What does proper marital love look like?
..Song of Songs 1:1-4
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
3 your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you.
4 Draw me after you; let us run.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
People tend to ruin the precious gifts of love that come down from the God the Father (cf. Js 1:17). To the good news of justification by grace in Christ, people add rules and rituals to make it “another gospel” that is not good news at all. The church is the body of Christ, but people like to turn it into an institution. The Holy Scriptures are God’s word, but philosophy and religion want to pervert God’s message. And when we focus on individual books, like the Song of Songs, people are afraid or ashamed of its plain message and like to read it as some kind of allegory or to “spiritualize” it. But God did not make us only spiritual beings, but beings that are both spiritual and material, and what the Lord God made was very good. This includes our sexuality. The Lord made humans “male and female” (Gen 1:27), and he put one man and one woman together to form a “one flesh” relationship (Mt 19:4-6). So then, sexual relations between a husband and his wife are very good.
However, sinful people twist and ruin God’s good gift of marriage. Instead of enjoying what the Lord has freely given to enjoy, people prefer all kinds of sexual sin. Therefore, as God tells the story of his glory in Jesus Christ, he takes one book to show us the beauty of marital love. More than that, the Holy Spirit sings of its beauty, joy, and satisfaction. “This is a book for those who want to know, or perhaps to remember, what it is to be in love and to make love” (Webb, Five Festal Garments, p. 18). The Spirit wants people who are born again from above to know what proper marital love looks and feels like. Then, if the Father gives us a spouse or will give us a mate, we will understand how a godly person expresses his or her sexuality in marriage. And if a believer never marries, he or she can rejoice in their self-denial for the sake of God’s kingdom (Mt 19:12).
Structure of the Song:
- Title (1:1)
- The lovers speak to and about each other (1:2-2:17)
- The woman’s dreams (3:1-6:3)
- The lovers delight in each other (6:4-8:4)
- The power of love (8:5-7)
- Concluding reflections (8:8-14)
Ideas and features of the Song:
- As the expression “the holy of holies” is rendered “the most holy place”, the title of this book is best understood as “the greatest song” or “the best song”. The reference to Solomon in the opening verse does not mean that he wrote it, though he might have, or that it is about him (and it most probably isn’t). Instead, it connects the book with other wisdom literature.
- The Song is love poetry, and so it has much sensuous and erotic imagery. It presents the delight that a husband and wife should find in each other and the pleasures they share in their love. Although sin disrupted the relationship between men and women, the Song leads us back to what God intends in the marital union.
- The Song is very realistic about love in this world. There are others the lovers must deal with, such as busybodies and relatives, and there are fears to be faced, like rape. But through adversity, the Song rejoices in the power of true love and the contentment it gives. Why mention contentment? Because there are images of Solomon throughout the psalm, and the lovers find contentment in each other, even though they do not possess his riches.
- The Song is a single song (note the title), but I do not think it is necessary to read it as a single story progressing from courtship and engagement to the wedding and finally sexual relations. The marriage bed (cf. Heb 13:4) is mentioned early, as well as other images of marital intimacy (1:13, 16; 2:3-6).
- The main voice of the Song is the woman’s, but speaks of marital unity as God designed. So then, do not hop on any “Egalitarian Bandwagon”, because the woman is a true Complementarian and she delights in her role as his wife. She loves him and keeps herself for him only. She advises others to wait for true love (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). The Lord God wants men and women to listen in order to delight in the precious gift of love.
Exposition: Let us listen to this greatest song and appreciate God’s great gift of marital love. Obviously, we cannot mention everything, but we’ll consider a few highlights.
I. Love talk (1:2-2:17)
- She muses about her lover (1:2-4)
- She longs to be kissed by him. She uses intense language; she wants a kiss but speaks of kisses. She praises his love; it’s better than wine. She finds his love intoxicating and pleasure giving.
- His name—what he is—is like the fragrance of perfume to her. She has heard other young women speak well of him and she is glad that he belongs to her! “He’s my guy!”
- For this reason, she asks to get away with him, and she idealizes him as king who could take her into his bedroom suite.
- He praises her
- He appreciates her beauty, comparing it with things that agrarian people considered beautiful, like a horse that would be used for a king’s chariot (1:9) or like the beauty of a lily in contrast with thorns (2:2).
- He talks about giving her gifts to adorn her beauty (1:11).
- He wants to see her and to listen to her voice (2:14). This shows how he cares for her as a person. Yes, he sees her outward beauty, but her words are insights into the beauty of her soul.
Point: Love uses extravagant words, because love is thrilled with the person being love.
II. Love’s dreams (3:1-6:3)
- She dreams about being separated from him (3:1-4).
- In her longing for her husband, she dreams about searching the city for him. Notice the concise description of her determination to find him.
- When she finds her husband, she will not let him go but takes him home to be with her.
- She dreams about Solomon’s wedding day (3:6-5:1). This is very natural, since women like to think and talk about weddings—the clothes, the place, the flowers, the reception.
- In her dream she sees the power, wealth and beauty displayed at Solomon’s wedding. His wedding was a time of joy! Think of the interest shown in royal weddings even in our time.
- But in her dream, she doesn’t dream of Solomon, but of her husband speaking tender words of love to her (4:1-15). He tells her how beautiful she is and how much he desires her. He says that he is overwhelmed with her love and sweetness.
- In response, she invites him to enjoy her garden—her body—and he accepts her invitation (4:16-5:1). Note how he claims her as his own.
- She dreams again and is terrified (5:2-6:3)
- She dreams about her husband wanting her, but she is too tired to respond. Suddenly, he is gone! She realizes her mistake and goes looking for him. But instead, some watchmen of the city find her and abuse her (5:7).
- But her dream shifts, as dreams often do, and she begs others to tell her husband that she is lovesick (5:8)! They ask why she wants him so much rather than any other man (5:9)
- The wife responds to their question with an idealized description of her husband, and he sounds like “Mr. Perfect” (5:10-16). She sees no fault in him; he is completely handsome. Her dream ends with him enjoying her, his garden, again and she is content in his love (6:1-3).
Point: The husband and wife focus on each other.
III. Love’s delight (6:4-8:4)
- The husband begins with words of praise for his wife’s beauty (6:4-7:12)
- Solomon might have a large harem, but she is better than all of them, so much so that even Solomon’s queens and concubines join in the praise of his wife.
- The husband describes his wife’s beauty and expresses his desire for her (7:7-8). Notice how his words echo hers (1:2; 7:9a).
- The wife responds to his desires for her (7:9b-8:3)
- She says that she belongs to him and wants to go with him to a place where they can make love.
- She tells him that she wants to be his and to be ravished with his love.
IV. Love’s power
- She commits herself totally to her husband, confident in his undying love for her (8:5-7). Nothing can be compared to true love! It is a fire that much water cannot quench!
- She is secure in who she is and in her ability to bring him contentment (8:10), which is peace or shalom, the fullness of blessing. Again, there is a comparison to Solomon’s wealth, which is illustrated by a large vineyard that required many workers to harvest her fruit. But her vineyard—her body—is hers to give. When her husband calls for her, she invites him to go away with her and to enjoy her love! (8:14)
Point: Human sexuality and marital love are good gifts from the Lord to his people. A good wife is from the Lord (Prov 18:22). He wants us to rejoice in marriage. Too often, especially in our day, marriage is mocked, twisted, and wrecked. But the Lord wants us to honor it and to give thanks for this rich blessing. If you are married, enjoy love with your spouse! If you have lost your spouse through death, thank God for the blessing he gave you and pray for others that they might enjoy love. If you are young and single and would like to be married, pray now for a spouse that will love you with undying love. Be a person of love, and you will be a good lover.
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.