Applying Old Wisdom to a New Generation: Concluding thoughts on the Song of Songs (OT Part 5)

This past Sunday, Pastor Joey finished preaching on the Song of Songs, a book that we’ve spent the last 10 weeks preaching through (if you’re interested in listening to any of our sermons, they can be found here: http://sunsetchurchsf.org/resources/sermons/sermon-archive-2014). Studying through this book has been both scary and fun; and with it has come lots of healing and preparation for me in my upcoming marriage. After 10 weeks of fruitful study and preaching through God’s handbook on romance, marriage, and sex, here are some of my concluding thoughts on the Songs and its topic of love.

Romance, love, and sex are areas of either great chaos or great joy.
When we started the book of Song of Songs, we focused on the fact that this is Wisdom literature in Scripture – Wisdom focused on the realm of love and relationships. Biblical scholars define Wisdom as the ability to bring order out of chaos in every area of life – an order only achieved through the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10; Walton, IVPOT).

Romance, love, and sex are no different. Song 8:6 declares that “love is strong as death”; and like death, that love can either powerfully captivate, or powerfully kill. It can either bring great chaos to ones life, or great joy. The determining factor is how seek Scripture’s guidance to apply Wisdom – bringing God’s order into our lives – in these areas of romance, love, sex, dating, marriage, relationships, and the like.

If you’re single, act like it.
As a youth, I heard people say “Save yourself for marriage! Guard your heart!” But what does that actually mean? I often thought it meant that I just couldn’t have sex before marriage. I thought it meant signing a purity card, or wearing a purity ring. The problem was that I didn’t know how to deal with the attraction I was feeling throughout the hormonal raging years of high school and college. I didn’t know how to navigate areas of intimacy when I was tempted, or how to think Biblically about love and sex.

We often view purity in singleness as simply a physical thing. But we ignore the nature of love – that it is not born simply out of physical affection, but also emotional intimacy – through quality and quantity time, words of affection, and special attention. Singles today (and dating couples included) struggle with temptation and purity because they they view purity as purely physical boundaries. The problem with that is once the emotional boundaries of intimacy begin to be pushed, physical intimacy naturally wants to follow. That’s how love and sex is cultivated.

So if you’re single (read: not married) act like it. Don’t just set physical boundaries; set emotional boundaries. Guard your heart by not stirring up or awakening love before the proper time (Songs 2:7; 3:5; 8:4); not just sex, love:

  • Be careful with how late you stay out with your girlfriend.
  • Don’t share your most intimate secrets with your boyfriend early on in the relationship.
  • Don’t flirt with a guy just to get his attention.
  • Don’t give a girl extra attention just because it feels good.
  • Keep your opposite sex friends at arm’s length, and your same sex friends close.
  • Don’t talk with a guy friend for extended periods of time (or in our generation, text, chat, FaceTime, Facebook, Tweet, etc.).
  • Don’t treat that girl friend with special attention if you’re not willing to commit to marrying her.
The list could go on, but the idea is, if you’re single, act like – both physically and emotionally. Guarding your heart doesn’t just mean guarding physical purity; it means guarding yourself emotionally as well. This may sound like a lot of negative laws, do’s and don’t’s, but the encouragement is that there will be a time when it will be proper to flirt with that guy, or give special attention to that girl, or stay out late on a fun date night, or talk all through the night. And that time is not yet if you’re not married.

If you’re married, enjoy it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about marriage through my study of Song of Songs, it’s that there is plenty to be enjoyed within marriage. There’s the joys of staring at your spouse’s beauty (4:1-16; 7:1-6). There’s the joys of confiding in one another (1:5-10; 8:5,13-14). There’s the joys of love and attraction like no other relationship (2:3-6; 7:10). And there’s the joys of sex and physical intimacy (4:16-5:1; 7:7-13). These are all elements of the covenant relationship of marriage that are meant to be enjoyed with one’s spouse. The problem is not enjoying these aspects of love and sex in marriage; the problem is when we isolate these aspects from one another.

Just as emotional intimacy is to be guarded against in singleness for its power to lead to the physical, so it is to be enjoyed with the physical within marriage. A great sex life is designed to be enjoyed within marriage; but it’s designed to be great within the context of all else that was designed to be great within marriage – emotional and physical. So enjoy it all; don’t hold back parts of yourself from your spouse:

  • Wives, let your husband enjoy your body
  • Husbands, give your wife the attention she needs, not just physically, but emotionally too
  • Wives, be attentive to your husbands needs – and act accordingly
  • Husbands, be intentional about romancing your wife in ways that only she would appreciate
Enjoy it all; love, sex, pleasure, and intimacy were all designed by God to be enjoyed, not shamed. As long as it’s within the proper context of marriage, you have a green light – and even an encouragement – from Scripture to indulge in the love of your spouse. Find your ultimate pleasure not in satisfying yourself by your spouse, but in satisfying your spouse by pleasing him or her. “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.” (Songs 7:10)
Long not for a perfect marriage, but the eternal marriage.
One of the reasons all these things are to be enjoyed together within marriage is because of what they point to. Earthly marriage has always been intended to point us to the heavenly marriage between Christ and His elect. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and  the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)
To make marriage solely about sex would be to distort the pleasure to be found in Christ. To discard physical intimacy from marriage would be to throw out the physical reality of our relationship with Christ. Both must be enjoyed together, for both – when enjoyed together – give us a full picture of our marriage with Christ. And to have a picture of the holistic love and joy experienced within marriage is to get a glimpse of holistic love and joy to be received and experienced between us and Christ.
If you’re married, enjoy your marriage fully; but not to the point that your husband replaces Christ as your Savior. Be intentional about pursuing your wife romantically, but in the proper context of pursuing Christ supremely. Your marriage is a gift from God; let’s not replace the Giver with the gift. Marriage is God’s great realm to experience in part now, what we will experience in full then. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1Cor. 13:12 – it’s valuable to note that this comes at the tail end of a section all about “love”)
If you’re single, don’t make marriage your goal. Marriage may be great; but it’s not great enough to satisfy all your needs and desires. If you struggle with temptation and desires, seek marriage (1Cor. 7:9,36). But remember that your pursuit of Christ is ultimate, not your pursuit of a spouse. “The idolatry of marriage that distorts single life will eventually distort married life as well” (Keller, Meaning of Marriage, 198). If you’re not content in singleness, you won’t be content in marriage.

So don’t make marriage more than it was designed to be. Since the creation of marriage, it was designed not to be perfect on this side of heaven, but to point us to the perfect marriage awaiting us on the other side. Marriage was designed not to completely satisfy us in this world, but to point to the only relationship that can satisfy in the world to come. Long not for a perfect marriage here – you’ll be looking the rest of your life. Long for the eternal marriage to come.

This is Part 5 of an on going blog series exploring how the Old Testament bears significance on our lives today.

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?
Part 4: “Song of Songs for the Youth?!” Applying Old Wisdom to a New Generation

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