Monday, July 12, 2010

Images from the opposite ends of life

I've never noticed this before, probably because I don't normally read these two sections of scripture in quite such a juxtaposition. But last year, in reading the whole Bible in one year, I felt the mid-section moved so slowly, I re-sequenced things and wound up reading Ecclesiastes 12 and the first few chapters of Song of Songs one right after the other this morning.

I may also have been helped to see this because we watched 17 Again last night. I am a bit more attentive, this morning, to the passage of time and its impact upon one's life.

Ecclesiastes 12 describes old age in highly imagistic terms:
Remember your Creator
   in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
   and the years approach when you will say,
   “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
   and the moon and the stars grow dark,
   and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
   and the strong men stoop,
   when the grinders cease because they are few,
   and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
   and the sound of grinding fades;
when men rise up at the sound of birds,
   but all their songs grow faint;
when men are afraid of heights
   and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
   and the grasshopper drags himself along
   and desire no longer is stirred.
Then man goes to his eternal home
   and mourners go about the streets.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
   or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
   or the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
   and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

--Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 (NIV)

And then, almost like a bookend, I read The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs Chapter 2:

Listen! My lover!
   Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
   bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
   Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
   peering through the lattice.
My lover spoke and said to me,
   “Arise, my darling,
   my beautiful one, and come with me.
See! The winter is past;
   the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
   the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
   is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
   the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
   my beautiful one, come with me.”
Not sure where I'm going with this. It just struck me how the language of these two passages is so similar, even though they obviously have to do with different ends of life.

I guess, while I'm at it, I should comment on another thought that popped through my mind as I "listened" to these two sections of scripture. I was reminded of a song I have heard on my favorite Pandora station: "Garden in My Room" by Merril Bainbridge.

There's a garden in my room
Would you like to take a look?
There are fascinating things you'll find there

And if you care to come inside
There is nothing I will hide
Come where there is sweet perfume
In the garden in my room

There's a garden in my room
Would you like to take a look?
Rest your body on my velvet roses

Once you've tasted my delights
Many days will turn to nights
There is nothing you won't do
For the garden in my room
Kind of scary lyrics, actually, aren't they? "There is nothing you won't do for the garden in my room"? Yow!

And that reminds me of a few other passages I read only a couple of weeks ago in the Book of Proverbs. Say, like Proverbs 5:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
   listen well to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
   and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
   and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
   sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
   her steps lead straight to the grave. . . .

Keep to a path far from her,
   do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your best strength to others
   and your years to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
   and your toil enrich another man's house.
At the end of your life you will groan,
   when your flesh and body are spent.
You will say, “How I hated discipline!
   How my heart spurned correction!
I would not obey my teachers
   or listen to my instructors.
I have come to the brink of utter ruin
   in the midst of the whole assembly.” . . .

Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
   Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?
For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord,
   and he examines all his paths.
The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
   the cords of his sin hold him fast.
He will die for lack of discipline,
   led astray by his own great folly.

--Proverbs 5:1-5, 8-14, 20-23 (NIV)

Or Proverbs 7:
My son, keep my words
   and store up my commands within you. . . .
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
   and call understanding your kinsman;
they will keep you from the adulteress,
   from the wayward wife with her seductive words.

At the window of my house
   I looked out through the lattice.
I saw among the simple, . . .
   a youth who lacked judgment.
He was going down the street near her corner,
   walking along in the direction of her house. . . .

Then out came a woman to meet him, . . .
She took hold of him and kissed him
   and with a brazen face she said:

“. . . I have covered my bed
   with colored linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed
   with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let's drink deep of love till morning;
   let's enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
   he has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
   and will not be home till full moon.”

With persuasive words she led him astray;
   she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
   like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
   till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
   little knowing it will cost him his life.

Now then, my sons, listen to me; . . .
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
   or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
   her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
   leading down to the chambers of death.

--Proverbs 7:1, 4-8, 10, 13, 16-27 (NIV)

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