Thursday, May 31, 2012


“Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out her seven pillars.  She has prepared her meat; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her female servants; she calls out from the highest points of the city: ‘Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!’ To the one who lacks sense, she says,Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave inexperience behind, and you will live; pursue the way of understanding. …

The woman Folly is rowdy; she is gullible and knows nothing.  She sits by the doorway of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling to those who pass by, who go straight ahead on their paths:Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!’  To the one who lacks sense, she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread [eaten] secretly is tasty!’  But he doesn't know that the departed spirits are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” (Proverbs 9:1-6, 13-18 HCSB)

High School reunions are interesting.  I recall going back to one of mine.  You see the former cheerleader that every guy drooled over, and wondered now, years later, what happened?  Or, there is that nerd that no girl would dream of dating, now a successful businessman that any woman would dream of marrying. 

Just ten years before, I was praying earnestly that God would let me go out with that cheerleader—just one time.  Now, just one look at her, and then comparing her to Marilyn, the one I did marry and I think, “Thank God for unanswered prayer!”

When we are teens, our intelligence may not have matured as fully as needful, yet our impulses are extremely developed.  Inexperience is an issue.  Therefore our choices—and some of them will have profound consequences—are not always informed.  Some people are directed by their brains and others driven by their hormones.  Most grow out of it.  There are often “growing pains,” however.  We may carry the scars of foolish choices made in the rash affections of adolescence.  Sadly, some spend the rest of their lifetime chasing an illusion rather than coming to grips with reality.  They might grow older, but they never grow up.

It is a matter of sense and stupidity.

The personification of those traits is found in Proverbs.  Solomon presents a tale of two women in chapter nine.  One of these women is named, “Wisdom” and she is marked by sense.  The other is called, “Folly” and she is characterized by stupidity.

They both share some things in common.  Both make an appeal for someone to come and have a meal in their house.  Each offers the promise of satisfaction, if their guest will feast at their table.

But, there the similarities end.  Lady Wisdom demonstrates discretion.  She sends out her servant to deliver the invitation to the inexperienced to come.  Madam Folly displays brashness.  She loudly beckons the inexperienced to come in to her house.  The gentle woman offers a feast of good sense that will bring life.  The loud whore offers pleasure for the moment that will end in death.

It is important to know that the moral component is supremely in view in Proverbs—not just the mental one.  Proverbs doesn’t deal so much with I.Q. as with spiritual sense.  Right in the heart of this passage, the wise king returns to his key verse, as he continues to instruct his inexperienced son, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (v.10) 

He has already set forth that proposition in 1:7.  The first nine chapters establish and expand on that theme.  Then, starting with chapter ten, the proverbs that expound and explain that truth are presented.  Chapter nine is pivotal.  The table has been set, the invitation sent, and then the meal will be served up in bite-sized portions to be digested in the remaining chapters of Proverbs.

It is interesting in this context to note the place where the meal is served.  Wisdom has prepared her banquet in a house with seven pillars.  This might indicate that Lady Wisdom dwells in a home that is solid and spacious.  To dine there is to find a place with a firm foundation and a wide invitation.

That would be true. 

But, don’t forget the central, spiritual message.  Perhaps this pictures a temple—a house of worship with its seven pillars—pointing to the worship of the true and living God.  By contrast, the harlot, Madam Folly has her house on the high place—which is language often identified in the Old Testament for shrines containing altars to false gods.  Folly’s invitation is to idolatry.  Again, in Old Testament terminology such worship is spiritual adultery.  That is the forbidden fruit.  It is packaged seductively, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread [eaten] secretly is tasty!" (v.17).

Both Lady Wisdom and Madam Folly have their meals prepared.  Those who come to their feast will be branded with sense—and the life such experience, or they will advertise their stupidity—and the death such embrace.  Solomon has been to Lady Wisdom’s table.  He is experienced in her delightful offerings and can testify to her life-sustaining nourishment.  You would not be able to interview those who have consumed the tasty poison served up by Madam Folly—their only testimony to her food is their tombstone!  But he doesn't know that the departed spirits are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” (v.18)

The invitations have been given.  The choice is between sanctified sense or sinful stupidity.  Where will you eat today?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19 HCSB)

The words are arresting.  They stop us in our tracks.  There are things that God hatesseven are specifically named.  This is unsettling.  It is disturbing because we dont like the word hate.  We have had it drummed into our minds not to use the term.  It seems unthinkable to associate that word with God.  God is love the Scripture says.  This truth helps form our concept of God.  Not only do these verses in Proverbs upset us for this reason, but when we read what God is said to hate, it is not what we might have expected these seven deadly sins to be.  Surely, it must be something indescribably perverse and heinousbut some of these are not that badas we might evaluate them.  Several are not even outright actions, just attitudes.  Truth be known, they may lurk in the shadows of our heart even nowand that is disquieting.

But we need the truththe whole truth and nothing but the truth.  The God of love is also the God of wrath.  He who has made a way by His love for us to enter heaven, will also consign those who spurn His love to hell.  As the former doctrine is glorious, the latter is grievous, but both are true.

We have developed an inaccurate picture in our minds of Jesus as being such a sweet, gentle soulsupremely kind and soft-spoken.  He wasand more.  He also walked into a place of worship, overturned massive tables, sending the money and merchandise on them clanging over the floor.  He took some ropes that had been used to tie up sacrificial lambs and used them as a whip, its lashes whistling and cracking through the air, as Incarnate Love drove out the money-changers from the Temple.  Jesus was furiousand it was His love that made Him so.  That crowd was defaming God, because in His holy name, they were being dishonest, and they were harming people, for they had set up shop in the Court of the Gentilesthe only place where a Gentile convert could worship.  How might one concentrate on God, with the sound of people bartering over the currency exchange rate of a Temple shekel or the price of a proper sacrifice?  How might they pray amid the sound of sheep bleating and the smell of animal dung?

The same Holy Spirit who comes as a dovemeek and mildto entreat us to open our hearts and experience peace with God, is also a fire that will consume all that is unholy.  He pleads with sinners to repentand in Acts 2, we see about 3,000 who are won to His call to faith in Christ.  But, in chapter five, we see that as Ananias and Sapphira conspire together and lie to the Holy Spirit, He strikes them deadright in the church meeting!

Here is a reality check for us.  God hates these things, not despite the fact that He is love, but because of it.  Perfect love has pure loathing of all that is contrary to it.  If we loveand God does in the absolute sensethen our great interest is in the best interest of others.  The corollary to that is to hate all that would diminish, defame, defraud and even destroy another.  These seven things do that and therefore God despises themand so should we.

An important mark of a child of God is that he or she is taking on the likeness of their Heavenly Father.  That is, we love what God loves.  It also means that we loathe what God loathes.

What does the Lord hate?  Here is the anatomy of that which God abhors.

ARROGANT EYES, arrogant eyes.  The list begins hereand well it should.  It was such a look that is behind all the suffering and sorrow in the cosmos.  When a beautiful angel named Lucifer, set his eyes on the throne of God, and thought to himself, I deserve a throne like that his arrogant eyes turned him into the Deviland evil was birthed into the universe.  It did not remain in heaven, but invaded the pristine paradise of Eden.  Eve looked at the forbidden fruit, and listened to the Serpents beguiling voice, Eat it and you will be like God.  She looked, she lusted for it, she ate and gave it to her husbandand the curse descended like a plague on the planet.  All that was wondrously good was taintedthe flowers shriveled and the thorns and thistles sprang up in the garden, while animals began to devour one another.  What untold suffering has resulted from arrogant eyes!  No wonder God hates this!  We dare not excuse it. 

Do you look down your nose at others?  God hates such an arrogant lookand so should we.

LYING TONGUES, a lying tongue.  Our tongue is like a bucket which draws from the well of our heartwhatever is in the well is revealed in our words.  God is trueand loves the truthwhile Satan is a liar and all who belong to him are liars also.  Such demonic deceit is fit for those who will spend an eternity with the father of liars as Jesus called Satan (john 8:44), in the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 21:8).  It was a lie that persuaded one-third of the angels to rebel against God.  It was a lie that enticed Adam and Eve to disobey God.  It will be a lie that will deceive the whole world and gather an army at Armageddon to war against Christ.  In fact, the last great world dictatorthe Beast, the Antichrist is called the lie since he is the embodiment of deception, as Jesus is the incarnation of truth.  It is the forked tongue of the Serpent.  God hates itand we should determine to do so.

Come to the Great Physicianopen your mouth, stick out your tongueand say, Ah.  What is on your tongue?  It reveals much about the state of your spiritual health.

BLOODY HANDS, hands that shed innocent blood.  God is the author of life.  People are made in His image.  To shed innocent blood is an affront to the Creator.  Such perverse hate is hated by perfect Love.  Scripture also brands Satan as a murderer (John 8:44).  It was this spirit that moved Cain, mad with monstrous malice, to rise up and kill his own brother, Abel.  In process of time, this spirit of slaughter pervaded the planet, and God had to scour the earth clean of bloodstains by destroying the destroyers in a delugewith only Noah and his family surviving by Gods grace.

Pilate tried to wash his hands of the blood of the Innocent Man.  But, water cant remove those stains.  It is an incredible truth, that the only thing which will cleanse such sin is the very sacrifice of that spotless Lamb of God, which the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate sentenced to death.  But, apart from thatto go into eternity and stand before God with blood on our hands is to be condemned in the High Court of Heaven.  You may say, I have never killed anyone.  Jesus died because of sinmy sin and yours.  We may have just as well been there holding down His limbs, setting the nails, swinging the hammer and raising Him up on the cross.  Have you cried out for pardon to the Great Judge?  He will because of what Jesus did.  Otherwise, look at your handsthey are stained with innocent bloodthe most pure and precious kindthat of Gods only Begotten Son!

WICKED HEARTS, a heart that plots wicked schemes.  The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.  It is interesting, that this is at the center of the catalogue of crimes against Gods holy law.  That is a reflection of this being a core issue.  Jesus said this, For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. (Matt.15:19)  The sewage of sin flows from the cesspool of the wicked heart.  Depravity is bred in the mind, will and emotions of humanity in its state of rebellion against God.  Our imaginations are filled with wicked schemes.  Our will is bent on autonomy from God and His laws.  Our emotions are enflamed with evil desires. 

In fact, our old heart is beyond repair.  We require a transplant--a new heart given in regenerationthe very life of Christ given to us when we receive Him as Lord and Savior. 

Are you born again?  I didn't ask if you have been baptized, belong to a church, believe in  God--for none of that changes who we are.  We may mask our depravity behind a veneer of morality, but without a birth from above we cannot enter the Kingdom above.  That's what Jesus said in John 3 to an extremely religious and respected man.  How can God invite in that which He hates?  And He hates the wicked heart.

EVIL FEET, feet eager to run to evil.  There was a time when the bare feet of the man and the woman beat a path to God, and they walked in step with His will.  Then came sin--and they fled from Him.  His voice brought terror where once it brought joy.  But, you can't stand still spiritually.  Neither did humanity.  Had Adam and Eve continued walking in fellowship with God, that intimacy would have transformed them more and more into the character of their Maker. But, the path chosen led them away from God into the bushes.  Man's story is one of a journey away from God.  Soon, his feet are speeding to an appointment with evil.  Like an adulterer lover running to embrace the object of their lust, we run from the One who loves us so, and warm to the harlot's kisses.  So, if we will not have God's love, He permits us to choose His wrath.

What of the path you are taking?  There are only two choices.  Here they are:

"Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it."  (Matthew 7:13, 14 HCSB)

UNJUST LIPS, a lying witness who gives false testimony.  The slanderer who twists things to hurt another, the perjurer who brings condemnation of the innocent through his deceptionthese are despised by God.  God is just.  Injustice is the antithesis of His holy, loving character.  He doesn't tolerate it. On earth, there are those who often get by with it.  In eternity, there will be no unjust person who will evade the justice of God.  Perjury is a crime in a courtroom of the United States, yet we know there are many who will place their hand on a Bible, swear to tell the truth and then tell one lie after another--and often without being  caught.  But, the Supreme Judge of the Universe is watching.  I think of the vile Jezebel who hired false witnesses to testify against an innocent man, Naboth, all because her husband Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard.  It worked--for a time.  But, then justice fell on Jezebel, and she was hurled to her death--her blood licked up and her flesh devoured by the dogs (see 2 Kings 9).

When you are put on the spot, what directs your decisionexpedience or conviction?

DIVISIVE DISPOSITION, one who stirs up trouble among brothers.  Such people damage feelings, divide families and destroy fellowships.  It is hard to understate the gravity of this sin.  I hate cancer.  It has brought so much sorrow to those I love.  So often it grows undetected, and by the time it is diagnosed, it could be terminal.  I hate the stuff.  I despise the word.  Does it bother you for me to use that kind of forceful language?  You understand it.  Likewise, this spiritual malignancy called discord is a killer.  We should hate it.  God does.  The perfect harmony within the Trinity is the model for unity in the church.  Jesus prayed that we might be one.  He offered that prayer for reconciliation, while just hours before He would shoulder a cross.  Reconciliation to God and to each other is at the heart of the Gospel!  We deny it when we intentionally foment schism.  That is a hateful thing to doand thus, is something that God hates.

The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9).  Do others think of you as a peacemaker or troublemaker?  Peacemakers resemble their Father God.  And troublemakers? They are like their father the Devil.

Let us fervently pray, Oh God! Help us love what You love and loathe what You loathe! For even in the best of us, there is sometimes found the worst in us.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom.  And whatever else you get, get understanding.  Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you.  She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.”  (Proverbs 4:7-9 HCSB)

The good life—we all want it, but where do we find it?

There are bookshelves full of the premises of self-help gurus who have written promises of what they consider the good life.  There are talking heads that inundate the airwaves with their counsel about the good life.  Politicians proclaim that their election to the levers of power will bring us the good life.  The inventor holds out the hope that the newest technology will usher in the good life.  The stockbroker says that if we invest in this fund or build that fortune it will bring the good life.  The advertiser tells us that if we would purchase their product, we will have the good life—or your money back.

Somehow, the more we listen to this, the more confused we become.  One conclusion we draw, however, is that a whole lot of people seem to be making a whole lot of money marketing the good life!

We thirst for it and so we continue to look into the world’s wells, put down the bucket and draw up and drink—sand!  Our mouths are filled with grit and we become thirstier than ever.

The good life is to be found only in the One who is the source of all good—God Himself.  Augustine had it right when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Every parent who is worthy of the title wants to provide the good life for their child.  Solomon did.  One would have thought that his son would have had it easy.  He would have been “born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”  The boy would grow up in the midst of fabulous wealth and great privilege.  But, Solomon knew that these did not insure the good life.  They would be poor substitutes for God.  His son needed to know God—and so he wrote these Proverbs to instruct him—and if we will heed them, we too can find the good life.  Here is where it all begins: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)


We won’t have the good life if we choose bad companions. 

My son, if sinners entice you, don't be persuaded.” (v.10).

Solomon knew the temptation would be there.  He warned, “Listen, my son, to your father's instruction, and don't reject your mother's teaching, for they will be a garland of grace on your head and a [gold] chain around your neck.” (v.8-9)  Throughout Proverbs we will see those who are fools—that is, those who reject God’s ways and follow their own wicked desires, contrasted with the wise—who are enlightened in God’s ways and pursue His will.  The crowd we run with will influence our destination.

Do your closest friends bring you closer to God, or do they pull you down into the mire of evil?  Those who will lift us up are few, and those who would drag us down are many.

WISDOM’S WORTH (Proverbs 2)

We won’t have the good life if we value bad counsel. 

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He stores up success for the upright; [He is] a shield for those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His loyal followers.  Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity—every good path.  For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil—from the one who says perverse things, [from] those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, [from] those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversion, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious.” (2:1-15)

Years ago, there was a pop song by Harry Nilsson with the title drawn from the opening line, “Everybody’s talkin’ at me.”  They are!  There is no shortage of counsel for us.  But much of it is bad—and needs to be tuned out.  The good counsel is found in the Good Book.  The will of God is found in the Word of God—and wise is the man or woman who apprehends it.

Do the persons you listen to, the publications you read, the programs you watch, and the music you hear offer you the wisdom of the Word or that of the world?  Our minds are like sponges and if we absorb bad counsel, we will not experience the good life.


We won’t have the good life is we practice bad conduct. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.  Don't consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.  Honor the Lord with your possessions
and with the first produce of your entire harvest; then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.  Do not despise the Lord's instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in.” (3:5-12)

The good life is found in the practice of godliness.  It isn’t that there are no temporary pleasures in sin—even Scripture acknowledges this reality.  Let’s face it, what makes temptation so tempting is the immediate gratification it typically brings.  But, the price is way too high.  We exchange true life for a momentary fix—much like the junkie who injects heroin in his or her veins.  The craving is quickly appeased and just as quickly returns—with even more powerful demands—and all the while, the addict is enslaved, with those chains dragging them down to destruction.  Relatively few are wise enough to practice godliness, because it is very costly upfront—there is self-denial—even a cross!  But, the blessedness that comes—to be fully alive as God intended for us to be, and then to dwell in eternal glory—that is worth everything!

Conduct a personal inventory.  What does the fruit of your lifestyle indicate about the root of your life?  No matter what you claim with your lips, what does the conduct of your life show?  The good life demands good living.

WISDOM’S WAY (Proverbs 4)

We won’t find the good life by following a bad course.

Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.  Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established.  Don't turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.” (4:25-27)

Our Associate Pastor of Youth, Kevin Burns, said it well in his sermon last Sunday, “Direction determines destination.”  He said, “If you want to go to Florida, you don’t head north.”  So true!  If you want a good life, you must choose wisdom’s way.  The promises are precious and powerful:

Listen, my son. Accept my words, and you will live many years.  I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths.  When you walk, your steps will not be hindered; when you run, you will not stumble.  Hold on to instruction; don't let go.
Guard it, for it is your life.” (4:10-13)

As we walk through the wisdom of Proverbs in this week’s readings, I encourage you to mark the path carefully.  Commit yourself to that narrow path of truth.  Focus and apply the message and you will end up where you want—the good life!

Monday, May 28, 2012

LASTING LOVE: How Lasting Love Will Endure

I opened to my love, but my love had turned and gone away. I was crushed that he had left. I sought him, but did not find him. I called him, but he did not answer.” (Song of Solomon 5:6 HCSB)

Weddings can be wonderful occasions, but a ceremony is not a marriage.  Promises without performance are worthless words.  I can still remember conducting a wedding for a dear friend’s daughter.  It was beautiful, and I’m sure it was an expensive ceremony.  But, after only two months, the marriage ended.  It is after we say, “I do,” that there is much to be done!  It doesn’t take long before the first fight and we want to take flight. That’s where commitment to our vows is so important.  Feelings ebb and flow like the tides, but the anchor in love’s harbor is the covenant you make before God and His church.  There are going to be seasons of life when every marriage must weather storms—but by the grace of God, we can.

In today’s study, we see trouble in paradise.  The wedding is past—and the honeymoon is over!  Issues arise when two individuals take up residence under the same roof.  But, true love can last—and in fact mature and grow as the years go by.  Let’s discover how this happens.


The quicker we put aside the fairy tale that a marriage is all a walk on the beach at night while fireworks light up the sky, and embrace the reality that it is more often a marathon run with hurdles to overcome, the better off we’ll be.  Difficulties are potentially disastrous.  If ignored, they are like termites eating away at the home, until great damage is done.  If those issues aren’t resolved, they can eventually destroy the marriage.  The issues often begin as little things—termites—some stuff that “bugs” you.  But, you can’t afford not to confront those issues, for they only get worse with time. 

Solomon and his bride had issues!  One would think that after the romantic language they shared, the wedding they had, the honeymoon they enjoyed and the palace they moved into, that all we would hear are the violins playing a love song.  We would expect to read, “And they lived happily ever after.”  Not exactly—there is a sour note!

Reading between the lines, maybe the story unfolded like this.  Solomon is taking care of business.  The daily demands of being a king—all the responsibilities of governing the nation—wore upon him.  They were time consuming.  Meanwhile, his new bride decides to fix a lavish meal.  She puts great effort into spreading the table.  She has put on that sexy dress he likes.  The most expensive perfume has been poured between her breasts.  Soft music is playing and the only the lights are turned down low.  There is anticipation—and disappointment!

The time goes by, and Solomon is a no-show.  The food is cold—and so is she—icy to be precise.  She picks at a few morsels on her plate—her appetite gone.  The music is stopped and she is alone with her thoughts—her mind filled with resentment.  All she wants is a little time.  He works hard on the job, why doesn’t he do more at home?  She exchanges that slinky outfit for some flannel pajamas and trudges off to a lonely bed.  The look of love in her eyes is now shuttered behind her eyelids in slumber.  It is a fitful rest.  She dreams of what might have been, but it is becoming a nightmare.

Solomon finally gets home from work.  What a day in the office!  But, he has done what men do—and he feels successful.  In fact, everyone tells him what a great job he does.  So, he wants to celebrate. He’s feeling frisky and can’t wait to jump into the sack with that hot wife of his.  Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. For my head is drenched with dew, my hair with droplets of the night.” (5:2b).  What he experiences isn’t a warm embrace, but the cold shoulder, “I have taken off my clothing. How can I put it back on? I have washed my feet. How can I get them dirty?” (5:3).  Basically, she says, “Not tonight—I have a headache!”

To a man that feels like rejection.  Solomon isn’t used to being rejected.  So, he pouts and leaves the palace, slamming the door as he goes out into the darkness, fuming.  All he does is work hard and try to provide for her.  It looks like she could show him some respect when he gets home.  He certainly gets it from others.  In fact, as he left today, a pretty young thing touched his arm and said, “You are amazing.  We are so privileged to have you as our king.”  Perhaps, he recalls that’s the way his wife used to look at him—and he could begin to take steps down the road of imagination to a destination where he ought not go.

This kind of thing happens all the time.  Every married couple has experienced something akin to it.  The dynamics of the two genders with their differing perspectives on life, two personalities, different backgrounds, the myriad of pressures of the daily grind with its constant demands can blend together into a toxic stew.  If we aren’t careful, we will go from walking down an aisle in marriage to walking into a lawyer’s office to file for divorce.


We speak of Solomon’s wisdom.  His wife shows even more, in this case.  That is often the case.  I know that in our marriage, I will often want to avoid the issues—to just roll over and go to sleep.  I may not leave the house—I never have—but, I have gotten so close to the edge of the bed, that if I sneezed, I would have fallen out!  Marilyn, however, is persistent.  She wants to solve it.  Thankfully, she does—it has been vital in maintaining our relationship.   Thus, in the Song of Solomon, she goes out looking for him.  She knows that this has to be faced.  There were obstacles.  It wasn’t easy.  She got hurt.  But, love can overcome the obstacles.  If love is to last, it must.

Just be aware that if you don’t give your spouse attention, someone is watching and waiting to do it.  Some of her “friends” want to know where that handsome hunk of hers has gone.  Where has your love gone, most beautiful of women? Which way has he turned? We will seek him with you.” (6:1)  They seem so sympathetic, don’t they?  Maybe, their concern was genuine—and perhaps they were just cougars stalking their prey.

A man will find significance somewhere.  If he is rejected at home, he will seek fulfillment elsewhere.  His mistress may not be another woman.  It may be his work.  My love has gone down to his garden, to beds of spice, to feed in the gardens and gather lilies.” (6:2)  So importantly, she is determined to find him and set things right.  I am my love's and my love is mine; he feeds among the lilies.” (6:3)

When he sees her, Solomon is again smitten with her beauty.  He remembers very well now what had drawn him to her in the first place.  She looks into his eyes and praises him—and the sparks fly.  There is spontaneous combustion!

Sex is certainly not all there is to marriage—although many wives would say that it seems that is all their husband thinks it is.  Still, God has designed that act to be the most intimate sharing of love—two becoming one—and must not be neglected or the seeds of unfaithfulness may be sown.  Paul put it this way,

But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.  A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband.  A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.  Do not deprive one another sexually-except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:2-5 HCSB)

Of course, men need to understand that women are different.  It has been said that men are like microwaves and women like crock pots.  A man wants to enjoy sex to feel he is loved and a woman wants to feel loved to enjoy sex.

Husbands ought to know that romance doesn’t begin in the bedroom.  It begins in helping wash dishes at the kitchen sink.  It begins with meaningful conversation around the dining room table. Problems in the bedroom, likewise, have their origins in other rooms in the house.


If a fire isn’t tended, the fire goes out.  Solomon and his spouse fuel the flame of romance.  They speak the language of love.  They will get on the same page of sheet music.  They see their relationship as important enough to make an effort to strengthen and sustain it.

The royal couple realizes that after this romantic renewal that if it is to last for the long haul, they must plan for it.  Come, my love, let's go to the field; let's spend the night among the henna blossoms. Let's go early to the vineyards; let's see if the vine has budded, if the blossom has opened, if the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. The mandrakes give off a fragrance, and at our doors is every delicacy-new as well as old. I have treasured them up for you, my love.”  (7:11-13)   

If you don’t have regular romantic rendezvous, you will find a subtle erosion of love.  Life just happens—and love becomes the casualty of busyness. Morning will mark a return for Solomon to duty, and for her—maybe in nine months—there will be children to care for.

Spontaneity is wonderful, but with the arrival of children, romance will need to be planned—date nights and romantic getaways that will build enduring intimacy.  Marilyn and I have always tried to have some of those.  It binds the heart together.  The kids won’t like it when they are young.  As you take them to a baby-sitter, they will cry, “I want to go with you!”  If you really love them, you will leave them!  What they need most is a stable home, the security of a Dad and Mom, their example of love to lead them toward a similar experience when grown.  They will appreciate it later, even if they say, “Ewwww! You got in a hot tub together at your age!”

A younger generation needs to know these truths, “Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.” (8:4)  The Queen is seen as a model for her little sister (read 8:8-9).  She will persuade the child that true love waist and that it is worth the wait!  This will guard the young girl’s virginity until marriage.

Lasting love can be ours!  It is God’s desire, if we pursue His design.  Meditate on these words,

Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death; ardent love is as unrelenting as Sheol. Love's flames are fiery flames-the fiercest of all.  Mighty waters cannot extinguish love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If a man were to give all his wealth for love, it would be utterly scorned.” (8:6-7)

The closest thing to heaven that you will experience on earth is in marriage—or the nearest thing to hell.  Love is a choice—which kind of fire do you want?  The fire of romance that warms your home or the fire of resentment that burns it down?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

LASTING LOVE: How Lasting Love Is Established

“Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and the wild does of the field: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.” (Song of Solomon 2:7 HCSB)

Can marriage survive? 

The assault by Satan on this first, God-given institution has been highly successful.  Marriage is being shunned more and more, as couples just live together.  Cohabitation has become epidemic, and is no longer frowned upon.  Multiple divorces and remarriages have meant serial polygamy.  Our society is moving toward increasing acceptance of “same-sex” marriage, which would completely redefine it.

There can be many reasons why the state of modern marriage is crumbling, but there is one cause that is primary—most marriages are built on a faulty foundation—so they do not stand.

I recall several years ago, seeing a news story about a housing development in Texas.  People had built their dream homes.  But, then some of the walls of those houses began to crack.  Day after day, one home after another experienced this—and it became so bad that they became unsafe for occupation.  Those houses were bulldozed down.  The unscrupulous contractor had built them on a landfill.  The foundation was not stable and when that is the case, the structure cannot stand.  Jesus said that in Matthew 7:24-27:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn't collapse, because its foundation was on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn't act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

God’s design is for marriage to be permanent and sex to be pure.  Near the beginning of the Bible we read, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.  Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:24-25 HCSB)  Jesus reaffirmed this as His standard under the New Covenant as well (see Matthew 19:4-6).  Then, approaching the end of the Bible we hear, “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4 HCSB)

Sex is not a dirty word.  God designed it, and a holy God can only produce that which is good—so there is good sex—good not only in its momentary intensity but in its enduring intimacy.  All things are to be done to the glory of God and that means the marital bond should be also. 

The Bible teaches that in the beginning God made humans sexual beings—male and female.  They stood before Him, and each other, naked and unashamed.  He ordained that marriage be consummated through physical intercourse. 

So, how did sex become something defiled?

Into that pristine environment of Eden, came the filthy invasion of sin, which perverted and distorted everything.  The pure became polluted, the clean was corrupted and the beautiful became base.  Thus, our world views sex as something pornographic, something lewd and crude.  Sadly, even the church has bought into this philosophy, and we have often responded to our culture by avoiding discussing the positive pleasure of sex, and if spoken of at all, just railing against the negative perversion of it.  Don’t be mistaken, there are many biblical prohibitions to sinful sexual activity.  People need to hear them.  We need to shout out against the dirty distortion of the world.  The message of Scripture is clear and we can summarize it like this: sex outside of marriage is wrong.  Yet, we cannot stop there—and often in conservative, Bible-believing churches we have.  We must also say what the Bible teaches about the beauty of sanctified sex.   How can one read the Song of Solomon and conclude otherwise?

It is a book often avoided.  We think discussing such matters in church is taboo.  Not in front of the children!  That is a mistake with tragic implications.  Someone will educate children concerning sex.  Our world is doing it—and what they are learning is utterly contrary to God’s design.  Nature abhors a vacuum and if the church doesn’t fill that void with truth, you can be sure the Devil and his minions will fill it with trash.

Doesn’t everyone enjoy a love song?   Maybe you have a favorite.  When Marilyn and I were dating, we listened to love songs—we still do.  “Our” song was by a group called Chicago entitled, “Color My World.” It says,

“As time goes on I realize
Just what you mean to me
And now, now that you're near
Promise your love
That I've waited to share
And dreams of our moments together
Color my world with hope of loving you.”

That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  Our children laugh at us for having such a simple little ditty in our wedding.  We thought it said a lot!

Solomon had a favorite song of many that he composed, “Solomon's Finest Song.” (1:1)  This book contains only eight chapters, yet it contains a comprehensive message of the positive pleasure of pure sex.  When you read it, if you have a romantic bone in your body, you are left breathless and saying, “What more do you need to say?”

In this first study, we look at the establishing of lasting love, and in the next study we observe the enduring of lasting love.  Lasting love is established on a foundation of courtship that is passionate, yet pure and covenant that is celebrated in public and consummated in private.  Marriage can survive—and even thrive!


We call it “dating.”  There is a chemical reaction—a magnetic attraction.  Oh, that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is more delightful than wine. The fragrance of your perfume is intoxicating; your name is perfume poured out. No wonder young women adore you.” (1:2-3)  Now, love has to be more than hormonal—it is commitment—but, it certainly ought to include physical attraction.  If there are no sparks in courtship, there will be no fire in marriage!

We are wired up by our Creator as sexual beings.  I tell couples in premarital counseling that if you are not aroused with physical desire for your fiancĂ©e, then by no means should you marry them.  Sex isn’t all there is to marriage, but it’s important.  This is the point where the hormones are going to kick in, and becoming an adult means leaving your parents’ arms to rest in the arms of your spouse.

Sexuality isn’t meant to be repressed, as though it is something evil to experience.  It is meant to be restrained, as a powerful force that cannot be properly expressed during courtship.  A fire inside a fireplace will warm your house, but if it gets out on the floor, it will burn your house down!  The marriage covenant is like that fireplace, meant to keep the glow of romance burning between husband and wife.  Sex outside that “fireplace” while very hot for a while, ends up destructive.

It is the difference between sinful lust and sanctified love.  Lust cannot wait to get, but love can wait to give.  God isn’t trying to spoil your pleasure, but to seal and sustain it.  The wedding night ought to be a special night.  The honeymoon should be a time of exploration and adventure.  Otherwise, what’s the point?


During my lifetime, there have been several “Royal Weddings” televised from England, beamed by satellite around the world.  But, long before that, the Old Testament contained a wedding fit for a king—that of Solomon and his bride.  In the courtship, there had been preparation and now in their covenant there will be celebration.

“Come out, young women of Zion, and gaze at King Solomon, wearing the crown his mother placed on him the day of his wedding-the day of his heart's rejoicing.” (3:11)

While we often focus on the bride in weddings today—what she wore and who accompanied her—the focus in those days was on the bridegroom!  Before she is mentioned, Solomon’s entourage and appearance is highlighted (3:6-11).  One remnant of this in the modern ceremony is the tradition of the groom entering first.  This reminds us that the man in the house is to be the leader and initiator.  This is God’s design.

Then, “Here comes the bride!” (4:1-11)  What a beauty she is!  I have done many weddings and I have never seen an ugly bride (though there were one or two close calls).  Insofar as Solomon is concerned, she is flawless! “You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you.” (4:7)  Really, there is no such thing as physical perfection.  The images put in magazines of these stunning models are air-brushed in the photography, and they have often had many “enhancements” which artificially alter them.  But, here is the reality of true love—it gives a lens that corrects flaws and makes a man say, “She’s perfect!”  We may look at her and wonder what he saw in her, but what he saw was with the eyes of love—the one God perfectly designed to complete him.

After the celebration, there would be consummation.  All the pent up passion would be unleashed!  The garden of her delight had been locked, and now swings wide open.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride-with me from Lebanon! Descend from the peak of Amana, from the summit of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards. You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride. You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful your love is, my sister, my bride. Your love is much better than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any balsam. Your lips drip [sweetness like] the honeycomb, my bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. My sister, my bride, [you are] a locked garden-a locked garden and a sealed spring. Your branches are a paradise of pomegranates with choicest fruits, henna with nard—nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the best spices.  [You are] a garden spring, a well of flowing water streaming from Lebanon.  Awaken, north wind-come, south wind. Blow on my garden, and spread the fragrance of its spices. Let my love come to his garden and eat its choicest fruits.” (4:8-16)

What a honeymoon!  Solomon would say, “It was worth the wait!”

Now, what if you didn’t wait?  Does that mean the marriage can never work?  There will be hurdles to overcome—make no mistake about it—but that is what grace is about.  If you have never as a couple acknowledged your sin—confess it to God, and ask forgiveness of one another.  God has promised that He will forgive and heal.

Some who are reading these words may even now be engaging in sex outside of marriage.  Stop!  Repent and ask God to restore your purity.  Physically, your virginity once surrendered can never be reclaimed, but spiritually, you can be as holy as if you had never sinned.  That’s what the blood of Jesus will do.

Lasting love is to be our goal.  If God has someone for you, it will be a special someone.  Establish your relationship in a manner that glorifies God and it will be good for you!