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Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 15, 2013

This morning there is one truth that we want to hang on to - the bottom line of what we’re looking at this morning:  God loves you.  Closer to home - say this to yourself:  “God loves me.”


Let that truth rattle around inside for a moment.


God loving us is sometimes easier to grab on to intellectually - in our heads - than in our hearts.  One reason being that for many of us our understanding of love has been messed up by past experience.  Things we’ve gone through in our childhood - past relationships - the church.  In reality what love is all about is hard to grab onto.


Let’s be honest - the way the world does love - the vast majority of what we experience around us in the name of love - all that is pretty selfish.  The way we may have been treated by people who were suppose to “love” us maybe didn’t go so well.  For some - just saying that our Heavenly Father loves you - is kind of a scary thing.  Because the idea of a father - think earthly father - loving us didn’t go so well.


It is difficult - at times - to think that God could actually love us.  In part - because it is even more difficult to think that we actually are loveable.  And here’s the hardest one.  It is really difficult to even love ourselves.


God loving us is pretty easy to say - on an intellectual - theological - been to church heard that - been taught that - level.  But, deeper - at the heart level - maybe not so easy.


But the bottom line is that - regardless of the hang ups we have - God really does love us.  This morning what we’d like to do is look at one verse of Scripture with the goal of having that truth of God’s love impressed deeper into our hearts.


Would you turn with me to Song of Solomon 2:4.  The Song of Solomon is not a book that normally gets preached from.  It may be even a tad hard to find if you’re turning pages instead of swiping on a pad.  But, it is a hugely significant book in the Bible.  Historically - one of the most read and most loved books. 


The Song of Solomon answers the cry from deep within each of us - our crying out for love.  The theme of the book is love.  1 Kings 4:32 tells us that Solomon composed 1,005 songs.  This is the only one that God has preserved for us.  Maybe because the song of songs is about the theme of themes - love.


On one level - this song is a love poem that describes pretty graphically  the divinely given function of sex.  This is not G rated material.  Tradition says that the Jews wouldn’t permit their young men to read it until they were 30 years old.  The poem is honest - up front - describing sex as God intended sex to be - not just physical but involving the whole nature of who we are.

So - on one level - the song is a description of the fullness and depth of love that should exist between every married couple - the intimacy of that relationship.


But deeper - the Jews understood the Song of Songs as an allegory - as an illustration of God’s love for His people.  Historically - Solomon probably wrote this poem as a description of real time events - his courtship and marriage with a Shulamite women.


But reading through Scripture - over and over God uses marriage as an illustration of the depth of relationship between God and His people.  So, on a deeper level what we have here is a description of how greatly God loves His people and the intimate depth of loving relationship that God desires for His people to have with Him.


Taking that one step deeper - bringing all that into the New Testament - the song describes the love of Christ for His Church - us.  How deeply - intimately - each of us is loved by God.  And, how greatly God desires for us to experience a loving relationship with Him in Jesus.


Which really is the core of what we’re looking at this morning - what can be helpful to us - as we’re thinking through what it means that God loves us.  Impressing that truth on our hearts.  What that can look like for each of us on the heart level.


Song of Solomon 2:4 - would you read this one verses with me:  He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love.

There are two parts to this verses that we want to focus on.  Verse 4 begins: 
He brought me to the banqueting house.


Have you ever been somewhere where they had a place setting like this?  Total confusion.  Which fork do you use first?  Epic failure if we get it wrong.


In a formal place setting - left to right - just the dinner ware - there’s a separate fork for the fish course - the meat course - the salad course - then knives - for the salad course - the meat course - the fish course - a soup spoon - a seafood fork.  Then above the plates a dessert fork and a coffee/tea spoon.  A water glass - champagne glass - red wine glass - white wine glass.  And then the plates and napkins and on and on.


How many of us eat like this?  I had to look it up.


What’s being described here in verse 4 is a wedding reception on steroids.  Think royalty - wealth - opulence.  Multi-course meals with massively confusing place settings.  This is the wedding feast.  Can you imagine working out who sits where?


The first part of the Song of Solomon focuses on the wedding day.  Later on there are sections of the book that focus on remembering the courtship and the engagement on what Solomon and his bride mean to each other.


But here in verse 4 this is the after the wedding ceremony wedding feast of the richest guy who ever lived.  At the time, probably the most well known.  Everybody who’s anybody is there.  There’s no expense spared.  The finest food.  The best dressed people.  The greatest music.  The most incredible decorations.  Speeches.  Toasts.  A total celebration of royal proportions.


There’s also a crucial contrast here.


While we may know a lot about Solomon we don’t know a whole lot about his bride - the Shulamite girl.  We don’t even know her name.  One thing we do know is that she shouldn’t be here.


Reading through the Song of Songs - Solomon had a vineyard in the hill country of Ephraim - a ways outside Jerusalem.  He’d leased the vineyard to a mother, her two sons, and her two daughters.  Together they work this vineyard.  Some of the income being paid to Solomon.


The Shulamite woman is the older daughter who’s kinda like Cinderella - naturally beautiful but unnoticed - except for what the rest of the family can get out of her.  The two brothers are probably step-brothers who’s greatest delight in life is to make this Shulamite woman work extremely hard - long hours - tending the vineyard.  She prunes the vines.  Sets traps for foxes.  Keeps the flocks.


So she has no time to take care of herself.  She is generally outside - getting torn up and burnt up.  Probably smells a whole lot like sheep.  Point being - she is not a dainty lady of the court - pampered - polished - and powdered - lily white.


One day a handsome stranger comes into the vineyard - who is King Solomon in disguise.  Maybe - as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes - maybe Solomon was out to discover what life is like at various levels.  So his exploration of life brings Solomon to his vineyard - disguised as a simple country shepherd.


He meets this young lady and is attracted to her.  They fall head over heels in love with each other.  Promise themselves to each other.  Then he goes away.  And she spends a large part of the Song of Solomon describing her loneliness - longing for this young man that she thinks is a lowly shepherd.  Dreaming about him at night.  Thinking about him during the day.


One day there’s an announcement that King Solomon is coming to visit in all of his regal glory.  An announcement that the girl doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to because she’s longing for her shepherd boy.  Suddenly she receives a message that the king wants to see her.


This is kind of romantic.  Isn’t it?


She doesn’t know why King Solomon in all of his royal magnificence  would want to see her the lowly sharecropper until she discovers that in reality the King is the shepherd who’s deeply in love with her.


The king comes - whisks her off her feet - takes her back to Jerusalem.  They’re married in the palace.  Then he brings her to the banqueting house - not as a poor abused sun burnt frump girl who smells like sheep - but as his queen.  Proudly displayed before all in regal splendor - breathtakingly beautiful.  


Verse 4 is the bride’s description of being there.  The perspective of the Shulamite woman.  The Message paraphrase gives her description this way:  “He took me home with him for a festival meal, but his eyes feasted on me.”  Isn’t that great?


“He brought me to the banqueting house.”  Were it not for the shepherd who is the king she would not belong at the banqueting table.  But - because he loves her - he did and she does.  She belongs at the banquet.


While we don’t even know this girl’s name - she is chosen by God to represent His people.  Chosen to powerfully demonstrate to us what the love of God is all about.


There are astounding implications in that for us.  Thinking about God’s love for us.  Christ’s love for His Church.  What does it mean for us that Jesus has brought us to His banqueting house?


Jesus brought His disciples to the Passover Feast - breaks bread and tells them:  “This is my body which is given for you.”  Takes the cup after supper - in the Seder it symbolizes salvation - takes the cup and tells His disciples:  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.”  (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-20)


God’s love is given - not because of the merit of the recipient - us.  God’s love is given because God - who is love - chooses to do so.  God chooses - knowing us and the ugliness of our sin - God chooses to place His only Son on the ugliness of the cross - to die in our place to make real the offer of our salvation - our forgiveness - our being set free from bondage to our sins and the ugliness of what we do with our lives - set free to experience life as it is created to be lived - the intimate depth of a made right relationship with God.


Verse 4 is in the past tense.  He has brought me…  What’s here reveals the depth of personal relationship that’s possible between Jesus and every individual believer.  He’s already brought us to the table of His salvation.  He’s already brought us to the table of fellowship with Him.  He’s already brought us to the table of relationship together as His body.


What Jesus sets before us - today - is a table overflowing with good things.  He invites us to eat and be satisfied.


Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  (John 6:35).

Jesus satisfies our spiritual hunger.  He satisfies our spiritual thirst.  Whatever we crave deep within - whatever our deepest needs - all that is satisfied when we come to Jesus.


Looking forward into future history - the church - each of us as believers - we can look forward to the day of the final banquet when God will bring us to the marriage supper of the Lamb.


Revelation 19:9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”


Revelation 19 describes Jesus Christ as the Bridegroom - the Church is His bride - raptured - resurrected - purified - made ready by marriage - brought to the feast.  Until that time we’re separated.  Jesus is in heaven.  We’re on earth.  The marriage supper celebrates our formal union with Christ in our eternal relationship.  From that moment on we will always be together.  (Revelation 19:7-9)


By God’s grace - because of God’s love for us - as believers in Jesus you and I will be there.  What a gathering!  Are you looking forward to being there?


I’m looking forward to seeing people I’ve missed - family and friends that I know will be there.  I’m looking forward to seeing family I’ve never met.  But I’ve heard about them - their faith.  I know they’ll be there.   And the saints of the Bible - the Church Fathers - those that have gone on before us in the faith.  They’ll all be there.

All of us children - adopted by our Heavenly Father - who loves us.


And at the head of the table - Jesus.


Imagine sitting around that table - the stories - the adventures - the testimonies - all to the glory of God who has brought us there.


That goes on forever.  A forever reunion with no tears - no sorrow - no regrets - to pain - no mourning.  But life - real life - restored life - unimaginable life.


That is future history.  History that will happen.  Because God loves us we know that He will bring us - He has brought us - into His banqueting house and everything that He has promised us He will fulfill - now and forever.


The second part of verse 4 goes on:  and his banner over me was love. 


The word for banner is “degel” - which means… banner.  A piece of cloth fastened to a pole.


The same word is used in the book of Numbers 2:2 where God is giving instructions to Moses and Aaron about how the people of Israel are to set out their camp.


Looking at the picture.  The Tabernacle is in the middle of the camp.  God’s place of dwelling with His people - where the sacrifices take place.  Then the 12 tribes are camped out around the Tabernacle.  In front of each tribe is their banner.


Are we together?


There are a number of ways to understand what Solomon’s bride means by “his banner over me.”  We want to touch on just four. 


First:  A banner is a symbol of presence.


Each tribe camps behind their own banner.  Each tribe has its assigned location.  Every time the nation made camp that’s where you camped.  Judah with Judah.  Ruben with Ruben and so on.  Each tribe camps behind their own banner.  The banner is between them and the Tabernacle.


It is interesting to think that every time someone in their camping spot - camping with their tribe - when they looked at their banner they’d see the Tabernacle - God’s dwelling place - His presence in the center of the camp.  God is with us.


David wrote in Psalm 23:  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”


Imagine a battlefield - bullets flying - people screaming - dying - smoke - burning - explosions - cacophonous - carnage - confusion.  In the midst of all that a table - with a fine tablecloth - set with the finest china - a candelabra - flowers - the finest food.  A place of peace in the midst of what should cause great terror. 


David writes, “I will fear no evil…”  even in “the valley of the shadow of death.”  Why?  “For you are with me.”  God’s presence.


Joy is the realization of God’s presence in our lives.  A realization - whatever is going on outside of camp - the wild and the wilderness - God is with us.


“You anoint my head with oil.  My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  This is all about God’s generous provision for us.  His hospitality.  His favor.  Even in the wilderness. 


When the bills are due and there’s more month left than money.  Or we get that life changing phone call from the doctor.  Or whatever - you can fill in the blank.  Whatever is swirling around us and we’re struggling not to stress out and totally lose it.  No matter how insane it gets.  His banner over you is love.  Presence.


Because God loves us God is with us.  God is still with you.  Do not fear evil.  Trust the presence of the God who loves you.


Second:  A banner is a symbol of identity.


Each tribe gathers together to camp behind their banner.  2 million plus Hebrews in the nation and we know who we are.  Identity.


Every time we read a genealogy in the Bible - so and so begat so and so.  Every time we read a long list of who brought what or who built what or who came back from wherever.  Or we read a long list of numbers - how many people were in such and such a tribe.  How many people were in each family.  All those lists that make for such great devotional reading.


Every one of those people is someone.  And while those lists may not mean a great deal to us they meant a whole lot to the people who were listed there.  And - here’s the point - every person listed there individually means a whole lot to God.  So much so that God choose to love them and to call them to be His people.  So that they would be forever identified with Him.


As believers in Jesus our names are listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life - the list of who will spend eternity with God.  Aren’t you glad you’re on that list?  Aren’t you glad that its important to God that your name is on that list?


Identity means knowing where we belong and it means knowing who we belong to.  His banner over me is love.  We’re the church - the Body of Christ.  We’re His - His bride.


There’s a shade of meaning of the word banner that has to do with what we see - what we identify with our eyes.  In other words God sees us with loving eyes.  Meaning that the banner symbolizes that God - because He loves us - He sees us as His own - lovingly sees us - lovingly recognizes us - with love identifies us as His own.


That banquet hall was packed.  But Solomon only saw his Shulamite bride.  “his eyes feasted on me.”    


Can you imagine that God looks on each one of us individually that way.  Out of all of humanity - out of all those who have ever lived - are living - will live - God chooses to love you.  Chooses to die for you.  Chooses to call you His own.  Chooses to present you as the bride chosen for His Son.


Claim that for yourself.  His banner over me was love.


Third:  A banner is a symbol of protection.


When Israel broke camp - when they were picking up and moving out to the next camp ground - where each tribe had camped - assigned location -  also determined where you marched - your assigned location in the line of march - who followed who.  One of the ways they got people to line up was that each tribe followed their banner.  Pretty simple - follow the banner and you’re going to be where you belong.


God established that order.  2 million plus people breaking camp and moving out across the wilderness.  Without that order there’s chaos and disaster and death.  People get lost.  People get picked off.  Being with the tribe - there’s safety in numbers.  People to rely on.  People who defend each other - fight for each other.


In a sense - follow the banner - trust God’s ordering of things - and be safe.


When Jesus took on human flesh and entered this world God declared:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:17) 


A series of events - planned in the mind of God before creation was creation - a series of God ordered events moves to God’s planned outcome.  The enemies of Jesus couldn’t touch Him until it was time.  He was protected.


Paul writes in Romans 5:6  “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly” - us.


When the right time came - the time chosen by God - then Jesus’ enemies took Him and crucified Him.  They thought that God had abandoned Him.  They mocked Jesus - saying “He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if He wants Him!  For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  (Matthew 27:43 TNLT) 


But God was still pleased with Jesus.  God raised Jesus from the dead.  He delivered Him from death.  And God’s banner of salvation and protection is over all those who trust Jesus as their Savior.


Sometimes we think we know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there and we think we have enough control over our lives and what’s going on around us that we think we can get ourselves there. 


But the way to move through the wilderness of life is to follow God.  God has all of history laid out.  Its going where He has willed it to go.  Even death must obey His will.  Salvation and our eternal destiny is all about God’s timing and what He wills.


Point being that when we get outside of where God has planned for us to follow Him we’re in serious serious danger.  And God knows that.  God chooses to love us and helps us to understand that He does love us.  In Jesus He calls us to a relationship with Him.  Places His banner over us and instructs us to follow Him through life.


There’s a question here that each of us needs to answer every day of our lives:  Who’s banner are we following?  Ours?  Or God’s?  Each of us needs to come to the moment in our lives when we trust that Jesus really is our Savior and we really do surrender our lives to God.  And then live surrendered to Him.  Choosing to follow Him through life not our own whit, wisdom, and working.


A fourth understanding of banner is that A banner is a symbol of victory.


For the Roman legions a banner was a symbol of battle - warfare - conquest - the overwhelmingly victorious Roman legions.  When the Israelites - obeying God’s marching orders - followed their tribal banner into battle - they were following God - trusting God for His victory.  Which God led them to - huge victories over some really powerful enemies. 


In Romans 8 - familiar verses - Paul asks a question:  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Notice “from the love of Christ.”  What God has done for us in Christ because God chooses to love us.


Paul goes on with a pretty complete list.  “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’” 


Paul gives us a pretty complete list of the physical troubles and dangers of life.  The last part is a quote from Psalm 44 - the part about God’s people being like sheep getting slaughtered - is a reminder that the death of God’s people - even martyrdom - isn’t anything new.  (Psalm 44:22)


God’s people have always suffered.  Been tortured - suffered all kinds of horrible deaths.  Death is a part of life.  Anything short of that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.

Paul adds to his list - going on in verse 38: 
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Paul gives us a list of things unseen.  The powers behind what we see going on in the physical world.  The authorities - godly and evil - the sweep of creation history present and future - even death itself.


In the middle of those lists - Paul asking and answering his question - is verse 37.  Paul writes, “No, in all these things - the worst of the worst that life can throw at us - in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  (Romans 8:35-39)


Paul’s question:  Who will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?  Answer:  No One - No Thing.  Simply cannot be done.  Why?  Because God loves us.


We don’t just fearfully walk through the valley of the shadow of death - nervously peering into the darkness waiting for something to jump out at us - repeating over and over, “The Lord is my shepherd.  The Lord is my shepherd.”  We don’t just put up with suffering - mumbling under our breath, “This is so unfair.  What ever happened to that Thou art with me part?”   


Paul writes that in all these things - how many things?  All these things we are what?  “more than conquerors” - we’re “overwhelming conquerors.  In the worst of life - when we choose to turn to God - to trust God with our lives - to allow God to work in us and through us - by the grace and strength and enduring presence of God within us - because God chooses to love us - God allows us to participate in His overwhelming victory won on the cross through Jesus Christ.


Following His banner - Jesus said not even the gates of Hell itself can stand against the forward march of the Church.  (Matthew 16:18)


God takes those things that life throws at us - actually takes the very things that are designed to destroy us - and uses them as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks.  Uses them - and us - to move His kingdom forward.


He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love.


God loves us.  God loves you.  Because He does - God opens up to us life - life in His Son - saved - forgiven - righteous - now and forever.  God chooses to be with us and lead us through life.  We’re His - with all that that means.  We don’t need to fear anything in life because not only is God with us - but we live each day in the victory that Jesus has won over even the worst of this life - even death.


That’s a lot to take in.  Maybe even difficult to grab on to.  But its true.

If there is a challenge for us this morning its to trust that because God says we’re lovable... we are.  And we need to trust Him - even if it’s a little trust with a little understanding - to trust that God really does love us and that all that He chooses to do for us He really does choose to do for us.


There’s a song that goes with verse 4.  Its an oldie… but goodie.  That as we sing a few verses of this together - songs sometimes being more memorable than sermons - the idea is that singing this song may help us remember the song and what we’ve been thinking about this morning.


I am my beloved’s and He is mine

His banner over me is love

I am my beloved’s and He is mine

His banner over me is love

I am my beloved’s and He is mine

His banner over me is love

His banner over me is love


He brought me to His banqueting table

His banner over me is love

He brought me to His banqueting table

His banner over me is love

He brought me to His banqueting table

His banner over me is love

His banner over me is love

Jesus is the rock of my salvation,

His banner over me is love.

Jesus is the rock of my salvation,

His banner over me is love.

Jesus is the rock of my salvation,

His banner over me is love.

His banner over me is love!


He lifted me up into heavenly places,

His banner over me is love.

He lifted me up into heavenly places,

His banner over me is love.

He lifted me up into heavenly places,

His banner over me is love.

His banner over me is love!


The Lord is mine and I am His

His banner over me is love

The Lord is mine and I am His

His banner over me is love

The Lord is mine and I am His

His banner over me is love

His banner over me is love





Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.