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Nor Ever Chaste, Except You Ravish Me


Here is a free sermon resource related to this week’s study for your optional listening:  Link

“Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me,” is the closing line from John Donne’s Holy Sonnet: Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God.

Jonathan Edwards called this concept “The Expulsive Love of  A New Affection.” Unless God’s love becomes increasingly real to us, unless our hearts experience the flame of His Spirit, the breath of Aslan, the sense that He is with us, loving, sacrificing, seeing — we won’t be able to release our idols. We’ll keep running to them. And so we cry with John Donne: “Batter my heart, three-personed God!”

When I was a freshman at Northwestern University I was dating another freshman named Jack. He was good-looking and charming, but I could also see that he was selfish. Yet I couldn’t seem to resist that charm, that handsome face. But one February day I met Steve, my future husband. He caught up with me after class and stopped me to introduce himself. I had admired him from afar and actually began to shake when he started talking to me. I pretended it was the wind off of Lake Michigan, and he responded by taking off his trenchcoat and wrapping it around my shivering shoulders. My knees nearly buckled at his gallantry. When he asked me out, I accepted immediately. We had our first date and I came home, fell on my bed, and said to my roommate, Heather, “I want to marry that man.”

Jack didn’t know about my date with Steve and he called the next day and invited me to fly to South Carolina to meet his family. I wavered. I had known Jack for a while and I knew this was a significant invitation. If I turned it down, it might very well mean the end for Jack and me. But if I went, it might very well mean the end for Steve and me.

The big realization? I couldn’t have them both. I chose Steve. (Thanks be to God! I lost Jack and gained Steve.)

In the same way — we can’t have both our idol and the presence of the Lord. We deceive ourselves into thinking we can, but we cannot. The Holy Spirit is a person, and we can grieve Him, cause Him to back up from us. So when we are tempted by our idol, we must ask ourselves which we really want. Do I want to graze on potato chips — or do I want the presence of the Lord? Do I want to win this argument — or do I want the presence of the Lord? Do I want this person’s approval, or the approval of God? That’s what we need to speak to our souls in the moment of temptation.

The key is growing in our love for the Lord, “the expulsive power of a new affection.” (You can find this essay by Jonathan Edwards on the internet.)  As John Donne put it, “Unless you ravish me, I cannot be chaste.” How are we “ravished?” How are we set on fire?

We grow in our desire for the presence of the Lord as we behold Him, as we slow down and really look at Scripture, which we will do today. Let’s behold Jesus in the closing of John 11. Lazarus is dead. Jesus has just been weeping with Mary. Now, let’s step into the story.

1. Read John 11:33-37

A. Keller says that the translators have shied away from showing the fury of Jesus in this scene. I thought Elizabeth got a taste of it when she wrote, in the last post,

Wow. I sit to answer and the tears flow. He knows my pain. And He doesn’t sit aloof and above it all, He aches over it. This is NOT what God had intended before the Fall. He hates the sin that has entangled me, but He loves me, dearly holds me and lets me cry.

What hard things in your life right now cause Jesus to groan, to weep, to be angry at the effects of the fall on his beloved child? Write them down.

B. What was evident to the Jews in verse 36? Is the love of Jesus for you evident to you today? If not, why should it be?

C. How was Jesus misjudged in verse 37?

2. Read John 11:38-57.

A. Describe the emotion of Jesus in verse 38. (Again, remember, He loves you as He did Lazarus.)

B. Describe the conversation between Martha and Jesus in verses 39-40. How is Jesus gentle with her?

C. How do we know, again, that Martha must have responded to Jesus’ gentle rebuke, according to verse 41?

D. Describe the raising of Lazarus.

E. Try to put yourself in the place of Mary and Martha. Imagine their emotions.

The next passage is very important, because it shows what it truly cost Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, which He obviously knew was going to happen.  Remember, Mary, who will be the one who will sacrifice all of her security, her savings, and her reputation is watching. Truly, what she sees causes her to fall so deeply in love with Jesus that she is willing to give all.

3. Read John 11:45-53

A. In verses 47-48, how did the Chief Priests and Pharisees react to the raising of Lazarus and why? What do you think was their idol? Could they have their idol and Jesus as well?

B. What wisdom did Caiphas give? Can you see a prophetic word here?

C. Describe the impact of the raising of Lazarus on Jesus (verses 53, 54, and 57) Do you think Jesus knew this would happen?

4. Compare the love your idol gives you with this love you see in Jesus.

5. What I want you do to here is a suggestion from Tim Keller for inflaming our hearts. Review this week’s passage and look for three things:

A. Is there a verse or thought that causes you to worship Jesus?

B. Does this lead you to confess a sin?

C. Can you give thanks, therefore, for God’s grace?

6. The Holy Spirit is a person who can be grieved when we run to other lovers. Steve would have been grieved if I had gone to South Carolina — and he might have backed away. In the same way — if we aren’t sensing the presence of the Lord, could it be we have grieved Him? The next time you are tempted — ask yourself which you want — the presence of the Lord or your idol. Report here!

7. Meditate on John Donne’s poem and share any phrases that leap out at you and why.


Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


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  1. I am trying to catch up on the Isaiah study this morning. This week we are studying chapter 40:1-10. For all of us who have comfort idols I will share this from the notes. After all the warning and judgment so far this is a beautiful interlude. God comforts His people declaring that their sin is finally atoned for. Each week we get printed notes and then questions to answer. In the notes I found this beautiful nugget this morning:The word comfort is derived from com (with) and fort (strength), carrying the idea of imparting strength. God’s comfort imparts strength.

    1. WOW! I went WAY off the reservation.. ;P Great, simple way to understand it Dee.. so simple, yet so deep and freeing… when we are raptured by His love we won’t hold onto our idols..no fear of letting go..how freeing.

        1. Dee, So glad to be confirmed that God is helping me see or solidify things through this poem and Psalm 24.

          I think you alluded to this a few studies ago, and I really thought about that for a long time..Now God is solidifying it with this study..I am getting it..I see it now..It makes so much sense.

          When we have a passion for God, we aren’t afraid of our nakedness before Him, we don’t even think of ourselves, rather we are enthralled with him, captivated by him as he is with us and takes delight in us..the climax is the complete total utter expression of one-ness, then we enter that sweet, deep, peaceful rest.

          But that doesn’t mean the idol is at rest..He is still going to tempt.

          Metaphorically speaking, our idol will tempt us into his bed, but the more we are enthralled with Jesus the more we won’t desire the idol and we will be strengthened to say no. His strength is perfected in our weakness..

          This is amazing..what a surprise at the end of this study..Who’d of thought this poem would yield this?

          Hard to fully grasp right now, but I am thankful God gives us a picture of it so that we can have a taste here on Earth..but I want that taste to flower on my tongue rather than die.

        2. OH and I forgot to add..Jesus is our husband, He initiates and we respond as the bride..We are the responders..His love compels us to respond passionately..What gets in the way is when we succumb to the temptation of our idols, or if we ruin our appetite for Him with sin.

          This is SO GOOD.. I think I am finally having a break through here..MAN AM I SLOW! I can see why we are referred to as sheep. ;p

        3. Rebecca–this you wrote was so good!
          “When we have a passion for God, we aren’t afraid of our nakedness before Him, …
          Metaphorically speaking, our idol will tempt us into his bed, but the more we are enthralled with Jesus the more we won’t desire the idol and we will be strengthened to say no. ”
          It reminded me of a preacher once saying to pray your husband would be repulsed at the thought of another woman. I know I am personally repulsed at the thought of loving a man other than my husband! But your words brought this home for me–to pray I would be REPULSED by the thought of another love (idol).

        4. Elizabeth, great extension of this! To think of the ‘repulsion’..yes it should repulse me when I think of my idol..I am Jesus’ bride…great connection. The more Jesus draws me in or ravishes me with His love, the more I draw closer, and the more my idol will repulse me.. The more I ruin my appetite for Jesus by entangling myself in sin the more my idol will start looking good to me..Hmmm… Wow..This really stresses the importance of confessing that sin..getting it out of the way.. I think sometimes I don’t take it that seriously..Tim Keller said that in the sermon above-“The discipline of Desire”…

          It is so cool how God is putting the pieces together now…wow..I can’t wait for the new post for next week! CAN THIS GET BETTER?!?

    2. Thank you Dee for explaining that – that was beautiful! “nor ever chaste, except you ravish me…” those words have been ringing in my ears all week!

    3. now I get it!! thanks for taking the time to do that Dee. and thanks for the sweet compliment.
      I think it must depend on what computer your on because I have no red lines and I know i should have a lot of them:)

      I love this song called “more like falling in love” by Jason Gray. and also “Oh how He loves us” sung by David Crowder
      these songs speek to my heart the same message as this poem.

      I love learning new things! thanks to all of you I feel like I have made a bunch of new friends!

  2. Donne’s poem..I think I went too deep and curved out of bounds of the poem, so I am going to take a stab at it one more time..It seems to me this is almost using sexual relations as a metaphor.

    “Chaste” means: abstaining from unlawful or immoral sexual intercourse..

    He was battling his idols that he betrothed himself to-like we are doing..They enthralled him..they were enticing to come to..Like having an affair..It looks like he struggled with this on and off while being married to Jesus, and was asking Jesus to break that knot ‘again. These idols are Jesus’ enemies. Only Jesus can break that betrothed-type bond he has with his idol and take him to Himself..Then he says unless he is enthralled with Jesus and Jesus alone, he can never be free and the only way he restrains from wandering is if Jesus imprisons him and ravishes him. I love the word ravish..

    As Jesus imprisons him he becomes enthralled with Jesus, and Jesus will delight in him and be captivated by him and as Jesus ravishes him, he will find freedom once and for all from that idol-even though that idol lurks in the background and tempts, Jesus will give him strength to abstain.

    “But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
    Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
    Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
    Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.”

    1. Dear Rebecca. I too have accepted Jesus as my husband and now, I am his and he is mine and He ravishes me with his love day and night in every way including fulfilling my sexual needs!! He was the initiator of this relationship and there’s no looking back when I met Him at age 21!! I love you Lord!!

  3. I would love your prayers today. I am having to stand firm with Joey and he is not happy which upsets me. Please pray for his heart to be soft.

    We had a great sermon today on repentance and Psalm 51. Then in 2nd service I went into a prayer room. I prayed Psalm 24! It was perfect for the situation. I was the only one there because this ministry is not really off the ground yet and I thought ‘how am I going to keep my focus for a whole hour’. As I got going I thought of it and the time went by in a flash. The Lord told me when I was done and it was right at the end of the sermon.

  4. My reflections on Donne’s poem:

    He asks God to begin battering his heart; because so far, God has only been knocking, and it’s not enough; what’s needed is an all-out assault.

    Break, blow, burn – these evoke violent images; a powerful force.

    The writer has been laboring in vain to give God admittance;
    “Reason, Your viceroy in me, me should defend”.
    A viceroy is a governor of a country or province who rules as the representative of a king or sovereign.
    God has given us the power of reason as His viceroy in us and our ability to reason and think should defend us, but all our intellectual powers are helpless: reason is captivated, weak and untrue.
    This points to our utter helplessness to free ourselves from our idols and we must rely on God to break us free from the enemy to whom we have betrothed ourselves.

    Take me to you, imprison me, for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free.
    God’s “imprisonment” is not steel bars, but a prison where we are walled-in by His love; enthralled by Him.

    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
    Chaste and being ravished are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I think he’s saying that when God ravishes us with His fervent love, we will be forever chaste, as in a wife being faithful to her husband. We will be faithful to Him.

    The passage in Scripture where Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will obey Me”, I always took as a kind of command. But now I see it more as a statement of fact, as what is simply true.
    I also see how far I have to go in loving God the way I should!

    It also surprises me in a way that this poem was written by a man. It sounds like something from a romance novel that a woman would write; as in a woman’s yearning to be swept off her feet, carried away, ravished by her true love.

      1. I agree with you – it’s good to see real, godly men, have tears like that!

  5. 6. The next time you are tempted, ask yourself which you want, the presence of the Lord or your idol.

    Well, a couple of days ago my husband and I had a particularly nasty argument. It began because I was telling him something and I felt that he misread what I was trying to say and tried to make it about something I wasnt intending at all. So I EXPLODED, which I haven’t done in a long time like I did. I’m not sure if there was an idol behind it but I sure sinned with my tongue in the things I screamed at him. And for a long time it was hard to repent of it because I didn’t feel sorry. One of my good friends told me once that when we let loose with our mouth, it’s like we ask, “Who is going to be God here?” And we decide we are. I felt out of fellowship with God for more than a day afterwards.
    I guess I need to ask myself which I would rather have; my own way and to let loose, or the presence of God. Unfortunately, it’s hard to think of that before and then I end up miserable afterwards!

  6. Psalm 24 memory update..Still mastering it, but almost done.

    Psalm 24: 1-6
    The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who WILL stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. HE will receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.SUCH is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

    *words in caps is where I messed up or had to forgot the first word of the next sentence.

  7. Just got to watch the broken and spilled out song…Was so good. About a minute in that little piece of pottery is about the size an alabaster jar of perfume would be. I learned that at a Messianic Jewish museum I toured. It just made it more real to me. Glad that was in the picture. I also think of the aroma…God uses in Exodus/Leviticus the words a sacrifice being a pleasing aroma to the Lord. I see Mary’s sacrifice like that (It was so costly much more than bulls or rams AND much more personal – throwing down all her idols) It surely was a pleasing aroma to the Lord. I do believe I was once like that. Then came rejection and pain at the hands of brothers and sisters in Christ. Then I ran to idols thought God was not there when He experienced the same. How deceived I have been. I am praying we all have a heart fully His like this. That He will plow up any fallow area in us. That we will be pleasing sacrifices to Him. A pleasing aroma of Christ (Like Paul talks about). I am HIS alone. He is my all.