The Beauty of Married Sex (Song of Songs)

I heard a story about a little boy who asked his mother where he came from.  His mother gave him a tall tale about the stork and how the stork brought him.  The little boy asked his mother where she came from, and she said, “The stork brought me, too.”  The boy went to his grandmother and asked her the same question, and he got the same answer, “The stork brought me.”  Later on, the little boy was talking with his friends and he said, “You know, there hasn’t been a normal birth in our family for three generations.”

            The topic of sex is something that many families have a hard time discussing.  I have long taught the idea that “Sex was God’s idea.”  But, whenever I say that, there are some people who get a puzzled look on their face.  There are others who think I have just slandered God in some way.  And probably more than a few people who are hoping I won’t bring up the subject again.  It just makes them uncomfortable.

            In the meantime, we find ourselves living in what has been referred to as a sex-saturated culture.  People around us talk openly and even brazenly about human sexuality, and most of what we hear people say is not only crude, but just plain wrong.

            And the unfortunate truth is that, in our day, the biblical view of sex has been dismissed.  Our culture claims to have a better way for us to live as sexual beings.  The common view is that anything the Bible has to say about sexuality is out of date or irrelevant.

            And so, if you believe that the Bible teaches that sex should be reserved for a man and a woman in a committed, monogamous marriage for a lifetime, you are considered out of step.  And, in just the past ten years, you have moved from being a part of the majority in this country to being in the minority on this topic.

            Our culture is moving further and further away from the direction of the Bible on this subject.  And so, as the cultural view of sexuality becomes more and more prominent, it is important for us to constantly remind ourselves of what the Bible has to say on the subject.  We need to remember what God had in mind when he invented human sexuality in the first place.

            In Genesis 1, we find that God created sex.  Sex was God’s idea.  Sex wasn’t something that the devil introduced into the world to tempt us.  In Genesis 1:28“And God blessed them [Adam and Eve]. And God said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”

            And so, we have this mandate from God.  The command is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  So, how were Adam and Eve supposed to do that?  Obviously, they were to have children, a lot of children.  How were they supposed have children?  Well, there’s really only one answer to that question.  They were to have sex. 

            Adam and Eve didn’t use the stork.  They had children and populated the earth the normal way.  But here’s what I want you to see.  The physiology of sex, the biology of sex, was wired into us by the God who created us.  Human beings were created male and female, with bodies designed to fit together. 

            And there’s no book in the Bible that explores the sexuality of man and woman more than the book of the Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon.  Because of how sexuality is discussed in this book, there is a tradition among orthodox Jews that the Song of Solomon should not be read by Jewish men who are under the age of 30.  So, if you’re under the age of 30, give thanks this morning for being able to read a part of scripture that you wouldn’t be able to read if you were a Jew!

            As we come to this book in our journey through the Old Testament, let’s begin by taking a look at this video which will give us an overview of the Song of Songs, and then I’ll be back to talk about it some more.

            VIDEO (Song of Songs)

            I think it is safe to say that there are few things in life that can be as beautiful or as painful as the pursuit of physical oneness, a healthy and intimate sex life.  If you grew up in church, it’s possible you didn’t hear very much about sex, except maybe, “Sex is dirty, and disgusting, so save it for marriage.”

            Which tends to create a bit of confusion for a lot of young people.  “Sex is disgusting. We’re not even going to talk about this. You need to avoid it.” Then, when you get married, they go, “Okay, now go enjoy it.”   

            That used to be the typical approach, but now the pendulum has swung all the way to the other side.  With our exposure to television, to movies, magazines and the Internet, it is impossible to escape the fact that sex drives everything, and so many Christians have now bought into this lie, this notion that somehow sex is the apex of relational experience. 

            But, by and large, our culture’s view of sex is totally divorced from any true relationship.  People use hookup apps like Tinder which are apps that provide the ability for people to connect physically with someone else without any kind of relationship.  It isolates sex from affection, it isolates sex from commitment.  It’s all about physical sex, which is the only thing that matters to many people.

            And when that happens, then sex becomes purely a physical act.  It’s a pleasurable, physical, biological happening that is not connected in any way to my mind or my spirit.  It’s just physical.  It’s like eating a really good steak or riding a ride at the amusement park, it’s just something that gives me a thrill that doesn’t affect my heart and spirit.

            But deep down, we understand that viewing sex simply as physical pleasure with no true relationship, no real affection, and no real commitment, does not address the deeper needs that we have as human beings. 

            As humans, we all have a need for something deeper, a need for companionship.  We have a deep desire for real intimate relationships.  Sex as a mere physical act will never provide that.

            Sueanne and I have noticed something fascinating over the past few years.  We sometimes listen to radio shows where people talk about their dating lives.  And it’s not uncommon to hear young people talk about having sex on a first date.  But when those same young people are asked the question, “Have you ever told this other person that you love them?”, the answer is, “Absolutely not!  Are you crazy?  It’s too early for that.  We’ve only been together for six months!”

            Which tells me is that there is a lot of sex without intimacy, and when that happens, you have a hollowing out, an emptying of the beauty and the meaning of sex.

            We first thing we want to notice in the Song of Solomon is that sex as God intends it takes place in the context of a committed marriage relationship.

            Readers of this book love the depictions of intimacy found throughout. The wife in this book is attracted to her husband.  She says in chapter 2:9, “My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.”

            And the husband is equally attracted to her.  He says, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!” (Song of Solomon 4:1).

            But as erotic as the language of Song of Solomon may be, it is never detached from commitment. In other words, the sexual activity which is described in this book is always experienced in the context of a committed marriage relationship.

            Twice, the wife twice says of her husband, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16; 6:3).  And, as you read, you can’t help but notice that it’s not the quality of the sex that makes their love good, it’s the quality of their love that makes their sex good.  Their marriage is marked by intimacy and commitment.

            The book closes with this beautiful statement, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death….Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).   Real love lasts, because it’s not a one-night stand; it’s a life-long commitment.

            But it’s also important to see that in the context of this committed relationship, Song of Solomon makes it clear that God intends for sex is to be enjoyed

            In Song of Solomon 5:1, the husband says, “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!”

            God is saying here, “Enjoy your bride.  Enjoy your husband.  Enjoy.  This is a good gift that I have given to you.  Enjoy it.”

            Now one thing that I do feel compelled to point out is that Song of Solomon is a poem from a long time ago in a very different culture, and not all of it translates very well as to how you need to communicate with your spouse today. For example, in Song of Solomon 7, beginning with verse 1. “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter!  Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.  Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.  Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.”

            Husbands, I do not suggest that you use these lines on your wife.  It is not going to end well.  I have yet to meet the woman who wants to know, “Would you describe my belly as a heap of wheat encircled with lilies?”  And I would especially encourage you to stay away from the rounded thighs line. I’m just saying, this will not translate well into 2020.

            But, after some more descriptions of her body, the husband says in verse 6, “How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights!”

            One of the things that is true of Solomon throughout this poem is that he truly loves his bride.  And it’s not her body that he’s after.  He wants her.  It’s not a mere sexual act.  He’s not just looking at her body as some sort of a sexual object.  

            In chapter 4, he says, “You have captivated my heart.” (Song of Solomon 4:9).  But he’s captivated, not just by her physical beauty, but by her strength, by her dignity, by the way she navigates the world, by the way she loves, by the way she serves.  He is captivated by her beauty, both inside and out.”

            So, in Song of Solomon, God makes it clear that we are to enjoy sex, but God also says some things about sex that are both scary and beautiful at the same time.  Because sex is not a mere physical act.  Sex touches the soul in a deep way.

            In Genesis 2, we read that, with sex, the two become one flesh.  Jesus will later comment on this and he says, “Let no one separate husband and wife because these two people have become one. Two souls are coming together, being knitted together as one.”  And it’s not just two bodies that have come together, but two souls that have come together and connected with one another in a significant way.

            We see this in I Corinthians 6.  Beginning in verse 15,“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?  Never!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?  For, as it is written, ’The two will become one flesh.’  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Flee from sexual immorality.  Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (I Corinthians 6:15-18)

            In this particular situation, Paul was warning Christians about having sex with prostitutes.  And he says here that to have sex with a woman is to become one body with her.  But it’s not just the physical connection.  Sex brings the body and soul together in a way that nothing else can accomplish.

            Let me try to explain what I mean by that.  Has anyone here ever broken a bone, maybe broken your arm?  That can be a pretty traumatic event, especially if it happens to you when you’re young.  The doctor puts a cast on you, you wait six or eight weeks, and then take the cast off.

            If that has ever happened to you, I feel confident in saying that you may still bear a physical scar from what happened, but you don’t have any wounds of your soul because of what happened.  You don’t struggle to connect with people because of that broken arm.  You don’t struggle with your self-worth because you broke that arm.  

            But, if you have ever been around someone who has been sexually abused, or someone who has been raped, then you know that their soul has been wounded.  They carry the emotional scars for the rest of their lives.  Intimacy is difficult.  Relationships are painful, because sex touches the soul in a way that nothing else does, which is why the warning to obey God’s commands concerning sex are found so often throughout the Scriptures.

            But what is so scary is also beautiful.  To bring both the body and soul together is actually a beautiful picture of God’s relationship with his people.  It’s a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ and his bride and the intimate relationship that we enjoy with him.

            In the time that we have left, I want to talk with you about a few Hebrew words used in the Song of Solomon that tell us a bit about the Israelites understood the concept of love.  The Hebrew language has several different words for love.  In our English language, we don’t, and I think that’s a shame.

            We just have one word — love. And so, we love tacos.  We love the Carolina Panthers. We love our wife.  We love our dog.  We love our children. We love our car.  That’s all we have is this one word, “love”, and we use it for everything.  We love our friends. We love our new iPhone.  

            And, when it comes to relationship, we tend to think of love as merely an emotion.  Which is why people fall in love and then they fall out of love.  Because emotions tend to go up and down, from day to day.

            I heard about a young man who told his father at breakfast one morning that he was going to get married.   His father asked him, “How do you know you’re ready to get married?  Are you in love?”  The son said, “I sure am.”

            His father asked him, “How do you know you’re in love?”  He said, “Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend good-night, her dog bit me and I didn’t feel the pain until I got home.”

            I’m not sure that’s a very good way to measure love, so let me give you something better.  As I said, the Hebrew language had multiple words for love, just like the Greeks did.  Most of you know that, in the Greek language, there are several different words for love. You have phileo, which means a friendship love.  You have eros, which is an erotic love.  You have agape, which is this beautiful God-like unconditional love that says “I love you no matter what.”

            Well, the Hebrew language had something similar. They actually had more than three words, but this morning, I want to share with you three Hebrew words for love that are all found in the Song of Songs that give special meaning to sex.

             The first is the Hebrew word raya. Raya is a friendship love. We see it in Proverbs 17:17“A friend loves at all times…”  Raya is just friendship.  This is the foundation upon which relationships are built, whether they become relationships that have a sexual component to them or not.

            It’s the idea, “I know you. You know me. We’re getting to know one another better as we spend time with one another and talk with one another.”  We might say, “She’s my best friend.”  Or, “I can tell him anything.”  This are all expressions of rayah.

            Raya then flows into the second word, which is ahava.  The root word of ahava is the Hebrew word “ahav” which means, “to give”, and so, ahava is a giving love.  Our English concept of love often focus on what we receive, it’s all about having you do things for me and make me feel good. But ahava is all about what we give to someone else. 

            Giving is the way love is expressed.  God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.  When you love someone, you give them your time, you give them your attention, you give all of yourself.  And the loving relationship that exists between a husband and wife is to be a love that gives — each one giving everything they have to the other.  The more we invest of ourselves in our partner, the stronger the connection becomes and the deeper the love.

            Then, the third word that the Hebrew language had for love was dod, which was sex as it was intended to be – romantic, passionate, and a mingling of souls, Not simplya physical act, but the joining, the weaving together of two individuals into one. 

            But for a man and a woman to get to that point required raya and ahava.  It required a friendship developed over time, and two people who were giving themselves fully to each other. Then and only then is it possible to experience sex the way God designed it to be.

            Now, to make myself clear, I don’t think you have to be a Christian to enjoy sex.  Biologically, sex is pleasurable.  But what I am saying is that the fullness of what you have been created for and what God designed sex to be will always be missing without understanding what God intended.  Because without the mingling of two souls, without this understanding that we have been put together as companions to partner together for the glory of God, giving ourselves fully to one another, sex will never be complete.

            There may be a physical connection, there may even be an emotional connection, but there will always be something missing.  If there’s no friendship, if there’s no commitment of giving to one another, then sex will always be hollow. 

            And that’s why God has reserved sex for marriage, because it’s in that kind of relationship, that covenant relationship that says, “I’m not going anywhere.  I’m here for life.”  And it’s in the midst of that deep friendship and commitment that God intended that sex truly begin to flourish.

            And therein lies the beauty of sex.  Remember I said earlier that bringing both the body and soul of a married couple together is actually a beautiful picture of God’s relationship with his people, a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ and his bride and the intimate relationship that we enjoy with him.

            That’s not a new idea.  For centuries, the Jewish people would read the Song of Songs out loud in preparation for the Passover.  And the reason they did that was because in the Song of Songs, they saw more than just God’s wisdom for married couples, they saw something of God’s committed love for his people, a passionate love like Solomon had for his wife.

            As Isaiah said, “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:5).

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