Our church has been preaching through Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) for almost 4 weeks now. And almost every week I preach, the days leading up to my sermon are filled with excitement, stress, and confusion (in that order of progression). As Joey (our Lead Pastor) and I talk back and forth about our upcoming passages, we often mention to one another, “It feels like driving in the dark.”
This is true for a number of reasons: For starters, this is only the second Old Testament book I’ve preached through. Second, this is my first encounter in studying Wisdom literature. Third, though I am engaged, not being married sometimes makes me feel slightly disabled in approaching a book largely about marriage and sex (however, the applications have been tremendous for me in preparing for marriage ;). Fourth, I have the wonderful task of preaching this book to youth students who are not married, will likely not marry for a while, and are likely not even dating (though probably thinking about dating nearly everyday).
So the question often comes to my mind… What am I doing?!
I find myself asking that question to… myself, quite often in ministry. “Clark, what are you doing with your youth kids? What are you doing with discipling your youth staff and leaders? What are you doing with the summer day camp program? What are you doing in preaching?” But in the weeks leading up to our Song of Songs series, I found myself asking that question a bit more frequently.
Thankfully, though it’s only been about 4 weeks, I’ve found a lot more confidence in preaching such an obscure book. As I’ve wrestled with Songs the past couple months, it’s become a little bit clearer to me how to approach this as a young, not-quite married, youth pastor. And it’s become a little bit clearer how I should apply its truths to an even younger, not-at-all married, youth group.
Song of Songs gives guidelines for relationships to the young/single
As the writer of the Songs talks about intimacy, attraction, love, and sex, there are many good principles to be learned for the young and single in approaching relationships. When I was a kid in junior high and high school, I had no idea how to approach relationships. I was often told “Don’t date until college,” but rarely was I told how I should date.
I knew that it was best to wait to date until I was ready for marriage, but I had no idea how to even approach relationships. I didn’t know what it meant to be a “godly man” who “led” his significant other. I had no categories of thinking Biblically about relationships, and as a result, I made many, many, many bad decisions while dating in high school and college that left me feeling confused, lost, and self-condemning. So instead of consulting Dating for Dummies, where do we turn?
For me, and people like me, Song of Songs gives some proper ways of thinking about marriage and relationships. It gives us a glimpse of a relationship redeemed by God after the Fall. It gives us a look at the beauty a relationship can hold if cultivated under the right circumstances. But that’s the key – it requires cultivating.
Song of Songs is not giving us a picture of what “love” and “marriage” looks like in general. So many of us are so greatly misled, that we think once we’re married, or once we’re “in love” then all our problems will be solved. Our relationship will be all hearts and kisses and bright sunshiny days. Our life will be filled with happiness unending and gushing with cheesiness (the kind that’s gross, not the kind that’s delicious).
That’s the problem with my generation and the generations to follow: we think love just “happens.” We’ve been so indoctrinated by Disney, romantic comedies, and the theory of “love at first sight” that we’ve crafted an unrealistic expectation of relationships. Because love just “happens” and when you’re “in love” you just “know,” we’ve ignored all advice, wisdom, and warning signs when it comes to love and relationships.
This is where a book like Song of Songs comes in and sobers up our view on love and marriage. It shows us that love is not based solely upon good looks and physical attraction (1:5-7; 2:1-2). It tells us that while physical attraction is not bad, it is also not ultimate (4:1-9). It shows us that intimacy is much more than just “falling in love” by “falling in bed” (1:2-4; 2:1-6). It shows the fruit of hard work and dealing with the problems in a relationship (2:14-17; 3:1-5; 5:2-10).
Song of Songs is not just a collection of love poems, or a narrative about a weird love triangle in the likes of a Korean drama (see OT Part 3: Song of Songs – What does it mean?). It’s Wisdom, and wisdom when it comes to love, relationships, dating, marriage, sex, and all things related. And this is how it applies to the young and the single. It gives us a redeemed view of love and marriage that is intimate, desirable, and wonderful. But it also give us the Biblical categories to think realistically about it.
If you’ve grown up in the generation of “love at first sight” or maybe you’ve just bought into our culture’s romanticized view of relationships, Song of Songs corrects our thinking and gives us Biblical guidelines when approaching relationships. So, if you’re like me, and want to think more Biblically about your romantic relationships, I encourage you to follow along as we continue to preach through Song of Songs. Our sermons for the main English service can be found here, and my sermons for our youth services can be found here.
It doesn’t matter if you’re young, unmarried, or totally single. Song of Songs has more than enough truth for you to feast on. In fact, the more young and the more single you are (if that’s possible) the sooner you’ll be able to think about relationships Biblically and navigate this powerful but dangerous area of life.
Part 1: “What are these 39 books for?”
Part 2: “Corrective Lenses: Reading the Bible like we ‘read’ Art?”
Part 3: “Song of Songs: What does it mean and why does it matter?“