I love the benediction given at the end of the worship service. After being given Christ in the preached word and sacraments, we are sent back into the world with a blessing. Often, the preacher will use the words that the LORD told Moses that he and his sons were to use to bless the Israelites:
“‘”The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”(Numbers 6:24-26, NIV)
Yesterday, as my pastor was saying these words for our benediction, I couldn’t help but think of the end of the Song of Songs. First, the bride is so kept, so protected, that she identifies herself as a wall, and her breasts are towers (Song 8:10). She appropriates military language with her own body. She is merely mirroring how the Groom has already described her throughout (4:4; 6:10; 7:4). I have much to say about this in my upcoming book, so I’m not going to get into all the glorious details here.
Second, the Groom’s face has so shown upon her that he says about her, “Who is this who shines like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as an army with banners?” (Song 6:10). She is radiant like her Groom.
And turning, well that is all over the Song. In talking about the Groom, we see in one of the night scenes that he turned and had gone away, which made her heart sink (Song 5:6). Later, just after she describes the One her soul loves using similar language of John’s vision of the risen Lord in Revelation 1:12-16, the daughters of Jerusalem ask the bride which way her love has turned (Song 6:1). She answers, confident that he is with his people. He feeds among the lilies. Not only does he lift up his countenance on his bride, he says, “let me see your face” (2:14). And he not only looks on her with favor, but he delights in her: “How beautiful you are and how pleasant, my love, with such delights!” (7:6).
So it’s no wonder that at the end of the Song, when her brothers are fretting about what to do with her, she affirms that she is a fortress and that “in his eyes I have become like one who finds peace” (8:10). Peace is given. The Groom is her peace. His eyes are like doves, she says (5:10). But first, he said her eyes were doves (1:15). We remember the dove, when Noah needed to find land, the dove came back with the olive branch (Gen. 8:11). When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove (John 1:32). Yes, As Gregory of Nyssa says, “Hence the most perfect praise of eyes is that the form of their life is shaped in conformity with the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is a dove” (Homilies on the Song of Songs, 231).
Isn’t that the blessing? To be kept by the Lord to the end, so that his face makes our own shine with his radiance as it’s turned toward his bride, the gift of the Father to the Son, so that we can join with the Father in loving the Son in the Spirit.
And so he sends her out into the world, saying, “You who dwell in the gardens, companions are listening for your voice; let me hear you!” (8:13). She is sent out to evangelize and to tell her companions about the One whom her soul loves. She responds with that maranatha call, beckoning him to come run away with her to the mountain of spices that her own body represents—our heavenly Zion that is to come (4:6; 5:14; 8:14).