Sunday, October 15, 2006

Matt's Messages - Lovers

October 15, 2006
The Song of Songs

A few weeks ago, I realized that I had prepared a schedule of messages for this Home Improvement series that focused on some of the hardest parts of marriage: headship, submission, being married to an unbeliever, next week–conflict/divorce, and so on.

And I realized that I hadn’t planned in a least one message on some of the most delightful stuff about marriage. “Sugar and spice and everything nice,” if you know what I mean!

So I decided then and there that I had to fit in a message on romance and sex in the context of marriage. Being “Lovers.”

And there is no better book to study about that topic than the Song of Songs.

Now, that might surprise you. You might not have known that there was a book in the Bible–God’s Holy Word–that celebrates the gift of intoxicating marital intimacy.

Most people assume that the Bible has one thing and one thing only to say about romance and (especially) sex. What is it?

“Don’t do it.” “Just say no.” “Sex is bad.” “Don’t have sex.”

But that’s not true at all!

The Bible does warn against sex outside of marriage as being wrong and harmful and dangerous and displeasing to God.

But inside of the covenant of marriage, the Bible has an altogether different message on romance and sex:

Do it! Romance each other. Have sex. Lots of sex. Make love. Enjoy each other.

Be lovers.

And there is an entire book of the Bible–not just a verse here or there, not just a chapter, but a whole book of God’s Holy Word–dedicated to celebrating marital love and sizzling intimacy!

Now, that still doesn’t make it easy to preach about!

This is a difficult subject to preach on for a variety of reasons.

The first is that it is, in many ways, a private subject.

Our culture doesn’t understand that and tries to use romance and sexuality to sell things–everything, anything–on TV!

But it is proper for us to pull a veil over this information at times.

Robin, Andrew, and Peter are right here on the front row. This is a G-rated show! And I wouldn’t want to awaken anything that is inappropriate at their level.

It would be different if this was a marriage retreat, and we could be a little more public and vivid in what we taught about. But it is a private subject.

And for some of us, it is also a painful subject.

You’ve been hurt. Romance and sex have been used against you in some abusive way. Or you’ve been disappointed. Or you’ve been disappointing and made some mistakes in this area. So any teaching on it might awaken old wounds.

Believe me, as I prepared this material, I was aware that as glorious as it is, it could bring up some memories that are unpleasant.

And it’s also hard to preach on because it is a complex subject.

For one thing, we’re all at different places. Some of us are married and this message is mostly directed at married couples or soon to be. Some of us are unmarried and too young to get married. And the Song of Songs warns us three times(!) to not awaken love before its time. So, we have to be careful to not arouse those powerful feelings even as we study this important subject. Some of us are divorced. Some are widowed. Some of us have been married a long time. Others just a short time. And all of us probably need to hear something different. So it makes it complex.

And the subject is also complex just because the Song of Songs is complex. Some scholars say that after the Book of Revelation, Solomon’s Song of Songs is the hardest book of the Bible to interpret. And after studying it this week, I think I have to agree! I wished a bunch of times that I hadn’t announced last week that we’d be dipping into it today! I don’t understand all of it and don’t pretend to.

So, it’s a complex subject.
It’s a potentially painful subject.
And, to some degree, it should be a private subject.

On the other hand, here it is in your Bible!

An entire book in God’s Holy Word dedicated to lovers!

Just because of that, it’s an important subject. Too important to pass over.

Too important for our families. Too important for Home Improvement.

So, let’s pray and see what we can say today about the Song of Songs.


Now, this morning, we’re not going to read the whole thing. And I’m not going to try to explain everything that is in the Song of Songs. Someday, Lord-willing, I will teach the entire thing to you. But I’m not ready for that just yet.

But I do want to dip into it. I want to show you some of the book’s features and explain some of it’s message to you. And I want to apply it to our marriages.

I want to start by saying that I have one goal for this message for our church family.

And that is that our married couples romance each other.


Husbands, romance your wives.

Wives, romance your husbands.

There is an entire book of the Bible to give you inspiration for that purpose!!!

Lovers, Romance Each Other.

And by that, I mean the whole list of things that fall under romance.

From warm companionship and simple signs of affection all the way to making sweet love together. Enjoying the gift of marital intimacy.

Bible believing, Bible applying Christians should be known as the happiest, most sexually fulfilled people on the planet.

You wouldn’t know it from TV, but the best sex and romance is to be found in a Christian marriage!

Lovers, Romance Each Other.

I have 5 adverbs to add to that goal.


Lovers, Romance Each Other Exclusively.

Look at Song of Songs chapter 2, verse 16. This is the voice of the beloved bride.

“My lover is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies.”

Now the lilies in the rest of the book allude to her sweet femininity, so that probably is a reference to some kind of sexual activity.

But what I want to point out is the possession and the exclusivity of this relationship.

“My lover is mine and I am his.”

In other words, “We belong to each other and to no one else.”

Proverbs 5 gives this command: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. [He’s talking about whom to romance.] Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? [If your wife is a spring or a fountain or a cistern, should she be giving away her water to others. No.] Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer–may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated [intoxicated] by her love” (15-19).

That’s a command. Sex is for marriage. Exclusively.

And there is power in that.

Because I know that all of her romance is directed at me, and because she knows that all of my romance is directed at her, there is a power in our romance, a force that binds us together and gives a potency that transforms the quality of our love.

Husbands, do you have eyes for only one woman?

Wives, do you have eyes for only one man?

Can you say? [Do you say?!] “My lover is mine and I am his...”

Lovers, Romance Each Other Exclusively.

If there is someone else, even if it’s just mental, just a wandering “what if,” they need to go so that you are exclusive with your spouse.

Lovers, Romance Each Other Exclusively.

Lovers, Romance Each Other (#2) CREATIVELY.

We have before us a literary creation meant to celebrate the gift of intimacy.

And there are here some carefully chosen words that are meant to arouse romance and sensuality between these two people.

It’s very creative. And I think that one of the purposes of that is to inspire us to do the same. To be creative in our romance.

C.J. Mahaney has written an excellent little book on this that I have drawn heavily from. It’s called Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know, and I heartily recommend it. Every wife should buy it for their husband. Every husband should buy it and apply it for their wife.

And he has this phrase in there. “Gentlemen, before you touch her body, touch her heart and mind.”

Mahaney says, “Based on my counseling experience as a pastor, I’d say most wives are well aware of this dynamic. They know that carefully composed words have great power to promote romance and marital intimacy.”

And he suggests that we learn how to creatively romance our spouses by reading and thinking about the Song of Songs.

Let’s take an excerpt and think about that. Turn over to chapter 4, verses 1-7.

This is the lover groom speaking to his beloved.

“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of David, built with elegance; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. Your two breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense. All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

Now, some of that takes some getting used to, doesn’t it?

We don’t talk like that. And I’m not suggesting that guys should just quote this word for word to their wives!

You might get in trouble for telling her that her hair looks like a flock of goats or that her neck is like the tower of David.

But those are metaphors, and in Ancient Near Eastern poetry, this was heavy stuff!

He’s not so much telling her exactly what she looks like, but what she makes him feel like when he looks at her.

That flock of goats hair was like a living, moving, vibrant kind of hair seen from the distance. This was the closest they came to special-effects. It’s like on one of those commercials for hair products when the hair on the model just dances around on her shoulders–like it’s beautiful and alive. That’s what he’s saying.

And the tower of David probably moved this man with its elegance and stateliness. He was saying that she provoked profound admiration in him when he looked at her neck. She was stately and awe-inspiring to him.

You see how creative he was?

Saying her breasts were like fawns was not saying that they had four legs and a white tail. It was how those fawn made him feel. They were soft and warm and tender and made him feel tender, too. She changes him when he looks at her.

Do you get the picture?

She is creative, too, with how she talks to him. Switch over to chapter 5, verse 10.

“My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is purest gold; his hair is wavy and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves by the water streams, washed in milk, mounted like jewels. His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume. His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh. His arms are rods of gold set with chrysolite. His body is like polished ivory decorated with sapphires. His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as its cedars. His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

She’s saying that to other people about him!

Do you sense the creativity here?

Can you do something like that with your spouse?

Words. Carefully chosen words have a real power to them.

Use them.

Of course, creativity isn’t just about words. C.J. has a whole chapter on what guys can do to creatively romance their wives.

#1. Date night. I highly recommend it, too.
#2. Phone calls.
#3. Notes, cards, letters.
#4. Gifts.
#5. Music.
#6. Gettaways.
#7. Surprises. Read the book to see what he says about all of those.

I made one of those creative phone calls to my wife this week and it was very silly and very romantic. I actually left a voice-mail, and she’s saved it! It was a keeper.

Now, you might be saying, “Well, that works for you, you’re kind of goofy, and Heather likes that kind of thing. But that’s isn’t me.”

I say, Lovers Romance Each Other Creatively, and do it your way. Find out what pleases your spouse and get to work!

Because romance is work. It comes naturally a bit, but then over time it takes work to keep going.

But that work is worth it in the payoff.

Don’t believe the movies that show the romance as working at the beginning and then dying away because it’s just not there anymore and there’s nothing you can do about it.


Work at it. Find out what she likes and do it. Find out what pleases him and do it.

Romance is for all married couples.

It won’t look the same for all married couples, but it is for all Christian marriages.

Don’t let it die out.

Don’t become like that guy who said, “I told you I loved you when I married you and if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” That’s a sinful, unbiblical thing to do.

Tell her. And tell her creatively.

This creativity builds anticipation. And it moves towards consummation.

#3. Lovers, Romance Each Other PASSIONATELY.

Look, for example, at chapter 4, verse 9. This is the man speaking.

“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice!”

That’s passion.

Listen to what she says in chapter 5, verse 8.

“O daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you–if you find my lover, what will you tell him? Tell him I am faint with love.”

Oh yeah. These are people who don’t just feel half-hearted about each other, but give their all to each other.

They are passionate.

Are you passionate in your romance for your spouse?

Passion comes and goes. It ebbs and flows. You can’t build a marriage on feelings. You have to build it on covenant, on promises-kept, on commitment.

But on that covenant, on those promises, on the foundation of that commitment, you can fan the flames of passion.

And you can be more in love with your spouse after many years of marriage than newlyweds could ever dream of.

That’s definitely true for my beloved and me. We are more in passionate love now than we were when we were young.

What can you do to build passion?

One thing is to talk about it. Again, creatively use words and build your passion.

Say, “I love you” to your spouse every day.

And not, “Love ya.” like it was a handshake, but “I love you” and look in their eyes.

That’ll make a big difference, just that little thing.

It isn’t a foundation, but to continue our construction metaphors, passionate romance is like a super-glue or a cement that goes into the building process and acts as a bonding agent that ties the whole thing together.

And guys, we’ve to take the lead here. We’ve got to take the initiative in passionate romance.

Like everything else in marriage, our headship is at work here.

But ladies, in the Song of Songs, the woman takes the initiative, too. Carolyn Mahaney points out in her book that the woman is attractive, available, and anticipating.

At several points in the book, she is inviting him into an intimate encounter.

Ladies, your husbands are open to this!

#4. Lovers, Romance Each Other INTIMATELY.

Notice as you read the Song of Songs how sensual it really is.

And I mean all five senses: Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, Smell.

It’s about intimacy. Full intimacy.

Notice all of the words about kissing.

Chapter 1, verse 2.

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for your love is more delightful than wine.”

Kissing from the get-go!

Chapter 4, verse 11. The guy says, “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue.”

C.J. points out that this means that this kind of kissing did not originate with the French!

Lovers, Romance Each Other Intimately.

There is also caressing and intimate touching. I won’t go into that for time and G rating reasons, but you can see it in places like chapter 2, verse 6 and chapter 7, verse 8.

And it does all work towards consummation. Look at chapter 4, verse 16.

“Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. [The garden is her.] Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits. [Then he says,] I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk.”

That’s consummation.

And the point is that marital intimacy is a gift. It is to be celebrated (there is an entire book that celebrates it in the Bible!), and it is to be enjoyed, experienced, relished in the context of the marriage covenant.

So, lovers romance each other intimately. I expect there to be application of this teaching! You don’t have to tell the rest of us about it, though!

And fifth and last, Lovers, Romance Each Other LOVINGLY.

And by that, I mean serve each other in love.

This gift to be enjoyed is really a gift to give, not to take.

As much as we enjoy it, romance and sexuality are meant to be something that we give away out of love for our spouse.

Philippians chapter 2 is true for our bedrooms as much as any other room:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

Jesus selflessly died to save sinful people like us.

And if we turn and put our trust in Him we will be saved.

How much more should we turn away from our selfishness to show love and deference for our spouse?

Don’t demand.
Don’t withhold.


In romance, seek the best for your lover.

And you will bring much glory to God.

If you are married, are you romancing your spouse lovingly or self-servingly?

I’ll tell you this. If you are not romancing your spouse, you are serving yourself.

You’re being sinfully lazy.

God is calling you to set your agenda aside and purse romance with your spouse.

Did I mention that there is an entire book of the Bible devoted to inspiring you to do that?

Husbands, Romance Your Wives.
Wives, Romance Your Husbands.

Lovers, Romance Each Other Exclusively, Creatively, Passionately, Intimately, and Lovingly.

Chapter 5, verse 1, the last little bit spoken by the Friends of the Lovers, which is probably also the voice of God:

“Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.”
For this message (and for improvements in my marriage's romance), I am heavily indebted (even down to key phrases) to C.J. Mahaney's book and the teaching series that provided the basis for it. Thank you, Mr. Mahaney!

To catch C.J. teaching on this material at the Desiring God National Conference, listen here or watch here.