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Author:Rev. G. I. Williamson
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 Orthodox Presbyterian Church - OPC
Title:The Test of True Love - #2
Text:Song of Songs 6:10-8:4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

The Daughters of Jerusalem

6:10 - Who is she who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, Awesome as an army with banners?

The Shulamite

6:11 - I went down to the garden of nuts to see the verdure of the valley, to see whether the vine had budded and the pomegranates had bloomed.
6:12 - Before I was even aware, my soul had made me as the chariots of my noble people.

The Beloved and his Friends

6:13 - Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon you!

The Shulamite

What would you see in the Shulamite—As it were, the dance of the double camp?

The Beloved

7:1 - how beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince's daughter! The curves of your thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a skillful workman.
7:2 - Your navel is a rounded goblet which lacks no blended beverage. Your waist is a heap of wheat set about with lilies.
7:3 - Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.
7:4 - Your neck is like an ivory tower, your eyes like the pools in heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus.
7:5 - Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel, and the hair of your head is like purple; the king is held captive by its tresses.
7:6 - how fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights!
7:7 - This stature of yours is like a palm tree, and your breasts like its clusters.
7:8 - I said, "I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches." Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine, The fragrance of your breath like apples,
7:9 - and the roof of your mouth like the best wine.

The Shulamite

- The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved, moving gently the lips of sleepers.
7:10 - I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.

7:11 - Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the field; let us lodge in the villages.
7:12 - Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded, whether the grape blossoms are open, and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love.
7:13 - The mandrakes give off a fragrance, and at our gates are pleasant fruits, all manner, new and old, which I have laid up for you, my beloved.

8:1 - Oh, that you were like my brother, who nursed at my mother's breasts! If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be despised.
8:2 - I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate.

(To the Daughters of Jerusalem)

8:3 - his left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.
8:4 - I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, 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, I want to remind you once again that the Song of Solomon is a one-sided presentation of Christian marriage. In the time that this book was written it was not a thing of propriety to say anything bad about the king, and so all of the faults in the book that we are looking at here are in the bride rather than in the bridegroom—in the Shulamite rather than in Solomon—and that is certainly not true in one of our marriages. But we can be thankful that the providence of God brought this about because God wanted this book to be a reflection of the ultimate model, the marriage between Christ and the church.

We have followed these two young people as they met, as they conducted their courtship, as they had a joyful marriage ceremony and a consummation in love together, and then the last time we met we saw how problems and difficulties arose. And when those problems and difficulties arose, you’ll remember how the Shulamite had a bad dream, reflecting the anxious fears that she felt she might somehow lose him. And not only that but other things began to go wrong, too, until she desired to get things right again, and she went out looking for him, forgetting herself; and she knew where to go because their marriage was a covenant relationship. And you remember how when she did go down to where Solomon was, he didn’t retaliate against her; he didn’t reply in kind; he acted in love. And she instantly knew all over again that his banner over her was indeed love. And right away the flowers began to bloom, and the birds began to sing. There love was better than ever. And she knew more than ever before how much she loved him. That’s where we are in the context of this book, and tonight we look at the root of this crisis which, I believe, really comes in every Christian marriage. Then, after we have traced the root of the crisis, I want you to see what tremendous blessings come when that crisis is resolved in the way of God’s ordaining.

Now what was the ultimate cause, the root of the crisis that came in the marriage of Solomon and the Shulamite maiden? Well, of course, it traces back to what happened to our first parents. The Bible says that when our first parents sinned against God, they immediately fell into a state of corruption. They were not only driven out of a wonderful place, but they also fell from of a wonderful state of perfection. You can see that because right away this great and terrible process of blame-shifting began in their relationship with each other. And you remember that God pronounced that terrible judgment, and you can read what he said to the woman in Genesis 3:16, which I believe is one of the most frequently misunderstood texts in the Bible. The Lord God said to the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband”. Right through the history of the church that has almost always been taken to mean that she would desire—would have a love relationship toward her husband which would triumph over everything—yes, even the fear of the pain of childbearing. You remember that in that same context the Lord said that in pain she will bring forth children, and the idea has been in the common interpretation that the Lord is saying, ‘Even though that is true—there will be pain—your desire will triumph over that for your desire will be for your husband’.

Well, I’m indebted to a woman for putting me right on this one. Her name is Susan Foh. She’s wrote a very fine book on the role of woman. And she is a very fine Hebraist. She is the one who pointed out to me, at least, the almost amazing similarity of Genesis 3:16, Genesis 4:7, and part of our text for tonight. In Genesis 4:7 you’ll notice that the Lord God had something to say to Cain after he sinned. The Bible says the Lord came to Cain and said, ‘Why are you angry? And why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will it not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to have you, but you must master it’. Now that phrase, ‘It desires to have you’, is exactly the same kind of Hebrew expression that you have in what God said to Cain. And what is the relationship between sin, crouching at the door, and Cain? Well, it’s clearly an antagonistic relationship, isn’t it? The Lord is urging Cain to do the right thing—to follow the pattern and example of his brother. But he also recognizes that sin, which is crouching at the door, desires to have the mastery over Cain. As a matter of fact, sad to say, that’s the way it turned out. What Susan Foe says—and I think she is quite right—is that what’s really being said in Genesis 3:16 is that, as a result of the fall , there is a kind of an adversarial relationship between the woman and her husband. Her desire is against her husband, and what that really means is this: sin did something to the human race, and one of the things it did was to create in a woman’s heart a rebellious attitude toward her role assignment. She doesn’t want to be under the authority of her husband. There is something in the heart of every woman, as a daughter of Eve, which inclines her to some degree to resist the lawful headship of her husband.

Let me put it this way: you women don’t really want to be ruled by your husbands by nature. You don’t. That’s a fact, and that’s why many of you men smiled as soon as I said that. You know it’s true. Now I realize that in saying that I’ve only given a part of the picture because the Bible also says that we husbands ought to love our wives as Christ loved the church. And you have every right to say, ‘There sure is something wrong with you fellows, too, because you don’t do what you should either. You don’t come within a hundred miles of doing it.’ And I agree; we don’t. And that’s because of what sin has done to our fallen nature. The fact remains, however, and this is the point of our text, the problem that arose between the Shulamite and her husband really grew out of this sinful tendency by which the wife doesn’t want to be subject all the time to her husband. That’s why—in this book—the problem is in the wife; because, of course, in the great model, the ultimate model— which is the love of Christ for the church and his marriage with his Bride, the church—Christ does love with a perfect love, and it is the church which often puts her own will in opposition to the will of her husband. That is really what brought about this crisis, and whether it is from the wife’s side or the husband’s side or from both sides, it is always the root of the crisis.

There wouldn’t be any crisis in your marriage or mine, if the man always loved his wife as Christ loved the church and the woman was always willing to be under the loving leadership of her husband, with all of her heart, with all of her soul, with all of her mind, and with all of her strength. There wouldn’t be this problem in marriage arising from this root cause that traces back to the fall of man. But now in the rest of this section we are going to see what happens when this wife recognizes that she’s been acting sinfully (as we saw she did recognize last time) and stops thinking about her own will and desire, and begins to think about her husband. She wants things to be right again, and so she now forgets herself, and goes out until she finds him and they experience togetherness and love again. And we’ll see the blessings that come to her when she once again is willing to be under the loving leadership of her husband.

And just look at what happened. The first thing you see—and this is really remarkable—is that her status is immediately lifted higher than ever. Now I suppose that at the root of the resistance in the female heart to the headship of the man is a desire for status, isn’t it? And yet what happens when she really does submit to her role assignment the way God wants her to? Why, right away she is exalted. She goes up and not down. ‘Who is this that appears like the dawn (the first rays of light), fair as the moon (that’s more light), bright as the sun (that’s more light), majestic as the stars (you’ve got all of it there)?’ And somehow the writers know that the stars were greater in magnitude than the sun, and they are. So what you have here, emblematically presented, is the wonder and beauty and the rising glory of this wife because she has again put herself willingly under the headship of her husband. And that’s a beautiful thing to see.

I think all of you women would agree that if you were to make a survey of the Bible and ask who are really the great women and what really made them great women, this would be the thing. There’s hardly any exception to that rule. I don’t believe there is any exception. The higher a woman’s reputation and luster in the Bible the more clear it is that she evidenced this submission. Think of Deborah, and how she respected the headship of the man. She had to prop up Barak to get him to do his duty, and the result is that she got the glory. And you remember Abigail, the wife of Nabal “the fool,” and what a fool he was, but she got the glory because she did not try to bring him down; she let him do that for himself. And she was honored. She was a true mother of Israel. So here we read that this woman goes down to the grove of nut trees. And what happens? ‘Before I realized it’, she said—she wasn’t even thinking of status, you see—‘before I realized it, my desire’—that’s Solomon—‘set me among the royal chariots of my people’. She was right up there on the throne beside him again. Her status was exalted. And I believe that this will happen in the life of any woman who’s willing to live God’s way. As sure as you from the heart say, ‘I know I’m not married to the perfect husband, but I know what my Lord wants me to do, and I’m going to do it for his glory. I'm going to willingly submit to the leadership of my husband’. Well, that woman’s status begins to go up right there and then, as sure as I’m standing here; that’s a fact. If you exalt yourself, the Bible says you’re going to be humbled. And exalting yourself is exactly what you are doing if you don’t like the role that God gives you, and then try to work out something better—what you’re trying to do is exalt yourself. And you’re going to be humbled, your going to go down. But the Bible says, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and he will exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6). Now the Lord did that for Abigail even though she was married to a fool. He was rightly named “Mr. Fool” because that’s what he was. But God exalted her, and through her wisdom brought her to be a wife of King David.

Isn’t that exactly the picture we get in the Book of Proverbs? I hope you’re all familiar with that beautiful passage we get in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs where the woman, the ideal woman, you might say, is pictured. And she rejoices in the role of her husband—he is an elder at the gate, and she is supporting him. She is building him up. She is doing everything she can to promote her husband’s honor in the land of Israel. And what happens? Does her status go down? Not on your life; it goes up. And the scope of her activities—is it shrinking? Not on your life; it’s expanding. If you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and you say, ‘Lord God, I now by your grace have a willing heart and I want to do what you have given me to do’, right then and there your status goes up. Not only that but (and I would suppose that this would also be important to any woman) she immediately becomes more beautiful.
Come back, come back, O Shulamite,
Come back, come back that we may gaze on you.

I don’t know who says that, but I suppose it was most likely a whole bunch of people there in the nation of Israel. They’ve noticed that there’s something different about her. Her husband also immediately thinks she’s more beautiful than ever.

Now you remember that when this Solomon married her he already praised her beauty in what we might call hard-to-top terms. He described her physical beauty in a sevenfold poem of praise, and I told you at the time that in the Hebrew culture if you wanted to tell a woman that she was practically perfect you would use seven to do it. Well, now, how are you going to top seven? If you were part of the Hebrew culture you would immediately know the answer. There’s only one way, and that is to mention ten things instead of seven. And if you can do it in a poem describing ten beautiful features in that woman then you’ve topped it. And that’s what he does here. You can go right through chapter seven, and you can count them—there are ten of her physical features that he praises and extols. That’s his way of telling her that she is more beautiful by far, than when they first started out. And that must make any woman realize how fortunate she is to have a husband like that. And that’s exactly why—when you submit under God’s ordinances—his blessings are so evident.

I should also point out the fact that this is probably the most sensual and sexual of all the descriptions of love in the entire Bible, and it’s what you might call the second plateau of marriage. I think this illustrates again how wrong the church has been in not being willing to speak frankly about these matters, but tonight let me emphasize the fact that you always have to see these matters in the proper context. The modern approach to sex is in terms of the mechanics of it. You’ve got to know all of the facts. That’s the really sinister threat about bringing sex education into the schools because if you just know all of the mechanical facts, you don’t really know what you need to know. As you can plainly see, the problem in this marriage wasn’t that they didn’t know the facts, that they didn’t know about the biology of the human body. It had nothing whatsoever to do with that; they knew that all right. The problem was that for a while they weren’t on God’s wavelength in their fundamental obedience to his will. When that was straightened out, sex was no problem. And that’s what you’ll never have out of a Christian context. You won’t have it. And that’s why sex education in a secular school is terribly harmful, not helpful. It’s harmful because the foundation of life—the whole thing—is covenantal; you’ve got to be right with God. You’ve got to have a willing heart to live by his ordinances. Then, these other things will begin to assume their proper place. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all of these other things will be added unto you. You see, that’s the principle here.

And a third thing that you see in this passage is this—and I think it’s wonderful and every woman is really missing out if she doesn’t see it, for—immediately this woman found a new freedom; so much so that the words of the curse are completely inverted. She says, ‘May the wine go straight to my lover flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.’ Now those are identically the words that you have in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 with one little change, one little Hebrew letter is changed, and that makes all of the difference. The difference is that there is no longer an antagonism, but rather the desire of promotion. ‘His desire is not against me’, she says, ‘no, it is for me’. And right away you begin to see it in their relationship because under his loving leadership she has far greater scope for her own initiative. She’s the one who says, ‘Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside.’ She’s the one who said earlier, ‘Let us go to the vineyards.’ In other words she takes an initiative quite freely within the context of a willing submission to his leadership, and he gladly allows it. If you have a heart that’s really willing to submit God’s ordinances, that doesn't diminish your freedom. To the contrary it enlarges and opens it up. It becomes greater.

Did you ever notice that in a good marriage you see both of these aspects together. I’ve seen people who have been married and happy in their marriage where the man calls his wife darling, and then a few minutes later he’ll speak of her as mother. I used to think that was a little bit funny, but the longer I live the more I see that is perfectly right and biblical. It’s an added dimension to the marriage, and you see that in our text. ‘If only you were to me as a brother’, she says, ‘then if I found you outside I would kiss you and no one would despise me’. She would have a kind of right, in other words, in a playful way to mother him. Well, that becomes also a perfectly proper dimension of the loving relationship within God’s covenant, and it’s also due to the fact that he has learned to appreciate her counsel and wisdom. And when she’s no threat to his leadership, all the more does he want that and seek it and promote it. She is given more and more freedom. The woman in Proverbs 31, who really has her heart set in the ways of God and heartily submits to her husband’s leadership, can hardly take any more than the responsibility he gives her. So, you see, God’s way never diminishes anybody; it always enlarges the scope of their potential.

And here, again, you can see so clearly the ultimate model in the love of Christ and the church. For, if you know anything about the Reformed faith, you will know this has been the glory of the Reformed faith. Christ alone is king and head of the church. The Bible alone is the infallible rule of our faith and practice. We don’t want human inventions cluttering up the worship of God; we want the simplicity and purity of doing what our Savior commands. And what happens when the church really lives in that? It’s exalted, and you see this so clearly in the Reformation. But what happens to the church when it begins to set its will in opposition to Christ’s headship and says, ‘No, not the Bible alone? We’re not going to be restricted to what God says; we’re going to do our own thing’. What happens to the church then? Well, its glory fades away, and its status is diminished. And it is not respected by anyone—especially not by the world. But what happens when the church is revived, and is willing to submit once more to the sovereign authority of Christ and the absolute inerrancy of the Bible? Is its freedom diminished? Not on your life. That’s when the church really is free. You really stand tall and free in the world when you stand as a church on that firm basis.

I hope that this is what we will more and more see in our own generation—churches that really do submit to the authority of Christ as it is revealed in the Bible. That is the true glory of the church, and that is its real freedom. We are, of all the people in the land, free if we really have that. If we lose it, we haven’t got freedom any more. I used to get a paper in the mail—I didn’t subscribe to it—I think it was called “Innovations” and that is certainly what it was filled with. It just revealed to me how sick many churches are today, because it was full of gimmicks, invented by preachers all over the land, to try to keep a dead body looking as if it's still living. Do all sorts of clever, gimmicky things to stir up the people and keep them interested. It reminded me of an entertainer who has to try to think up new jokes every week, to keep people laughing. It’s like that in many churches. And when I read that paper I said to myself 'how sad that they have lost it’. We don’t need gimmicks—we only need to know that we are really doing what God says to do in his word. If we are really doing that, you can depend on it—he’s going to exalt us. That’s what he will do. And he will make us conscious of the glory of our freedom.

And now you notice that we come once again, for the last time, to this remarkable statement that we’ve already met twice before.

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you,
Don’t arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

Do you remember why and when she said that before? She said it before they ever got married. And she said it because she did not want to enter into the sanctuary of love until it was pleasing to God. She wanted to wait until God’s approval was given, and then give herself to that man completely. Here you see there’s something in that principle that applies to all of life, as it applies in courtship. It’s really like saying ‘I’ve already learned in life that the golden rule of marriage is to stay within the guidelines of holy Scripture. If you do that you’re going to be blessed. If you depart from it, you’re going lose it’. That’s what we clearly see here in this life of this married couple.

What you have, in other words, in Christian marriage—modeled after the love of Christ for the church—is a foretaste of paradise. Adam and Eve had it once, but then they lost it. God said to her, ‘Your desire is going to be against your husband’. But here—in the Song of Songs—we see the wonderful fact that where the grace of God is operative in the hearts of two covenant-keeping people that curse is greatly diminished. To a greater and greater degree for those who love the Lord and are willing to walk in his ways it is turned around, and paradise is regained. That’s what Christian marriage can be. And don’t you think, too, that that’s what the world needs to see today—in this day when marriage, home, and family are crumbling at a frightening rate?

I hope you realize that even as we meet here the foundations are crumbling all over the land because of the breakdown of marriage. And our nation isn’t going to be strong ten, twenty, fifty years down the road if this trend continues—because the strength of a nation rests on the strength of its families. And that strength has always been found primarily in God's covenant people. If you are willing to live God’s way you’re going to have that strength and beauty. That’s the central point truth taught in this book. And it’s a wonderful thing to know that even in the midst of a degenerate time like this God can still do wonders. And you can have it today as surely as at any other time because it’s a matter of heart-willingness to live the way God wants us to live. ‘You will know the truth’, said Jesus, ‘and the truth will set you free’. And when it sets you free as it did the Shulamite girl, then everything begins to be lovely and begins to bring honor to Jesus. May our prayer be that he will enable us to show forth his glory in the same way.


* 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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