What an arresting figure of speech the bride uses! In the greatest love poem ever written, the only one divinely inspired, the Bride uses a metaphor from war to describe the bridegroom: “his banner over me is love” (Song 2:4). And with apologies to those who read the Song of Solomon exclusively as an inspired text on marital love, I must confess that I see Jesus Christ here (and everywhere) throughout this poem and, without denying that the book has reference to Solomon and his Shulamite bride, will address this clause from that perspective.
We are all familiar with two iconic pictures. One is the painting of three Continental soldiers marching abreast, one playing a fife, one playing a drum, and one displaying the flag. The second is that of four WWII soldiers defiantly planting the American flag on Iwo Jima. Banner, ensign, standard, flag—all are terms for an emblem of military endeavor. The Hebrew word used in our text derives from a verb meaning “to flaunt,” suggesting the significance of a military banner, namely, conspicuousness. It is meant to be seen and recognized.
In the first place, a banner flaunts identity. The rising sun publicized: Japan. The swastika announced: Germany. The Stars and Stripes proclaims: The United States of America. A soldier brandishing the Stars and Stripes declares: I am an American; I am a citizen of the United States. A soldier who loses his comrades in the chaos and confusion of battle relocates his place when he sees his country’s flag. “The sons of Israel shall camp, each man by his own camp, and each man by his own standard, according to their armies” (Num. 1:52). Those beneath the same flag acknowledge: I belong to them; they belong to me. In the second place, a banner flaunts warning. Some flags do so explicitly; witness the inscription on a famous flag from the American Revolution: “Don’t tread on me!” All do so implicitly. The flag says to the enemy: I am here if you think you want to attack me. Or, Here I come, resist and die, or flee. The sight of the flag of a formidable enemy inspires fear in weaker souls and sends chills down the spine of the most courageous soldier.
It is not difficult to see the applicability of this metaphor to Christ and the church. His banner identifies His Bride, the church, as the object of His great love. Most particularly His death but also all that He gives and all that He withholds expresses His infinite love for us. When we are drawn to Him according to the wooing of His grace, we come under a banner that declares: “I am His, and He is mine.” The banner of His love identifies and unites us with Him in righteousness, in purpose, in fellowship, and in glory (e.g., Col. 3:4). It also warns the enemy that to attack us is to attack the Son of God. His banner tacitly declares: This one belongs to me; try to harm him at your own risk! But it also warns us that the enemy has identified us and knows whom to attack. Satan furiously assaults the army of the Lord
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