The Song of Songs is filled with vivid imagery, with moving, poetic descriptions of a passionate romance and the heartaches and triumphs of love. Love is arguably the strongest emotion humankind possesses. This ancient Middle Eastern chronicle of the love story between a king and an ordinary country girl could rank high among the hundreds of fairytale-like, rags-to-riches accounts that have captured our imaginations for centuries.
But could it have relevance in our lives? Could it be more than just a charming love saga or a random, mysterious book someone decided should be in the Bible? Not only is it a captivating picture of the relationship between God and His people, it is also a guide to illustrate the very best that a human love relationship can be and how it should be approached.
The lover in this story is generally accepted as being Solomon. He was the king of Israel and a popular, good-looking, strong guy. But…who was the girl? Well, I can put forward a couple of theories you might be interested in. The one that captures my attention most is the one I’d like to put out there as a foundation. We can’t say exactly what her name was, because Song of Songs never gives her name, so it’s simply guesswork as to who she was, but there’s a very strong likelihood that her name was Abishag.
In 1 Kings 1 we see that King David wasn’t doing too well – he was physically run-down, old, cold and about to die – so his family decided to find him a young lady. Before you jump to conclusions, remember they didn’t have hot water bottles or heated blankets in those days. So the next best thing was to find a young lady who could sleep next to King David to keep him warm. They looked carefully, and in the area of Shunem, which is a small place a little distance from Jezreel, they chose this lady called Abishag, a teenage girl, to come and lie next to him.
It says clearly in 1 Kings 1 that there was no sexual relationship between David and this young girl. She merely cooked and looked after the house and so on. So my guess is that Solomon, the young prince, saw the Shunammite girl around the palace. It’s possible that because he was paying close attention to his father, whom she was looking after, he saw her often and next thing the sparks started to fly! Some of you might say that this argument is too weak or too romantic; I mean, just because this Shunammite girl was in the palace and he was a young teenage Prince (he was still heir to the throne), it doesn’t necessarily mean that they fell in love.
But wait, the very next chapter, chapter 2 of 1 Kings, gives us a little more insight into Solomon’s approach to this girl, and possibly evidence that he felt something for her.
Solomon had an older brother whose name was Adonijah, another one of David’s sons. Adonijah (who wasn’t a very nice piece of work at all) took an interest in Abishag, but figured that he wouldn’t be able to get this girl on his own. So he went to Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and he asked her to ask Solomon if Adonijah could have Abishag as his wife. She agreed to do that.
Solomon moved a throne for his mom to sit on next to his own and he said, “Mom, my favourite mom, what can I do for you?” She replied, “I want to ask you a favour. Please don’t refuse me. I have one small request… would you give Abishag to your brother Adonijah as his wife?”
Solomon totally freaked out! He exclaimed, “What?! You might as well ask me to give away half the kingdom!” Now, it’s very clear that Bathsheba didn’t see anything wrong with the request and it’s also very clear that Abishag did not marry King David. So we’re not talking about David’s wife, we’re talking about an ordinary servant girl in the house. Solomon was so furious that he had Adonijah killed. He had his brother killed because his brother wanted to marry Abishag.
Now we can’t say in Scripture that it was definitely her, but Abishag was a Shunammite, and she was in the palace when he was young and available His heart boiled over with rage at the idea of her marrying someone else. So…she sounds a likely candidate, don’t you think?
Whoever the mystery girl in the Song of Songs might have been, whether she was Naamah who was Rehaboam’s mother, or whether she was Abishag, she WAS a Shunammite girl, and what we see here are 3000 year old love songs and love poems between Solomon and his bride-to-be. Song of Songs is not a linear book: that is, it does not have a beginning, a story line, and then a conclusion. It’s more like a photo album with snapshots of the relationship between Solomon and his bride.
Some people might think, “Well, this old guy had 700 wives and 300 concubines by the end of his life, so should we REALLY be listening to his advice on dating and marriage?” Yes, he messed up, he followed idols and other gods in the later part of his life, but in the beginning of his life he had a pure heart toward God. He started out well. God’s favour was on him, and he fell in love with this young lady. Of everything Solomon wrote, he said this book was his best – the Song ofALLSongs.
We’re going to be looking at this love story very practically along the lines of engagement, courtship and dating in our lives today. Jewish tradition tells us that Solomon wrote this at the beginning of his adult life. He wrote Proverbs while he was busy ruling Israel and at the end of his days, after he had botched it all up and strayed from God, he wrote Ecclesiastes. By then he was repentant and sobered by his mistakes.
Firstly, let me ask you a question: Suppose you’re a sweet Christian girl, engaged to a young Christian boy. You are a few weeks away from your wedding, and you decide to write a love song, a joyful love song to your fiancé. How would you start?
Look at how this young lady started: “Let him kiss me, with the kisses of his mouth.” (verse 2) Wow! She was pretty direct. These first eight verses were clearly penned just before the wedding. She was looking toward her wedding day, and she said, “I can’t wait until he kisses me!”
The question I want to ask is this: Is it wrong for a young woman who is engaged to long for her first kiss? No, I don’t think it is. If you’re engaged and you’re thinking about that kiss and you want to vomit, then I suggest you call off the wedding immediately, because you’ve got the wrong guy! God is a romantic God – He designed romance. He designed the kiss, and in its proper context it’s beautiful and holy. This girl has kept herself for her groom.
I can remember very clearly the wedding of Matthew and Shelley. Now, most couples want to practise but they said they did not want a rehearsal… So I thought, “Well, that’s great! That gives me my Friday afternoon off”. I arrived at the wedding and took my place with a few of the pastors fromNCFwho were best men to Matthew (Matthew was one of the pastors inNCFat the time). Soon the Wedding March started playing. The bridesmaids and flower-girls came down the aisle. Everything was going according to plan. Matthew was standing there, his legs shaking, wiping his hands and hyperventilating. Then the music stopped, and I thought, “I knew they should have practised”. The doors were still closed. All of a sudden Shelley’s voice came over on the sound system, “Matthew, I have been waiting for this day my whole life. I can’t wait until you hold me in your arms. I can’t wait until you give me that first kiss.” I was undone!
I turned around and looked at the guys. Matthew was finished, absolutely finished. He was crying. He didn’t know what to do with himself. I took my introduction to the wedding, which is normally light-hearted, and threw it away. I thought, “I don’t know what we’re going to do here.” Her dad then walked down the aisle and he was crying, and the grooms were crying – everybody was crying. And why? Because she said, “I’m longing for your kiss.” Longing is beautiful. It’s holy.
Doesn’t Solomon’s wife-to-be sound a bit aggressive? She comes across as very forward. Somehow we have bought into this idea that women have to be back-footed and silent. (For married women: please note that back-footed and silent fell out of some Victorian age somewhere – it certainly does NOT come out of the Bible.)
However, we must notice here that she isn’t chasing him – she’s inviting him to kiss her. She’s saying, “Take a lead in this thing; I can’t wait till you do”. Ladies, if you start chasing a man, instead of inviting him to pursue you, you stand the chance of losing your dignity. There’s a difference between chasing and inviting.
The Shunammite woman goes on to say in verse 2, “for your love”. Now, that word for ‘love’ isn’t romantic, gushy love. It’s not about how you love your dog or your cat or your next-door neighbour. That word in Hebrew is ‘honeymoon love’.
“For your love is more delightful than wine”. Wine in the Bible is always linked with celebration. She is saying that she is looking forward to her honeymoon, and it’s going to be the biggest party ever! She’s looking forward; she’s declaring that it’s not shameful, as she has held herself together, and she has something beautiful to give him.
If you are a young lady and are planning to write a love song to your fiancé, please would you wait until a couple of days before the wedding? Because if you don’t, there will be a whole bunch of men to counsel. We’ll have to put them on Prozac or something similar. Remember: there is a time and there is a season for everything. Only just before the wedding, she said she was looking forward to the honeymoon; she was looking forward to his kiss, not a long time before. Often, sadly, that sense of wonder is not there on the eve of the wedding, because of how we approach it.
When a young guy wants to talk to me about relationships, about marriage and he isn’t married yet, I say to him, “Just hang on, do you want me to give you the best marriage advice I could ever give you?… Pick the right person – it will save you a huge amount of trouble.” Now the right person for Billy is not the right person for Joe. You see I’m not saying that there is a right prototype out there that you need to pick, but what I am saying is give it serious thought.
A) Does he stink?
(SOS1 v 3) “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.” This was the girl speaking about the guy. It was tradition in those days after your bath, to rub yourself with oils and ointments (just like we use cologne today). She said, “I love your smell.” I bet you didn’t think that smell was Biblical, did you?! So my first point is (and I’m not kidding): gentlemen, watch the way you smell! A woman doesn’t really want to hang out with a guy who stinks like other guys! She just doesn’t. Have a bath, wash your hair, clean your nails, wash your clothes, and use aftershave. Marriage is not a rugby scrum and it’s not an all boys’ school; you are about to live with a lady. The smell is not restricted to your physical appearance: it’s got to do with your character; who you are. If some guy walks into a room, and he’s all grumpy, he might have the body of a Greek god and he might have a wallet as thick as Bill Gates, but something about him stinks; something smells bad.
Ladies, when you’re looking for a man and you come across one that’s just a big, cranky guy, well, he’s just going to get worse as he gets older. If you are a grumpy bloke now, saying, “Grant, you’ve just cancelled out half the women I could potentially marry!”, then, get a life! Get happy! Let the love of Jesus come upon you. It’s NOT a grumpy parade.
Stinginess, by the way, also stinks. If you are in the car with him, ladies, and you go past a guy at Pick ‘n Pay who’s looked after your car, you can see six little R2.00 coins in the dash, yet all of a sudden your guy is ducking out to get to the back entrance without tipping the guard; that stinks.
So, what does it mean to smell good? Well, to have the aroma of Jesus, that’s what it means. You can tell if someone spends time with Jesus – there is a fragrance that comes to and from heaven (Do you know that it says in the Psalms that our prayers rise to heaven like fragrant incense?) and you can smell it on them. Well, not literally smell it, but you can sense it. You can also smell carnality a mile away – even if the guy is smooth and cool. If he’s domineering and controlling, you can smell that a mile away.
B) Does he toss his name?
(SOS1 v 3) “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.” Your name is important. In Bible times your name did not just speak of what your father had given you. Your name described your character, your reputation; it had substance. When she heard Solomon’s name, she said, “When I hear your name, Solomon, son of David”, that whole David dynasty meant something to her. You carry your name with you. I have been trying to help my young boy with this understanding of marriage. Often I say to him, “Boy, do Crawford boys do that?” What am I saying? I am telling him there is a name, there is a Crawford name, and he is going to carry that as a precious thing.
Guys, when she hears your name, what kind of thoughts does it stir up? For example, do you have a name for being someone who honours people? Do you have a name for being someone who honours your mom and dad, for that matter? As an aside, if you don’t honour your mom and dad, biblically, it’s not going to go well with you – you are just trashing your own name. You’re telling your wife, that’s how you treat your mother, and as she’s the next woman in your life she’ll get that treatment because she is going to be old like that one day. Do you have a name for purity, for keeping yourself free from sin in this area? Anything of value costs something and a good name costs as well. You have to give up things you may really want in order to achieve it. You might say, “Well, I’ve messed up already. It happened before I was saved or actually before I really got serious with God”. In that case, even though you have made mistakes, it’s not too late. If you turn to Jesus now, and ask Him to cleanse you, to wash you whiter than snow and to get you ready, then every single day you can become more and more like Christ. Then, once you have turned, once you have repented, and He has cleansed you, He takes away your sin as far as the east is from the west.
Guys, I now want to talk about this issue of being above reproach, in other words, setting an example that people can’t find fault with. For example, think about driving alone in a car with a girl; in other words a young girl and a young guy together in a car. Does the Bible forbid that? No, of course it doesn’t. Is it bad? No. Do I think it’s a bad idea? No, I don’t think it’s a bad idea, BUT sitting alone at night in a parking lot, with the engine off and the windows misting up, is crazy! So just be careful that one thing does not lead to another.
What about a married guy in a car with another woman, just the two of them? Do you think it’s bad? I don’t know if it’s bad if it’s a once off time, but I don’t personally do that. The Bible doesn’t forbid it, and it may be okay if it’s once off every now and again. But if you get into a lift club with some woman and you are married to another, to go to Blikkiesfontein every single day, which is a half an hour or an hour alone in the car together, you’re just being foolish! I’m saying that a good name is pure – have you got a name for purity? Is your name above reproach? Guard it; it costs something to look after.
A good name does not speak only of purity. A good reputation speaks of who you are. Ladies, I often remind the men of what Godly men ought to be like. God made men firstly to protect, that’s why He made men strong – to protect and to fight for truth. So ladies, if you’re with a man and it feels dangerous and you don’t feel safe, then he’s not a Godly man. If that strength could be directed against you rather than to protect you, he’s not a Godly man.
Men have been created to teach. Adam had to pass information on to his wife; to learn and to teach. Does that mean men have to be academic? No, but they have to be men of conviction. Ladies, if you are hanging out with a guy who does not have a clue about what he believes, who is just drifting with the tide, back-peddle a bit until he gets some backbone.
God has made men to father. Now, a father has to be responsible. God has made men to love and to lay down their lives. Now, I’m not saying make him give up his rugby, but if he never ever gives up his rugby for you, then you have to ask, “How sacrificial is his love?” Is it about “taking” or is it about “giving”? God has made men this way, and they will reflect His glory if they will allow Him to come upon them and change them in these areas.
God has made men to work. In the same way that He put Adam in the garden and told him to look after it, God made men to work. So beware if you’re hanging out with a really lazy dude – I’m not talking about someone who is unemployed, I’m talking about someone who wants to be unemployed – there is a big difference. If he is just too cool, cruising around, well that’s not what God intended. You know when ladies see a guy like that and think “Wow, what potential!” I’m telling you now there’ll be problems.
God has made Godly men to protect, to teach, to live with conviction, to father, to work, to love, and to carry a good name. You take that into marriage with you. The Shunammite woman said when she heard Solomon’s name, “Man, just your name makes me dizzy!”, because it made her think of who he was.
C) Does he pass the “friend test”?
(SOS 1 vs 3 – 4) “No wonder the maidens love you!” Wow, that’s an interesting comment and her friends say in verse 4, “We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine”. What’s happening here? Well, what this lady has done is that she has given these friends of hers permission to speak into her relationship. So my question is: what do others think of the person you have chosen to date or to court or to marry? You might say, “It’s nobody else’s business”. But… you need to remember that love is blind. Does anyone else find him attractive? I’m not saying good looking, I’m saying attractive. Could he be a husband to anybody else? If not, maybe love has blinded you. Maybe he is just bad and you can’t see it.
The Shummanite women includes her friends in the process, she allows them to speak into her relationship. I believe that parents ought to be included in that as well. Especially if you have Godly parents, allow them to talk into your life. What her friends say is, “Good, you’ve chosen well. We want to congratulate you. Thumbs up! This is a great guy; he’s going to be a good husband and a good lover.” I see that what happens more and more is that people isolate themselves when they fall in love; their friendship circle diminishes and they immediately say that no-one can speak into this area of their life. It’s a matter of needing to be accountable to someone who is outside of the relationship.
You know, these friends pop up all the way through Song of Songs. It’s not a case of, “Speak once, and give me your approval, now cheers!” It’s best that you have some accountability. Accountability requires you to say to someone other than your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, “I’m giving you permission to speak into our relationship regularly, to give advice etc…” I do think, though, that we’ve got to go beyond that, because most people are way too polite. You have to go and say, “Ask me the hard questions, please”.
I have a time with Ray Oliver once a month – we diarise these dates for the whole year. So what happens for at least an hour, normally two hours, is that there are a whole heap of questions that Ray asks me face-to-face (very, very direct questions) and then I ask him. I’ve also done that with other men since I’ve been married. I know that should I be tempted in any way, there’s a reckoning coming three weeks from now with Ray Oliver. And the same applies to him with me. I think it’s a good thing to have people speaking into the relationship.
D) Does he light your fire?
(SOS 1 v 4) “Take me away with you – let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers.” Whoa, ok, they’re not married yet, so what’s going on here?! She’s talking about the honeymoon night. What happened in those days is that the man made a chamber, a room, for his bride and after they married he brought her into this chamber, this love pad. Therefore, she’s saying, “I am looking forward to our marriage; hurry, hurry, hurry – let the time go by!” There’s urgency and in her heart; she’s eager to spend time with him. There’s a spark and there’s an attraction.
I’ve seen this in Christian circles before: a woman has a list of 15 to 20 points, and she’s looking for the best Biblical bachelor she can find. Tick, cross, oops! He’s off the list. Now, I’m saying you should use your brain and you should have your eyes on him, but there’s got to be a spark as well. You’ve got to enjoy spending time together. When you come back from honeymoon, and you sit around the dining room table and you look at him and there’s nobody else there, no-one, what are you going to talk about? What are you going to say? Do you like being with him? That has to be there. She said, “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” There’s an urgency to be together.
E) Does he love you as you are, or does he want to change you?
(SOS 1 v 5) “Dark am I, yet lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon.” In those days the tents were made from dark black goat hair. They were massive tents, and the picture that she’s portraying is that these huge tents used to be spread out over the desert sand and at night time, when the moonlight glistened off these black tents against the desert sands, they looked gorgeous. The Hebrew culture of that time admired a beauty which was soft, pampered, and not tanned by the sun. However, she is burnt by the sun – she’s fallen far below the beauty standard, the catwalk standard of the day, but she was saying like that woman in Proverbs 31, “This is how I am and you have just got to love me this way”. Therefore my point here is, love her as she is and don’t try to change her. You can’t have this ‘to do/make over list’ that’s going to start the day after the honeymoon. Will you accept her? She’s saying, “Will you love me as I am, for who I am, exactly as I am?”
F) Does he fear God?
(SOS 1 v 6) “Don’t stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected.” Now, the ladies of the court would have been shapely, soft and manicured, and getting themselves ready for a royal wedding, but this is a country girl working out in the bush and in the vineyards. Then the prince sweeps her off her feet, a lot like the Cinderella story, and as she walks into the palace courts, all the other women would’ve been looking. She was tanned, muscular and didn’t look like the others. She’s saying, “You have to accept me, my background, my class and my appearance. I might not come from the best family and I might not come from the best stock, but I have got character”. She had depth of character. When you’re looking at a potential husband or wife, and you’re looking at character, the central point of character and of wisdom is the fear of God. He or she needs to love and fear God more than anything, and if that’s the case, character has its solid foundation.
Just because the guy comes to church does not mean that he has character. There are a whole lot of different sorts of guys who come to church. One category is that of sexual predators. Ladies be careful, there are guys in the church who aren’t there because of Jesus. They have looked at the church and seen that there are more women than men and so they are just playing the “odds game”. The odds are on that if they say they are Christians and say the right stuff, they could find themselves a good wife. You could say, “That’s a little harsh”. I’m just saying, ladies, open your eyes.
To me, one of the most important things you need to know about someone before you hook up with them and get married to them, is can they forgive? Is the love of Jesus so soft in their heart that they can forgive easily? I have counselled hundreds of marriages and relationships where the people involved can’t forgive. There’s very little hope in those situations, because they hold onto grudges for years. Now if you get married to someone like that, it’s impossible for you to live for sixty years together without bumping them and offending them. If they don’t forgive you, you’re in trouble – big trouble!
So our Song of Songs girl walks into the palace court and she might not look like the other ladies, but she carries her character with her. She loves God and she has a positive outlook on life. We read what she says about her brothers, who were mean to her. She says to Solomon that he must nevertheless pay them the bridal price, which shows that she’s forgiving.
In verse 7 she says, “Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” What’s going on here? Let me give you the background: she’s saying, “I want to spend time with you.” Now is that good or bad? It’s good! She is engaged to this guy, she wants to spend time with him; “But tell me where you’re going to be at lunch time. Where are you going to be atmidday? I don’t want to have to come and find you and have to seduce you.”
The example she’s giving is that of the prostitutes and what they did in that day and age – at lunch time the prostitutes used to go down to the shepherds, to the workers, and they used to veil themselves so you couldn’t see who they were. Then they’d walk around seductively, looking for customers. She’s saying, “I don’t want to dress myself that way, to be seductive to other men. I want only you to see me. I don’t want to trade, I don’t want to get dressed-up and flaunt my sexuality in front of other men. This beauty is for you. Tell me where you are going to be.” Am I saying that women should not dress beautifully? No, I’m not saying that. They should dress beautifully, but if they dress seductively to use their sexuality to attract men, they’re playing the prostitute and one should not want to trade one’s character for that. In fact, the type of guy they’re going to get is not worth marrying.
The Shunammite woman says, “There’s no way that you’re going to catch me like that. Tell me where you are going to be, I’m not going to get dressed up like that. I’m not going to hunt for you. Just tell me and I’ll be there. A day is coming when you will see me dressed seductively. That day will be when we are married, not in a parade in front of other men.”
- Dig deep:
We’ve looked at chapter 1, and now we move on to chapter 8. What is written in the 6 chapters in-between is Solomon being really honest about his relationship. These two people reveal their past. When we counsel people who are just about to get married, we encourage them to be honest with the person they are engaged to, especially about their previous relationships. You REALLY don’t want a nasty surprise five or six or seven years into marriage! Bring it all out and let God’s healing come. Set a strong foundation for marriage.
You can’t build a skyscraper on a small foundation; you’ve got to dig a huge foundation for a block of flats and so, courtship should be digging foundations. If you lay a foundation for a granny-flat, then a granny-flat is all you will be able to build. A part of digging the foundation is getting rid of the debris. If you have a past that is imperfect, either before you were saved or because you were careless, know that it can be cleaned by Jesus and washed away. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from a guilty conscience. We’re suggesting, very strongly, that in the days before you get married, you deal with those things.
- Is she a wall or a door?
In chapter 8 verse 5 you see her going down memory lane as she comes back from one of her holidays with her husband, but then in verse 8 of chapter 8, it’s her brothers that are speaking. This is when she was young. There is no suggestion from Song of Songs that she had a father that was living with her as she grew up. Maybe her dad was dead or divorced somehow, but either way, she didn’t seem to have a father. She had brothers that made her go and work, as we saw in the beginning of Song of Songs, and she didn’t come from a particularly good family. She came from a family where things were hard, yet she doesn’t blame that for her difficulties and she doesn’t use it as an excuse for impurity or as a licence for sin. She has maintained a strong character in these difficult situations.
Her brothers say that they have a younger sister who isn’t fully developed yet and she’s still a very young girl. Now they bring up the issue that there’s no dad, so they’ve got to step in and help. Their dilemma is, “What shall we do for our sister for the day she is spoken for?” They’re thinking that this little ten or eleven year old girl is going to be spoken for one day and she’s going to be married, but between then and later there is a dangerous road she has to walk.
What are they going to do to help her? “If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar…” (SOS8 v 9). So they ask this question and, in a way, they are being very good brothers. They might have been lazy making her go and work, but in this case, they are especially good brothers. They are saying that they want to protect her.
You might ask “why should brothers involve themselves in the private world of their little sister?” Men and women are equally valuable, equally precious, and equally important. The problem, however, is that modern trends go one step further by saying that there should be no role differentiation, saying that they are essentially the same. In the sexual arena this implies that she is as strong as a man, she must look after herself. Now that’s okay maybe in business, but physically, women are just not as strong as men. So what you have now is a world that no longer protects women like these brothers protected her; a world that no longer knows where the authority is and therefore it’s just far too common that women are being abused all around the world.
The brothers say, “Look, this is dad’s job, but as there is no dad, this is our responsibility.” It’s a burden to dads, but it is also a great delight. I have two young daughters and I make sure that they play in safe places. There are no ugly men there, there are no ugly teenage boys there and if any of them were ever to come anywhere near my daughters, I would sort them out. It’s a privilege and the duty of a dad, not only to be a provider of strength but also to make a daughter feel secure, beautiful and loved, so that she does not have to run to every Tom, Dick and Harry around the corner to try to please him. It was the dad who was providing and then the brothers stepped in. A Dad’s job is to be a protector of, and an example to, his daughter. Then when a young girl is faced with the potential of a few men to choose from, and she sees a guy screaming and getting aggressive, she has a standard to compare him to. She sees that this is actually not how it’s meant to be. If she hears him blaspheming, she knows that good husbands don’t do that and that this is not how it’s supposed to be. She has a benchmark to compare him with.
The brothers say, “We’ve got a problem here, there’s no dad, we’d better step in and do this.” Gentlemen, older guys, younger guys, we’ve got to be like these brothers! Timothy, in the Bible, said you should be like brothers and sisters. You have to be models of the very best a guy can be; models of Jesus and in a marriage relationship you are supposed to represent Jesus. It’s a massive responsibility, but it’s also an incredible privilege to represent Jesus to the women in your life.
Back to Abishag and Solomon: what is the plan that these boys come up with? They say that if she is a wall, then they will build towers on her, and if she is a door, then they will enclose her with panels of silver.
The first thing they say is that they will give her the benefit of the doubt – they will let her live her life and see if she is responsible with the boys she hangs out with. What is a wall? A wall stops any entry and if she has been responsible with her virtue, if she has defended her character, if she has fended off the bad boys, if she has kept her purity, then she is like a wall and then her brothers will build big towers on her. Towers are fortified ramparts – towers that will strengthen and protect her, like a fortified wall would protect a city. They will put silver shields on her, congratulate her, applaud her, honour her and hold her up for the city to see and respect.
The brothers say, what happens if she is a door? A door is very different from a wall, as a door allows people in. What happens if she has taken her freedom and has allowed men in… If she hasn’t been careful, but foolish? Well, then they say that they’re going to protect her, by coming around her and keeping her safe.
The girl replies, declaring that she is a wall and that she has protected her heart. She continues in the next verse saying that she’s made good decisions; she is secure and able to defend her virtue as she is Godly. Some of you who are reading this are probably unmarried and have been a door for one reason or another. You might be saying, “Well, I didn’t understand all these things then, as I was young and naive in those days. I didn’t have a dad to protect me; I was abused and I had people coming up against me. I have issues – I feel like I have been corrupted and what you’re talking about is just making me feel sad and unworthy, like I’ve failed. This is really not making me feel happy, because I feel like I’m more of a door than a wall.” Now, Jesus is not only a Saviour, He is a Redeemer. He redeems and He gives back. He can, and it’s not too late, build your wall. It’s not too late to say, this far and no further, from this very moment (write the date in your Bible). If you have been living immorally, you will be able to say to your husband or wife one day that from that day Jesus came and He washed you clean, therefore your sins are gone and are far behind you. From that day He has been changing you from one degree of glory to another and now you are presented to him/her beautiful in His sight, under His care, under His washing, under His cleaning, under His sanctifying, and under His redeeming. That’s His word to you.
Solomon looks at Abishag walking into the courts, and he sees her virtue. There could have been a hundred other women in the courts who could have had million dollar bodies, but ten cent souls. Here she walks in; she is a strong woman who’s protected and built up her character, which is what she presents to him.
In this chapter she ends by talking about her vineyard. She talks about the days when she was working in her vineyard and all the other ladies of the court were busy preparing to secure a husband. What was she doing? She was working hard. Come on, what were the odds that she was going to find a royal husband? She trusted in God and put it in God’s hands. So what did God do? He orchestrates a royal prince to come and find Cinderella in her garden. My point is, seek first His Kingdom, and leave it in God’s hands. Don’t awaken love before its time.
Let’s go to Song of Songs chapter 2 verse 7. These are events leading up to the royal wedding. Here’s Solomon with his beautiful bride. The bride says to all her girlfriends: “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Don’t arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” She’s basically saying, “I might be getting ready to be married, but all my girlfriends who are out there, don’t be in a hurry to arouse love, to awaken it before its time.” There is a time, Ecclesiastes says, for every activity under heaven. She is saying, “Don’t give your heart away too quickly. There is a season for everything.”
People ask this question all the time, “Well how far can I go? Can I kiss her, can I cuddle her, can I hold her, can I hold her hand, can I call her my girlfriend, what can I do? How far can I push physical stuff this side of marriage?” These are the wrong questions, according to the bride. The question should be, “Is it time to awaken love or not?” That’s the question. Is it time for love to be awakened? If it’s not then, “How far can I push open the envelope, because I want to have fun before I get hitched?” Wrong question! Friends, the Bible is not anti-intimacy, it’s not anti-sexuality, and it’s not anti-romance. It’s just pro-marriage and it puts marriage in a very high, elevated place, representing Jesus.
This is a very liberated woman. Christian marriages should be the most liberated marriages in the world, because they should be free from shame, guilt, sin, shackles and a depraved world. We know the God who designed marriage; we have Him on our side. So how does this woman become so strong in her expression of her love, so secure in his arms and so forward in her comments? Well it doesn’t just happen. It’s because of the way Solomon courted her; he carefully chose his words and he cautiously watched his conduct. He got her to the place where she felt safe and protected, so that she could be strong. That’s why she is secure – she’s free. When she says don’t awaken love, it’s very clear that her love has just been awakened. I’ll liken it to a fire; passion is described by non-Christian writers using the metaphor of fire. A fire in a home needs to be in a fireplace where it warms the home; you’re able to cook on it, it’s able to be constructive. But if you move it from its fireplace, is it still raging hot? Yes, but it’s destructive. And so she is saying, “Keep it within the boundaries of marriage; light it at the right time.” So I’ll encourage you, if you’re married and saying, “Well, I’m certainly not as free as this lady! She‘s WAY out there; I’m not that free, I’m not that liberated!” Why not study this book together with your husband or wife?
By the way, if you are thirteen or sixteen, you are crazy to awaken love! You run the risk of a devastating fire as you can’t place this fire in the safety of marriage! Keep dreaming, keep your walk with God whole and wait until the time is right.
- Pursue her:
In chapter 2 verse 8 she says, “Listen! My lover! Look!” There’s an exclamation mark in the Bible! “Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills. (Verse 9) My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.” This is the king ofIsraelwe’re talking about; he’s a very busy young man with loads of work to do. He might be a teenager, but he’s the king. Now if he wants to see her, don’t you think there would be two ways to go about it? He could either have sent an entourage in a chariot, or in a beautiful cavalcade of horses, or even said, “Bring her”! And then she could have time with him between his meetings, don’t you think? Or he could carve out time and go and fetch her by himself.
This is going to have to come with some proof, but my belief is that somehow Christian men have been duped into being passive in their courtship. This man was certainly not passive. I have heard Christian guys say things like, “I’m just praying for my wife. She’s probably not even saved yet, so God please save her. Save her Jesus, get her ready for me, and could she just walk across my garden this afternoon, say at about 4 o’clock? I’ll check out my window, and then God I’ll know it’s You. In fact, You’ve answered all of these prayers, so how about she gives some hints that she wants a proposal and then I’ll happily do that. God if You will show me a sign…” And while they’re busy faffing around, you know who is pursuing? Godless men. I‘m not encouraging casual dating, but I am saying that if you are old enough to be married, and a woman captivates your heart, pursue her in a Godly way. I think these men should be active. Christian men should be on the front-foot. That’s how God created us.
One day, hopefully a long time from now, there is going to be a motorbike arriving at my door, or a car arriving at my gate. When that happens, that guy is going to have a hard time getting through the door to my girls. Why? Because I want him to be a man who pursues, he must have conviction. Casual dating is not an option.
My wife Sue read something to me once, about some really strong lady, and she said, “I’m not going to have my son just be kissed by every woman in the neighbourhood before he gets married, because it’s someone else’s husband they are busy kissing.” I’m not against dating; I’m just saying this is an important thing we are talking about, a man and his wife. If you’re old enough to get married, you pursue her. Solomon doesn’t care much about his dignity as he pursues her. His robe is flying, his crown is sitting on a thorn bush somewhere, and he’s running, and she says, “Listen, my lover; look here he comes.” Ladies, if you have to go and pursue him, if you’re not yet married and always pleading for him to come and spend time with you, just ditch him! Really! Love, real love, needs to be inconvenienced.
I remember when I was courting Sue. She was nursing at Grey’s Hospital and there’s a walkway from the nurses’ home and doctors’ quarters into the hospital. I wanted to see her, but she was on night duty. This was so frustrating for me because when I was awake she was asleep, and when she was asleep I was awake. This didn’t work for me. I couldn’t even talk to her because she was busy, but at round aboutmidnight, things would quieten in the hospital. So I would park my car at the doctors’ quarters (I used to work for Eskom, so I had a name tag that looked very official, with my tie on and I used to wear specs in those days) and I would walk down the passageway, very purposefully. I was about the age of an intern doctor, I never said I was a doctor; never put a stethoscope around my neck, but I knew exactly where I was going. I walked down the passageway and Matrons used to say, “Evening doctor”, and I would say, “Evening ma’am”. I used to make it right the way through to the wards, do my ward round, sit down there and have some coffee with Sue. I was just very glad no one had a heart attack in the beds while I was there. It was aftermidnightand I was pursuing her, chasing her. Love will be inconvenienced.
We read on in chapter 2 verse 9: “Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice.” Whoa, what’s going on here?! Is this guy like a peeping Tom? It’s just NOT okay (or Biblical) to be a peeping Tom, but around that house there is some sort of lattice work and he’s trying to find a way to get in. There he is, he’s come bounding over the hills, he’s made it, he’s there already; before she’s even opened the door, he’s made it. Why? It is because he was bounding like a young stag over the hills.
Spend time with her:
I love the way he starts to romance her from verse 10. I like the way that he builds this relationship. “My lover spoke and said to me”, (this is what Solomon says to her) “Arise, my darling”, (he’s got this pet name for her) “my beautiful one” (he calls her beautiful SO many times in this book), “and come with me.” What’s he about to do? Well, he’s going to take her for a walk; they are going to go walking through the fields. Great way to start a date, don’t you think? He was a rich man and could have brought out the jewels, presents and diamonds; after all, they are a girl’s best friend. He could have brought her all that stuff, but he said, “Actually, I don’t want those things to be her best friend. I am going to spend time with her.” The most precious thing you can give someone you love is your time. He comes, and says, “Forget the kingly business, forget my pursuits, I’m going to walk with you. Let’s go and walk in the garden, let’s go and walk in the park. Let’s go for a walk.” (Verse 11) “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.” She’s comparing her singleness to winter – She’s talking about seasons. She’s saying, “Flowers appear on the earth;” it’s spring time now. “The season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” What she means is that the long, dark, cold nights are all over. Spring time and love are in the air, and the doves prove this. It’s about time.
We continue in verse 13: “The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” All is alive, well, and going great. Look how he talks to her: he says, (verse 14) “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountainside”. So he’s comparing her to a dove that lives up in the mountain; remember, she came from a rural area. He’s saying that like this dove is tucked away in the clefts of the rock, she is tucked away in this rural area, where there are little vineyards.
“Show me your face”: now in the Hebrew culture the face describes the person. He is saying that he wants to look at her face; he wants to see who she is. “Let me hear your voice” (then he says it again) “for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” He gives her a nickname, “you are my dove”, and he says, “I have come to fetch you from the clefts of the rock to see your face. I just want to hear your voice and go for a walk with you.” Now that’s a great way to start a date.
- Catch the foxes!
We find true pre-marriage wisdom in chapter 2 verse 15: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin our vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” She’s saying, while they are walking, “While I am looking into your eyes and hearing your voice, there are some issues we need to deal with. Let’s catch these little foxes.” This is important! Before marriage, deal with the issues. You want to lay a foundation that you can build a building on, so you’ve got to get the rubbish out of the way. He understood that she worked in the vineyards, and in vineyards these little foxes would come, and it’s most crucial when they come during spring time. They come and gnaw at the roots, and if the fruit’s hanging they eat the fruit. If you don’t know how to catch the foxes, they will spoil your vineyard. So she says, “Well there are all these little foxes that have potential to creep in. You’re a very rich, powerful king; you’ve got all sorts of things and I’m just this ordinary little country girl – we’re getting together, and I just see foxes, problems we’re going to face.” Maybe the foxes she saw were the other ladies in the court, I don’t know. But she is talking about issues, and to me before you get married, you need to catch some of these foxes. That’s why when we (the pastors in the church) have someone come to us and say that they want to get married, we always ask for the following things before we agree to marry them:
- That they go on our marriage course. As they are sitting there together listening to God’s intent for marriage, they can suddenly see what their relationship is about, what marriage is, and we know we’re going to get some foxes appearing.
- We encourage them to go on an eight week pre-marital counselling time with a good few couples in the church; guys that have been married for a particular period of time, who are able to minister to them. And that’s not preaching, it’s listening and catching some of these foxes.
- We also have a questionnaire that FAMSA puts out that many of the churches use. It’s an outstanding tool, which looks at the couple’s opinion on life and marriage; they can’t fail the test, it’s just a linking up of their views. When their views don’t show a relationship, for example if she thinks “I need a career, I don’t want kids”, and at that very question he says, “ooh I can just see her barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I never want her to work again”, then the computer says, “Hang on. Talk about that thing.” That’s what it is and they should deal with these issues. You might say, “What issues? We are so in love that there can’t be any issues.” Let us look at an example: Her ideal for a great date night is to sit on the couch in front of the fire just talking about stuff. But his idea of showing his love is to serve; after all it says in Ephesians 5, that you have to serve her as Christ serves the church, doesn’t it? So there it is, Saturday afternoon arrives, you’ve been married and just got back from honeymoon. He’s on the roof scrubbing the roof and cleaning the gutters, then he comes down, rolls up his sleeves and thinks, “What else can I do?” He cleans her car, puts petrol in, but she’s sitting forlorn next to the fireplace thinking, “Where is this guy?” You need to assess these things before you get married.
When Sue and I got married we realised that our moms’ (we’ve both got great moms) ways in the kitchen are very different. Neither one is right or one wrong: they’re just different. For example Sue was baking a cake and I was thinking that a good husband should be there, just watching the process. So I was busy watching her while she was baking, then I thought I would help her clean up and pack everything away. She turned to me after a couple of sessions of baking and said, “Stop messing with my countertop”. I replied, “That’s dirty”, and she declared, “That’s the point, we’re supposed to be cooking on this counter top.” Our families are different. “Well Grant,” you might say, “I’m only going to find that out when I am married.” Maybe, but there are a lot of foxes you are able to catch before you get married.
She is saying, “Let’s deal with some issues. Let’s go for a walk.” Does that mean you have to go and have these long serious talks every time you go walking in the countryside and doves are cooing? No, but it’s appropriate that you catch those foxes some time, otherwise there is trouble coming. Give, rather than take! I love chapter 2 verse 16, she says, “My lover is mine and I am his.” She is saying, “He belongs to me and I belong to him.” She jumps right in and speaks to him about shared sacrifice, mutual ownership. If you go back some decades to the 1920s, 30s and 40s, in Christian groups male leadership was very dominant, very harsh and chauvinistic (i.e. women didn’t matter or have any say). But after the Second World War, in the 50s and 60s there was a backlash, and in the 70s there emerged the feminist movement: the movement for the liberation of women. And so in a worldly environment we have the first half of the 20th century dominated by a masculine agenda and the second half by a feminine one. Neither is correct. “He is mine and I am his.” There is a mutual ownership. Paul says it like this to the Corinthians: “Lady, your body doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to him.” So sir, you better not let your body get all out of condition, because it also doesn’t belong to you. Ask her if she is happy with the shape it’s becoming and if not, go to gym.
So what’s the nature of this love then? We get the right to our spouse’s body once we are married. Why am I saying this to people who are only courting? Well that’s where you’re headed; that’s your destination, as you’re going towards marriage. So there needs to be an understanding that your love should be selfless; a giving love and not a stealing or taking love. As mutual owners there is the understanding that when you get married you get the right to submit yourself to your spouse in love (listen to this, women libbers and male chauvinists). Men submit to her in love – it doesn’t mean, men, that there’s a handing over of leadership; it’s just not lording over; it’s not that sort of leadership.
- Include family and friends:
Chapter 2 verse 17: “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills.” What’s she talking about? She’s frustrated when the shadows come and he’s got to go and live somewhere else, and she’s got to go and sleep somewhere else. So what’s my point? They are not shacked up; they are not living together. He’s got to leave her when the night falls, and she says, “I can’t wait until the shadows can get long at night and we can be together.” I can remember going home to my place, where I was living during our engagement, and driving with my head out of the window so that the wind would keep me awake. It was terribly inconvenient dropping Sue off at night. And so she’s saying, “I can’t wait for us to be together”. While she is musing over that, she moves into like a dream sequence in the book. She is sleeping alone at night, he’s gone back, the shadows have come, and she’s wishing that he didn’t have to go back.
Then she has this nightmare, alone in her bed, just before her wedding. “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him.” (Chapter 3 verse 1). In her dream she’s busy looking and she’s dreaming that she’s going to lose him. So she decides to go and look for him. (Chapter 3 verse 2) “I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him.” This terror grips her – it’s a dangerous thing; so in her dream she gets up and runs around outside, looking and she can’t find him. In verse 3 she says, “The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city, “Have you seen the one my heart loves?”” These watchmen are busy protecting the city, and she’s telling them that she’s lost him. The point that we can get out of this text is that if you can live without somebody, do so. Paul says in Corinthians: if you can live without her, do, before you are married. She’s saying, “I am smitten in love with him. I can hardly sleep at night waiting for this wedding. He’s slipping through my fingers. I don’t know what life will be like without him. Watchmen help me look.”
It’s not just a check list that you must have. “Yes, she can preach, yes she can run a good home group, yes she looks okay, and yes her mom cooks well.” Tick. “Will you marry me?” It’s far beyond that. Then we see in verse 4, “Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves.” In her dream now, the nightmare turns into just a pleasant dream. “I held him and I would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother’s house, to the room of the one who conceived me.” This is an interesting little detour in her dream, and I think what we’re seeing here is a young woman working and wrestling through the pain of leaving mom and dad. She’s struggling through the issue; she’s trying to hold him saying, “Come, come to my mom’s place.” We can see this strain, this tussle within her. In Ephesians5:31we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.”
There is a leaving of mom and dad, and there’s a making of a promise; then there’s the wonderful intimacy. When you don’t leave properly, in other words, mom-in-law and father-in-law on both sides are so intertwined in every single thing that you do, then it’s hard to create a marriage. So Scripture says, he leaves home, she leaves home and there they go together. Some people might say, “Well, does that mean that I can’t have my mom and dad living with me?” I’m not saying that, and particularly when mom and dad are in need, you need to be honouring them. But what I am saying is, if mom and dad are living with you, make some space. I’m not talking about living proximity, I’m talking about relational proximity; there needs to be a leaving of home.
She’s wrestling through this thing. “Ah, can’t you just come and stay over at my place? You’ve maybe got a palace to run, but just come and be with my mom. My mom’s great; you’ll love my mom. We can have a bedroom just on the side next to her and when I wake up in the morning mom can cook and we can go for these lovely walks; you’ll love it and you’ll love my mom.” This is what she is saying: “Now I think there is a way to leave mom and dad and still honour mom and dad.” There is also a way to honour, yet not obey, mom and dad once you are married. For instance: you’re married with three kids and mom says, “I don’t think you should be taking the kids out to prayer evening.” Well, you could reply: “Mom, I love you, I honour you, you are the greatest mom to me and thanks for not taking me to prayer meetings, but actually, my husband and I love to pray and our kids love to be with us. So, I love you mom (kiss), but I am taking my kids…”
Going back to those who are courting… What happens if your dad says you should not marry a guy, but you know you want to? There was an pastor in the life of this church whose father-in-law did not want to know him. The father-in-law didn’t want anything to do with him and basically said, “Over my dead body will my daughter marry you.” So, you know what the guy did? He went with his fiancée, sat in front of her Dad and said, “I understand you have concerns. I don’t know all the reasons, but I understand you’re concerned and the Bible tells me (the dad didn’t know Jesus), that I need to honour you. So what I’m going to do is postpone the wedding for a year out of respect for you, and in that year I hope you learn to respect me and my God.” At the end of the year Dad was still not happy, but he walked his daughter down the aisle.
- Include Jesus:
My last point is from chapter 3 verse 5 (this theme runs throughout this book and it was her opening line): “Daughters of Jerusalem I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Don’t arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” And so the last words to her friends before she gets married are “Don’t awaken love.” The question should not be how far you can go – it should be, is it time for love to be awakened and for the wedding bells to start ringing? So we see with this relationship that she is secure and she’s strong, but it’s clear from that statement that she didn’t build this relationship sexually. In fact, all I have been describing to you tells you how she built it: they looked into each other’s faces, they went on long walks together, they dreamt about each other at night (in separate beds), they thought about what they would be doing in the future, and they caught the little foxes that were gnawing at the relationship. She built a friendship with this man, and at the end of all that she’s in a position where she’s secure and strong. Some of you may say: “Well, I’m married and we didn’t do all that stuff you are talking about. So what about that? No wonder our marriage is a mess!” Have you heard of a building concept called “underpinning a foundation”? The builders come to the house, dig around the foundation and say, “Suspect foundation – it’s too flimsy and cracked.” They then dig around it and pour in more concrete, more reinforcement, to strengthen the foundation. It’s never too late to go back to the foundations. It’s never too late to catch the foxes. You say, “I’ve messed up so bad!” Well Jesus can clean you, He can wash you, He can restore you and He can get you ready for an incredible, pure relationship like we see in Song of Songs. It’s never too late. That’s what the beloved in the book is saying.
In 1 John 4:15 – 18 it describes how we are going to pull this off; it does not have to be a nightmare or a far-away dream or torture. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” That means that if you acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, then you’ve given your life to Him and He is living in you. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us” (verse 16). What do we rely on? What dating technique? Do you want friends to organise a blind date? Um, no! We rely on the love God has for us and we receive that love from Him. He is living inside of us and so He gives us that love, so that we have love to give; so that others can receive it. If you think, “Well actually, I am an ugly person, who’s going to love me?” Someone will if you’ve got the love of God in you; you will be lovable. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (verse 16). “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him” (verse 17). “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (verse 18). This concept of love is so far away, but God is not. It feels so out of reach, but God is not. If God is close at hand and God is within reach, He can pour His love into you, and He can minister to you. We’ve been talking about the relationship of a man and woman, but this text says, “Actually, this horizontal relationship between two people is futile if their relationship with God is not in place. He in us, and us in Him.” We live and love and are lovable because we have His love in us.
END NOTES 1
On interpreting Song of Songs:
Song of Songs is a complex book that has mystified theologians for centuries. There are two extreme views of interpreting this book:
1. One of the views is that it’s purely a symbolic book; a metaphor of God and the church, without real people, and just a story line that Solomon wrote to enable us to understand God better.
2. The other extreme view is that it’s merely a literal description between Solomon and one of his first wives, and that it reveals nothing about God.
Now somewhere between these two extremes is the truth, but the reality is, there is a literal story between King Solomon and the Shunammite girl. We can learn a lot from that, but it also describes the love relationship that God has with His people.
END NOTES 2
The wedding day should be a celebration; it should be something before God without shame, and without regret. Therefore I would like to make some comments on the practical way of dating, that I see in the world today:
1. Extreme dating
Firstly, there are two extreme views within the Christian church about dating. The first extreme view is this:
“I’m only going to court or date the girl/guy I’m eventually going to marry.” I think this view is a little dangerous, because what happens is that if after a couple of weeks you find out that they’re the wrong person, then it puts too much pressure on a relationship. It’s idealistic. If you are going to live by that as if that’s the only rule to live by, it also speeds up the wedding date, and does not leave a lot of room for mistakes. There is a bit of hurriedness here because as soon as the choice is made, it’s almost as though there is no option ever to date any other guy or girl ever again. It can be quite dangerous.
Then there’s another extreme that says, “Well, I’ll just play the field. After all, doesn’t practice make perfect?” The problem and danger with that’s that you leave a trail of destruction behind you. You leave your reputation in tatters, and even more disturbing, you develop a habit of behavioural patterns that set you up to destroy relationships, and divorce is on the cards.
Either extreme, I feel, is a problem.
2. Dating warning bells
If you find yourself in a dating situation, there are a number of areas where the alarm bells should be ringing:
Firstly, if you find yourself repeatedly (or even once is too many times), in compromising situations, physically, with the girl or guy you are dating. Scripture is very clear (1 Timothy 5), girls, treat younger men as brothers; guys, treat older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Treat her as a sister. Because of the behaviour between brothers and sisters in recent times, some guys just read that and rush on to do whatever they like anyway.
What God might say in this day and age is that one should treat her like one’s grandmother. This may be a bit extreme, but the point is: be very gentle with her. I suppose that guys would ask the question, “Can I take her to the movies? That’s acceptable, just me and her, going on a date to the movies?” Would you take your granny to the movies? “No problem.” Would you take her to a dinner? “It’s no real problem.” Is it okay to hold her hand? “I think so.” “Can I kiss her?” Well, you know I think there is a way you would kiss your grandmother and I think it’s over in about 0.5 seconds! The point is that I don’t want to put any rules and regulations on you, because the Scripture says rules and regulations are destined to pass away. But the reality is that Scripture says, “Flee from the very hint of immorality!” If you find yourself in a compromising situation, and your heart begins to pound, and you know that things are just beyond where they should be physically, then this is not granny sitting next to you. Run away! Think later – just run away now! Work out what the relationship will look like afterwards, just get out of there and don’t let temptation get the better of you.
Secondly, the warning bells should go if there is exclusivity to your relationship that results in your missing out on the fun of youth. I see some dating couples fighting and squabbling like a married couple on the brink of divorce. They are so intense to hang this thing together so that they can actually say that they are going out, and “I can hold her hand. She is mine.” When that happens you begin to lose the joy of living, so why do that?
I think dating can also blind us sometimes to the true qualities of the person we are with. You know, when you are up close to something you can see only the detail right there, you can’t see the bigger picture. Sometimes, relationships and dating are unhealthy. Just so up-close and intense, and you’re only 15 years old, with a long time to wait. You need to get some space.
Then, dating and some relationships can slow down your personal growth. Some people feel so insecure if they are not emotionally involved with someone that they have to be attached permanently! Our security ought to come from Jesus first.
Then finally, and I think this is particularly true in the church: a harmful situation is when the guy says, “God has told me that you are to be my wife…” Well, perhaps… But He hasn’t told her. I am not saying God didn’t tell the guy, but he must just shut up about it, or he’ll manipulate her into marrying him just because she thinks God told him to.
3. Anti-dating dangers
Equally, non-dating behaviour in Christian circles can be just as damaging and dangerous. I notice (and this applies around the world) young men and young women declaring their undying love for someone and then saying “You know it’s not really Biblical for us to do this, so I am not going to date you, but man I love you!” You know what I think that is? I think that’s using God as an excuse just to two-time, literally. You are just messing with someone’s emotions. I don’t think that you should be playing with people’s emotions like that and if you are going to declare your undying love, be a man of integrity and follow through with it.
END NOTES 3
On “Puppy Love”:
Psalm 45 is a song written to a king on his wedding day. Most Bible commentators will tell you that this is Solomon, but that’s not necessarily the case; more than likely it is, but not necessarily. What will become abundantly clear is that Psalm 45 is not only a picture of a king and his bride, but a picture of Christ and His bride. In fact there are some direct quotes in the New Testament taken directly out of this Psalm, which speak about Jesus. This chapter is about how the king leads her on the arm. You might say, “Why did you choose that verse?” Well I don’t want us ever to lose the majesty of a man and his bride. God elevates the marriage and says that “marriage is a picture of Me and My church”.
I’m not so sure that God looks favourably on innocent “puppy love”, as we like to call it. I’m not so sure that there’s such a thing as an innocent liaison. And we can’t say that just because all young people in the world go around kissing each other, God’s okay with that. That’s the saying of the little boy who kissed the girls and made them cry, or was it the other way around? Old Georgie Porgie…
Some of you might be saying that the argument is too weak or too romantic; I mean, just because this Shunammite girl was in the palace and he was a young teenage Prince, he was still heir to the throne, so it may not mean that they fell in love.
What we see here are love songs and love poems from 3000 years ago between Solomon and his bride-to-be. Longing is beautiful; it’s holy. There is a time, and there is a season for everything. Guys, when she hears your name, what kind of thoughts does it stir up? A good name does not only speak of purity, and a good reputation, it also speaks of who you are. If he never, ever gives up his rugby for you, then you just have to ask, “How sacrificial is his love?” Remember that love is blind. There’s a spark and there’s an attraction. When you’re looking at a potential husband or wife, and you’re looking at character, the central point of character and of wisdom is the fear of God. Set a strong foundation for marriage. For me, I have two young daughters and I make sure that where they go and play are safe places. It’s also an incredible privilege to represent Jesus to the women in your life.
Don’t awaken love before its time!