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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:The Beauty of Marriage and Sex
Text:Song of Songs 2:8-17; 4:8-15; 8:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Marriage
 
Preached:2008-02
Added:2008-02-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Pre-service song: Augment #8

Votum and Salutation;

Sing: Psalm 128: 1, 2

Confession: Hymn 1B

Prayer

Read: Song of Solomon 2: 8-17; 4:8-15; 8: 10-12

Sing: Psalm 133: 1, 2

Text: Lord’s Day 41

Sermon: The Beauty of Marriage and Sex

Marriage is like a garden

1. To be enjoyed;

2. To protect;

3. To maintain.

Sing: Hymn 47: 3, 6, 7

Prayer

Offertory

Sing: Psalm 119: 4, 17

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


          Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters,
At this time of year, especially in the midst of this cold weather, we look forward to spring when the grass will be green again, when the flowers will pop out of the ground, and the leaves open up on the trees. Especially the avid gardeners among us look forward to the growing season and getting into their garden. They love to get their hands dirty and feel the soil, and breathe the outside air. Others who are not such avid gardeners, or who do not have a garden of their own, look forward to enjoying the gardens of others.
It is wonderful for us to be able to enjoy God’s creation. He gave it all for our enjoyment. He alone made it all possible. Without him nothing would grow. He created the seed bearing plants and all vegetation. He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall. And he is the one who makes the grass to grow and the flowers to bloom. He is the great designer, the great architect behind it all.
The author of the Song of Solomon observed the same thing. He wrote, “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.” He is delighted that spring has sprung. He too wants to enjoy the beautiful gardens of the earth.
But there’s one garden in which he especially delights. He delights in his bride whom he compares to a garden or to a vineyard.
What we find here in the Song of Solomon brings us back to the time of Paradise. God created the beautiful Garden of Eden. He also put Adam and Eve in the midst of it. Adam also found God’s garden delightful. But, he delighted in his wife Eve even more. Listen to the delight that he expresses after God brought his bride to Adam. He said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Another translation says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” It is a cry of triumph, of utter amazement, of great joy.
Because of sin the beauty of the Garden of Eden became marred by sin. The same thing is true of the beautiful and delightful relationship between a man and a woman. Things are different now. In Paradise it took no effort or pain to maintain the garden. The same thing was true of the relationship of Adam and Eve. Whereas before the fall they were in a harmonious relationship, after the fall that is no longer the case.
Yet, there is still a lot of beauty to be enjoyed. But now we have to work at it. God puts us to work. We have to work hard in order to keep our gardens beautiful. We have to plant and weed and till the soil.
 The same thing is true of marriage. You can only have a good marriage if you work hard at it.
Today we are dealing with the beauty of God’s creation as it applies to marriage, and as it applies also to sex, which belongs to a marriage. The Lord God brought man and woman together. God instituted something delightful. But, because of sin, marriage, just like a garden, is also very fragile. You have to be careful. You have to prepare a garden properly and plan it out. A marriage is just like that.
You young people, who are preparing yourselves for marriage, you have to carefully prepare. If you want to enjoy a beautiful garden then you have to lay the proper groundwork first. It’s these things that I will preach to you about this afternoon.
I will preach to you about: The Beauty of Marriage and Sex
Marriage and sex are like a garden
1. To be enjoyed;
2. To protect;
3. To maintain.
As I said, sin has done much to mar the beauty of the relationship between a husband and a wife. To a marriage belongs physical union, the sexual act. Human sexuality is a wonderful gift of God to man. Through the physical union a man and a woman can feel loved and appreciated. They can enjoy each other’s presence and closeness.
And because it is a gift of God, you have to honour and appreciate that gift. As the catechism says, we must keep ourselves pure and holy. The author of the  letter to the Hebrews says in chapter 13:4, “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
I do not have to tell you that this world is obsessed with sex. Just look around you. The advertisers are keenly aware of how men’s heads are turned when they see a pretty woman. And so, they will use scantily dressed women in order to sell their products. And if you want to promote a movie, or a book, then you will greatly increase your audience or readership if you add sex into the mix. Sex is often also a theme in popular music. The Internet is one of the greatest media nowadays where the gift of sex is exploited to the fullest. Pornography is available at the click of a mouse. It is enough to turn your stomach.
And so, it is a topic we, as Christians who want to keep ourselves pure, would rather not discuss or talk about. However, the Lord God does. He does that already in the very first pages of the Bible. He does that when he tells us about the creation of a man and a woman and that they will be one flesh, referring to the sexual union between a man and a woman.
We also have a whole book that deals with this topic, namely the book called the Song of Songs. In Dutch it is called “Hooglied”, meaning “the Highest Song”. It is an apt title. For it sings a song about one of the most beautiful gifts of God to man, namely the gift of sex. God does not want us to shove the topic under the table. He does not want us to avoid it. On the contrary, he wants us to fully enjoy that gift. And that is why the Song of Songs is also in the Bible. This song is about two young people in love.
Many people, however, stay away from this book of the Bible because they do not know quite what to do with it. For love is described in this book in a most intimate way. In chapter 8 the words are spoken by a woman, a woman deeply in love. She portrays the beauty and delights of love, and speaks about it in poetic language, using sensuous images.
It is apparent that this young woman had little time to look after her own appearance. That is clear from chapter 1 verse 6. There it says, “Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected.”
When she speaks here of her vineyard, she does not refer to her own plot of land somewhere. No, she refers to herself. That is also clear from chapter 8: 11 and 12 where again the reference is made to a vineyard. There her former fiancee, who at this point in this book, in chapter 8, is now her husband, is speaking. He says, Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon; he let out his vineyard to tenants. Each was to bring for its fruit a thousand shekels of silver. But my own vineyard is mine to give.
Here her husband is not trying to compare his little plot of land to the glory of Solomon. No, the vineyard that he speaks about here is his new bride. He says in effect, “Solomon may have his splendour and glory and his thousand wives, but I have my own happiness. I have my own vineyard, namely that beautiful country girl. For despite the hard labour that she has had to perform she is still a very beautiful country girl.” He considers himself richer than Solomon himself with all his glory. She may be poor, but she is his. She is his vineyard.
From the foregoing, it becomes already somewhat clear who her husband is. Her husband, her lover, is also a country boy, a lowly shepherd.
Some, however, will disagree with that assessment. They will say that this is Solomon himself. According to them this song is about Solomon who wants to lure a beautiful girl away from her simple country existence. 
However, do you really think that the Lord God would use Solomon as an example of the purity of the love between a man and a woman? For consider the kind of man he was. Although he was a very wise man, he was not prudent in his choice of women. The Lord God was also angry with him especially because of his love life. He had a thousand women, and they became his downfall. They made him turn to other gods. As a result God’s anger burned against him, and his punishment was that after his death Israel would be torn in two.
And so the Lord God would not use the love affair of such a man as an example of a pure marriage before the Lord.
What then about the title of this book, you might say. In most translation this book is known as “The Song of Songs of Solomon.” But careful reading of the title in the original shows that this book is not meant to be seen as a book of Solomon, but about Solomon. The Hebrew title in reality says, “The Song of Songs, which is about Solomon.” 
The love story, however, is about two ordinary young people. Throughout the whole book, except towards the end, they are not yet married. And so, this song speaks not only to the married couples in our midst, but especially to you young people.
 
 Note well that these unmarried young people have sexual feelings for each other. Therefore us such, sexual feelings are not wrong. God created you with sexual feelings. The Lord God does not to say to you that you cannot be sexually aroused. And so, don’t be ashamed of sexual feelings. Sin against the seventh Commandment has to do with lust. It has to do with unchastity. It has to do with the wrong use of your sexual feelings, the way that you think and act as a result of them. And that is why the catechism also says that God forbids all unchaste acts, gestures, words, thoughts and desires and whatever else may entice you to unchastity. He wants to protect you from serious harm. We come to the second point.
2. The young lover says to his beloved in chapter 4: 12, “you are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.” The young man recognizes that before marriage he cannot give expression to his sexual feelings. His beloved is like a locked up garden. He is not yet allowed to pluck the fruit of the garden. He has to wait.
Why? Oh sure, forbidden fruit tastes delicious. But it is pleasurable only for the moment.
There is a strong warning here to the young people and to all of us. To the young people the Lord God is saying that you should wait for marriage before you can pluck the fruit of your garden.
It is a statistical fact that those who engage in sex before marriage have less stable relationships than those who do not. Do you know why that is? There are many reasons. But one of the main reasons is that then trust is gone. If you do not respect marriage vows before marriage, then why would you respect them during  marriage? Why would you trust each other? And if you cannot control yourself before marriage how will you do that within marriage?
The Lord God teaches us that we must be in control of our passions and emotions. He teaches us to stay within the boundaries of his laws. And when you transgress his boundaries with impunity, then Satan has found your weakness. He knows how to exploit it. He knows how to exploit the beautiful gifts of sexuality that God has given to you. And he will find ways to make you fall. He’s got you where he wants you. He will have you think about and act out unlawful sexual activity. And when that goes unchecked, then it will be like a cancer within you.
You young people, listen to the Lord your God. Keep yourselves pure until marriage. Married couples, you too, listen carefully. Don’t eat of the forbidden fruit. Don’t get caught up in pornography. And don’t look outside of marriage for someone to delight in or to enjoy. God has given you to each other. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife. Do not covet your neighbour’s husband. He or she does not belong to you. You belong to each other.
In chapter 2: 15 the bride says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Do you know who those foxes are? Those are other young men who are after her, trying to catch her, who see her as a good catch. She tells her husband-to-be to keep them away. Don’t let others disturb the love that we have for each other.
Think of the summertime. Perhaps someone you know works hard to have a beautiful garden. Think of this garden. Perhaps there are many flowers in it. This garden is carefully cultivated. Maybe the owner spends at least a whole day every week in it. They enjoy doing that. And they also enjoy it when others can enjoy the garden. But don’t come into their garden and begin picking their flowers! Don’t go digging up their plants or their vegetables either. They don’t belong to you. You have no business doing that. The same thing is true within marriage. Don’t pluck the fruits that don’t belong to you.
When you are married, don’t lust for another partner. And when you are unmarried, don’t lust for flowers that are not yet ripe to pluck. Wait. You do a lot more damage than good when you sin against the seventh Commandment.
That is what sexual abusers do, for example. They especially do a lot of damage. Such damage stays with the abused person for the rest of their life. It makes it very difficult for a young woman who has been sexually abused to become the beautiful flower that God wants her to be. With God’s grace anything is possible. But it is a painful process.
It is also painful for the husband of the sexually abused woman. She needs a gentle and loving touch, and understanding and patience. And not all husbands are up to the task.
Because of sin, marriage is a fragile institution. And it needs not only to be protected, but also to be maintained. It is easily damaged and needs constant reparation. We come to the third point.
3. You cannot build a garden, where all the flower beds are in the right places and where the grass is green and lush and where the flowers are all arranged in the right spots, and then think that it will stay that way. It will not. The garden needs constant tending. You have to remove the weeds. You have to mow the lawn. You have to trim the hedge. You have to dig out the plants that are deceased. You have to fertilize the garden and water it. And you have to prune those plants that are going wild, or that are taking over the rest of the garden.
 This is constant work. It is also hard work. You also need the right tools in order to be able to do the job. The garden also needs the proper amount of moisture and sunshine. It needs the right kind of atmosphere.
Once again, the same thing is true of a marriage. It is not so that once you’re married, and you have a beautiful and loving relationship, that then it will just stay that way on its own. No, for marriage to flourish you need to constantly be at work at it.
For one thing pruning is necessary. Husbands and wives have to do that for themselves and for each other. And it has to be done in a careful and loving way, or else you will do a lot of damage. And by pruning I mean that you have to help each other get rid of bad habits and wrong ways of relating.
Fertilizer is also necessary within the marriage. In other words you have to nourish your relationship. How do you do that? You do that through kindness and consideration and love. You do that by speaking words of love. You do that by building each other up. And that is not just a one-time thing, but a constant thing. You constantly have to build each other up with a kind and encouraging words.
That’s also how the Lord God nourishes and builds you up. Time and again you hear from God’s Word, and from this pulpit that God loves you, not because you are such a beautiful person, but only because he is the God of love.
When you are married, then love is not an option, it is a command. You have to love, even when your partner is not so loveable at certain times. You have to love, even when he or she is old or disabled and no longer the man or the woman he or she used to be. Marriage is a lifetime commitment.
You have to continue to tend your garden. And once you have taken out all the weeds, and maintained the flower beds, then the garden becomes easier and easier to maintain. It becomes hard work only if you have let it all go. Then it takes a lot of doing to get it in the right shape again.
And it is not something that you have to do with your bare hands, or in other words, without tools. In order to maintain your marriage God gives you lots of useful and essential tools. Do you know what those tools are? They’re the tools of the Holy Spirit such as patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness.
The Lord God gives you also the tool of the forgiveness of sins. That is one of his greatest tools. For he gives you the forgiveness of sins through his Son Jesus Christ. He died for you in spite of your sins. He loves you that much. And you have to love like he loves. And you have to forgive, like he forgives. You may not keep a record of wrongs, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.
As I said, a garden needs both rain and sunshine. But rain does not come without clouds. And sometimes the rain comes with storms. A storm can do a lot of damage to a garden. Well, it can also get stormy in your marriage. Damage gets done then as well. But then once again God puts you to work. You have to remove the debris and undo the damage. In order to accomplish that you have to pick up all the tools that God has given you. You have to learn to forgive again.
As I said earlier, the forgiveness of sins is one of the greatest tools that God gives you. The wonderful thing is that God forgives you first of all. No doubt many of you are sitting in the pews feeling somewhat guilty. Some of you have engaged in premarital sex. Others in extramarital sex, or in pornography. There is not a person here who is without sin with regard to the seventh Commandment.
 But you know what our comfort is? That there is forgiveness for this. As long as you repent. As long as you are sorry for your sins. As long as you do your utmost not to fall into those sins again, God will not hold your sins against you. God is a loving God. If that were not so, then we could not have a relationship with him. The same thing is true of our marriages. Without the forgiveness of sins we cannot have a relationship.
Brothers and sisters, enjoy your garden. In other words, enjoy your partner. The teacher says in Ecclesiastes 9:9, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun- all your meaningless days.”
But also, remember that the Lord God will hold you responsible. He will hold you responsible how you treat your husband or your wife. He will hold you responsible for the way you use his beautiful gift of sex.
At the end of his book the Teacher says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). And so that includes the things that you do in secret.
         God is good. He gives us much enjoyment, even in this life full of sin and misery. Give thanks to him, with your soul, but also with your body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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