Chapter 19: Sex in Salvation History - Radical

Chapter 19: Sex in Salvation History

Chapter 19: Sex in Salvation History

A Chronicle of Redemption series

If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to the much-anticipated Song of Solomon. For the record, this is the first time I have ever preached from the book of Song of Solomon. I have read this book before. I have studied this book before. I have read and studied this book with my wife before, which is an absolutely delightful experience.

So, this is a great book, but this book becomes strangely awkward when you’re teaching it to other people. I just want you to know there are things that are in this book that we don’t normally talk about in sermons. There are things here we don’t normally talk about in public conversation at all. We don’t use these words. There are things you read through this book, and you’re like, “That is in the Bible? Oh my! What is going on here?” You start to wonder, “Why is this in here?” That’s where I want us to see the goodness of God and the wisdom of God. Three out of the next four weeks, we’re going to look at Bible book overviews of three different wisdom books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Wisdom books are given us in Scripture to show us how obedience to God and the glory of God are carried out and made known in the day-to-day routine of our lives. This is where it makes sense.

Competitors to Christianity in our Culture…

Well, think about where we’re going to go in the next few weeks. I want you to think about competitors to Christianity in our world. Think with me for a moment just beyond atheism, beyond agnosticism or Islam or Hinduism. Think about egotism: the idolatry of self. This is a way of living that surrounds us, that says, “Self is supreme.” Self-esteem, self-confidence, self-promotion, self-advancement, and self-satisfaction is the mantra of our age, and we’re going to see that addressed in the book of Proverbs. We’re going to see that wisdom is not found in respecting ourselves, but in revering God.

Think about materialism: the idolatry of stuff. This is, obviously, huge in our world. We’re going to see that in a couple weeks addressed in the book of Ecclesiastes, and the end of stuff, where it leads us, but then today I want us to look at another competitor to Christianity in our world, and what some would say is the fiercest competitor to Christianity in our world, and that’s eroticism: the idolatry of sex. There is no question that over the last century in our world we have undergone a sexual revolution.

One of my friends, Pastor Mark Dever, writes,

The most important revolution of the last century has been the sexual revolution. Contraception replaced conception. Pleasure was separated from responsibility. It was as if a license was given out legitimizing the bending of every part of our lives around serving ourselves. Since that time, divorce, remarriage, abortion, premarital sex, and extramarital sex, as well as homosexuality have been accepted by increasing percentages of the public. Pornography is huge business, and this is not just a problem with society out there. Many churches have found their members plagued by failed marriages and illicit affairs; by so-called “private sins” that turn into public disgraces, some of which are known, some of which are not yet known.

We know this is true. We see the effects of the sexual revolution every single time we turn on the TV and every single time you go to a movie. We see it every single time we stand in a check-out line at the grocery store, and we’re surrounded by magazines. We encounter it every time we hear someone make a joke about sexuality. We see the effects in political discussions all across the board.

So, it’s among other reasons, a really good thing that we have the book of Song of Solomon, because here’s the deal: when you think about it, it would make no sense if we didn’t have this book. God has created us as sexual beings; it is really an integral part of who we are, and how He has created us to relate to one another. It would make no sense if we had nowhere in the canon of Scripture where God addresses this. So, what we’ve got is the book of Song of Solomon that says, “Yes, you have physical longings and cravings and desires and urges, and you have them because God gave them to you, and He gave them to you for your good and for His glory.”

Questions about Song of Solomon in the Church…

So, how can sexual love be experienced for our good and for His glory? Song of Solomon gives us the answer. Now, there are a lot of questions about Song of Solomon in the history of the church. One commentator said, “This is the most debated, most difficult, most mysterious book in the entire Bible.” It’s a complicated book and difficult to understand. A lot of the words that are contained in the Song of Solomon are not found anywhere else in Scripture, which makes a lot of these words unique and a bit difficult to interpret. Then, you’ve got images that fill this book that are unfamiliar to us; you’ve got all kinds of plants and animals and spices and perfumes and unfamiliar places.

Then, the metaphors don’t always translate so naturally into our context. For example, it makes sense when we see this man calling this woman his darling, or a dove, or a fountain, but when he says she looks like a horse, or that her hair reminds him of goats, or when he says that her nose is like a tower, we’re thinking, “This guy has no hope of any action whatsoever. You don’t say that!” So, there’s a lot of difficulty here that can make this tough to interpret.

When you look in the history of the church, you see all kinds of different interpretations. People have asked, “Is this book allegorical?” Is it allegorical? You remember allegory is like an extended metaphor, where a story is told but the story is not really a true story. It’s telling about something bigger. All the characters and all the details stand for something else.

So, people have looked at this book throughout church history and said, “Well, this is a story, really, that points us to God’s relationship with His people.” As a result, preachers and commentators have come up with all kinds of fanciful interpretations for what different things in this book mean. For example, in the very beginning of the book, the kisses that are mentioned, some have said that’s referring clearly to the Word of God. The woman’s navel or waist is a reference to the Sanhedrin. Concerning her two lips, one stood for the law and one stood for the gospel. Her breasts stood for all kinds of interesting things. Some have said they stand for Moses and Aaron. Some say they stand for the Old Testament and the New Testament, or for the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor.

This is real stuff; these are sermons and commentaries. So, all right, let’s leave that one behind. Is it typological? A type is like a shadow that points to an object, that reflects something else or that points to something even greater, and usually this book is used as a picture of the type of Christ and the church. So, say for example in the man here, some say the man is pointing us to Christ, and all that we’re seeing in the woman is pointing us to the church.

Now, we’re going to talk about that a little bit later, but not go fully in a typological picture here. Others have asked, “Is it literal?” Is it just naturally a story about a man and woman who love one another and are being loved by one another? However, even among those who say it’s literal, there’s debate. Is it a story, or is it just songs? Is this giving us a step-by-step narrative? There are some who say in the beginning it starts out with a man and woman seeking after one another. Then, they court one another; then, it leads to their wedding day, then their wedding night, and then celebration of love after that. Is it that kind of narrative, or is it just songs that are put together? Even among those who debate about whether it’s just songs, they say, “Is it just one song, or is it a bunch of just random songs put together?”

Among those who say it’s a story, they debate whether or not it’s involving two characters or three. The most common view is that it’s two characters; that it’s Solomon and a Shulamite girl. Then there are others who say there’s actually a third person in there. The Shulamite girl is in love with a shepherd, and Solomon is getting in the way of that and trying to lure her away from this lover by his riches. So, they debate whether or not it’s two characters or three.

Then, there’s the question of is this book written to Solomon, by Solomon, or about Solomon? In the beginning of the book, it says, “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” That, literally, can be translated any one of those ways. Is it “to” like a dedication for Solomon? Is it written “by” Solomon; is he the author? Or is this “about” Solomon; is he the subject?

Now, there are all kinds of different interpretations and questions, and I certainly don’t want to claim to come on the scene today and solve all the problems and all the issues, but what I do want us to do is I want us to see what is pretty clear, and we’re going to look at an overview of this book and try and see what is pretty clear. At the base in understanding this book, it is clearly musical. In other words, this is a song. It’s a poem. This is love poetry. When it says, “The Song of Songs,” literally, it means the finest of all songs. That’s the title: “The Finest of All Songs.”

The claim is that this song is unmatched in its beauty and its arrangement and its poetry. I think it’s safe to say this claim is backed up pretty well. Just think about this: it is divinely-inspired love poetry. Now, you can’t get any better than that. It is God-breathed romance, and God-breathed poems about love, inspired by His Spirit. This is unmatched by anything else in all history. It is showing us a celebration of sexual love. That’s what the book is doing. One commentator said, “The Song of Songs is primarily an unabashed celebration of the pleasure of sexual intimacy.” Pleasure is the right word there, because you will notice in eight chapters, you don’t see kids mentioned anywhere.

Think about this with me: clearly, sex is not just for procreation. Sex is given by God for pleasure. Sex not just given so that we would multiply; sex is given so that we would enjoy. That’s the picture we’ve got here. It’s a celebration of sexual love, and at the same time, this book is reminding us of cautions about sexual love.

This is where I want to show you one phrase mentioned three different times. I want you to underline it, because this is huge. Song of Solomon 2:7 is the first time you see it. Three times in this book, the author reminds us that sexual love is good only in the timing which God has set. Listen to Song of Solomon 2:7, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” Underline it there… “You not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” You get over to 3:5, and it says, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” There it is again.

Then, you get over to 8:4, and it’s the same thing. “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” This is so different than the world. The world says, “Have sex at any time, in any place, with any person.” What Song of Solomon is going to show us is that this only happens like this in God’s time, in the place that God has ordained, with the person God has given to you. This is very different from what our culture would say.

Now, here’s where I want to pause for a moment, because I know that there are many brothers and sisters in our faith family who are here who are not married. Maybe you’re students, maybe you’re adults who are single, maybe you are divorced or widowed. I know there are a variety of different circumstances represented. Now, what I want to say to you is, if you are not married, this book and this sermon are not just for married people. This book and this sermon is for single people as well. Here’s why: yes, clearly this book is for married people. It is an encouragement and exhortation to remember and enjoy the beauty of sexual love, and it is an exhortation and encouragement for all who are single to make sure not to try to steal away the beauty and enjoyment of sexual love out of its context, and end up missing the whole point.

You’ll miss it when what we’re seeing about sexual love in Song of Solomon is ripped away from the context of marriage. So, here’s the deal, and this is what I love about what we’re doing with this message: usually when it comes to students or those who are single, the message that we preach in the church is, “Sex is bad, so don’t do it. Okay, there. Now, go have a nice life.” That is what we say, and what I want to say to you is, in some senses, the exact opposite. I want you to see that sex is really good. You can quote me on that. I want you to see that it’s good, it is valuable, it is grand, and it is majestic and wonderful in the context God has put it in. We take it out of that, and we rip it all apart. So, I want you to value it so highly. I don’t want you to see it as bad. I want you to see it as wonderful.

I want you to see it as wonderful enough to make sure to keep it in its proper context, and to avoid every impulse in your sinful nature and in the world which surrounds you to pull it out of that context, because once it’s ripped from that context, it is obliterated in its beauty. I say that intentionally; it is obliterated in its beauty. So, guard it, and we don’t have time to look there, but this is where Song of Solomon 8 is useful. You see the brothers of the woman in this passage who guard their sister. They say, “She is a garden locked up, a wall closed in. We’re going to guard her purity.” I think there’s a picture there for us as a church. My prayer is that together we would guard one another when it comes to the beauty of sexual love; that yes, we would nurture that among married couples, and then among single brothers and sisters, that we would help guard one another.

Brothers in this body of Christ, guard your sisters. Protect your sisters. Do not take advantage of your sisters, and the picture is men guarding the women, but I would go so far as to say to sisters: guard your brothers. Do not entice him. While we’re just putting it all out on the table, I want to say to the sisters: dress in a way that glorifies God. Do not lead your brother astray. Now, I’m not just talking about when we gather together for worship, though, certainly, when we gather together for worship, but even on a bigger scale. At what point is it appropriate to draw attention to yourself in a way that leads your brother to sin? Throw away skimpy clothes. Find your contentment and your joy and your identity in Christ, and not how they look at you, and in the process, be a garden locked up until God ordains that you might let loose. Do so, then, for the glory of God, and dress conservatively, not because we are legalistic around here; dress conservatively because we love one another around here, and because we love the glory of God. So, we’re going to see a celebration of sexual love, and be reminded of cautions about sexual love. I pray that as a faith family we will heed both.

A King and His Bride in Song of Solomon…

So, here’s the picture, and this is where we’re going to spend most of our time: a king and his bride in Song of Solomon. We’re going to stop right here for a few moments, and what I want us to see is I want us to see five facets of this relationship between the king and his bride in the book of Song of Solomon. They’re just facets that are repeated over and over again.

I want us to see in it the beauty and the pleasure that are found in sexual love. All right, here we go. Facet number one: exclusive devotion. They sought out only each other. As soon as I say that, I know there’s some who think, and you might think when you’re reading through this book, “I don’t get it. If this is by Solomon or about Solomon, and the dude had multiple wives, then how can you say this is exclusive devotion?”

This is where we go back to that whole conversation about whether this is to Solomon, about Solomon, or by Solomon, but the reality is, what we see in Song of Solomon is clear: this is a man and a woman who only have eyes for each other, who are devoted to seeking each other out. You look in the very beginning; this is where it starts in Song of Solomon 1:2. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you.” Then, you get to Song of Solomon 3 and look at verse 1. “Draw me towards you.” Then, listen to her. She says,

On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not. The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me.

She’s seeking after him, and only him. Look over in Song of Solomon 4; we’re going to look at this more in depth in a moment, but look at verse 12. I already mentioned this imagery. He says about her, “A garden locked is my sister, my bride…” “Sister” there is just a term of endearment. “…a spring locked, a fountain sealed.” Basically, what he is saying is, “She is locked to all other men but me.” When you get down to verse 15, he says to me, “She’s a garden fountain and a well of living water and flowing streams from Lebanon.”

You get over to 7:10, and you see this phrase that’s very similar to what we just read. She says, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” What I want us to see is the beauty we are uncovering here in the book of Song of Solomon is characterized by exclusive devotion. They’re unwavering in seeking after one another and looking toward one another and longing for one another. Oh, I pray that this would be the pattern of marriages all across the church! Men, do not let another woman distract you for a moment. Don’t even look, and do not let a magazine substitute for your wife. Do not let the internet substitute for your wife. Ladies, do not flirt for a moment. Run from any thought of it. Why would you settle for garbage in another man when you have gladness in the husband that God has ordained for you? Men, why would you settle for trash, and that’s what any other woman is to you in this way. Other women are trash. Why would you settle for that when you have treasure in your wife, or your future wife, or your future husband, in these ways? Don’t settle for less. Don’t have weak desires. There’s so many of us, all it takes is a little bit to satisfy. Be done with weak desires. Have strong desires for that which is best; that’s what we’re seeing here. Oh, the beauty!

I praise God when I think about my wife, and the fact that I know that she belongs to me and I to her, and us alone in this; that I can say with all integrity this morning, by the grace of God, that my eyes are completely fixed on her. She has my full affection, and to receive her full affection, this is God’s design. It’s in this garden, a garden closed to everybody else but you and your wife or husband, that things get really, really good with heated anticipation.

Now, I want you to see two facets of the anticipation that build between the man and the woman in Song of Solomon. Regardless of whether this is a drama or not, there is clear anticipation. There are two facets: first, they began with tender words. You see them just complimenting and affirming one another throughout this book. It’s love poetry, them affirming one another. Listen to her in Song of Solomon 5:10. Listen to her talk to him. She says to him,

My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool. His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is so sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

That will make any guy feel great. This is the picture here: she is affirming him, and he is affirming her. Look in Song of Solomon 6:4, “You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners.” We’re going to look at something more specific. Skip down to verse 9. “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, pure to her who bore her. The young women saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her. Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?”

Don’t miss this. Pleasure with one another is grounded in praise for one another. These verses are worth memorizing for moments when they are appropriate. It is good to build up one another. That’s where it starts. Notice 1:1 doesn’t just start, “Well, here’s the picture of sex in the Bible.”

Instead, we see it built up to and surrounded by on all sides tender words that then lead to tantalizing work. Now, this right here is the climax of the book. This is where we’re going to get tantalizing. Go to 4:1 with me. Basically, what happens here is this is the climax of the book; it’s the middle of the book. It is where the king looks at his bride and, basically, begins to mentally, if not physically, undress her from the top down. That’s what’s happening here in 4:1. I love the imagery here because it’s so beautiful. It’s appropriate and alluring at the exact same time. This is a good picture for us to see. This is appropriate and good, and evidence of the goodness of God and the grace of God, and it’s good for this to allure us in the context of where God has put it.

In 4:1, the man is talking to his bride. He says, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.” Let me give a little explanation here. They say that from a distance, if you were to see a flock of sleek, black goats, and they were coming down a mountainside, a hillside, that, with the sun glistening off their backs, this would just be beautiful. So, we’ll take their word for that, and the picture would be then, as she is letting down her hair, and he sees her flowing dark hair, that he is drawn, and he is allured.

Verse 2, “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.” So, here, some translations say “not one of them is missing.” Verse 3, “Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like the halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.” Her cheeks are blushed red like sweet fruit, attractive to the eye, ready to be kissed. “Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors.”

Now, that’s not him saying, “Well, you’ve got a big fat neck.” That’s not what he’s saying there. The picture here is most likely not comparing her neck in appearance to a tower, like the tower is big and large, so your neck is big and large. That’s not what he’s saying. Instead, what he’s saying is similar in type. Just as the tower of David is beautiful and elegant, so your neck beautifully holds your head high above your beautiful body. That’s the picture.

Now, that will work. Verse 5, “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.” In light of the awkwardness here, I’m going to quote to you from my good friend Danny Akin, who wrote a wonderful commentary on this book called God and Sex. He said this well. He writes,

Note that there is nothing even remotely pornographic about this imagery here. Porneia clearly refers to evil sexual desire, and an entire industry is build on exploiting this sinful passion. But the point here is that a man’s desire for his wife is holy. His pleasure and erotic desire for her is holy. To deny this is to deny one of God’s good gifts. He compares this part of her body to twin fawns of a gazelle that feed among the lilies. They are soft and attractive, tender and delicate. Then he describes them as two mountains, one a mountain of myrrh and the other a hill of frankincense. Both spices were expensive and used as perfume for the body in the marriage bed. So enraptured is he that he desires to make love to his wife all night long, until the day breathes and the shadows flee.

Well said. This is good. The writer continues:

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards. You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed. Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices – a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

This is like a fantasy garden. It is like a lover’s dream to find all these fruits and all these spices and all these flowers all together in one garden; to find sights and smells and tastes all together.

What the husband is saying is, “That is my bride. She is wonderful, and every time I enter into her garden, then I discover new sights and smells and tastes to feast on that are beautiful.” That’s the picture; that every time he goes in to time with his wife, then the picture is a new and exciting adventure. This is God’s design. This is tantalizing work that leads to intimate consummation, when they gave over their bodies to one another.

Now, you don’t really see it very clearly in the ESV in verse 16, but clearly there’s a shift from the man addressing the woman to the woman addressing the man, but she doesn’t address him directly. She says, “Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow.” We’ve already seen how a garden has been locked up, and so the picture is she calls upon the winds to take that which has been held in, encapsulated in, and to let it flow to her husband now.

I love this picture; listen to this: “Let my beloved come to his garden…” You hear that? Not, “Let my beloved come to my garden.” She says, “Let my beloved come to his garden.” “I am my beloved’s and mine is his…” That’s the picture there. They are united together, and this is basically the climax of the book. “I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!”

Oh, don’t miss it: this is pure satisfaction right here on every level. It is emotional satisfaction. We’ve seen this. There’s joy and desire and intimacy and respect and honor here. This is so much more than just the joining of two bodies; it’s the joining of two personalities. All the more reason, brothers and sisters, to guard this. When we toy with our sexuality, we are toying with that which is deepest about who we are. It’s why, when we see the Bible talk about a man and a woman coming together, we see the language, “they knew one another.” This is the deepest, most intimate knowledge of one another. This is more than just that which is happening between two bodies; this is emotional connection and union that is brought together by God’s design, which leads to the second part, and that is spiritual satisfaction.

This is evident when you take this book, and you compare it with Genesis 2, especially verses 24 and 25. The man and woman, talking about Adam and Eve, were together; they were naked together and they felt no shame. Then, it says they came together as one flesh. This is a virtual commentary on that, on what God has designed for man and woman to experience.

You remember when they sinned in Genesis 3? What was the first effect that we see of their sin? Do you remember? They noticed they were naked, and they clothed themselves, and the intimacy that they had once shared in a sinless world was ripped apart. Song of Solomon is, obviously, not saying that this is a man and a woman who were sinless, but here’s the picture: God redeems this, and what He does in sexual love is He takes His original design, and He makes it available for His people. He says, “This is what you were created for; the kind of a union that is happening here; a one-flesh, open, vulnerable union with one another.”

So, this is emotional satisfaction, spiritual satisfaction, and intellectual satisfaction. We’ve already talked about this. We’ve seen the man and the woman targeting the most important sex organ we have: our minds. They’ve built up one another and encouraged one another. They’ve mentally and verbally acknowledged one another’s beauty, and don’t miss it here. Don’t get the wrong idea. Nowhere in Song of Solomon do we see that this couple is the model Hollywood couple. We don’t see really any details about what they look like. Instead, the only glimpses we see of this man and this woman are through the eyes of each other, and they see the beauty that God has uniquely designed for them in a way that is not for anyone else to share.

God has designed us in our marriages to experience a satisfaction on these levels that can only be experienced between my wife and me, or between wife and husband. That’s the picture here. All of it, of course, is leading to physical satisfaction, and I love the way Song of Solomon 4 ends and goes into 5:1, because it doesn’t give us all the details; it doesn’t give us this whole picture of this whole scene. Instead, it uses imagery. “Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.” He ate; he drank. “Be drunk with love.” Akin said, “We cannot be certain of all that is meant by the imagery of coming to the garden and tasting the choice fruits, but it is not difficult to imagine all sorts of good stuff.” This is the picture God has designed: pure satisfaction on every level.

Now, as if that’s not enough, my favorite part of the book is 8:14, the very last verse. I want you to see where the book ends. What you’ve got is this enraptured romance on every single verse, every single page, and then, you get to verse 14, and she says to him, “Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.” After all that we see and read about in this book, the book ends with a perpetual invitation. The woman is saying to the man, “Let’s do this again soon.” That’s often.

After all of this, she says, “Be like a gazelle. Hurry, be swift and go to the mountains of spices again.” This is the beauty of sexual love: it perseveres. It lasts again and again. God is good, gracious, and glorious in the way He has created all of this, and that is what the book of Song of Solomon is about, and my prayer is that, just on this level, it would encourage us. I pray that this text will encourage every married couple to delight fully in one another and to put this word into practice.

I pray that this will encourage you in your marriage. I pray that if this is an area that is struggling in your marriage, then what I want to say as preacher of the Word and your pastor is foster health in this area of your marriage. Promote and nourish this area of your marriage, and for every person who is not married, no matter what the situation is, I pray that you will see the beauty of sexual love in this context. You need to pray for your brothers and sisters who are married to experience that, and to make sure to guard that and not take that which God has created so beautifully here and rip it apart outside of the context for which He’s ordained it in any way, whether it be mentally, emotionally, or physically. God is gracious; He has created us in this way, and He will be gracious to sustain us in that.

A King and His Bride in Ephesians…

Now, what we’ve seen all throughout Scripture is that everything in this canon of Scripture is pointing us in a sense to something greater; it is pointing us to redemptive history. So, this is where I want us to think about, “Where does a book about sex, the Song of Solomon, fit into redemptive history?” This is where we are not going to go typological here and say, “Well, this means Christ, and this means church, and this means Christ right here.”

However, here’s the deal: turn with me over to Ephesians 5. I want to show you two different places in Scripture. Ephesians 5:22 is where we’ll start. We’ve looked at this passage before, but here’s the deal: we’ve already looked back at Genesis 2 and seen that God created man and woman for one another, to be joined together as one flesh, and Song of Solomon is a reflection on that and a commentary on what that means. So, I want us to look at what the New Testament teaches about this one-flesh union that we’ve just read about in Song of Solomon.

Ephesians 5:22 says,

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. [Listen carefully to verse 31] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Did you see what Paul just did there in verse 31? He quoted from Genesis 2:24-25, “A man shall leave his father and mother and  hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Paul says, “Here’s what that means. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Don’t miss this. What Paul is saying is that when God designed marriage and this sexual union together in Genesis 2, He did it with a bigger picture in mind. He designed marriage this way to point one day to the love of Christ for His people.

So, what we realize is that what God has designed, and what we’ve seen pictured here in Song of Solomon, while we don’t have to go back and look at every single detail and try to draw it to Christ and the church, we realize that this picture between a man and a woman in love is a picture of Christ and His church, and just as a man gives his body over to his wife, so Christ has done this for His church. Just as a man and a woman delight in one another and find satisfaction in one another, so Christ and His church find deepest satisfaction in relationship with each other.

So, what’s happening here is Ephesians is pointing us to the relationship between a king and His bride. To use similar language and similar facets, think about the picture here in Ephesians 5, and what we see in the gospel and the New Testament. It is a picture of humble devotion: King Jesus, has sought after you. Think of it. Like a husband seeking after a bride, in a much greater way, Jesus has sought you and has come looking for you. Then we have historic anticipation. This is what the Old Testament longed for. Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s Word

All these pictures and all these promises we are seeing in the Old Testament are pointing us to Christ. Even in Genesis 3:15, when in the middle of sin, God gives a promise and says, “I’m going to send one who will conquer the adversary, redeem you.”, this is Christ He’s pointing to. Christ is the one who’s going to redeem and make this possible. He is the fulfillment of all God’s Word; He is flawless in all His works. He comes and keeps the law perfectly, like no one else had ever done or will ever be able to do, and this, the perfect Son of God, in sacrificial consummation, gave up His body for us. That’s what Ephesians 5:25 said. He gave His body, or in other words, Himself, for her, so that you and me, in Him, might be reconciled to God and experience total satisfaction; to use the language of Matthew 22:37, that we might find our greatest delight in loving Him with all our heart. This is full emotional satisfaction. Loving Him with all our soul and loving Him with all our mind is intellectual satisfaction. Our delight is found in knowing God; knowing Him and loving Him with all our strength. We have total satisfaction in our heart, mind, soul, and strength coming together. All of that is made possible by a merciful invitation.

Trust in Christ as Savior and King, and He will forgive your sin and present you as His bride, wholly without blemish or spot. That’s the gospel right there. The holy God of the universe has sought you out and sent His Son to bear His wrath due our sin on the cross. He has shown His power over sin in the resurrection of Christ so that everyone who trusts in Christ as Savior and King may be reconciled to God, in relationship with Him forever.

That is glorious news, and it is what marriage is intended to point us to. It raises the Song of Solomon to a whole other level. Husbands, why do you need to have exclusive devotion for your wives? We need to do this because we are showing the world how Christ treats His church, and if Christ gives up on His church, then maybe it would be okay for us to give up on our wives. However, Christ will never give up on His church, so we can never give up on our wives. Just as we, as the church, are intended to find our delight in our Savior, so wives, I implore you to encourage and love husbands the way Ephesians 5 says, so that we would show that Christ is indeed delightful to the world around us. That’s the gospel here.

A King and His Bride in Revelation…

It points even to one greater picture. I want to show it to you. This is where we’ll end. Revelation 19: a King and His bride in Revelation. Earthly marriage is a foretaste of something greater in heaven. Earthly marriage is a foretaste of heavenly marriage, where we, as God’s people, are depicted as the bride of Christ, and our glorification in heaven is actually pictured as a wedding day. So, to every single man and woman, whether you are single or married, it does not matter. No matter what your age is, no matter what your marital status is, to every single person, look forward to this wedding day. Revelation 19:6,

Then I heard what seemed to be like the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exalt and give him the glory, for [listen to this] the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Flip over two chapters to Revelation 21:1, and let us look the other time we see this imagery. Listen to this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This is the beauty of marriage in heaven to which marriage on earth is intended to point us. It is intended to point us to the reality of a relationship marked by continual devotion. Brothers and sisters, the king who sought you on the cross will never stop seeking you. Your king will pursue you as His beloved until that day, and that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. It wasn’t easy for these brothers and sisters; these suffering saints in Revelation who were facing persecution, but what He says is live in hopeful anticipation: cling to God’s Word. What John is saying in Revelation is cling to God’s Word. Trust in His Word. The king is coming for you. Cling to His Word and commit to God’s work. Don’t waver in following after your King, church, but trust in and follow after your King.

Do not waver because glorious consummation is coming when our bodies will one day be made complete with Him. We will be resurrected with Him; together we will experience in its fullness eternal satisfaction and eternal delight in our husband, Christ. He will heal our hearts. To every brother or sister for whom Song of Solomon has opened up difficult wounds from broken marriages or damaged relationships or lost loved ones, I want to remind you that you have a husband in heaven who will one day heal your heart completely. He will heal our hearts. We will wear His righteousness. To every brother or sister for whom Song of Solomon has convicted you of sexual sin in your past, or maybe in your present, and you feel stained, His forgiveness is complete, and His righteousness is yours to wear. You wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself.

We will see His face. Our longings for intellectual stimulation will be met supremely in the face of our King, and we will feast at His table and enjoy His presence for all of eternity. All of this is leading to the ultimate invitation, and this is the question I want to ask every single person: Will you surrender to the love of this King? Will you surrender to His love? To any and every person who has never surrendered to the love of this King, I want you to know, I want you to hear, and I want you to see in Song of Solomon, in Ephesians, and in Revelation that there is a God in heaven who desires your good, who has created you for His glory, and has pursued you in your sin and your rebellion against Him. He has pursued you in your spiritual adultery. He has come after you. He is faithful, and He has brought you even to this place to hear a picture of infinitely wonderful love expressed in Christ on a cross.

I want to invite you, if you have never trusted in Him as your Savior and King and surrendered to His love in your life, to let your heart be open to Him for the first time today. Confess your need for Him and ask Him to change your heart. To every Christian brother or sister, if there is sexual sin or other sin in your life you’re toying with, to let go of it to find healing and forgiveness in Him and His love that allures you to Himself. I want you to see the beauty, not just of sexual love, but I want you to see the beauty of your God, and I want you to see the beauty of His love for you, and I want you to let your heart be drawn to Him as the bride of Christ.

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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