[If you would rather listen to this lecture given at our Women's Bible Study please go to... Song of Songs: Where there is love, there is...
During the past couple of weeks, I have read through Song of Songs several times; I have read papers and commentaries written on it and I have listened to sermons. And my conclusion is that a lot of really good theologians and teachers struggle with this book included in Scripture. They do agree that it is part of the entirety of Scripture and thus it is part of the whole redemption story that is the overriding theme of the Bible. They also agree that it is a poem about love, love between a man and woman. They also agree that the love story is an example given to us as to what courtship and marriage should look like. Of course there are other places in Scripture that talk about marriage and God's commands concerning it. It has also been said that Song of Songs is the least preached on, the least written about, and the hardest book in the Bible to understand. For hundreds of years the church didn't really know what to do with the book.
So don't feel badly if you struggled with this. However I will dare say that we all have a better understanding of what Song of Songs is about in general, and I dare say that we all have at least one truth, if not several to take away from these two weeks we have spent on this. If nothing else you should be walking away encouraged that God approves of marriage and the marriage bed and expects you to be passionate in the love affair you are having with your husband.
I do have to say that I heard some great sermons, I read some great papers written on it and I learnedSong of songs lectures
As we have said, Song of Songs is a love poem. As Kendra said last week it talks about marital love in a covenant marriage between a man and woman giving us insight into the intimacy involved in a sexual relationship. Their love story is one of purity before marriage, of how people in love should respond to each other and how their mutual love serves to strengthen each of them and their marriage.
But what about those of you here who are single, widowed, or divorced and are no longer in a position to experience sexual love here “under” the sun, I get that... After our car accident and Larry's head injury, I learned that I had to stay away from romance novels and movies.... couldn't go there then when I was in my 30's. It was just too hard. I missed the Larry who loved me. I didn't want to talk about it and I really did steer clear of Song of Songs along with novels and movies about love stories. The first time I ever read more than a few verses in Song of Songs was a few weeks ago. But now that I am “older,” it is easier to look back with thanksgiving at what Larry and I had without sadness knowing that God in his goodness and love had a plan for us that would be different after just eight years.. And I have to say that I know I have grown closer to Christ, felt His love more deeply that I would have if the Larry of our early marriage was the same. God is good and His plan for each of our lives is right. As someone reminded our Sunday School class on Sunday, “Count it ALL joy!”
I was really blessed by something that James Dennison said in one of those lectures about those of us who for whatever reason are not involved in an intimate, sexual love relationship in marriage right now. And that is that the Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of passionate, erotic, covenental love in a marriage between a man and a woman. Dennison went back to Genesis 1 and 2 where when God created man and then the woman and said they were to cleave one to the other and he said, “It is good.” That relationship between a man and woman is what is reflected in Song of Songs. But the Song of Songs also looks forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when Christ will have His bride, the church, with him and what a celebration that will be! Actually over and over throughout the Bible, Israel and then the church is referred to as the bride and God and Christ the groom or the husband.
We must know and we can know from many other places in Scripture that God through Christ loves us, each one of his own daughters with the passionate, steadfast, covenental love that we see here in Song of Songs. This book is for us too. And if you listen to those lectures Denison talks about why looking at God's love, His extreme love for us isn't allegorical but just as real as the love the man in Song of Songs had for his “darling.”
But now let's talk about our lesson for the week. It is important that we think about what love looks like in a marriage. And as she said, “where love is.... there will be....marriage, fear, words or communication declaring that love, giving of oneself and there are other things.... on my list I included strength, protection, faithfulness, and perseverance and I would add their will be commitment..
One of the things we notice as we go through this love story is that there are real ups and downs in the journey. Isn't that the truth? We all know that from experience. There are times when you couldn't be more in love with your husband...things are going well and you pray that this love story will only get better and better and then boom.... the bottom drops out, some times from circumstances beyond our control but many times because of three issues, self-centeredness, disagreements about money or PMS..
As we have learned the marriage in Song of Songs happens from 4:6 to 5:1. Around that center point there are different events that happen both before and after. And even though there were some down times before, it mainly involved the extreme longing to be with the other person. The young woman day dreams a lot about being with her beloved.
In one dream before the marriage she sought her love but could not find him. Perhaps there was some fear involved here in whether he still loved her. If this is a story about Solomon, then we must understand that she she did not have easy access to him since he was the king. Maybe she hadn't seen him for awhile. Do you remember doubts and fears you had before you got married: like “Does he really like me? Does he love me? Did I do something wrong?” Those fears are real.
Here when she went looking for him in her dream she found him. But after the marriage we have the disturbing scene where she is half asleep and he knocks on the door but she “had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?” She hesitates to open the door because doesn't want to be bothered, she would be inconvenienced. Perhaps there had been a disagreement. And then when she finally does go to the door, he is gone. And then real fear sets in and she frantically goes looking for him. The result is not good and she ends up hurt and bruised. In later verses if you listen to Dennison he explains how there is reconciliation which in the end strengthens their marriage.
Marriage is not a bed of roses. At times it is downright hard, but those hard times come to strengthen us to teach us about the folly of our own selfishness, our lack of trust in our spouse and even our trust in God.
The thing is fear can have a very damaging effect on a marriage. One pastor I listened to said one question he always asks young couples when they come to him for marriage counseling is “Do you trust her totally?” “Can you trust him?” “Can you trust this other person for the rest of your life?” If you can't then do not get married. He said that a lack of trust leads to fearfulness in your relationship. With trust comes obedience, submission, putting the needs of the other person first. In the NT we read that perfect love casts out fear.
Also when we find ourselves fearful, we must realize we are not understanding God's sovereignty in our life. I think one of the worst questions that I have heard from married women or that I ever said in my own head is this one: “Did I marry the right person?” “Did I make a mistake?” Wow... the very next question we must ask ourselves is, “How sovereign is God?” If you really believe He is sovereign over all things, then I married the right person and so did you. That does not take away from being wise in choices, we still have responsibility but we can know without a shadow of a doubt that God indeed planned this man for my husband because through this man given to you, God will conform you to the image of his Son. He will use the good and the bad, the wonderful times and the hard, hard times to teach you about Himself as you trust God and His perfect plan for your life.
I am so glad that in Song of Songs the hard times in marriage are included. Their romance and marriage was not a fairy tale; it was very real. Remember when you were young, thinking about finding the man of your dreams, the perfect man who would love you perfectly, who would make you perfect and get rid of all your issues. The man who would fix everything and the two of you along with your perfect children would live happily ever after. And then you found him and he was perfect, or almost because he loved you. And then you got married.
One time a young man who was dating a girl told me that even though loved this girl, he wasn't sure he could marry her because of some problems she had. Those problems might make marriage to her less than ideal. First, I reminded him that he had problems too. But as I told him, marriage is indeed a glimpse of heaven on earth. The intimate relationship we will have with our Lord and Savior is seen in the relationship with our spouses when we are giving our love to each other without restraint, or selfish motive...when we give all we have to make the other person the best they can be. Isn't that what Christ does for us and we will reach the climax of that love when we see him in heaven, when we receive our inheritance. But, the truth is marriage here under the sun does have its problems. We are not only saints but we sin and we live in a broken world. So what marriage really does is sanctify us as we are forced outside of our selfish desires to give to another. God gives us our spouses to mold our characters in ways nothing else can.
So just how important are “declarations of love” in our relationships, especially the relationship with our spouse?
How many of you like to read or even write poetry? I love poetry... just for fun let me read you one of the most famous love poems in history.
do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
|How do I love thee? Let
me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Can you imagine how Robert Browning felt after he received this written declaration of Elizabeth's love for him? He also wrote love poems to her but probably the best reaction to the love poems she was writing him is found in a letter he wrote before they were married.
Written January 10th, 1845I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett, -- and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write, --whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me -- for in the first flush of delight I though I would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration -- perhaps even, as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some little good to be proud of herafter! -- but nothing comes of it.
New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey
New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey
Poor Robert. He wanted to get her poems out of his mind, dismiss them, but he couldn't. He even tried to be critical but “nothing comes of it.” Her words to him in poetry form only drew him closer to her.
Here in Song of Songs we have the words of this couple's love story written down. The love they had was put into words by both of them. The way they felt about each other was not only said out loud but it was written down and put in the cannon of Scripture.. Now I don't know if they wrote their feelings down when it all happened. But I can't help but wonder if they really did write notes to each other when they weren't together? I have a feeling that did happen. But we do know that at times they were speaking directly to each other. They shared their feelings, their thoughts with each other.
Communication is so important from the beginning of a courtship and throughout the years of marriage. I also know that some of you have husbands who do not express their feelings out loud...they aren't poetic, they aren't good with words. Maybe your husband is like the old man who was asked when was the last time he told his wife he loved her. His reply took a few seconds... “Told her back on the day we were married and haven't changed my mind. I'll tell her when I do.”
One thing I used to do when I was teaching English and we would read some of the love poems written by Shakespeare, Woodsworth, Shelley, Elizabeth and Robert Browning was to talk about how important sharing what you were thinking about the person you love with that person. Most of the male students I had came from ranches and farms in the midwest and believe me they were more into trucks, tractors and guns than words, especially romantic words. But I would tell them this, “When you meet the girl that you know you want to marry, make sure of that... a girl you can't live without... write her a poem telling her what she means to you or what you love about her. Don't do that unless you really plan to marry her because if you don't marry her, you will break her heart.”
In the years since, I have had several former students tell me that their husbands who were also students did just that and it was what put them over the edge. That one poem sealed their decision to say yes forever.
Some of you sitting here who have been married for years, would love to get a poem or even a note from your husband.... maybe he can't say it out loud but you yearn for that confirmation of his feelings. As women we need to have confirmation of our husband's love. So I have a couple suggestions.
*First and foremost, pray that the Holy Spirit will move him to do that. Pray that words will be given to
*Second, be an example. Instead of talking so much (which women do fairly easily) you can write down your feelings about him and what he means to you. Remember what men need is not so much to know that they are loved but that they are respected. So you tell them specifics about what they do to make you feel loved, protected, provided for and cherished. Leave little notes around the house. When they travel, put a note or several in their suitcase. And then pray some more. And who knows they might learn from your example.
*And here I'm going to add something for those of you who don't have a husband or maybe a husband who can't be a husband....because we need that affirmation of love too. Begin a journal where you write down verses from the Bible that deal with Christ's love to you. Those of us who don't have arms of flesh to wrap around us need to remind ourselves over and over, daily of Christ's love for us and what he did. Grace is another word study that will lead you to his love, protection and provision for you. “Fall in love with Christ all over again by letting his love permeate your very being.” If we don't do that, I will tell you that the same thing that creeps into loveless marriages will creep into your heart and that is bitterness, cynicism, and a critical spirit accompanied by anger, depression and hopelessness.
To take this one step further, words of encouragement are important to all of us. And everyone of us in this room know someone who is either unmarried, widowed, alone, or a woman who is really struggling in her marriage and does not have someone with fleshly arms to show them love. What would happen if we each reached out to one woman like that?
Let me tell you about someone who did that for me a few weeks ago. As most of you know, Larry fell the end of August and my life turned upside down for a couple of months. It meant no sleep for me, rarely leaving the house, Larry couldn't be left alone for even a minute. I was exhausted, I was alone, and wondering what the future looked like. Then one day, at the end of my rope, I sat down at my computer and wrote in my blog about what was going on. I asked my sisters to please pray for me... And God did answer the prayers of my sisters. Immediately my spirit was lifted, Larry slept most of the night that night and I was greatly encouraged. Many sent me notes by email or on FaceBook. Some called and some sent cards. But several days later, someone in this room, if she is here today, sent me a message on FB. “There is a little something on your front step. Thought it would encourage you.”
Now, you probably don't all know this but my love language is gifts... and there on my front step was a little basket with a tin of mint Tazo tea (awesome tea), a bag of Lindor chocolates (I'm so glad that came before I found out I had to cut sugar out of my diet), and a book by Elysse Fitzpatrick, “Comforts From the Cross” which is all about the passionate love of God for us.
Ladies, you have no idea what that basket did for me--that tangible evidence of a sister's love. She took the time to drive it to my house and leave it on my step. I don't know if she rang the doorbell or not, since we had left the house for about 30 minutes to run a quick errand, but I'm sure if she did there would have been a tangible hug to go with that. Gals, we need to encourage each other. We need to be there to show love to those who are hurting or lonely. When Jesus came to earth “Love came down” so we can spread that love to others.
Which leads us right into the fact that love is the giving of oneself....as Kathleen said, “There is exclusive giving of oneself.” There were many examples here in Song of Songs that we talked about in our small groups.
This idea of giving of oneself to another to meet their needs, to help them without any thought of what we will get from them is totally counter-cultural today. Actually when someone wants to do that in our culture they are looked at as suspect because there has to be an ulterior motive.
But the truth is that marriage is designed in such a way that if the exclusive giving of oneself does not happen, if there are not two people giving everything they have plus that much more to the other person, the whole thing can fall apart.
I love the Christmas story by O Henry called “The Gift of the Magi.” A summary of it written on Wikpedia says:
Mr. James Dillingham Young ("Jim") and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest flat. They each have only one possession in which they take pride: Della's beautiful long, flowing hair, almost to her knees and Jim's shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather.
On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20, and eventually finds a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch for $21. She found the perfect gift at last and runs home and begins to prepare dinner, with 87 cents left.
When Jim comes home, he looks at Della with a strange expression. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present — an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.
The story ends with the narrator comparing the pair's mutually sacrificial gifts of love with those of the Biblical Magi:
The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.
And so we come to the end of our little study in Song of Songs....a beautiful book with all its imagery of nature, and its poetic devices used to tell the story; with all the characters, even those besides the couple who help give us a picture of what love should look like in community. I'm sure none of you know this but there is a Hollywood star who actually wrote a commentary about Song of Songs because he thought it would show that God approved of erotic love expressed by anyone, especially outside of marriage. What he found (and I can't remember his name) was that this book included in the canon of Scripture was different. He actually looked at erotic love poems written at the same time as Song of Songs and came to the realization that this was different. This was special.
So as you wives go from here use what you have learned to enhance your marriage, to love your husband passionately, to express your love for him in more tangible ways. For you who are not in a marriage now, (and also for those who are married) go from here understanding that God loves you with a steadfast, faithful and passionate love which was shown when he sent his Son to die for you so that one day at the Marriage supper of the Lamb we will celebrate with our groom His passionate love for us.
Ephesians 3:14 +
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.