As you probably know, this book can be read from at least two levels: As just an account of a bride and groom from the purely human level, or as an allegory of the love of Christ for the church. Both interpretations are beautiful, and both have merit.
As I was studying it again, in preparation for how to present it to you, I came upon an interesting fact. Jewish teachers often advised their young people not to read it till they were thirty years old, because they were afraid that the book would stir up feelings of lust in them.
Reading the language with our very different vocabulary, it’s a bit difficult to imagine it having that effect on us, I suppose, but their fears are understandable, don’t you think?
But if we look at the book from the allegorical perspective, we see how much Christ loves His church, and how much we ought to love Him. I ran across the following excerpt from the great 19th century preacher, CHARLES H. SPURGEON. He said, in reference a portion of chapter 5:16, which reads in the KJV:
“Yea, He is altogether lovely” (v. 16).
“Looking at my text I felt much humbling of spirit, and I hesitated to preach upon it, for I said in my heart,
“It is high, I cannot attain unto it.” These deep texts show us the shortness of our plumb line; these ocean verses are so exceeding broad that our skills are apt to be driven far out of sight of land where our timid spirits tremble to spread the sail. Then I comforted myself by the thought that though I could not comprehend this text in a measure, nor weigh its mountains in scales, or its hills in a balance, yet it was all mine own, by the gift of divine grace, and therefore I need not fear to enter upon the meditation of it. If I cannot grasp the ocean in my span, yet may I bathe therein with sweet content; if I cannot describe the King in His beauty, yet may I gaze upon Him, since the old proverb says, “A beggar may look at a prince.” Though I pretend not so to preach from such a heavenly Word as that before us, as to spread before you all its marrow and fatness, yet may I gather up a few crumbs which fall from its table. Poor men are glad of crumbs, and crumbs from such a feast are better than loaves from the tables of the world. Better to have a glimpse of Jesus, than to see all the glory of the earth all the days of our life. If we fail on this subject we may do better than if we succeeded upon another; so we will pluck up courage, seek divine help, and draw near to this wondrous text, with our shoes from off our feet like Moses when he saw the bush aglow
This verse has been translated in another way: “He is all desires”; and so indeed Jesus is. He was the desire of the ancients, He is the desire of all nations still. To His own people He is their all in all; they are complete in Him; they are filled out of His fullness. He is the delight of His servants, and fills their expectations to the full. But we will not dispute about translations, for, after all, with such a text, so full of unutterable spiritual sweetness, every man must be his own translator, and into his own soul must the power of the message come, by the enforcement of the Holy Spirit. Such a text as this is very like manna which fell in the wilderness, of which the rabbis say it tasted after each man’s liking. If the flavor in a man’s mouth was very sweetness, the angel’s food which fell around the camp was
luscious as any dainty he had conceived; whatever he might be, the manna was to him as he was. So shall this text be. To you with low ideas of Christ the words shall but glide over your ears, and be meaningless; but if your spirit be ravished with the precious love of Jesus there shall be songs of angels, and more than that, the voice of God’s own Spirit to your soul.” —The Treasury of the Old Testament
I can’t improve upon what Spurgeon wrote. So I’ll leave it at that.