What Does the Song of Solomon Teach us about Relationships and Sex? – Part 2

Not only has our culture distorted God’s view of a relationship, but it has also distorted the purpose of sex. Sex has become a way to elicit attention, to get what you want, or nothing more than a physical experience. Fashion magazines, T.V. shows, and movies are not only to blame for this trend, but also the accessibility of pornography.

Gone are the days where one had to purchase a magazine or VHS take to access porn. Nowadays it’s as easy as opening a web browser on your phone. As a result, the average age of those who are being influenced by porn is growing younger and younger with every passing year, which has had a major effect on how we think about sex. So with everything we have access to and are bombarded with every day you can see how easy it is for the world to distort the purpose of sex.

While the world has distorted the purpose of sex, the Bible, and specifically the Song of Solomon teaches us that sex serves a greater purpose.

(2) Sex is a way to increase intimacy that already exists in a relationship.

Without sex, a relationship will grow stagnant and cold. Sex, then, is important to the vitality of a relationship.

While it’s true that sex is an important part of a relationship, it’s just as important that a relationship exist before and after one has sex. That is what I want you to see from the Song of Solomon. A careful reading of the text reveals that their relationship wasn’t consummated until the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. Everything before that is about their courtship and wedding. During their courtship, we learn some key ideas when it comes to building and even maintaining a relationship with our spouse.

In verses 5 and 6 of chapter 1, the bride confesses her insecurity and the groom immediately begins working at assuring her instead of tearing her down.

“I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!” (So 1:5–6)

While it’s a sign of beauty to be tan today, in that day it wasn’t. It meant that you were a part of the working class and not the nobility. So we learn then that her social status was of particular concern. This was exacerbated because she was being courted by the king. But instead of keeping her concern to herself, she shared it.

Hearing her concern, notice what the groom says starting in verse 9,

“I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.” (So 1:9–10)

Comparing your woman to a mare might not win you many points today, but it did back then. His comment about Pharaoh’s mare meant that she was exceedingly beautiful. You see, Pharaoh only had the best, most beautiful and sought-after mare’s pulling his chariot. If comparing her to one of Pharoah’s mares didn’t assure her, he also compared her beauty to that of a string of jewels worn around one’s neck. Their exchange teaches us several things:

(1) We must be vulnerable, sharing that which makes us self-conscious. 

(2) We must build up and assure rather than tear our spouse down.

These are crucial if we want to further or maintain a relationship with one another. We need to know that we can share things with each other and that the other person will help us work through them.

(3) We must be attracted to more than their physical appearance. 

In verse 15 we read,

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.” (So 1:15)

Obviously, he thinks that she is physically beautiful. But her beauty goes beyond her physical appearance. His comment that her eyes are doves tells us something about her character — it’s pure and tranquil. He, then, is attracted not only to her physical beauty but her inner beauty as well. So while physical attraction is important, there must be other things that draw us together because believe it or not beauty will fade.

(4) There must be a certain level of protection — physical, emotional, and economic. 

(5) Our love for one another must be shown through various acts.

Look at verses 3 and 4 of chapter 2 and 7 and 8 of chapter 3.

“As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (So 2:3–4)

“Behold, it is the litter of Solomon! Around it are sixty mighty men, some of the mighty men of Israel, all of them wearing swords and expert in war, each with his sword at his thigh, against terror by night.” (So 3:7–8)

The idea that she is sitting in his shadow and the mentioning of the army tells us that he is providing protection. As well as the banner at the banqueting house represents his public love and affection for her. So we also learn that if we want to grow and maintain relationship these two must be present – protection and affection.

(6) We must spend time alone

Look at the second half of verse 13 and verse 14 in chapter 2,

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” (So 2:13-14)

Basically, in the most poetic way possible, he is asking her on a date, to spend time with him alone away from everyone and everything else. This is something that has to occur not only when a relationship is just starting but all throughout our relationship.

Most of us didn’t have a problem going on dates when we first met our spouse. We were excited, we want to get to know the other person, so we carved out time to be alone with them. But for many, once they tied the knot all that changed. They became comfortable. They quit going on dates and spending time with one another. But that something you can’t do. You have to continue to date one another.

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect at this. It is certainly something I’m working on. But while I might not be perfect at it, what I do know is that if I want to maintain my relationship with my wife and increase intimacy, I must spend time alone with her.

(7) We have to work on our problems

Look at verse 15 of chapter 2. She says to him,

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”” (So 2:15)

Foxes have a tendency to be destructive, so her reference to these animals probably suggest that there were some problems in their relationship that she felt they needed to work on. She was asking him to take the initiative to begin working toward solving those problems. You see, we can’t just push our problems aside, ignoring them, hoping everything is going to change because it’s not going to happen. Problems have to be addressed in order for things to change and for the relationship to move forward or continue.

So those are 7 things you can apply today to either begin or maintain your relationship. What these 7 things tell us is that a certain level of intimacy must exist before sex occurs. And that level of intimacy must continue if we want our sex lives to be fulfilling. You see, emotional intimacy and physical intimacy go hand and hand, which tells us that one deepens the other.

Question for Reflection

  1. What would you add to this list?

Resources

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Post developed from my sermon What does the Song of Solomon Teach us about Relationships and Sex?

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What Does the Song of Solomon Teach us about Relationships and Sex? – Part 1

Sex isn’t a topic that’s discussed often in the church, if at all. It can even be a taboo subject among Christians. Something they do but definitely not something they discuss.

When we compare the church to the world, we see that there is quite a difference between the two. The world talks about sex constantly. Movies, T.V. shows, the news, articles, and conversations with friends are often dominated by the subject. I mean you can hardly watch a television show without some random comment or scene thrown in there that’s really unnecessary, and the only role it plays is just to glorify sex.

But why is there such a difference? Why don’t we talk about sex in the church? Especially when we consider that almost the entirety of one of the wisdom books — the Song of Solomon — is dedicated to the subject.

Now, the Song of Solomon isn’t without its controversy. Many have questioned why it’s in the Bible. It’s been kept out of the hands of teenagers and young adults. It’s been allegorized, historicized, and misinterpreted in an effort to diminish the raciness of the book. But while all that and more has occurred throughout the centuries, it still remains a valuable book.

At its core, it’s about a relationship between a king, presumably Solomon, and his wife. It tells the story of their courtship, wedding, and relationship thereafter. It does so with vivid poetic imagery that at times leaves us, modern-day readers, guessing at the meaning and wondering why the woman is blushing when in today’s terms his comments would be taken as more of an insult than a praise and would probably warrant a slap. But for all its difficulties, the Song of Solomon is inspired Scripture that teaches us about God’s desire for sex and relationships.

What, then, does the Song of Solomon teach us about relationships and sex?

(1) Relationships and Sex should occur between a man and a woman (vs. Gen. 1:27-28; 2:24; Rom. 1:27-28; 32)

That idea — that relationships and sex should only occur between a man and a woman — is fast becoming out of step in our modern world. But while the traditional view is fast becoming out of step, it is the biblical view. One that’s upheld in the Song of Solomon. When you read the book, the love story, including the intimate parts, are portrayed between a man and a woman. That is the relationship that is celebrated by the book. That’s the relationship God endorses and promotes.

Lest someone claim the Song of Solomon only represents one type of relationship, God’s explicitly clear in the rest of the Bible what He endorses. In Genesis 1&2 we learn that a man and woman were created. Verse 27 of chapter 1 reads,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:27)

And in verse 28 we learn that:

“…God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Ge 1:28)

Then in verse 24 of chapter 2, we are told that,

“…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Ge 2:24)

This tells us that God’s original plan in creation was for one man and one woman to be together for life. If that’s not clear that it’s God’s plan for a man and woman to be together, we also learn in Romans 1 that:

“…God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Ro 1:26–27)

God gave them up to these unnatural relations because of their refusal to recognize him as the one true God despite the evidence He has provided. He gave them up to homosexual behavior, which we are told in verse 32 is something that warrants God’s punishment.

You see, despite what our culture proclaims and trumpets as acceptable, the Bible tells us that it’s nothing more than an aberration, a departure from God’s original plan for creation. If those in our culture are honest, they know this too. They show they know that when they say things like: “This is the new normal.”

So one of the things we learn from the Song of Solomon is that God’s design and plan is for relationships and sex to occur between a man and a woman.

Question for Reflection

  1. What are your thoughts on the Bible’s plan and God’s design for sex and relationships? Do you agree or disagree? And why? (NOTE: Since this is an emotionally and politically charged topicI’m looking for thoughtful, gracious, loving, and engaging answers/comments.)

Resources

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Post developed from my sermon What does the Song of Solomon Teach us about Relationships and Sex?

 

What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry? – Part 3

In the last few posts, we’ve seen that an effective mercy ministry not only requires compassion, but it also requires responsibility. Today, we’ll explore some guidelines by which to operate. Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.

Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.

Personal Guidelines

(1) Set aside a designated amount of money each month that can be used to help others.

When you run across someone needing help, you can help them without feeling like you have to break the bank or kill your budget.

(2) Pray with the person you are helping

I can’t remember if it is someone at my current church or another church that told me this. But basically, they said that the advice they were given in the past was to pray that the person would use the money you are giving them in a God-honoring way or face God’s judgment. If after praying that prayer they still wanted the money, then you should give that to them, leaving it between them and God as to what happens next.

(3) Designate a small portion of your income above and beyond your regular tithe and give that to a benevolence ministry each month. 

That could be the church’s benevolence ministry or another ministry like WARM or Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center. The point in doing that is that you know your money is going to be used to actually help the person. When you walk past a person begging for money, you don’t have to feel bad because you have already given to a ministry that is local and can meet their need. You can even take it a step further by stopping and pointing that person to that particular ministry.

So those are a few guidelines by which you can operate. Of course, there are more but that should get you started.

Church Guidelines

I’ll tell you what we currently do at the church I pastor. Hopefully, that will help you get the ball rolling at your church.

(1) We have a system of accountability.

Meaning that one person can’t make the decision to help someone. They have to call another pastor or deacon and run the situation by them first.

(2) We don’t give anyone money or gift cards.

Instead, we will directly pay someone’s bill, rent, or for their groceries.

(3) We have a tiered system of care.

If you are a member, regular attendee, or family or friend of a member, you can receive more assistance than someone who just randomly calls the church.

(4) We have limits on how often you can receive assistance.

Meaning that we aren’t going to continually pay someone’s bills every month without first really digging into the situation and their finances. If someone needs assistance multiple months in a row, then they have to be willing to open their finances up to us and follow a plan we develop for them based on their budget.

(5) We have a budget for benevolence 

We refer to that as our Local Mission’s Fund. A small portion of the general tithes and offerings goes into that fund every month. That is what we use to help those in need unless there is a special circumstance that requires more than that fund has. If that happens, we will take up a love offering or vote to use money out of the General Fund to help that family.

So those are some of the guidelines that we as a church operate under. We have put these in place because it allows us to be both compassionate and responsible, stewarding the resources we have as a church, as well as it also forces us to dig into the situation and provide the help the person really needs.

Conclusion

As you can see Mercy Ministry isn’t simple. It is complex. While compassion needs to be what motivates us, we also need responsibility to guide us. It’s compassionate responsibility that’s required in order for us to have an effective mercy ministry. I believe if we operate within that tension, we will be effective. As well as we will truly help those who are in need.

Question for Reflection

  1. What guidelines do you operate by personally and as a church?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry?

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