Scripture Text: Song of Solomon 2:1–17
Last week, we looked at God’s design for marriage by looking at the very first couple and the very first wedding. We saw that God designed marriage and officiated the first wedding. God instituted the very first human relationship between a husband and a wife. Apart from our relationship with God, there is no more important relationship than that of husband and wife. Marriages are important to society. Marriages are important to the life of the church. The influence of a good, Christ-honoring marriage cannot be measured. Its effects can be felt for generations. In fact, marriage is the foundation of society. If marriages go, so goes society. In fact, the current demise of certain values in society can be traced to a breakdown of marriages and the de-valuing of it. Having looked at God’s design for marriage last week, I wanted us to look at the beauty of marriage, particularly the passionate love between a husband and a wife.
There are many passages from scripture we could read on the beauty of marriage, but to capture the passion between a husband and a wife, we can probably find no better description of it than in the Song of Solomon. Some people may not preach from the Song of Solomon because of its many graphic sexual references. In fact, we may not even think of King Solomon as someone who had a God-honoring marriage, for later in his life he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and his wives turned away his heart (1 Kings 11:3). For a moment in his life, though, Solomon expressed a passionate, exclusive love for one woman. Though he spoke 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), many consider this song, the Song of Songs, Solomon’s masterpiece. Song of Songs is really a Hebrew way of saying “the best song”. Since God is the Author of love and the Creator of the institution of marriage, we should see this book exalting both. This song tells a passionate love story of a King loving a common farm girl and making her his wife and queen. It celebrates their passionate sexual intimacy.
According to many people, the Song of Solomon is really a collection of love poems between a man and a woman, celebrating the sexual relationship God intended for marriage. God established marriage, including the physical union of a husband and wife (Genesis 2:18–25). Jewish wisdom literature treasures this aspect of marriage as the appropriate expression of human sexuality (Proverbs 5:15–20). Some people have chosen to interpret much of this song as an Old Testament picture of Jesus’ love for His Bride, the Church. There are beautiful images of love in this book that can apply to Christ’s love for “common” sinners, however, we should not overlook the primary purpose of this great love song — the goodness of human marital love. Sex is God’s gift to marriage. It is a celebration of romance that is appropriate within the covenant of marriage. Let us look at just one portion of the poem to discover the beauty of marriage.
Put Your Spouse Before All Others
In this passage, Solomon and his beloved wife were beginning a habit that would benefit their marriage — spoken admiration and affirmation. This love song is a song of them admiring each other. Spouses need that. We need our spouses to remind us of how much they admire us. Some need that more than others, but we all need, married or un-married, to hear from others how much they love us. This is especially important between a husband and a wife. Our spouses need to know that we love them and to know how unique they are in the our lives. Solomon and his bride do that in this love poem. They affirm each other. Look at the first few verses of this chapter.
Song of Solomon 2:1–3 1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. 2 As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. 3 As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
It may not be easy to recognize, but both Solomon and his bride are speaking in this section. At first, his bride says that she is a rose of Sharon, which was probably a wild autumn flower of the valley. Many believe Solomon’s bride was saying that she was an ordinary flower that was out of season and out of place. Basically, she was telling Solomon that she was unremarkable. What makes this interesting is Solomon’s response to her. In verse two, Solomon responds by saying that she was more than a lily of the valleys, but she was like a lily among thorns. That may not sound much better to us, but I believe Solomon was saying that her beauty was so remarkable that it made all other women undesirable by comparison. She was a beautiful flower among a cluster of thorns. She was the most beautiful woman there was. Another king, King Lemuel once wrote, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (Proverbs 31:29). Solomon acknowledged that his love for her was exclusive and was not distracted by anyone else. In other words, she was the best thing since sliced bread.
That is how our wives ought to feel. They need to know that our love for them is exclusive. They need to know that there is no other person who compares to them! Not to be outdone by Solomon’s admiration of her, his bride demonstrated her own affection for him. She referred to him as an “apple tree among the trees of the forest”. Again, to us that may not sound very flattering, but this probably refers to a sweet fruit tree that provides pleasant shade and food. In this way, it was quite distinct from the other plain trees of the forest. To her, no one else compared to Solomon. That is the nature of holy matrimony. The husband and wife are in such love with one another that anyone else does not compare. It means that they reserve themselves for each other and together they are considered set apart unto God. Remember, marriage is a covenant between husband and wife and God. Does your spouse know how much he or she means to you? Does he or she know how unique in your life he or she is? In other words, let your spouse know that he or she is the best thing since sliced bread.
Celebrate the Exclusive Love in Marriage
In 1967, John Lennon had a song called “All You Need Is Love”. I do not know if that is true, but love is definitely important. We were created to love and to be loved. Love, however, is misunderstood. What some call love is really a cheap imitation. It is feeling without commitment. It is selfish and temporary. Some believe we ought to fulfill our sexual desires with those we are attracted without the burdens of martial commitment. That is not God’s design for our lives, though. We are wired for sexual intimacy. God created man and woman to desire such intimacy. God said that it is not good for man to be alone, therefore He created the institution of marriage (Genesis 2:18-25). God gave us our sexual desires, but He also defined when and how they should be expressed. Sex is God’s gift to marriage. It is a good thing and it should be celebrated within the covenant of marriage. Look at the next few verses to see how Solomon expressed love.
Song of Solomon 2:4–7 4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. 5 Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love. 6 His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! 7 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.
In verse four, Solomon’s bride described his love for her like a banner over her. The Hebrew term for banner is used elsewhere in the Old Testament where it is a flag flown at camps and carried into battle (Numbers 2:2). What could this possibly mean here? Solomon probably meant to indicate his public display of his lovers’ identity, namely, that they belong together and are committed to each other. Solomon was so in love with her that he wanted the world to know. That should be how our love is for our spouse — it should be broadcast to all those around us. There should be no question about it. Solomon’s banner of love may also represent his protective love for his wife. Under his banner of love, she felt safe to be physically and emotionally vulnerable. That is how our wives should feel. They should feel safe within their husband’s love. Our love should wave as a protecting and comforting banner over our wive’s head.
Now, I titled this message “Being Sick with Love”. Are you sick with love? Are you sick of love, maybe? When a relationship goes sour, we can certainly be sick of it. In verse five, Solomon’s wife expressed a love-sickness. She was so in love with him and wanted to be with him that it made her sick. Have you ever felt that way about someone? You desired to be with that person and to be loved by that person, that it made you sick. One who yearns for the love of another may feel sick. Anyone can feel an overwhelming physical weakness at the thought of his or her beloved, sometimes making the knees go weak. That is the kind of affection we ought to have with our “beloved”, our husband or wife. We need their love. We are sick without it. It is clear from verse six that she is in Solomon’s embrace. He was holding her and fulfilling her desire to be with him. This is appropriate. God designed us to need and desire the affection of another.
The Song of Solomon teaches, however, that there is a right time for fulfilling sexual desire. There is a right time to “stir up” or “awaken” love. Sex is a gift from God. It is good, but like most good things, there is a proper time and place to fulfill it. Solomon’s wife exhorted the other women of Jerusalem to restrain themselves. She warned them to not cross the line sexually before the right time, before finding their own husbands. She told them not to arouse love itself. This probably means that young women, and I would say young men, too, should not allow themselves to become sexually involved with another until the proper time and right person arrives. The natural joy of sex is ruined by premature experimentation. Pre-marital and extra-marital sex is sin, but within marriage the sexual union should be enjoyed and celebrated. It is good.
Protect Your Marriage from Dangerous Influences
The rest of this chapter describes the admiration and longing that each lover had for the other. Solomon said, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away” (v. 10). He wanted to see his beloved. He wanted to hear her voice, “for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (v. 14). These are beautiful reminders of the importance of passionate love between a husband and wife. Do not let the passion die. Keep the flame burning. Of course, this passage is just a taste of their longing for one another. We see later in the poem, graphically so, their passionate love and desire for one another. Again, this is good in the context of marriage. Marriage ought to be passionate. However, it takes work and it takes dedication to put your spouse before all others. It also take diligence to keep the little things of life from spoiling your relationship. This is true for all relationships, but most important for marriage. Many things, and many people, can endanger the intimacy of your marriage. Look at verse fifteen.
Song of Solomon 2:15 15 Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.
Again, this might sound strange. What do vineyards and little foxes have to do with love and marriage? Although the vineyard has been associated with the appearance of Solomon’s bride (Song of Solomon 1:6), here I think “our vineyards” refers to their relationship. Their marital relationship was something wonderful that produced beautiful fruit. It was also something that had to be cultivated. Like a vineyard that must be kept and maintained to produce good fruit, so must a marriage. If you do not work on it, it will not grow. It will not be fruitful. Aside from the vineyard, we also have “little foxes” in this analogy. What do they represent? The foxes can represent some of life’s hindrances that threaten to spoil their relationship. Think of what deer and other animals do to gardens? They spoil it. They destroy the fruit of the garden. Large groups of foxes might descend on a field and destroy it. So it is with marriage. Various little problems in life can threaten a marriage and destroy the sweetness of it.
Therefore, our priorities in life, my priority and your priority, must first be to God, then to our spouse, and then to everyone else. Work should not come before your spouse. The church should not come before your spouse. Friends should not come before your spouse. Only God should come before each other. Remember what God told Adam when He brought his wife, Eve, to him. God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). We might focus on the leaving our fathers and mothers, but consider the “holding fast” to your spouse. If we truly hold fast, cling to, cleave to, our spouse, nothing will separate us from him or her. If we are holding fast, we will not allow little things in life to come between our marital relationship and spoil our love.
I think this poem captures the cleaving aspect of marriage as a type of ownership that a husband and a wife have for one other. No one likes to think of it that way, but Solomon’s love poem describes their love for one another as possessing each other. In fact, I think the love song can be summed up in the following verse.
Song of Solomon 2:16 16 My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.
This used to be a something Gena and I would sign to many of the cards and emails we sent to each other. It is something I ought to still do because she is my beloved. Six times in this chapter, Solomon’s wife called him “my beloved”. This declaration that she has become the property of her beloved and he hers means that they have mutually surrendered themselves to one another. That is a beautiful depiction of the loyalty a husband and a wife should have for one another. If God has brought you together, then he is yours and she is yours and you belong to one another. Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Do not let little things of life crowd your marriage and steal the joy and passion that belongs to you. Do not let other things possess your marriage. Be diligent to protect what God has given you.
So, how should we respond to this passage? Maybe you think your marriage has not gone as planned. We are created to relate to one another, to have relationships. God designed marriage. Marriage is good and for our good. Marriage, however, is a radical commitment between a man and a woman. Spouses should commit fully to each other, becoming the number one human priority. They ought to function as one. On the other hand, no marriage is perfect — we are all fallen and sinful people, even those who are saved! Many people find their worth in other people or relationships. Being single, married or divorced should not define who you are. Our ultimate worth is not found in our human relationships. Our worth is found in Jesus Christ.
What if your marriage has been damaged by sins and selfishness? Do not think that help and healing are impossible. Jesus did not come “to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). Know that God offers forgiveness for sins, and cleansing through Jesus. He who shows love for one who thinks of herself as unlovely in these verses will also love you despite your sin and failure. Maybe you are not married right now. Maybe your spouse has passed or maybe you have experienced a painful marriage or divorce. What does this passage mean for you? Spouses need to be encouraged and supported. Older ladies should teach and guide the younger ladies. Older men should teach and guide the younger men. Tell others what you have learned. You who have been married and are not now have a lot to offer to those who are currently married. In fact, those who are married need your encouragement and support and the wealth of wisdom you have regarding marriage. Will you help them?
Love is good! Marriage is good! Passionate love in marriage is good! Let us celebrate it, lift it up, and protect it. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.