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"Deepening Desire"

Feb.22, 2015 Ps.84:1-5; SoS 1:1-11

(adapted from The Song movie event kit by Kyle Idleman; used with permission)


The Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, is one of the most interesting, unique books in the Bible. Nothing else is like it. Psalms has poetry, but not like this. Ruth and Esther have love stories, but not like this one. Paul talked about marriage, but not as Song of Solomon does. This book of the Bible can be a little difficult to understand, seems a little out of place (at first glance), and may even be a little uncomfortable. But what Song of Solomon contains is worth navigating the cultural language, the poetic descriptions, and even the inevitable blushing because it accurately and beautifully conveys the emotions of a very real, very passionate love story.

Before we get into some specific study in this book, let's acknowledge some things up front: this book talks about a young couple meeting and getting to know each other; about engagement and the excitement that brings; about the wedding, and the wedding night; about sex; and, it talks about conflict. It's all here, and we're not going to shy away from it. Because while some of these things seem at times uncomfortable or out of place in church - not normally what you'd hear in a sermon! - the truth is that it's real life. And we can love that this slice of real life is in Scripture - because it's a great reminder to us that God created and cares about all of life, even those more sensitive parts of it.

As we begin this study of attraction, love, marriage, and everything that comes with it, we're going to start at the beginning: attraction. Something inside all of us is made to feel attraction, and how we process and handle it is important. It's significant that this book is called a "song," because love, at its most beautiful, is just that, and how the song starts is just as important as how it progresses. Often influences majorly how it progresses.

We may tend to ask ourselves three important questions in the beginning phase of a romantic relationship, so let's analyze those three questions in the order they typically come up: "What do I want? What do I need? And, what does God want?"


The first question most people ask about potential boyfriends / girlfriends and try to sort through, whether out loud or just in their minds, goes something like this: "What do I want?" That's a good question. Kyle Idleman, pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville Kentucky, remembers being a fourteen-year-old, just in high school, and making a list of all the things he wanted to look for in a wife. Some of it's pretty cool because he found it in his wife: beautiful, smart, funny. What many guys would want in a potential mate.

Attraction begins with what we want. That's what attraction is. One dictionary defines attraction as "something that attracts or is intended to attract people by appealing to their desires and tastes." Attraction involves what we want. That's OK! If we weren't attracted physically, mentally, intellectually, and emotionally to our spouse, we wouldn't spend the hours together that we did when dating, or possibly even get married and make a lifetime commitment.

Do you remember that first moment of attraction? Remember the feelings you experienced? Maybe, if you have that in your minds, you can resonate with this first meeting of Jed & Rose in this short video clip, too... [Play video clip, Deepening Desire (1:17-1:57)].

Such encounters are very noteworthy. It might just have been an insignificant meeting, but when attraction is involved, it becomes something different, something memorable, something...life-changing.

We see this kind of attraction in Song of Solomon. Look at chapter one, verses 9-11: "I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh.Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels.We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver." This is the first time we hear from the man in Song of Solomon, and he's talking about - what else?! - how beautiful this woman is. The image he used in verse 9 is a really fun one. The word harnessed that you see in some translations isn't actually in the original Hebrew text; it's the translators' attempt to understand this image. But the sentence actually makes a lot more sense without that added word. He says she's like "a mare among Pharaoh's chariot horses." Apparently, this was a common battle tactic - releasing a female horse around the enemy's chariots, and the male horses would get distracted and could no longer pull the chariots! That's what the man says his beloved woman is like: a distraction so powerful, so beautiful that he couldn't focus on anything else.

He talks about her cheeks and her jewelry, and he's drawn to it...Attraction. This is what he wants. And that's a good thing!

She has a few things to say as well. Look back at vv 2-4: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth-- for your love is more delightful than wine.Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.No wonder the maidens love you! Take me away with you-- let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers..." She's obviously seeing something she wants in him, too. This isn't a bland, emotionless arrangement of two people; there's passion here. She wants him to kiss her; she says she'd rather be loved by him than enjoy wine. In verse 3 she says he smells good. He's put on cologne, and she likes it, she's drawn to it.

But something else she says is even more important, and it moves us to the next question we inherently ask in attraction: What Do I Need?


You can be attracted to physical beauty, cologne, and other outward appearances, and that's all great, but if it doesn't get deeper at some point, the romance is doomed to die. Look at what the woman says in the last part of verse 3: "...your name is like perfume poured out.No wonder the maidens love you!" She's drawn to his name. Now, this likely isn't what she's talking about: she's not talking about the junior-high girl who writes "Brad" on the front of her notebook and decorates it with hearts. The woman in Song of Solomon didn't love his name like that. She likely means something more along the lines of what we mean when we pray, "I ask it in Jesus' name." We don't mean just that the word "Jesus" sounds really cool and we want to say it in our prayers just because we like it. What we mean by "in Jesus' name" is the backing and endorsement of Christ's reputation, character, His whole person and qualities. That's what she's getting at here.

She adds onto that: "No wonder the maidens love you." Probably some of the other women in the city are physically drawn, just as she was, to this hunk, yet there's more to it. Everyone in town loves him because of his name.

This is a good check for us when we're attracted to someone or beginning a romantic relationship: does anyone else see the good things we see? It's easy in the midst of infatuation to think that she or he is the most wonderful thing to ever walk the face of the earth. But if your parents or your friends, or other people you really respect, don't agree with you about this person's name - that is, his or her reputation or character - it's time to call a halt and do some probing and somber reflection. Put the brakes on the steam engine.

That's hard to do. We tend to find every excuse we can to write off what other people do or don't see in them, but that's where this second question becomes so crucial: what do you need? At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, your relationship is going to have to move from physical attraction to something deeper. What you need is not someone you think is pretty or wears great cologne. What you need is someone of character, someone you can trust, someone who treats you with respect, someone who will follow Jesus with you. At some point you have to ask the question: What am I truly attracted to? Is it just superficial features, or is there substance there? Will this person help me know God more fully?

And that leads us to the third question we need to ask in this process: What Does God Want?


At some point, those of us who aspire to follow Jesus with our whole lives have to ask the question, "What does God want?" Because, as we noted earlier, this whole romantic deal is a part of life that God cares about. As Christians, this decision isn't up to just us: We need to line up with what the LORD wants.

Look carefully at what the woman says in Song of Solomon 3:5: "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you...do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." She's been talking about how much she loves this man, how attracted she is to him, and how she longs to be with him, but she can also see with wisdom that once this process had begun, it had a natural course it would run. The engine has left the roundhouse and is picking up speed down the railroad tracks. And once you let it get started, it can easily run out of control. She's talking about restraining the desire he's developed in her. And she'll make this statement two more times in Song of Solomon: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. Even though attraction has been aroused, there's still a need for restraint and patience, self-control, discernment, good judgment. This is a HUGE decision! Sex (the physical union) needs to be saved for marriage. For example, 1Thess 4:3-5,8: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God...Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit."

This is one of God's commands to us that is not easy, is not particularly "fun", and is certainly not what the world around us portrays. But at some point on this journey, if we're really Christ-followers, we must involve God and do things HIS way.

Now, part of our problem is that we usually think of it just that way, that at some point we need to check in and be sure God's OK with this. But like anything else in our lives, God doesn't want to be a second, third, fourth, or last resort. God has the first say. Our bodies and our society, however, follow that order of the questions: starting with What do I want, what do I need, and only then - what does God have to say about it? The order needs to be reversed!

The results of allowing ourselves to go unchecked in this area can be disastrous. We can learn a lot of things from this love story and from the story of Solomon in general, but one of the most important is that we can't let our own choices, decisions, desires, or attractions short-circuit God's will.

We know the story of Solomon. God told him he could have anything he wanted, and Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge, so he could govern God's people (2 Chronicles 1:10). God granted his request, God said, "since THIS is your heart's desire" instead of wealth, riches, honour, long life, or the death of his enemies (2Chron 1:11). Solomon became wise, incredibly wise; people travelled long distances from other countries just to listen to his wisdom. 2Chron 9:22f "King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart." He had God's wisdom at his disposal, enough to write most of the book of Proverbs. And Solomon seems wise in his actions as the man in Song of Solomon. He sought God's will first, and it led to great wealth, power, and success.

But at some point, Solomon let the tide turn, and he started making the decisions himself. He let the physical, cultural course of things run free...and it led to disaster for Solomon and the kingdom of Israel.

When Jesus is the king of your life, it doesn't mean you get to call the shots first-off and, much later, check in with God at some point down the road to get His rubber stamp and be sure He's still going to take care of you. When Jesus is king, when He is honoured as "Lord", it means He calls the shots.

So we need to be careful to heed the woman's advice: Do not arouse or awaken love until the right time. God needs to be the first check and balance: He needs to hold the trump card. But if, instead of by faith, we let our flesh start to call the shots - it gets harder and harder to stop.

Yet if we can reverse the order of those questions and start by asking God what He wants, chances are we'll find a love like the one in Song of Solomon, and it will become its own song. And if you haven't done that, God still wants to write a song with your marriage. Even if it didn't start out by letting him in, it's better late than never, and He can take your marriage and make it sing a more beautiful song than you ever thought possible. Let's pray.