Wisdom for the Good Life, IV (Inscription 46)
Song of Solomon: The Good Sex-Life
March 13, 2011
· Membership sermon
Greeting and Communication Card
· Membership class next Sunday, here 5:30, get a manual.
· Lent reminder.
Scripture reading: Song of Solomon 2:3-13 (David & Elizabeth)
Song of Solomon is steamy stuff, no doubt, PG-13 to say the least. If you can read it aloud without blushing, then you don’t understand it.
· Songs celebrates the passionate, sexual love of newlyweds.
We call it Song of Solomon or Song of Songs from the opening verse: “Solomon’s Song of Songs.” Don’t be bothered by his hyper-polygamist ways, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines.
· The wording in 1:1 is vague as to if he wrote it, if it was written as a tribute to him, or in his memory.
Don’t let that distract you from the beauty of the book; that would be like refusing to enjoy Hamlet because you’re not sure Shakespeare wrote it.
How can that be in the Bible?!?
Songs is the second of two books in the Bible that never mentions God. In Esther God is “hidden in plain sight,” here he simply isn’t part of the story.
· This very fact made some folks reluctant to leave Songs in the Bible, why have a book without God in the Bible?
And so, from the 1st or 2nd century until the 19th, Jews and Christians alike have been interpreting Songs as an allegory of God’s love for the Israel or Christ’s love for the church.
The biggest problem of that is that that isn’t the plain sense of the book. When we read the Bible, we look for what the authors meant, and I really don’t think they meant Jesus and the church when they said stuff like:
NIV Song of Solomon 7:7-8a Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. 8 I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.”
· Maybe you ladies can handle Jesus talking to you like that, but that does not work for us guys!
That is not say there isn’t any allegorical value to Songs: Several times I have said that God is the source of everything that is good, desirable, and joyful, and that he has filled this world with rightful reflections of that joy.
· Sex is one such reflection; the better, the more intimate, the more fulfilling it is, the better of a reflection it is.
Sex, with its passionate desire and jealous pursuit, is a picture of God’s love that both the husband and wife can understand in a unique way.
Sex is kind of bad
So yes, there is a “reflection” value, but the plain and intended meaning of Songs is it’s a love song. But it wasn’t until 19th century Christians started to interpret it that way.
Q Why did is take us that long?
· Because, frankly, Christians have historically had a very low view of sex.
On Facebook, a childhood friend commented that part of what she rejected about Christianity was the sense that there was something dirty about sex, and should be done “in the missionary position and for procreation.”
When I read this I was bewildered. We grew up in the same church, and I was never made to feel that sex was dirty and only for procreation.
Q How many of you have seen that as Christianity’s view of sex?
I almost fired off a response, but I have been learning to wait. As I studied Songs, I have learned that she is right, that historically has been the Christian view of sex.
· It was the Christian view, but certainly not the Biblical one.
Here’s what happened: In the early church, as more Christians were Greek than Jewish, it took on a more Greco-Roman perspective and was influenced by things like Neo-Platonism, Dualism, and Gnosticism.
· These philosophies exalted reason and the spiritual over the earthly and emotions, and saw desire as innately sinful.
I kid you not, in the Middle Ages one teaching was it was okay to have sex (the world must be peopled), but wrong to want it. And so in Canterbury Tales the pious wife all but apologizes for having sex, but the adulterous couple have a grand time.
· BTW: Medievals and modern culture have this in common – they can’t fathom passionate desire within conventional morality.
Studies have shown that married couples have the best and most sex. Because sex is both physical act and emotional, greater intimacy leads to better sex. Besides, practice makes perfect.
The Good (Sex) Life
Let’s go back to the idea of “The Good Life,” is taught in the Pentateuch and Proverbs: If you obey God you’ll enjoy this life as much as possible.
· Job warned us that sometimes that doesn’t work and Ecclesiastes that without Heaven, it is meaningless.
Songs returns to the idea of the Good Life – here is this great gift of sex that God has given us and wants us to delight in. It’s his idea, there is nothing dirty about it.
In stark contrast to this Greek-based corruption, Songs exults passion within marriage. Its place in the Bible demonstrates God delights in his children sharing in passionate sexual love.
· Like with everything else, if we enjoy in obedience to his commands, we can enjoy it as much as it is possible.
Simply put: God says sex is best and most fulfilling when it occurs exclusively between one man and woman in the bonds of marriage. Anything outside of this falls short and is sin.
· Sin isn’t a random set of rules – it’s not like God withholds it as a practical joke.
· Sin is that which hurts us, hurts others, and hurts our relationship with God.
And as a pastor, I get a bird’s eye view of many people hurting themselves and others through sexual sins. I’ve talked a lot about that in past sermons (I’ll put links on the website).
· Caveat: Job reminds us it doesn’t always “work,” – I understand that past history may change the game for you.
But that’s enough of that – too often, the church’s approach to sex is what not to do, let’s talk a little bit about what to do!
Remembering our first love
As I said, Songs is the story of some newlyweds. It’s in the form of a story, or more so, a collection of songs, was written as a drama, with three part, the Husband (called the Lover), the Wife (the Beloved), and the Chorus (the Friends).
· Reading through it is like watching newlyweds, like Dave and Elizabeth on Facebook.
And how do we respond? We roll our eyes, and say, “Just you wait until you’ve been married for awhile!”
Q Why to respond that way? Why aren’t we all excited for them?
Jealousy. They aren’t doing anything wrong; they’re doing the stuff you’ve forgotten to do, that you used to do, before the routines of life, years of hurts, and expectations stopped you.
· Rather than rolling our eyes at the newlyweds, we should be taking notes (“I forgot you could do that in public”).
This is largely a sermon for those of us who have been married for a couple of years, especially if you have kids. But all of you can learn from it, especially if you want to get married.
The Power of Words
There are many lessons we can learn from these newlyweds:
· Giving yourself to each other.
· Making yourself attractive to the other.
· The hiddenness of sex.
But I want to focus on the power of words to make or break our sex life.
I remember my youth pastor quoting his wife, “If you want to make love to me in the bedroom, make love to my ears in the kitchen.” But because he was talking to a bunch of Jr. High boys, he immediately regretted saying it that way.
Proverbs 18:21 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
All of us our eating the fruit of our speech, whether lush, ripe strawberries, or moldy old pumpkins, like the mush leftover from Halloween.
Delight in each other – out loud
As I read through Songs, the first thing that really hits me is that they really delight in each other, and they are not afraid to say it.
· The majority of the book is them talking about how hot the other person is.
It frequently uses imagery that is puzzling and comic to us. The problem is we’re reading it wrong – we assume the comparisons to be visual, but they typically refer to what a thing represents.
For instance, we read “Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon” (7:4) and think she has a big nose, but in Hebrew mind, a tower represents dignity, strength, symmetry.
· Think of the Washington Monument, sitting in the middle of the Mall, like a balancing point, stark and elegant.
With that in mind, go back and read Songs (it’s only 114 verses). BTW: In my preaching I both try to teach you from the Scriptures, but also help you read them better yourself.
Even more importantly, you need to be speaking this stuff each other, out loud, not just in your mind.
· Yes, I know guys are typically non-verbal (not me), but you don’t get credit for men left on the bases.
If you see your wife getting out of the shower and think “Wow!” say it (without trying to get more). If you see your husband playing with the kids and feel turned on, say it.
è Turn to your spouse and say “You’re hot!”
A healthy vanity
Here is one of Songs trick for a good sex life: Appeal to their vanity.
Vanity in the bad sense is a need and desire for everyone to think you’re wonderful, attractive, etc. But in marriage there’s a healthy vanity, a need to be well thought of by your spouse.
· The Beloved wants to be beautiful in his eyes; she wants to be praised by him; That is a good thing, right and proper.
· The Lover wants to be strong and desirable in her eyes.
See what I mean by healthy vanity? This is not a defect, don’t belittle this craving. This is how things are supposed to be.
Your spouse needs to hear these things from you. Your opinion of your spouse is more important and holds deeper meaning than anyone else’s. That is how it is meant to be.
· If that ever changes, your marriage is in deep, deep trouble.
If you aren’t telling your husband or wife that they are attractive and wonderful, and someone else is, that is an affair waiting to happen. “The lips of the adulterer drip with honey.”
· The moment your spouse starts to listen and care about their opinion, it is a matter of time.
Affairs are seldom just physical; they almost always start emotionally, with a person giving emotional support.
Q When was the last time you told your wife why you find her attractive?
Not just physically, but character, actions, and faith.
· You said it all the time when you were dating and newlyweds.
At some point, that “I’m on my way home” call went from “What are you wearing?” to “I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?”
What she need to hear
Men: Your wife craves for you to see her as the beautiful, feminine, lovely woman he married, even after all these years and kids. Listen to what he says:
NIV Song of Solomon 7:1 How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman’s hands. 2 Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies. 3 Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. 4 Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus. 5 Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel. Your hair is like royal tapestry; the king is held captive by its tresses. 6 How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights!
· You may need to retranslate some of that, but your wife wants to know that you still find her desirable.
Build her up
As you read Songs, they are unabashed in their praise for each other, and there is no false modesty. They freely give and receive the compliments.
· There is none of this “You’re so beautiful.” “No, I’m fat.” See, guys freeze at that point, when he needs to continue.
For some reason, women have a hard time with receiving compliments.
è Here’s a key phrase you need to learn: “Thank you.” Let’s practice it.
Reading Songs this time I noticed something I have never noticed before, the bride compliments herself on at least three occasions (1:5, 2:1, and 8:10).
· There is a direct connection between his repeated declarations of her beauty and her recognition of her beauty.
I’ve found that a husband has an incredible power to instill beauty in his wife or to take it away, and I’ve watched both.
I have seen woman who think themselves unattractive find their beauty through his words.
I have also seen beautiful woman made to feel ugly because of an verbally abusive husband, and start to look it – of course these woman are prime targets for a sweet talking man.
But don’t be that guy, build your wife up, don’t tear her down. If we find out you are that guy, the Elders will be talking to you. She is God’s daughter and our sister.
· Tell your wife that she is beautiful every day, until your kids think it’s her name. And don’t let her contradict you.
Q Men: Why don’t we continue to do this?
We did it when we’re pursuing them. It’s self-centeredness. We have got the girl, now we do what we want. We need to repent.
The only one in your eyes
Of course it is one thing to say that, it’s another to prove it:
Q How do you prove that you find your wife attractive?
By not looking at other women. After he finish yet another description of her beauty:
Song of Solomon 6:8-9 8 Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins beyond number; 9 but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The maidens saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her.
In other words, he says “I only have eyes for you.” Understand that by referring to the queens and concubines, he is talking about all the trophy wives and model girlfriends. He’s like, “They’re pretty, I guess, but my babe is amazing.”
Not only will she feel more attractive, but you’ll find her more attractive as you stop comparing her to airbrushed fantasies.
· You know what I am talking about: Pornography.
One reason pornography is so destructive to a marriage: Like this bride, your wife wants to be the only object of affection, the only one in your eyes. Porn means she’s one of many.
· 47% of Christians say porn has caused major problems, so that means (guys) it’s either you or the person next to you.
When you view porn, what your wife hears is telling her she is ugly, that she is not desirable enough.
But, you say, she doesn’t know. You will get caught, and it will be bad. No I won’t. Yes you will, because I am going to give away your secret:
Women: If your husband isn’t interested in sex, there is a very fair chance he is looking at porn and masturbating. There are exceptions, but men typically crave regular release.
Here is the other problem with porn: It is an escape mechanism. Rather than deal with the challenges of marriage and sex, you can escape into porn.
· This goes for women too. 1 out 3 porn viewers are women.
But, you say, it’s not always bad, we use it as a couple.
Q Which is healthier: Being so into your spouse that they so it for you, or needing to “bring someone else in”?
Just for the record: Porn viewers are 300% more likely to get divorced. Is that a statistic you want working against you?
If you are using porn: Stop.
It is not innocent; it cannot be used in moderation. It is always bad and destructive. Even if you are not married, it will destroy your future marriage.
· I know this is totally counter-culture.
If you want to stop, you need help. Sin loves darkness and privacy. Talk to good Christian friends, or talk to one of the Elders or Deacons.
If you think your spouse is: Confront them. If they deny it, and you don’t believe them, talk to us.
Two good resources: pureonline.com and XXXChurch.com (free accountability software that I use).
· Okay, we’re done; you can all start breathing again.
What he needs to hear
So men need to let your wives know they are desirable, to appeal to that healthy vanity, the desire to be desired.
Ladies: Your husband craves for you to see him as strong, valiant, and desirable man you married, even as he’s struggled financially and benefited from your good cooking.
NIV Song of Solomon 5:10 My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. 11 His head is purest gold; his hair is wavy and black as a raven. 12 His eyes are like doves by the water streams, washed in milk, mounted like jewels. 13 His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume. His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh. 14 His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite. His body is like polished ivory decorated with sapphires. 15 His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as its cedars. 16 His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Again, you may need to retranslate some of this: Instead of hair that is wavy and black like a raven, his head may now be the Dome of the Rock.
· If you really want a man to feel good, brag about him publically.
· This is also counter-culture – our media teaches you to be disrespectful.
Women frequently miss how fragile their guy is. As I said, your opinion matter more to him than anyone else. He can withstand any amount of external insults if he knows you are on his side.
· Because you are his lover, you can help him more and hurt him worse than anyone else.
· This isn’t weakness; it is a really good thing.
Sex is the highest vulnerability that we can share, being truly naked in every sense of the word, which leaves us open to the greatest intimacy but also the deepest wounds.
· It is not your job to keep your husband humble.
And the more you insult him (especially publically), the more he will shut his heart off to you.
Think of your husband as a cute little puppy, so eager to please, eager to have his head scratched. But if you keep kicking him, he will either fight, cower, or run away.
Q Women: Why do you do this?
Bitterness – that puppy made peed on the floor, broken lamps, and left his laundry on the floor. He is not the prince charming you dreamed of. You need to repent and forgive.
If you want to improve your sex life, begin with your words; they can tear down or build up. Communication is the key when it come to sex.
· Remembering to tell each other how you feel, to appeal to their vanity.
· Tell her she is beautiful.
· Tell him he is great.
· Keeping your eyes and your imagination on your spouse, pushing through the struggles rather than escaping through porn.
These are not difficult in theory, but in practice is a different thing:
· Write a note to each other.
· Tell your spouse where you want to grow.
· Talk to trustworthy, non-gossipy friends
· Attend the marriage group.
· Talk to the Elders.
· If you have wounded each other too much, you may need counseling. I hope every couple does marriage counseling.
Q & A
· Song of Solomon excels at being tantalizingly suggestive without being bawdy, which I think makes it far sexier than Lady Gaga’s brazenness. But I suppose our culture has little taste for subtlety.
Main Point(s) of sermon:
Objectives of sermon:
· Improve Godly sexuality in marriages and our understanding of God’s passion for us.