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Author:Rev. G. I. Williamson
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 Orthodox Presbyterian Church - OPC
Title:Getting To Know You
Text:Song of Songs 2:8-3:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

The Shulamite

2:8 - The voice of my lover! Behold, he comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
2:9 - My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall; he is looking through the windows, gazing through the lattice.
2:10 - My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
2:11 - For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
2:12 - The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
2:13 - The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!
2:14 - O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your countenance, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your countenance is lovely.”

Her Brothers

2:15 - Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.

The Shulamite

2:16 - My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies.

(The Shulamite to her Beloved)

2:17 - Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of Bether.

The Shulamite

3:1 - By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him.
3:2 - “I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him.
3:3 - The watchmen who go about the city found me, to whom I said, “Have you seen the one I love?”
3:4 - Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go, until I had brought him to the house of my mother, and into the chamber of her who conceived me.
3:5 - I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. G. I. Williamson, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus, in the last sermon we saw how this young girl from the nation of Israel, lowly of origin, met the king. And she saw that he was not only handsome, but a man endowed with the wisdom of God, and she desired him; and he, because she was so different from all the rest, also desired her. You remember, too, that she accepted the God-ordained role that he has given the woman. She wanted him to take the initiative, and she wanted to sit under his shade and be under the banner of his love. It was precisely because of these qualities that the king noticed her and began to seek and desire her. And so there began this process of falling in love in which she began to feel that he was the kind of man she could gladly submit to, and he that she was the object of his desire. But then you’ll remember that she added that very significant statement, ‘I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem’—which means I call upon you to solemnly swear in faithfulness to our covenant God—‘that you won’t do anything to arouse, to stimulate this love until its time has come’. Well, tonight we’re going to look at the second phase of this relationship, something that we commonly call “courtship,” and I want to deal with it under two basic headings. The first is the seven certain things that we find in this passage, and then the simple lessons that we can learn from it.

What we see in this passage is the story of the beautiful courtship between Solomon and the Shulamite maiden. And the first thing that is quite obvious is a growing intensity in their love for one another, or to put it in modern lingo, they really are ‘stuck’ on one another. Now the language of every age is rather unique, but I think even today we can really sense what is being said in these first few verses. ‘Listen’, she says, ‘my lover, look, here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills’. Did you ever hear of anything like that today. Let me try to draw you a picture. I’ve noticed that when young ladies fall in love, they suddenly have a very different attitude toward the telephone. Before my daughter fell in love, if the phone rang, well, you could answer it, thanks. She couldn’t be bothered. But my how that changes when you fall in love. The phone rings, and like a bullet she’s down there to answer the phone. And does he really come leaping over the mountains? Well, we wouldn’t say that today, but he zooms over the mountains, either in his car or, as was common in New Zealand, on his motorcycle. And the extravagance of the language is really quite fitting when you realize what’s going on here, as there is an extravagance in the way they act, also. I remember a very wonderful man in the New Zealand church—he was an elder for many years and also served as the stated clerk of their General Synod. He told me what it was like when he fell in love in Holland with his dear, departed wife. He was a very young man, and he worked hard all day long, and then he said ‘you know, I didn’t think a thing about it. I walked several miles just to see her for a few minutes. And when I got there I was so bashful and embarrassed, I hardly knew what to say. And then I walked all those miles back and I didn’t even feel tired’.

Well, that’s the same sort of thing that’s really put before you here in this picture. This fellow, too, is zooming over the hills, you might say, but when he gets there he’s a bit bashful—he stands behind the wall, he gazes through the windows, and he peers through the lattice. You know what that’s like, don’t you? You don’t quite have the courage to show yourself, but you are there to get a sight of her. You see, the fundamentals of life haven’t changed very much in all these generations.

The second thing you see for sure in this passage is that they need to be alone with each other because, then, the awkwardness fades away. Why are they so awkward and embarrassed? Well, it’s because there’s somebody else around, that’s why. So right away he says, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.’ Let’s get out of here; let’s go where we can be alone together for that makes all the difference. As soon as they do that, the birds begin to sing and it’s spring. See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone, flowers appear on the earth and so on. Well, you know, in the languages of all the nations of the earth this is the way that love is depicted. A modern poet put it like this:

The Spring comes in with all her hues and smells
In freshness breathing over hills and dells.
The happy time of singing birds has come,
And love in Nature’s beauty finds a home.
Among the mossy oaks now coos the dove,
And every sound that meets the ear is love.

Now that’s true, when you fall in love, there’s nothing wrong with this world—it’s beautiful, isn’t it? You don’t think about the things that aren’t pleasant in the world when you fall in love. As one commentator put it, “Whenever any couple falls in love, it’s spring. It doesn’t matter if it’s December—it’s spring when they fall in love because their lives are fresh, and everything has a new perspective”. John Milton, the great blind English poet who wrote Paradise Lost, described the relationship of Adam and Eve before the fall into sin like this: “With thee conversing I forget all time. All seasons, and their change, all please alike.” In the springtime of love there is an echo of the Paradise of God because that’s when man seems to be at one with nature. Milton was right—that’s the way it was in the beginning.

Now the third thing that is quite sure in this passage is that they have a great desire to know one another fully. And here it’s the man who talks about her shyness for a very good reason. You can imagine why—he’s the king of Israel and she is what we would call a peasant girl, and she is getting into this romance. My that would be difficult for her. She would feel shy, and it would be very hard for her to completely reveal her personality to him, and so he compares her to a dove in the clefts of a rock. Now you all know that the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a kind of cave way up on the side of the face of the rock. Well, in Biblical times you might see a dove up there, but if that dove saw you, you know what she would do, don’t you? She’d hide. If that dove saw you, she would hide herself away so you could hardly get a glimpse of her. My sister is a confirmed bird watcher, and with her binoculars she tries to get to a spot where the birds won’t notice her and then she zooms up on them and she can watch what they’re doing. But they didn’t have binoculars in those days, and when you tried to get close enough to see what the doves were doing, they would hide. Well, she’s a bit like that. Part of her personality—and the reality of who she is—is still hidden, but he wants that to come out. He wants her to show her face, and he wants to hear her voice because her voice is sweet. He wants her to talk and smile and all of the rest of those things. And that was not easy for this country girl.

Now girls if you’re a little bit like that today, you’re going to be in a very small minority, aren’t you? I could even see a smile as soon as I said that because I can just imagine what it’s like with the average high school girl right here where we live. It’s not like that at all, and what a pity it isn’t—really what a pity. For to be a bit shy, not so fast that you’ve got it all figured out, is a good thing; it’s a biblical, godly thing. Solomon could have had a hundred girls of the other kind—they called them concubines in those days—quite willing to have an affair that really didn’t get very deep and didn’t last very long, but that’s not what he wanted; at least at this point in his life he didn’t. He wanted something that was really beautiful and patterned after God’s ordinance, and for that you have to have a process of self-revelation until more and more you really do get to know one another, and that finally means complete knowledge of one another, body and soul, for a lifetime. That’s what marriage really is; the disclosure to another person of who and what you really are. And that wasn’t easy, and it takes time, and that’s exactly why, no matter how outmoded it may be in the minds of young people today, courtship is biblical. Courtship is a gradual process by which two young people really get to know one another before they get too far in the matters of love. That’s the third thing.

The fourth thing that is certainly clear here is this. When you are in the midst of a courtship, you’re going to have problems. Does anyone here know of an exception to that? I don’t believe so. As soon as you have a romance going, you’re going to have problems. Not big ones like elephants, but little ones like foxes. And so Solomon says, ‘Catch the little foxes for us, the ones who ruin the vineyards, for our vineyards are in bloom.’ Now you remember back in chapter one, verse six, this maiden spoke of her vineyard. She was speaking there about her love, which she had not yet given to a man, and here he’s talking about their love for each other as it’s beginning to develop and unfold in the process of courtship. And now he says these foxes come in and they spoil the vineyard. Now what are these foxes? I believe they are irritations. She does something and it really irritates him. Now how can that happen when you’re having a courtship and you’re falling in love? But it does happen.

And I want to tell you something, it’s a good thing it does. Really it is because then you are going to learn the fact that you’re falling in love with another member of the fallen human race. That’s the only kind you will ever find in this world. You can’t find a husband that isn’t part of Adam’s fallen race, and you can’t find a wife that isn’t part of Adam’s fallen race, and that means that they are going to have faults, for sure. And what you’ve got to learn is that you will have to understand those faults and learn to deal with them in a biblical way. And that’s another purpose of courtship: you have to learn to catch the little foxes; you have to learn how to deal with these irritations and problems; to learn how to handle the situation without blowing up and doing sinful and wicked things.

When two young people would come to me wanting to get married, I would watch very carefully. I would observe them to see if they were always fighting and never able to solve their problems. If they were, I would say to them, ‘I really don’t think it would be wise for you two to get married because you haven’t learned to handle your problems yet. And if you can’t handle the little foxes, what are you going to do when the big ones come along because they will in marriage?’ The big problems are later on; the little ones are while you’re just getting to know each other, and if you can’t handle the little problems and settle them in a biblical manner, with love and understanding, on the basis of biblical principles and discussion in which your Bible is your guide, then you’re not going to make it. That’s the fourth thing.

The fifth thing in this passage is that there is a growing desire for total possession.

My beloved is mine, and I am his.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
And the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved,
And be like a gazelle
Or a young stag
Upon the mountains of Bether.

What she is saying here is that she desires total possession of him and desires to be totally possessed by him. And that also is definitely part of God’s plan for the relationship we call love and marriage.

Today, there are those who talk about open marriage. They don’t want to make that complete and total commitment; they don’t want to say, ‘I, from now on, for better or for worse, am the possession of that person, and that’s that. Nobody else has any rights to me any more—I belong to that person.’ A lot of people today are afraid of that. They see so many ruined marriages, and so they think that maybe it would be better to just have an open marriage, so that if, a year from now, things aren’t going so well they can walk right out of it. But God didn’t make us that way. I knew a young man who was a member of a covenant family in New Zealand, and he thought he knew better than the Bible, and so he went out and he shacked up with a girl. He thought, ‘Well, we’ll just have an open marriage. We won’t go through these vows. We’ll just live together and see how it goes.’ And they loved each other—that’s the remarkable part of it—but you know they weren’t really happy. And do you know why they weren’t happy? Because down deep each of them was a little anxious about the other person. They wanted to have possession of that person. And so finally one day they said, ‘We have to go and get married.’ And that’s what they did; they got married. And after they made that total commitment they began to be happy. You see, psychologically even, you can’t live with that idea of an open marriage. It’s contrary to human nature. God made you and God made me with an absolute need of total possession in marriage. So this whole modern idea of an open marriage is flagrantly in violation to the law of God.

But she doesn’t possess him yet, and that’s part of courtship, too. So the sixth thing we see is the anxiety of unfulfilled desire.

By night on my bed I sought the one I love;
I sought him, but I did not find him.

Now I’m not sure whether this was a dream or just her imagination. I tend to think it was a dream, but that doesn’t matter as far as the main point is concerned. In any event she had anxiety. And why did she have anxiety? Because she was afraid she might lose him. Now if any of you older folks can remember back when you were courting, I’m sure you can remember when that happened to you. A moment came when you thought, ‘wouldn’t it be terrible if I lost him, if, after all, he didn’t want me.’ So she gets up, either in fact or in dream, and goes around the city looking for him. And when the watchmen find her wandering around, she says, ‘Have you seen the one my heart loves, and then hardly had she passed them when she found him.’ And when she found him, she thought, I’m not going to let this happen again, and so she says to herself, ‘I’m going to get him down home to meet mother.’ You see that kind of solidifies the thing, that kind of ties it up. So she brings him there, and has him meet her mother, and by doing so she knows that he’s just that much more committed. So here again is something that’s supposed to be out of date today, but I find that, psychologically, it’s still very true.

Our youngest daughter for quite a while in her young life was not committed to Christ, and I noticed that she never liked to bring her boyfriends home. We had to keep asking, ‘Who is this fellow? Where does he live? What is he like?’, and it was always from a distance. So we had to wonder. But when she became a committed Christian, do you know what she did? She grabbed her man and got him in a car and had him drive hundreds of miles to meet us. Now why? Because she wanted to sew the thing up, that’s why. She didn’t want to lose him, and she thought, if I can get him down there to meet Dad and Mother that will show that he really is serious, and besides I think they’ll like him. And we did. We think a lot of him because of his Christian profession. It made all the difference in the world—family approval—and it’s also a biblical part of courtship. It should never be left out of a Christian view of courtship.

And then finally the seventh thing is that she remained firm in her decision: no sex until marriage. And here you notice that she repeats that statement, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you …don’t arouse or awaken love until the proper time has arrived.’ The modern view is ‘what difference will it make if we go ahead and have sex, we’re going to get married anyway.’ But that’s not the way it really is because we don’t really have possession of another person until there is a public declaration of that fact. Now a man might think, ‘I can go out and start preaching even though no one has yet officially declared that I have the authority to do it’. Well, that’s not true, he can’t. And then some guy might say, ‘Well, I’m going to go out and be a traffic officer’ before they give him his uniform and his badge, but that’s not true; he can’t do that. And you don’t have a right to that other person until you’ve said before the whole world, and your partner has said before the whole world: ‘I belong to him, and she belongs to me; and everybody else is off limit’. That’s what marriage really is. It’s a covenant contract. That’s why premarital sex is condemned in the Bible, punishable in the Bible under the Law of Moses—not by death as an unpardonable or capital crime—but as a serious sin nonetheless. There was a fine that had to be paid to the father which shows that it’s really a violation of the honor of the family, which is at stake. And this woman didn’t want that; she wanted to do it God’s way until the day that God himself said they belong to each other. Now that’s the biblical pattern of courtship. What does it teach us?

The first thing it teaches us is that courtship—when its lived out in the way we see it here—gradually leads, step by step, to a place of total commitment and total, mutual possession. Do you remember the song from the well-known operetta, The King and I, called “Getting to Know You”?

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you,
Putting it my way, but nicely,
You are precisely my cup of tea.
Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you,
Getting to know what to say.
Haven’t you noticed,
Suddenly I’m bright and breezy,
Because of all the beautiful and new things
I’m learning about you day by day.

That’s a pretty good portrait of what courtship really is.

I remember an interesting documentary about the ascent of Mt. Everest. There was quite a group of men that made the long climb toward the peak. But it was only when they got to the highest camp, before the summit, that the one in charge decided which two men would make the final assault on the peak. Do you know why? He wanted to observe how they met all of the tests up to that point, and those who really met the tests up to that point, they were the ones to make the assault on the peak. If young people today understood what a tremendous challenge marriage is, they would also want to go through a time of testing. We each need to test ourself and the one that we think we want to marry. Only then can we can be real sure that together we can climb to the summit.

When I was a boy of eight or nine years of age, I was playing in a park one day. I don’t remember why I went there, but I remember what happened. All of a sudden I heard these two young people quarrelling, so I threw the ball in that direction and acted like I was chasing the ball but really I was going over there so I could tune in to what they were saying. I listened for about three minutes, and then turned away. I said to myself, right there and then, ‘Those two should never get married’. It was already clear, even to a young boy, that they couldn’t handle their problems. That's why courtship is so very important, and it’s also a good reason why premarital sex is not only wrong but very unwise. You first need to know that the context of love and sex is something that's stable, firm, and solid. So you don’t wake up and realize you are stuck with someone you wouldn’t really want to be married to for the rest of your life.

And right here, again, you can see the beautiful analogy between the heavenly and earthly—the analogy between our marriages and the marriage of Christ and the church. You know the marriage feast of the Lamb of God and the church hasn’t taken place yet—it’s still in the future. The Bible tells us that there will be a great feast to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb and his bride. And sometimes we get a little anxious and we’d like him to hurry up and speed things. But that’s not God’s wise way. He knows we need this time—shall we call it a time of courtship—in which we get to know the Lord in the way that we should. Now if you want to be part of that marriage you ought to be doing every thing you can to prepare for it. That’s why you ought to be in God’s house whenever you have the chance to hear the Word, and that’s why you ought to be preparing for the coming of Jesus, being faithful in the things of God, because the day is coming when there will be a complete revelation of Jesus Christ. That’s what the Bible says. And then we will know him even as he is, and we want to be sure that we’re ready.

So in a sense our very meeting here tonight is part of this courtship process by which we get to know the Lord in anticipation of the glorious day when we will be with him forever.

May God give us the wisdom to do so.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. G. I. Williamson, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. G. I. Williamson

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