I’m still finishing up my Bible reading plan. Yesterday, I landed on Song of Solomon. You might know it as Song of Songs. It’s a slender book of only 8 chapters, sandwiched between Ecclesiastes (eat, drink and be merry, because there are no guarantees in this life) and Isaiah, the heavyweight prophet of the Old Testament. It’s easy to miss.
Song of Solomon is the book about, well, Solomon and his lady love, the Shulamite. I’ve heard this preached two different ways. The first way is definitely the safest way. The book, with its memorable picturesque metaphors, is an extended metaphor for God and His covenant people. God is the male lover and Israel with her pomegranate cheeks is the female counterpart. My commentary says: “The basis for all human love should be covenant love, the master metaphor of the Bible. This covenant love is also the basis of the relationship between God and man; therefore, the Song applies properly to both marriage and covenant history.” (1991, Thomas Nelson Publishers). So there!
The second way is to discuss the Song of Solomon as the standard for married love. I’ve been to one church where it was preached this way. The guy had a lot of chutzpah. I hope he’s okay. Nobody else I know has done it since, without blushing over their entire body.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the Church universal does a poor job of teaching on human sexuality within relationships. Over the course of my life, I’ve sat in numerous classes and seminars purporting to cover this very subject. Do I remember any of them? No. Is it because I’m old? Possibly, but beside the point. What I have gleaned from my Christian subculture is: be pure, be modest, let men be the initiator in romantic relationships. I am not debating any of those things. Purity is a godly standard for men and women. I’ve also seen relationships work both ways.
What makes the Song of Solomon so unique is the celebration of physical love. It’s rampant in the entire book. I’m no Greek scholar, but I know of three Greek words that mean love: agape (unconditional love), phileo (platonic love between friends), and eros (romantic love). The Song celebrates romantic love. It does so unashamedly.
(The Shulamite) Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – For your love is better than wine (1:2).
Heck of a start to a book, no?
The book reads like a play. Now the king is speaking, now the Shulamite, now different groups of choruses. Some of it is downright beautiful.
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes…(4:9)
Alongside the eros love in the Song reside phileo, and hopefully, agape. The heart of covenant is “til death do us part”. The terms are “through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer”.
This book reminds me of the joy and freedom there is within a committed marriage. The colorful garden imagery reminds us of the beauty of live, growing things. In this book, namely love. The world likes to portray marriage as a ball and chain, a self-made prison. It cites the limitations of sleeping with only one person for the rest of your life: no chance of variety. And you only gain your freedom upon the death of your spouse or your own demise. But God has a better way. He designed us to give ourselves to one person for all our days.
Drink water from your own well — share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don’t share it with strangers. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, with an immoral woman, or embrace the breasts of an adulterous woman? (Proverbs 5:15-20)
Since this is God’s design, won’t He help us uphold it? It’s up to us to work on our marriages and cultivate the connection with our spouse. Sex is an integral part of that as an expression of committed love. Physical intimacy within marriage is important, otherwise there wouldn’t be en entire book dedicated to it; it edifies the relationship. We won’t find fulfillment in sleeping with multiple partners, as intoxicating as it may be in the short term. We desire to be understood and loved. Romantic love may ebb and flow, but the friendship and believing the best of my spouse continues on. This little book is playful, intense and vivid. Married love is one of God’s best gifts. Let’s embrace it.