Text: Song of Solomon
Rooted in Wisdom
After introducing the book last week, today we are going to quickly walk through the book of Song of Solomon. The title for these two sermons is “How to Love and Be Loved” and as we found last week, the book is really a book of intimacy – most evidently intimacy between a young man and young woman, but also, because we are created in the image of God, and because God instituted marriage to illustrate his desire and love for us as His bride, we can read the book as help in developing our intimacy with God as well. Today we are going to look at 5 D’s of intimacy from the Song of Solomon.
Desire: Love Singles Out (1:1-2:7)
The Song of Solomon begins where we might expect a tome on intimacy to begin: desire. Desire is not the end of love; it is the beginning – the spark. There is a longing in this section, a love unfulfilled – “Oh for a kiss from your lips . . . draw me to you . . . bring me to your chamber”. As the couple longs to be together, they carve out time together: “Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon” (1:7). Can I meet you for lunch? Can we spend an hour together today? A picnic in the apple groves becomes through the imaginative eyes of young lovers a banqueting table (2:3-4).
I am dark, but lovely, O girls of Jerusalem,
Tanned as the dark tents of Kedar, as the tents of Solomon
Don’t look done on me, you city girls, just because my complexion is dark
The sun has tanned me
My brothers were angry with me and sent me out into the sun to tend the vineyards,
But see what it has done to me!
The young woman is aware that she is not the typical girl that would draw the eye of a king. She’s an outdoorsy woman, she works under the sun with her hands – she is not the type of girl that’s going to be plastered on the cover of magazines; she’s been tanned and her skin is less fair than other girls. She has been so busy serving others that she hasn’t been able to properly take care of herself. Yes, she is aware of her hidden loveliness, if only someone could see past the exterior they would truly see her, but she cannot imagine that anyone will look closely enough at her to see it. (2:1) “I am only a blossom of the plain, a mere lily of the dale.” Who am I that you would look at me – that you would desire me? I am just a common flower in a field full of others like me. Yet in his eyes she is not a common flower: “Like a lily among thorns, so is my love among the young women” (2:2). He singles her out. To him, she is “most beautiful among women” (1:8). Yes, she’s not like other girls – that’s the point, she’s not like other girls! He’s had to look more closely to see her unique beauty, but once he sees it he is even more attracted.
This is why the Holy Spirit counsels young women: “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” There is an outward adornment that attracts, that catches the eye, that ignites desire, yet be wary of the fish that you may catch with it! Solomon put it a different way Proverbs 11:22: Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.
Some of you know the story of Jean and I. It took me a while to see her beauty. We had been friends for a long time; I respected and admired Jean and I saw in her everything that I was seeking in a wife, but my eyes were on someone else. I can remember the night when the scales were removed from my eyes and I first saw Jean’s beauty – “what an angel!” I thought and I told myself I had been a fool for not noticing her beauty before. But truly her external beauty merely accentuated the far deeper beauty that I had already appreciated in her character.
Intimacy = Passion Guided by Truth
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.
This section closes with a charge, repeated twice more in the book, which serves as the theme which pulls the song together. Although the young couple have an evident attraction and desire for one another, even lovesick for one another (2:5), they are careful to not arouse their love until the proper time. They are not letting their passion run them wild, but are guiding their passion by truth. This is a definition of romantic love that I came up with in university and it has stuck with me since. There is an emotional aspect of intimacy, but if it is to lead to deep love and not simply lust, it must be set within the boundaries and guided by truth. This is true not only in our human relationships but divine: Why Jesus said we would worship in Spirit and in Truth, and the Apostle Paul said he would pray in the Spirit and with his mind.
This is the part where our culture gives up and gives in – why torture yourself? Awaken love! Give in to your desire! Our culture sees the expression of sexual desire, sees lust, as an end in itself, rather than as merely a signpost pointing us toward greater intimacy. As one ancient said, “the wise man will love, all others will desire.” Attraction and desire is not the end goal, but point us toward intimacy. Our problem is not that we desire too much, it is that we settle for a mirage of intimacy in lust rather than drink the deep well of intimacy that is love. Lust is easy; Love is not. If we ever are to get to that level, our passions must be guided by truth.
Here is the spiritual application of this section: We are the soiled maiden. God is the pursuing lover. God is the Shepherd/King who sought us out and saw something in us when we were undesirable. He desires us first before we can even dream of intimacy with him. As the lover sought out her beloved to commune with him, seek him.
Dignity: Love Draws Out (2:8-3:5)
We know from the first stanza that the young maiden feels inadequate before her royal lover – who am I but a soiled country girl – and this stanza finds her initially withdrawn within her house, her walls, when her lover calls her, drawing her out
Behold, there he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows, looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountain crags, Let me see you face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. (2:14)
The woman then recalls a dream in which she searches for her beloved in the city streets. When she finally finds him, she vows that she will never let him go. In her dream, she has left her prison of her walls – she has been drawn out by love.
In the movie “Punch-Drunk Love” Adam Sandler plays a man named Barry, who has been a doormat his entire life. He’s been bullied by his seven sisters, bullied by his job, and bullied by life. Yet, at the same time Barry meets a friend of his sister who somewhat inexplicably falls in love with him, leading to the eventual showdown in the climactic scene of the movie in which Barry – the shy doormat who has never stood up for anything in his life – confronts his bullies, stares them down, and leaves them speechless with the line: “ I have a love in my life that makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.” Love has drawn him out and made him a man.
Catch the Foxes
Part of the drawing out process is found in verse 15: “Catch the foxes.”
These could be dignity issues. Maybe you’ve had the image of God violated in you through abuse.
Maybe these foxes are sin that you haven’t dealt with that lock up your heart in bitterness or despair, addictions.
They could be spiritual maturity issues.
These foxes could be compatibility issues. The point is that before you move into the next step of intimacy, you need to work through your issues.
Again, this section ends with the same chorus of the first - I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (3:5). While love has drawn them out and transformed them, they are still being careful to conduct the intimacy of their relationship to a level appropriate to their level of commitment. Their growing passion is being guided by truth. They are caring for each other as individuals – if physical intimacy is initiated too early, instead of drawing out the best of each other, they may add to the walls that will build up between them. If the relationship progresses before these types of foxes are dealt with, barriers will remain preventing the intimacy desired to come to pass.
The spiritual application here is that Christ’s love is a transforming love, which calls us from the walls we have built up around our heart. Part of you growth in Christ is the process of allowing His Spirit to identify and remove the barriers to intimacy.
Dedication: Love Steps Out (3:6-5:1)
The rest of chapter 3 and chapter 4 is a description of the wedding day. In these two chapters we are given an intimate look at all three aspects of that foundational verse relating to Christian marriage, Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Leave: We first have a detailed description of Solomon’s wedding procession. This is part of the leaving process. In the wedding ceremony the bride and groom publicly step out and dedicate themselves to one another. The ceremony is the sign that their loyalties and energies are now being transferred into this new relationship above all others.
Cleave: In chapter four, we are invited into a very special moment. We must be careful as we enter here, not to intrude, as we have been granted to listen in on the couple on their wedding night. This is holy ground. The bridegroom speaks very intimately about his bride as they take time exploring and enjoying each other. While sexual intimacy is not all that is intimated what it means to “become one flesh”, it is a very tangible expression of the totality of intimacy a married couple seeks. Notice here that part of what makes this evening so special is that it is proper – they have guided their passions by love and this is what they have been waiting for. They celebrate their waiting: “My darling is like a private garden, a spring that no one else can have, a fountain of my own.”
Become One Flesh: This chapter ends very differently from every other section in the song. Instead of a caution to guard the heart, here there is encouragement to drink in love:
I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!
This is the celebration of romantic, passionate, intimate love that has found its place in dedicated commitment. Truth has guided passion and now passion is able to be fully expressed in a way that honors both God and lover.
Here is the Spiritual Application: Intimacy occurs when our heart is wholly devoted to the Lord. Is your heart a locked garden for him alone? In baptism, we have said that Jesus is the Lord of our heart, and no one else. God is a jealous God. You want an intimate relationship with God?
Deepening: Love Wins Out
In most love stories, the story would end at the consummation of love, yet this is not the end of the story or even the height of intimacy. Intimacy seeks to go deeper, and the path to greater intimacy is always through struggle and pain. Struggle and pain are not barriers to intimacy – struggle and pain are the Lord’s tools to chisel ourselves away so we can become even more connected to each other. In this section, although the two have become one through their wedding to each other, they are still living as two being two (adjusting to life as one)
Their agendas (timing) were off: (5:2) very small thing: the husband wants some action, but the wife has already gotten ready for bed and is drifting off.
Their communication was off: (5:3) She tells us what she was thinking, tries to justify herself – but does not communicate this with him!
Their response to conflict was off: (5:6) When she finally turned to him – he fled the scene. He had stormed off. Silent treatment.
Their oneness was off: (5:7) The things God created marriage for – intimacy, security, have been betrayed. Notice that they rip her veil off.
Their friends were off: (5:9) “You don’t need him. He’s no good.” Friends can be harmful if they tear down your spouse.
This couple was going through a rough time. Yet in Chapter 6, they both go through an epiphany in which they both remember what first drew them to each other. First the woman remembers her love, what drew her to her husband, but her husband is nowhere to be found. Then the husband remembers his love and returns to her, but now she is missing for she has gone out to look for him. When they find each other in verse 12, their friends encourage them in 13: “Return, return, O Shulammite, return that we may look upon you!” Real intimacy – deepening love takes work. It will not simply happen. It takes two people committed to the relationship, committed to seeking each other out, committed to not allowing their fickle hearts guide them, but instead committed to guiding their hearts back to a place where intimacy can blossom once again. Again, the passions – this time negative – are guided by truth. At the end of chapter 6, the bride invites her husband back to the place of their first love – back to the orchard to see if their love will bloom once again. There love has deepened. Through pain, struggle and work, they have not only rekindled their romantic feelings for one another, but found new love (7:13) for one another that eclipsed by far the immature infatuation of their youth.
Here is the Spiritual Application: Intimacy is bred through labor. You are going to come upon dry spells in your relationship with the Lord, just as any human couple. In those times, do not let you emotions guide you. Guide your heart back to Christ – you will find him again! Don’t give up because a greater intimacy – one you haven’t known is waiting for you.
Discipleship: Love Speaks Out
In chapter 8 the story is wrapping up and the young woman is speaking out the moral of the song. I take a little creative liberty at the beginning of chapter 8. I imagine the couple returning to the orchard, the site where they first fell in love, ready to fall in love all over again, and upon their arrival they come across another young couple, who are in that first stage of desiring one another. The young girl uses some of the same language that the wife herself spoke in chapter 1. And now the young wife, having experienced an intimacy with her husband that deepened through waiting, that deepened through committing herself to her husband, that deepened through struggle and work, speaks the refrain of the song one last time – interrupting the young lovers and counseling them and us once more – I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases. And as they leave the orchard together, she speaks the most powerful and poetic words in the Song (8:6-8):
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.
Seeing her complete joy in the depths of her intimacy with her husband, others ask how do we find that intimacy – how can we have that? We have a younger sister – how can she find that love?
The instruction she gives these young people is so counter-cultural – so surprising when you consider the message that is pounded into our heads daily by the media we watch and the stories we read. It’s amazing that this book was withheld from youth by religious people when the message of the book is directed to youth. (read 8:8-10)
We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver, but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar. I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace.
Walls not doors lead to real intimacy. Passion must be guided by truth.
This is the primary message of the book, written to young people who seek true love. Not that you should be scared of you heart and your passions and deny them, but that you should guard them, gather them, and give them to the one who the Lord has for you. You are not missing out on something by guarding your heart, you are waiting for something by far greater better. Lust is easy – love is not. It must be guarded, sought after and celebrated. Truth guides passion and brings it to maturity.
What If I Never Get My Happily Ever After
Some people never get their ever after because they have not received the love of Jesus – they are trying to receive from their spouse something that their spouse can never give them – true unconditional love and acceptance. Others are so guilt laden over their own sin that they hate themselves and wonder why their marriages aren’t working. Others brought baggage into their marriage that they have never come to Jesus to deal with.
Others have done everything, have kept themselves pure or confessed their sin and been made pure, they have received the love of Jesus, they have pursued their spouse, yet their spouses are unresponsive. Remember – wisdom literature speaks of what is best, not always what is real. Sometimes you can live the life of Jesus and still be crucified for it. What do we do when Wisdom doesn’t work? That’s the book of Job, which Adam will be preaching on in two weeks.