We have a little sister whose breasts are not yet formed. What shall we do for our sister when she is spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon it a silver battlement; if she be a door, we will panel it in cedar. (The Song of Songs 8:8-9)
This image has often been read as a portrayal of inviolable devotion to purity. Love is empty if there is no faithfulness or commitment. The unique covenant of love at the centre of Israel’s relationship with God, and for anyone else who listens to it, calls for the same kind of loyalty.
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
So the Torah and the prophets position those who live by them to guard a strong wall in their hearts around the honour and love that belong to God alone. The commandments given by God about how He desires to be known and worshipped are the only door in the wall, opened only by certainty that nothing in creation enters to receive that devotion. Jewish history and folklore are filled with stories of people who offer their lives rather than let this wall crumble or the door open to anything or anyone else.
Worship is not only a matter of how we think about our maker and the prayers we bring. It’s a matter of trust and of love in every part of our hearts. We find so many moments where our attitudes are selfish, where our fears lead us to trust completely in created things for strength, and these are the places where important walls are yet to be built in us. It’s not a time to be discouraged or to break under the weight of how much we have to learn. Like Nehemiah and the people who built with him, we can only be encouraged by what God has done, guard carefully the walls that already stand strong, and build with joy towards the promise of restoration.
Then I said to them, “You see the bad state we are in–Jerusalem lying in ruins and its gates destroyed by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and suffer no more disgrace.” I told them of my God’s benevolent care for me, also of the things that the king had said to me, and they said, “Let us start building!” They were encouraged by benevolence. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)