“…and the two shall become one flesh.”
This mystery is profound,
and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Why does God care so much about the marriage bed,
which is transitory?
Why does He want
Because this mysterious union points to Christ and His Bride,
in which He also wants:
If you are single and celibate,
or in a marriage where you don’t feel cherished,
you haven’t missed the best.
The best is yet to come!
Tim Keller said that when Fidel Castro was asked if he believed in God, he said, “No,” but if he were religious, he would choose Islam, because when they die they get to have sex with many virgins. Keller said, “He has no idea what he is talking about.” Christianity has the highest, most passionate, and most powerful view of sex of any religion. In a mysterious way, the marriage bed is a pointer to something much better.
In earthly marriage we long to know and be known, for a relationship in which we will be naked—and yet (we hope) still cherished. That cherishing may or may not happen in earthly marriage, but one day, no matter our experience on earth, it will be a reality . . . if we belong to Him. Tim Keller, in the message this week, explains it like this:
The ecstasy and joy of sex is supposed to be a foretaste of the complete ecstasy and joy of total union with Christ. . . The
moment we see Him face to face there will be a closure, and yet a complete openness. We will be naked, and yet so
delighted in, we will be unashamed.
This is a huge and important subject. Many of you know I have been working on a book on The Song of Songs, with the tentative title:
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SEX
(Christ’s Love for His Bride in The Song of Songs)
It’s the hardest book i’ve ever written, but I’m committed to it. I don’t even know if a publisher will want it, because the contemporary view of The Song is that is is primarily about marriage and sex. Don’t ask me when it will be done as I don’t know — but please pray for me, for I am convinced this is so important. I know this is controversial, and for those who are new on this blog, you can look back to when we looked at The Song before, by typing Song of Songs in the search bar. I am absolutely convinced that the bridegroom in The Song points to Christ — but I can’t write a whole book this week! I’m confining this week to three ways the marriage bed is a pointer for our relationship with Christ: passion, purity, and permanence. One article that might interest you by Jonathan Edwards is this — but this is optional reading!
In the past, the ancients saw only Christ, and went to great lengths to not see the marriage bed. Today we have a different kind of myopia, and can no longer see Christ.
Two contemporary scholars who see Christ primarily in the Song, but also marriage, are Michael Reeves and Ellen Davis. Ellen Davis’ commentary on the Song is the best I’ve seen out of all I’ve seen. (Ellen F. Davis, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Songs, Westminster Bible Companion) Next week you’ll see a short video from her as we tackle the subject of singleness — I think you will be impressed! (Then I’m planning to return to the Psalms for the month before the holidays begin.)
Concerning The Song of Songs, Davis writes: “the two pictures (husband and wife and Christ and His Bride) are mutually informative and each is incomplete without the other…Fundamental to both,” Davis explains, “is a desire to transcend the confines of the self for the sake of intimacy with the other.” All along we’ve been seeing the important of oneness, of dying to self in order to become one. This is true in earthly and spiritual marriage — and there is a beauty in the two becoming one, as Agur expressed so beautifully in Proverbs last week.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
2. On an earthly level, what instruction does God give to men in Proverbs 5:18-19?
3.There are several Hebrew words in The Song of Songs translated simply “love,” but they each have a different connotation. The first has to do with passion, and comes from a root word meaning a “boiling pot.” Read Song of Songs 1:1-2
A. The first title given for this book in verse 1 is “The Song of Songs.” Jonathan Edwards said that is proof right there this is primarily about Christ’s love. The relationship between the earthly bride and bridegroom in the Song is a pointer to the best, which is always Christ. Do you agree or disagree with Edwards? Explain.
B. How do you see passion in the bride? How passionate are you for Christ?
C. If you are lukewarm, what could you do according to Song of Songs 1:4?
D. What else could you learn about remedying losing your first love passion according to Revelation 2:2-5? Remember here, the height from which you have fallen by recalling how you were and why in your first love time.
When the bride prays for him to draw her, he takes her all the way into his chambers and praises her. One thing that he tells her is that she has “dove’s eyes.” A dove’s eyes are wide-set, but the bird has no peripheral vision, so he is focused.
Listen to Misty Edwards sing Dove’s Eyes.
The following story which I want to use in my book I am going to share just for my current readers this week, but then edit it out to protect it, so if you look back and it is gone — that’s why!
Linda Strom has been used powerfully by God transforming prisons with the love of Christ from America to Africa to Australia. Both of us were blessed with amazing husbands, and both of us lost our husbands to cancer when we thought we would have then so much longer. She told me a story recently that is so personal, yet this dear widow gladly gave me permission to share it, for it penetrates my heart, and I pray it will yours as well. We sat at her kitchen table, steaming mugs of coffee in our hands, lingering over The Song.
She looked at me, with moist eyes, and said, “That He would love me like this.”
She took a sip of her coffee and closed her eyes. “There were times in lovemaking with Dallas when I was pre-occupied and distracted, my mind racing to the prison ministry. Dallas would suddenly be still and whisper in his deep voice: “Where are you?“
She opened her eyes and I saw tears.
I nodded. I too felt regret about moments missed, now irretrievable. How could I have been so pre-occupied with lesser things when my husband was longing to connect with me?
Linda continued. “I can do the same thing with the Lord. I’m going through the motions, reading a chapter – but I’m not there. My mind is far away. And He whispers, “Where are you?”
In The Song He calls to each of us:
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.
Song of Songs 2:13-14
Do you see? He calls her a dove again, and asks her to come away with Him. He wants her. He wants to be with her. And He wants her to want Him – not simply what He can give her. He wants focus and passion. We need to come to Him with dove’s eyes.
4. How can you give Him focus and passion?
5. How does God view the marriage bed according to Hebrews 13:4? How does this impact you?
6. The prophets repeatedly use the picture if adultery to help you know that sin is unfaithfulness — not breaking a rule, but breaking a heart. Likewise, how does Paul use this picture in 2 Corinthians 11:2?
Our theme song on this blog, decided by you, is this. Listen and prepare your hearts. Note how Jesus Culture has us running to Him in faithfulness at the close of this song.
7. Another word translated “love” in English is a friendship form of love, a sister, a loyal associate. One of the things we long for in our friends is faithfulness, that they won’t turn us, that they will let us in and not let us down. Of course we will fail at this, and yet that is the high bar we should aspire to with the Lover of our Souls. Let Him in and don’t let Him down by going elsewhere for your needs, by resisting him. He appeals to her with this word in Song of Songs 2:9-14 when he says, “Arise, my love.” Read this passage.
A. Describe the bridegroom in verses 8-9.
B. What appeal does he make to her in verses 10-14?
C. How is He calling you to arise and be faithful in coming to Him? How is this purity?
8. For those of you who were with us during Idol Lies, what do you remember from Jeremiah 2 about what God yearns for in His Bride?
A third word for love can be found in the above verse and combines the idea of passion and purity which leads to permanence. He has led her through the wilderness, and that has refined her. He has been faithful when she has been fickle. He continues to love her no matter what.
Keller talks about the difference between sex in the beginning and after decades have passed. He says in the beginning just holding Kathy’s hand was a thrill — but it was more about him because she was into him. Now they are so one in every way, that it truly is a better and vastly different kind of a sexual relationship. He says it can be passionate or tender, but it is like communion, renewing their vow, and it is magical.
Our relationship with the Lord can be like that. In the Song he keeps telling her how beautiful she is until finally she is convinced and simply surrenders, coming out of the wilderness leaning on her lover.
This is the gospel — this is a permanent love. He will never leave us or forsake us. One of my favorite entries was from our own Elizabeth long ago that illustrates this.
I have noticed lately how often I lay in bed at the end of the day and feel guilt. Over words said or left unsaid. Actions I could have taken but didn’t, others I regret taking. But the Gospel has washed away all guilt. Perfect love casts out all fear. I have not only been pardoned, but have been given the gift, a new identity. I am no longer a guilty child, but beloved, though broken, I am His beloved.
9. Share your comments on the above passage.
Keller Sermon (You may already have it — otherwise it is 2.50) I want you to be sure to get the one her preaching in the open forum in 1996, not the one by the same title when he first came to Redeemer over twenty years ago. One wonderful thing that Redeemer can do is bring talented musicians. Here they listened to some popular songs about love and sex, and then Keller preached. Keller says that sex is the closest the world comes to experiencing spiritual reality — and yet, though it may momentarily make them feel alive, it doesn’t satisfy the deepest part of them.
Here are some of the songs they listened to before he preached — the first link doesn’t work, I see — but you can see it on You-tube if you like.
Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered:
Tim Keller: Sex and the End of Loneliness: http://www.gospelinlife.com/sex-and-the-end-of-loneliness-an-open-forum-8110.html
10. Listen to the above and share your notes and comments.
11. What’s your take-a-way and why?
oh we had my child’s birthday party today and I am way behind, but I so love this passage!
9. Share your comments on the above passage. (SOS 8:6-7)
I love what Shirley shared about the fires. As I read this tonight, I was struck most by the word “seal”. When I was young, I remember I used to have one of those wax seal stamps—I would melt the wax on the back of the envelope, and then stamp the initial on the wax, making a seal. You couldn’t remove the seal without breaking it. So I read this and I hear a pleading with the Lord, to have myself embossed upon His heart, engraved, un-removeable lest I be broken. And He says, Isaiah 49:16 “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”
My take away. Listening to The Keller sermon and the songs sung before Bewitched Bothered and Beguiled. some of those lyrics “I lost my heart but what of it” ” He was cold I agree. He can laugh, I love it although the laugh was on Me” I long for the day when i will cling to him. I go back to my past when I was searching for someone to cling to. Giving away my body and my heart in the process. Even in my marriage I can honestly say my husband and I were really never good friends. We did not have that soul connection. Is it too late? How do I get there? I am so thankful to have met my true bridegroom and to know thru the Song of Songs His love for me. It has been a book I have breezed thru and read the least probably due to the ugliness of the taking away of the beauty of what the Lord intended sex to be and what I had made it, I am not sure? I just never made the connection till this week. Praise God for that. Thank you Lord for taking my sin and washing me as white as snow. Thank you that I can cling to you.
One last ‘takeaway’. The passage about love being as strong as death is so incredibly beautiful and it’s one that I have completely missed before. I just love the insights from Susan, Shirley and Elizabeth….each with their own touch. Blending Susan’s description of the love of the cross which just melted my heart, the unquenchable jealousy and the blazing fire that Shirley aptly described and the illustration of the wax seal that can’t be opened unless it is broken from Elizabeth, gives quite a comprehensive look at the love of our Bridegroom. This passage is a takeaway that I think I will ponder for a long time to come. Thanks for everyone on the blog for teaching me so much.
Take-a-way: I really, really enjoyed returning to the Song of Songs even if just for one lesson. I read it regularly in my reading time because it speaks so much to me after studying it and assures me of His love and His constancy. The Keller sermon did not disappoint. I really liked his “boiled down” presentation of what Christian sexuality means. A balance between spiritual oneness and physical oneness. My husband and I listened together and we both had good take-a-ways.
My other take-a-way is a realization of my attitude toward marriage and sex. I know in my head that it is a gift, but there has always been something in my heart that has whispered that it is wrong to “abandon” myself so fully to someone other than Christ (because of false-teaching? I don’t know.). This week (and last) has started me realizing that it is a gift! I do not have hesitation in fully “abandoning” myself to a sunrise, or the stars, or to the joy of a child, or to fellowship between friends, so why hesitate with the gift of marriage? I should not. It is a gift just like the other things and as long as it remains a gift (and not a “must-have idol”) it will be joyful, good. This is beginning to sink to my heart and I am thankful.