Reviews of Royal Company

Evangelical Times, November 2012

This is an excellent book, written with a pastor’s heart, that will strengthen the faith of all believers. It is devotional and will stir love for and stimulate deeper devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. 
    The book takes the view that Song of Solomon is a picture of the love of Christ for his church, and it draws out the relationship between the Christian and Jesus Christ. 
    This devotional is subdivided into 8 sections (poems), and these are split into chapters, making 26 chapters in all. Each chapter is based on a number of verses, which are helpfully shown on a facing page with a heading showing the person who is speaking. Each chapter has helpful sub-headings. 
    The author avoids fanciful interpretation and the reader can engage in the dialogue and feelings of the main characters as they interact with each other. The applications are not forced and encourage fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They answer the question, ‘What is it like to meet the Lord Jesus Christ?’
    This is a book all Christians should read; it will stir us up to love Christ more. None can say that we love Christ as much as we could. But, after reading this, we can hopefully respond and say of Christ, ‘This is my beloved and this is my friend’ (Song of Solomon 5:16).
Paul Relf

Spencer Haygood (in his blog Bible Driven)

Malcolm Maclean’s latest volume, a devotional treatment of the Song of Solomon, is something of a bold venture for at least a couple of reasons. First, there’s the sheer complexity of the Song itself. Besides the usual hermeneutical difficulties presented by temporal, cultural, geographical, and linguistic “distance,” the Song is unique in its genre, style, content, and structure. Thus Delitzsch, e.g., begins his introduction to this writing by announcing the “Song is the most obscure book of the Old Testament.” And he’s not alone in that assessment. Daniel Estes has noted: “Virtually every verse presents challenges in text, philology, image, grammar or structure.” Complex! Then, if that weren’t enough, there’s also quite an assortment of interpretive approaches on offer, each characterizing and reading the Song rather differently. Estes again says, “Scholars vary widely on nearly every part of its interpretation….” And Marvin Pope writes, “[N]o composition of comparable size in world literature has provoked and inspired such a volume and variety of comment and interpretation as the biblical Song of Songs.” The results have not always been happy, and have yielded what Leland Ryken has called some extravagant misinterpretation. So, Maclean’s devotional is a bold venture into some highly disputed territory. But I, for one, am glad to see it.

Maclean begins with an “Introduction” in which he teases out his understanding of the Song and offers some warrant for the method and message of his book. What is the Song of Solomon about? Maclean says plainly: “I think it describes Christ and his people ….”—an approach that stands over against much current scholarly opinion that it describes, at least primarily, human love. Thus, he adopts an interpretive approach that’s now largely brushed off as unsound. But is it?

Jim Hamilton (associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) has penned a very helpful piece entitled “Is There Intended Allegory in the Song of Solomon?” (online HERE). He doesn’t deny that the Song addresses human love at all. That’s clear, I think. But he asks, provocatively, whether there’s also possibly “an allegorical layer of meaning” in the writing.

In making his case, Hamilton, noting something that Maclean also points out, writes: “… it is worth observing that the idea that the Song has a spiritual meaning has been, well, dominant across the ages.” Maclean calls on such worthy preachers/theologians/commentators as Robert Murray McCheyne, C. H. Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owen to at least get us to pause and ask what Jim Hamilton is asking: “Is there something more here than we usually think?”

In responding to the charge that this approach is “subjective rather than objective,” Maclean argues, “Surely it is better to have a genuine subjective experience that is in line with objective truth than to have only an objective understanding of a reality.” Agreed, of course! Of course, we can’t find in a text just any meaning that comes to mind provided only that it’s in line generally with objective truth. There’s too much arbitrariness about that. But on the other hand, Maclean’s proposal may pose a legitimate challenge to the more analytical and rationalist approaches to exegesis/exposition that often so flatten the text out with the great historical and grammatical hammers that the spiritual richness of the truth is lost.

Here’s the simple proposal as Hamilton puts it: “… is it possible that Solomon intended to represent the spiritual relationship between God and his people through a poetic depiction of the human relationship between the King and the Bride in the Song of Songs?” And he makes a good initial exegetical case for “Yes and Amen” as the answer. Maclean is asking the same question, answering in the affirmative, and then devotionally exploring that spiritual relationship through meditating on the Song in light of the Gospel of God revealed in all of Scripture.

I have to admit that I’m not always comfortable with the author’s understanding of a passage, which seems in places to be a bit too detached from the text, and more the product of some creative imagining than seems contextually warranted. But even then, the material remains true biblically.

In the end, though, I believe there is sufficient warrant for Maclean’s reading the Song of Solomon devotionally and spiritually as about “Christ and his people” and I find him a steady guide into “the immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2.7). Theologically broad and accurate! Devotionally warm and rich! Pastorally profitable! Christ-centered! Gospel-driven! Get this book, go aside from the hustle and bustle, sit and read and ponder. Wonder! And worship!

Josh Dermer in his blog Reformed Virginian:

I recently had the opportunity to review the book Royal Company: A Devotional on Song of Solomon by Malcolm Maclean. The Song of Solomon is not a book I have spent a lot of time in or one I am that familiar with. I had always thought it was a book of the Bible, almost separated from the rest, for married couples only. Reading this book by Mr. MacLean truly opened my eyes to what I had been missing by neglecting careful study of this book.

Christian Focus gives this description of the book:
“Poetry is the language of love. The Songs of Solomon are no different as we read these beautiful cameos of the intimate relationship between the King and his lover. These were the song of songs which were often sung to God in temple worship with a realisation that these songs spoke of God’s love towards his chosen people. For Christians through the ages these songs point to Christ and his love towards his own ransomed and redeemed people. Indeed in New Testament Scripture the analogy is often used of Christ and His church as the bride and His bridegroom. It speaks to them of restoration and reconciliation. Through the contributions of the daughter of Jerusalem, we begin to get a sense of the joy of fellowship. In this devotional work we too will learn what it is like to have daily contact with Jesus, the lover of our souls as pictured in Songs of Solomon.”
I started out reading this book with an edge of caution. I was worried about some crazy, graphic, off-the-rails interpretation. What I found was just the opposite. This book is full of Christ and His gospel. Page after page, sentence after sentence are saturated with Christ and His love for His people. It was amazing to read. My eBook is full of highlights.

I really appreciated that the author did not just make this about Christ and the believer, but rightly so, about Christ and His bride — the Church. The daughters of Jerusalem through out the Song are thought to be the Church speaking. Many sections of this book underscore the importance of church attendance and membership When read this way the sweetness of corporate worship and fellowship is taken into view, as well as the importance for encouraging, loving and even reproving (when needed) one another.

I would certainly suggest other Christians pick up this book. It is such a refreshing look at what is often viewed as an obscure book of Scripture. Upon reading I found myself loving Christ more and worshiping Him for His unfathomable love for me and for His bride, the Church. This book makes a great devotional read because it is broken up chapter by chapter and verse by verse. The sections on each verse are short and concise but full of awesome truths that will make you love Christ all the more.

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