SATURATED with stories of sexual escapades, secret rendezvous, and extramarital affairs, today’s media preach that immorality means freedom, perversion is national, and commitment is old-fashioned. Sex, created by God and pronounced good in Eden, has been twisted, exploited, and turned into an urgent, illicit, casual, and self-gratifying activity. Love has turned into lust, giving into getting, and lasting commitment into “no strings attached”.
In reality, sexual intercourse, the physical and emotional union of male and female, should be a holy means of celebrating love, producing children, and experiencing pleasure, protected by the commitment of marriage.
God thinks sex is important, and Scripture contains numerous guidelines for its use and warnings about its misuse. And sex is always mentioned in the context of a loving relationship between husband and wife. Perhaps the highlight of this is Song of Sons, the intimate story of a man and a woman, their love, courtship, and marriage. Solomon probably wrote this “song” in his youth, before being overtaken by his own obsession with women, sex, and pleasure.
A moving story, drama, and poem, Song of Songs feature the love dialogue between a simple Jewish maiden (the Shulammite woman) and her lover (Solomon, the king). They describe in intimate detail their feelings for each other and their longings to be together. Throughout the dialogue, sex and marriage are put in their proper, God-given perspective.
There has been much debate over the meaning of this song. Some say it is an allegory of God’s love for Israel and/or for the church. Others say it is a literal story about married love. But in reality, it is both – an historical story with two layers of meaning. On one level we learn about love, marriage, and sex; and on the other level we see God’s overwhelming love for his people. As you read Song of Songs, remember that you are loved by God, and commit yourself to seeing life, sex, and marriage from his point of view.
PURPOSE: To tell of the love between a bridegroom (King Solomon) and his bride, to affirm the sanctity of marriage, and to picture God’s love for his people
DATE WRITTEN: Probably early in Solomon’s reign
SETTING: Israel – the Shulammite woman’s garden and the king’s palace
KEY VERSE: “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies” (6:3).
KEY PEOPLE: King Solomon, the Shulammite woman, and friends
Song of Songs is a wedding song honouring marriage. The most explicit statements on sex in the Bible can be found in this book. It has often been criticised through the centuries because of its sensuous language. The purity and sacredness of love represented here, however, are greatly needed in our day where distorted attitudes about love and marriage are commonplace. God created sex and intimacy, and they are holy and good when enjoyed within the bounds of marriage. A husband and wife honour God when they love and enjoy each other.
- The wedding day (1:1-2:7)
- Memories of courtship (2:8-3:5)
- Memories of engagement (3:6-5:1)
- A troubling dream (5:2-6:3)
- Praising the bride’s beauty (6:4-7:9a)
- The bride’s tender appeal (7:9b-8:4)
- The power of love (8:5-14)
EXPLANATION: Sex is God’s gift to his creatures. He endorses sex, but restricts its expression to those committed to each other in marriage.
IMPORTANCE: God wants sex to be motivated by love and commitment, not lust. It is for mutual pleasure, not selfish enjoyment.
EXPLANATION: As the relationship developed, the beauty and wonder of a romance unfolded between Solomon and his bride. The intense power of love affected the hearts, minds, and bodies of the two lovers.
IMPORTANCE: Because love is such a powerful expression of feeling and commitment between two people, it is not to be regarded casually. We are not to manipulate others into loving us, and love should not be prematurely encouraged in a relationship.
EXPLANATION: The power of love requires more than the language of feeling to protect it. Sexual expression is such an integral part of our selfhood that we need the boundary of marriage to safeguard our love. Marriage is the celebration of daily commitment to each other.
IMPORTANCE: While romance keeps a marriage interesting, commitment keeps romance from dwindling away. The decision to commit yourself to your spouse alone begins at the marriage altar. It must be maintained day by day.
EXPLANATION: The two lovers praise the beauty they see in each other. The language they use shows the spontaneity and mystery of love. Our praise should not be limited to physical beauty; beautiful personality and moral purity should also be praised.
IMPORTANCE: Our love for our spouse makes him or her appear beautiful. It is the inner qualities that keep love alive. Don’t just look for physical attractiveness in a spouse. Look for the qualities that don’t fade with time – spiritual commitment, integrity, sensitivity, and sincerity.
EXPLANATION: Over time, feelings of loneliness, indifference, and isolation came between Solomon and his bride. During those times, love grew cold and barriers are raised.
IMPORTANCE: Through careful communication, lovers can be reconciled, commitment can be renewed, and romance refreshed. Don’t let walls come between you and your partner. Take care of problems while they are still small.
©Kingsway International Church, 1973.