“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 DIFFICULTIES WE ENCOUNTER (5:2-9)
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.
THE DETERMINATION WE EXPRESS (5:10-6:3)
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.
THE DELIGHT WE EXPERIENCE (6:4-8:14)
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
, 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. Jerusalem
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?