Love Song

Song Of Solomon 

I would like to start this morning by giving a little heads up to some of our members, and remind you that tomorrow is a pretty important day.  So if you have not planned accordingly, it’s not too late. If you have no idea what I am talking about come see me after the services. 

In conjunction with tomorrow, I am going to tread out on some new ground for me, and probably new ground for you as well. This morning I want you to turn with me to the book of Song of Solomon. I readily admit that this book is the most feared book in the Bible. Jewish rabbis used to give this book a rating of “PG-30,” prohibiting men from reading it until they reached the age of 30. When Trista and I had been married for about 5 years we decided to study this book together and it was the first time I have ever really looked at it. We decided that we would study it again when we were 50.

The book is so unique, I mean no other book of Scripture that starts off this way: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is more delightful than wine. When I was looking on the internet for some preaching resources on the Song of Songs, my web blocker wouldn’t let me access some of them! Needless to say, this book is a far cry from Leviticus!

I believe that there are parts of this song that are so intensely intimate that they are intended for the privacy of committed couples within the sanctity of marriage. Because of that we will just get a broad overview of the book. That’s to protect the young among us ………… and to keep me from blushing. 

Also this morning I want to acknowledge that there are different groups of people here today. Some of you are married and happy about it while others of you are married and feel horrible about it. Some of you are engaged and can’t wait to get married while others of you are divorced and wonder why you ever got married in the first place. Some of you this morning are single and not even thinking about getting married, while others of you have had a spouse die and you’re not sure if you’ll ever recover. And others are in a dating relationship and wonder whether to move forward or to move on. Whatever the case, this sweet song has something to say to each of us.

Before thinking that this love song is not for you, let me encourage you to hang in there today. One of the great aspects of this Song is that it not only includes Solomon and His wife, but it also includes a group of people that are referred to as friends. These friends are cheerleaders and witnesses of the growing relationship between this man and woman and they are there to give positive direction.

We all know married couples and whether we’re married ourselves or not, we can and should celebrate their love, help them grow in oneness, and be peacemakers when there’s conflict. When we think about people we know who are married, John Ortberg suggests that we ask this question: Is their marriage stronger and better because of me? Every marriage needs a cheering section.

It’s easier to understand this book when you know the basic outline. In the text we can see three acts or movements in the relationship: 

Engagement (1:1-3:5). In this section we see a couple that can’t wait to get married as they long for each other and wait for that special day.

Wedding (3:6-5:1). In the middle chapters we see a picture of commitment and covenant.

Marriage (5:2-8:14). In the final chapters we see how their relationship is still filled with romance even through the realities and struggles of life.

Today I want to draw four lessons from this great book, look with me at what this modern-day marriage manual has to say.

True love waits

In chapter 1 we see that the woman longs for a kiss, and then in verse 3 she focuses on his fragrance: Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you.

The woman loves the sound of Solomon’s name but it’s deeper than that. In the Bible a name refers to someone’s identity, reputation or character. That’s why we’re to be careful to honor God’s name. The woman is wooed by the depth of Solomon’s character. This is a good caution for every single person, be careful about who you give your heart to. Examine an individual’s character carefully. John Ortberg writes that we should be sure their name has a fragrance like perfume and not manure.

Some of the saddest stories I know involve a man or woman who develops a passionate attachment to someone with an untrustworthy character. Take the time to know what an individual is made of, how he or she handles stress and sickness, and how consistent their character really is. Is their fragrance sweet or foul?

One of the recurring refrains in the Song of Songs is an admonition to not awaken love too quickly. We see this charge first in 2:7 and then it’s repeated in 3:5 and in 8:4. Tom Constable points out that the outstanding characteristic of this first major section of the book is the restraint that is evident during the courtship.

In 4:12 we read of some amazing imagery related to purity:
You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. In the final chapter, the friends speak of their efforts to protect their young sister from impurity. Then in 8:8-9: What shall we do for our sister for the day she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar. They want her to be a wall that waits until the wedding, not a door that is open to everyone.

I love what Tim Stafford writes: So what is God’s view of sex? Simple: Sex is wonderful within marriage. Outside of marriage, it’s an offense to the inventor…God wants your marriage bed to be pure because He cares for you. He wants to protect you from the worst. He wants to provide for you the very best…It’s tough to wait for, certainly. But most good things are.

Next we see that True love withstands problems.

Trista and I will honestly admit that our most difficult time in our marriage was after Trafton was born; even more difficult than our miscarriage, moving, or getting fired. We all understand that in any relationship, you are going to have some struggles. There will be misunderstandings and misery but much of this can be avoided by giving attention to the small things before they become big problems. Our problem was never Trafton, we always believed that he was a gift. The problem was that we took our focus off each other and we allowed little things to become HUGE things. 

Look at 2:15: Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. Vineyards were often surrounded by stone walls to keep the animals from destroying the grapes. But invariably, little holes would appear and foxes would weasel their way in and gnaw on the tender vines. We don’t know what their struggles were but they needed to deal with them before they became destructive.

The word catch means to seize or lay hold of. We can’t become passive when problems arise; just hoping they’ll go away on their own. Notice Solomon says that they need to do this “for us,”. Solomon knew that their relationship would be better once the couple worked though their struggle.

Also did you notice that these are little foxes don’t ruin the thick branches that have been growing for years but the new growth, the vineyards that are in bloom. These little foxes loved to destroy the fragile vines and devour the immature young grapes.

Most of the things that cause division and distance in a relationship start out small and grow over time.

Thirdly we see that True love uses words of affection.

You know more often than not it’s my words that get me trouble. For many couples words are ammunition in a long, drawn out war. Proverbs 18:21 says: The tongue has the power of life and death. That’s why it’s so important to use life words instead of death words. 

Unfortunately, in many homes instead of words of affection, the conversation goes like this: The wife asks her husband “Do you love me with all your heart”? “Mmm…uh,” he replies. “Do you think I’m the most beautiful girl in the world?” “Mmm…uh,” he replies. “Do you think my lips are like rose petals?” “Mmm…uh,” he replies. “Oh honey,” gushed the wife, “you say the most beautiful things.”

Both Solomon and the Shulammite share words of deep affection with each other. In 1:15, he waxes eloquent:
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! You eyes are doves. Guys, I’m not sure you’re ready for this but he calls her “darling” nine different times in just eight chapters! That’s pretty mushy, isn’t it? One writer points out that Solomon praises his wife over 40 different times for her strength, her beauty and her intelligence. 

She returns the favor in 1:16:
How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And if you look at 5:16 we see that she complements him both romantically and relationally. He was doing something right to hear these words: This is my lover, this is my friend.

Now I understand that some of these images get lost in translation through the centuries and across cultures. When I was in High School we used to laugh at some of the complements that Solomon gives to his bride. In chapter 4 he says Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead…your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of David And in chapter 7 Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus.

Honestly, if you wrote that in your Valentine Card I’m not sure you would get extra points. But to the Shulammite, these words melted her heart. I have read lots of commentators try to explain what Solomon was saying, but let’s just say that what he’s really saying is this: Honey, I think you’re hot!

This morning we all need to ask ourselves if we are complimenting one another or are we criticizing? A study at the University of Denver looked at newlyweds over the first ten years of their marriage and found that strong marriages thrive on positive feedback, affirmation and praise. The message is clear. The words we use will dictate the health and quality of our marriage.

There’s one more pointer from this marriage manual.

True love works at oneness.

Listen to these tender words often repeated by Jewish brides at their wedding found in 2:16: My lover is mine and I am his.  Then in the closing chapter of the book we read some of the most moving words ever written. In chapter 8:6-7: Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned. Their closing declaration is that their love will be unquenchable.

According to some scholars, the Jews wore a cylinder shaped stone around the neck, which hung over their heart. The idea is that the seal uniquely belongs to and identifies its owner for all to see. That’s similar to my wedding ring, it’s meant to announce: I belong to Trista and there is no other. Love is meant to be exclusive and to have no rivals.

One night a man came home from work late again for the 3rd night in a row. His wife was already in bed but she did stir just enough to say, Honey I love you but you need to alphabetize. Well the husband was confused, and thought she was talking in her sleep, so he asked her, what do you mean alphabetize? She replied wife comes before work.

We read in Genesis 2:24: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The idea here is that there must be a leaving before there can be cleaving. And there must be cleaving before oneness can take place. Leaving does not mean acting as if your parents don’t exist, but that you place your spouse and their wants, dreams, and wishes ahead of your parents. And remember that this was said to Adam and Eve; they didn’t have a mom and dad. But they were supposed to leave and cleave as well. That’s why I would add that you need to place your spouse ahead of your friends, job, hobbies, and children. 

I have a good friend who says: Love is not a feeling you feel when you get a feeling that you never felt before! Love is more than a feeling; it’s a commitment to your spouse even when the feelings fade. It’s not a feeling you feel but a choice you make whether you feel like it or not. 1 John 3:18: Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Marc Axelrod quotes a letter sent to Dear Abby several years ago: Dear Abby: Do all marriages go stale after five years? Ours has. My husband and I don't seem to talk anymore. We really don't have anything to converse about. I have no major complaints with my husband. But the excitement is gone. We watch a lot of television. And we read. And we have friends. But when we're alone together it's pretty dull. We even sleep in separate bedrooms now. Is there someway to recapture the old magic. Signed, The Song Has Ended.

I love Dear Abby’s response; Friend, if it feels like the song has ended in your marriage, go back and start singing the song that you sang at the beginning. That’s another way of saying they need to remember how to love with actions in truth.

And that’s the way that God loves. God not only tells us He loves us but He put that love into action when He sacrificed His only unique son for you. And you can return that love by putting it in action as well.



Questions To Consider

1) Why do we find it so difficult to wait?

2) Patience is a learned trait. How do you learn patience?

3) Why do we find it easier to just ignore problems?

4) How does Matthew 5:23-25 and Matthew 18:15-17 fit into this discussion?

5) Very often we think it’s a little thing and we try to ignore the problem. What light does Luke 16:10 shed on this discussion?

6) How well do you deal with criticism, constructive or not?

7) Why is criticism difficult to hear?

8) How can we speak words of like? (Luke 10:27)

9) Why is real intimacy so hard to achieve?

10) What are some ways that we can love in action and truth?  

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