Many hymns refer to Jesus as the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley. Commentators wax poetic when linking the fragrance, the delicateness, the beauty of these flowers to our Lord. Although it is pretty to think of Jesus being the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley, is this really what the author of the Songs had in mind when he penned it? It’s doubtful.
When is a rose not a rose? When its a crocus.
First of all, this flower (translated rose in many English versions) was most likely a type of crocus, or literally a meadow saffron; a bulb flower. So, the picture and props presented by the idea of a rose fails when applied to Jesus from this context. A rose is not historically correct.
The context is feminine.
Then, there is the gender to consider. A young girl depicts herself as spring flowers growing in mass across the plains and lowlands of Israel.
“I am a spring crocus blooming on the Sharon Plain, the lily of the valley,” she says.
I believe she is fishing for a compliment! In other words, “I am a humble girl. I’m nothing special.”
Her lover complies. “Like a lily among thorns! You stand out above all the others. There is no one like you!”
Commentators anxious to apply everything in the Old Testament to Christ and the church, didn’t get the gender sorted out on this one. In the New Testament, Christ is a male bridegroom and the church is considered the female bride. So, if this piece of love poetry must be churchified, then at least call the church the rose or lily, and not Christ.
Ancient pillow talk: flowers, trees, and fruit. (Wink, wink)
Frankly, I believe we do a disservice to the church and Christian marriages by “cleaning” up the innuendo found in Songs with application to Christ and the church. The book is risque and suggestive. It is meant to be. I stand with Lewis and Chesterton in the assertion that God is sexy. I invite you to read between the lines as the speaker intended when she said them. I put the expanded Hebrew meaning in brackets beside the words to help you grasp the eloquence in her words.
After receiving the compliment she desired, the young woman exclaims, “And you are like a tree dripping with fruit among the trees [also bone, staff, hard wood] of the rugged forest [also honey oozing from honeycomb]. You are better than all the others! I recline [could be expectantly waiting or idling] in your shadow [also used for something fleeting or transient] with pleasure. Your fruit [result of labor with the idea of offspring] is sweet to taste [or in my mouth].”
Application to Christ is speculative, how about applying it to wives?
And here is the heart of the matter. We have wasted and misapplied this passionate portion of God’s inspired word on Christ. How much more appropriate and practical to apply it to our marriages and instruction for marriage? Putting the good book to good use.