer vacation during the last two weeks! I want to thank you all for helping me out and keeping me in your prayers, that my travels were safe. I had lots of fun during my time out.
We love vacation. It gives us a chance to escape from our hectic lives and recharge our bodies and minds from our labors. During our vacation, we usually go away and see someone or something else that we haven’t seen for a while. We want to see our families and old friends; we want to see beautiful ocean or mountains; or we want to go to see a baseball game or anything like that. I like to say that vacation is all about enjoying visual fun.
But the problem is whatever we see, we have to leave behind and return home when our vacation is over. We might be even tired from our long trip and feel empty and thirsty in our heart when we come back from vacation. That’s why we are never satisfied with our temporary vacation. Therefore, it’s better to find our satisfaction not from what is seen, but from what is unseen and always present in our lives. What is it? It is not seeing, but hearing the voice of God.
When I meditated on today’s Scripture from the Song of Solomon, I was intrigued by the invitational whisper of the words from the verse 10: “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me’” (v. 10). From this sweet voice of God, I felt I am not left alone but always in love with my eternal company. I had lots of fun during my vacation, but I really can say that it is God’s voice that has recharged my spiritual battery.
God’s Word Calling Us
Basically, this Scripture is about a love story between a man and a woman. This love song was written by Solomon who fell in love with a Shulammite woman; Solomon was a king and the woman was a peasant’s daughter working in the garden. If they only looked at each other, seeing their appearances and social status, they wouldn’t be in love. According to verse 8, their love story begins with “The voice of my beloved (v. 8).” It was their voices that united them in love.
This passage, “The voice of my beloved,” hints to us how we can make a loving relationship with God, who is unseen and whom we don’t deserve. That is, our relationship with God starts with hearing the voice of God who invites us to his fellowship.
If we read the Old Testament carefully, we realize that the history of Israel had been formed by the voice of God. For example, God seeks out Abraham by calling his name; God also seeks out Moses by calling his name. It was God’s voice that called the people of Israel as his chosen people.
Our Christian history is also rooted in the Word of God. According to the Gospel of John in the New Testament, the incarnate Christ was originally the Word in the beginning, which was God himself. Therefore, to accept Christ is the same as to accept the Word of God. To love Jesus is the same as to love the Word of God. Thus, we realize that our intimate relationship with God is based on hearing and obeying God’s word: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Of course, God doesn’t speak to us, like we can speak to each other. But God certainly speaks to his people through numerous ways. He can speak to us through our worship service; he can speak to us through people; he can speak to us through our circumstances.
Yet, I am sure that the surest way we can hear God’s voice is to read the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the holy book containing the living Word of God. We can always meet God and hear his voice when we read the Scripture. If we love someone, we always want to stay with him or her and hear his or her voice all the time. Likewise, if we really love God, we will be eager to hear God’s voice through the Bible.
God’s Word Purifying the Heart and Empowering Our Social Life
In Mark’s Gospel, the Jews struggle to understand what makes people clean and what makes people unclean. Jesus reminds the crowds that the hand-washing rituals have nothing to do with the condition of human hearts. According to him, evils don’t enter from outside but come from within one’s own heart (v. 20).
Jesus insists that our moral attitude should spring from our pure and good heart. In this regard, we can say that our Christianity is the religion of heart, not the religion of laws or rituals. Then how can we make our hearts clean and pure enough, so that the Spirit of God dwells within us?
It is God’s word that has the power to clean our hearts. If we have God’s presence sincerely in our hearts, how can we keep evil in our hearts? Also, God’s word, which is known as the sword of the Spirit, will drive away all kinds of evil thoughts out of our mind: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to God’s word” (Ps. 119:9).
The Word of God not only purifies our individual lives but also empowers our social life. Let us listen again to the text from the Song of Solomon: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me” (v. 10). This passage is God’s promise that God will accompany us for our life’s journey if we come and rely on God’s Word.
God calls us to arise and come away because he wants to have loving fellowship with us. If we have this Spirit of fellowship within our hearts, we will then desire to reach out to share our fellowship with others as well. We will become the voice of God to others, “Arise, my friends, and come away to God’s grace.”
In Genesis, God’s voice says to Abraham: “I will bless you, that you may be a blessing to others” (Gen. 12:2). It is so impressive that God’s voice combines the act of our being blessed and the act of our blessing others. Abraham’s calling is actually what Jesus Christ has done to us. Jesus calls us to heal us and then sends us out to heal others. He calls us to forgive us and then sends us out to forgive others. God’s voice, God’s calling, God’s Word is the source of our being blessed and of our blessing others.
Hearing God’s Voice
Friends, now we all have come back from our long summer vacation. It’s time to return and meet all the challenges in our daily lives. Are we still tired and so not ready to take up our works? Or are we disappointed at being alone as we are separated from our beloveds? If so, I want to encourage you to hear God’s voice from today’s text, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.” This lovely whisper is an unnerving invitation to intimacy with our loving God. The highest King, God our Lord, calls us his darling and promises us that he will accompany us for our life’s journey. Then, what shall we fear and what shall we worry about?
Once again, God is calling us this morning, saying, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.” Therefore, let us rejoice in God’s voice, return from wherever we are, come before the Lord, and set out on our life’s journey along with our loving God. Amen.