In our ladies’ Bible study group, we are working our way through the Song of Songs. It’s a relief to study it with just the ladies since it could be awkward in mixed company. But a couple of the women – those who lean heavily to the serious and even pietistic side – seem frustrated with the book. They really want to understand the doctrinal and ethical implications; that’s what the Bible is about, isn’t it? So a couple of us have launched a plan: next time our group meets, one of us is bringing incense and the other is bringing flowers.
What’s the use of flowers and incense? Well, let’s back up one; do things exist primarily to be used? Isn’t that the assumption when we ask, “What’s the use of it?”
Why bring incense and flowers to a Bible study? Because the Song of Songs is not about doctrine and ethics in the sense we usually mean them. It’s about love. It’s about appreciating what is good. There is incense and perfume and there are flowers. There is an almost Eden-like quality to the nature scenes and the poetry in which they are expressed.
The point of Eden was not keeping the law and understanding doctrine; in fact, the point of the law was to preserve Eden, and the point of doctrine is learning to love and to know God, and each other.