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Biblical Romantic Love in Marriage
The Song of Solomon and selected Scripture
You would think romance would be the easiest thing in the world to maintain in a marriage, but it is not. Once a Kansas cyclone hit a farmhouse just before dawn–it lifted the roof off, picked up the beds on which the farmer and his wife slept, and set them down in the next county. The wife began to cry, so the husband said, “Don’t be scared Mary, we’re not hurt.” Mary continued to cry. “I’m not scared,” she responded between sobs, “I’m just so happy. This is the first time in 14 years we’ve been out together.”
Sometimes we are not even aware of any decline that might be occurring in our marriage. This is best illustrated in the article, “The Seven Ages of the Married Cold,” which revealed the reactions of a husband to his wife’s head colds during their first seven years of marriage. It goes something like this:
The first year: “Sugar dumpling, I’m really worried about my baby girl. You’ve got a bad sniffle, and there’s no telling about these things with all this strep going around. I’m putting you in the hospital this afternoon for a general check-up and a good rest. I know the food’s lousy, but I’ll be bringing your meals in from Ruth Chris. I’ve already got it all arranged with the floor superintendent.
The second year: “Listen Darling, I don’t like the sound of that cough. I’ve called Doctor Kildare and asked him to rush over here. Now you go to bed like a good girl, please, just for Papa.”
The third year: “Maybe you’d better lie down, Honey; nothing like a little rest when you feel bad. I’ll bring you something. Have you got any canned soup?”
The fourth year: “Now look, Dear, be sensible. After you’ve fed the kids, washed the dishes and finished the floors, you’d better lie down.”
The fifth year: “Why don’t you take a couple of aspirin?”
The sixth year: “Would you please stop sneezing? Are you trying to give me pneumonia?”
The seventh year: “For Pete’s sake, I wish you’d just gargle or something, instead of sitting around all evening barking like a seal.”
Even when you do everything right, you will still struggle maintaining romance in your marriage. A man at work decided to show his wife how much he loved her. So before returning home, he showered, shaved, put on some choice cologne, then bought her a bouquet of flowers. He went to the front door and knocked. His wife answered the door and exclaimed, “Oh no! I can’t believe this! First I had to take Billy to the emergency room to get stitches in his leg, then your mother called and said she’s coming for four weeks, then the washing machine broke, and now this! You’ve come home drunk!”
It’s Valentine’s Day and we want to hear about romance. St. Valentine was said to perform marriages for Roman soldiers in secret, when marriage was forbidden for soldiers by the Emperor–that’s all we know. So that’s not a big help. So where are we going to turn to learn about romance?
How can I cultivate a romantic relationship? Our marriage has gone a little dry–we’ve fallen into a routine. What should we do? Don’t go to a secular counselor, don’t have a sex challenge, don’t read “Cosmo” and don’t listen to Dr. Ruth. The answer is to follow the greatest example of marital love in the Bible, found in the Song of Solomon.
Open to the crispy portion of your Bible, Song of Solomon. As you do, once again, realize the Bible is totally sufficient. It speaks to every issue we need to know to glorify God and enjoy what He has given. And the Bible teaches us about romantic love in order to keep our marriages from becoming cold and business-like, such as the bachelor who put this ad in the paper:
Idaho bachelor seeks wife,
Must be interested in farming and own tractor,
Please enclose picture, of tractor.
What is Biblical romantic love? It is an intense feeling of delight in someone, the desire of union and permanent commitment. But let’s be practical, we all know we should love each other more. So how do we cultivate romantic love? Look at the Song of Solomon. Within eight chapters, romantic love is described 26 times, whereas in the entire Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) it is only mentioned twice. So if you’re seeking counsel on how to cultivate Biblical romantic love, you must look to Song of Solomon.
Why is this book important? Paul commands us to teach the whole counsel of God. That’s everything. All Scripture is inspired by God, including the Song of Solomon. There are no sections of Scripture God sells under the counter in a brown paper bag. And today we must deal with this issue because of two unbiblical extremes:
• Promiscuity says if it feels good, do it, with an attitude lacking discretion.
•The other extreme is prudishness, where human sexuality is a necessary evil.
Both extremes are incorrect, and please don’t misunderstand what this Song is saying. This book has been really misinterpreted. Some say it is fictional, others say it is allegorical, symbolizing the Church and God. But in reality, it is literal. What was Solomon’s intent? And what did the original audience in Solomon’s day understand it to mean?
Simply, it was the wooing and wedding of a shepherdess by King Solomon. It could be Abishag, the one who helped David stay warm as an old man. Most likely, it was the first of his wives before they drew his heart away. And though it has application to the Church or to Israel, it is primarily a real love story. It is beautiful, very romantic, and belongs in Scripture.
As I pick through portions of this great book, remember it is only our culture that has made romance something nasty. Remember this is God’s design, it is perfect, and it is delightful when enjoyed His way. Marriage does not have to be a three-ring circus. You know, it starts with the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, and ends up with suffer-ring.
So what practical counsel to husbands and wives concerning Biblical romantic love does God give through Solomon? Let me give you four points, and all begin with the letter “A”. Write them down in your Bible, remember them, and practice them.
Turn to the Song of Solomon chapter 7:1-6. This is a husband speaking of his wife, describing ten ways she is attractive to him.
Verse 1 How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter. (Beautiful has to do with graceful.) The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist.
Verse 2 Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine (refers to sex organs.) Your belly is like a heap of wheat, fenced about with lilies (her pubic hair).
Verse 3 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. (No part of her body is considered unattractive.)
Verse 4 Your neck is like a tower of ivory. (Her neck was smooth like ivory, and long like a tower, picturing strength of character and integrity.) Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim. (Pools have the idea of peaceful blue, not busy.) Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, which faces toward Damascus. (Now, I would have skipped the nose, but not Solomon nor other mid-east writers, since the nose was often a symbol of beauty and dignity in other cultures, as it should be in our culture too.)
Verse 5 Your head crowns you like Carmel, (not the sauce for your ice cream, but a beautiful and impressive mountain in Israel. And Solomon is saying to his wife that she needs no earthly crown, even though she is a queen, her own head is beautiful.) and the flowing locks of your head are like purple threads, the King is captivated by your tresses. (Even her hair captivates him.)
Verse 6 How beautiful and how delightful you are, My love with all your charms. The principle here is very direct. In order to cultivate Biblical romantic love in your marriage, you are to discover, compliment, enhance, and dwell on your wife’s created beauty. This is God’s Word here, friends. In this passage, Solomon lists ten characteristics of his wife. Every woman has a created beauty. Many are like Sarah or Rachel, where they have an objective beauty, which means when you see them, you know they are beautiful. But every woman also has a subjective beauty that is beheld by her husband.
We have all known beauties who are striking on the outside, but sickening on the inside. They are both beauty and the beast. But with your wife, men, in both the objective and subjective, from head to foot, she needs to be told that she is attractive. You need to tell her. If you’re worried about puffing her up, understand that is contrary to Scripture. Scripture models here for you men to tell her.
Women are keenly aware of every little physical flaw–teeth, toes, lips, eyebrows. In the book, The First Really Important Survey of American Habits, 78% of the women in our country do not like the way they look. Our wives for the most part don’t focus upon their beauty, but only on the flaws in their beauty. One of the jobs of a godly husband is to convince his wife she is beautiful until she believes it. And in order for this to happen, you must work on it continually. Someone told me once, “The best way to compliment your wife is often.”
Avoid criticizing or joking about your wife, in public or private. Esteem changes in her style, look for attractive clothes for your spouse, and encourage those things that will enhance her beauty. Take an interest in the way your wife looks.
Now as Christians, we must be careful, since there is a balance to this. Beauty is not most important, especially for the single man. The Scripture affirms that attractiveness is not the top priority. I Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart.” But to you married men that point is irrelevant since you are to encourage and affirm your wife’s beauty.
But to the single, you must be discerning in your choice of a companion. Don’t be fooled by the externals. You don’t marry a body, you marry a person. It is amazing to me what singles put on their list of requirements. He must be 6’ 2”, blond hair, and drive a Porsche. It’s also amazing to me what they end up with–5’1”, bald, and drives a Moped.
As a single, don’t get desperate–which reminds me of the difference between a rooster, a patriot, and an old maid:
Rooster says, “Cock-a-doodle-doo.”
Patriot says, “Yankee-doodle-doo.”
Old maid says, “Any dude will do!” Don’t be that way.
God reminds us in the Scripture that the real issue is the heart. But as a married man, you’re to enhance, encourage, and affirm your wife’s beauty.
Men are to be affectionate. With affection you’re saying, “I care for you, I approve of you, I will protect you, I am proud of you.” Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.” One version says, “Give your wife much love, (not a starvation diet). Pour it on! Plus, never treat them harshly, but,” the Amplified says, “be affectionate.”
If Christ is number one, then it’s impossible to be too affectionate. You’ve seen those guys who give affliction instead of affection. He verbally beats her down, is critical, jokes, or complains. God says, be affectionate.
Now understand, men–to women, affection and sexual intimacy are two different issues. For too many men, they are the same. Affection equals foreplay, but not to women. In fact, Dear Abby shocked the world with a poll asking women what they would rather have, sexual relations with their husband or a good hug. The vast majority chose a good hug. So how are men to show affection?
First Show affection by words
What do I talk to her about? One thing is her looks. Look at Song of Solomon 4:1-3, “How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves behind your veil; your hair is like a flock of goats that have descended from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes which have come up from their washing, all of which bears twins, and not one among them has lost her young. [No teeth are missing.] Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate behind your veil.”
This guy is a pro, like in Proverbs 31:28, “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Husbands are to say to their wives, you’re the best. Verbally, he is caressing her. Think of some fresh ways to express affection. Don’t say, “Wild thing, you make my heart sing”. There are better ways to speak to her than, “You MOOOOVE me.”
Also compliment her character, not merely her appearance. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” That is a verbal caress.
Second Show affection by acts of kindness
Show her you are thinking of her when you are not with her–leave notes . . . just call to say, “I love you” . . . greeting cards are proven and effective . . . sell your car and you can buy ten at a time . . . if she doesn’t like flowers, ask if she’d like a fishing pole or a hunting rifle . . . candy is not always good since it expands to other issues.
You can also take initiative in home repairs, or when your car is broken, how long do you take to fix it? You must realize guys, the home is her office. Do what you can and call for help with the rest. Ecclesiastes 10:18 says, “Through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks.” One way to show affection to your wife is to take care of her house. If you let it go undone, sometimes you’re saying she doesn’t matter.
Third Show affection by how you touch her
I love couples who hold hands and give hugs. Life insurance companies study everything. Get this–men who kiss their wives before work have fewer accidents. Men who kiss their wives before going to sleep live longer. (When she stops kissing you, check your insurance policy.) Women often complain, “He only touches me when he wants something.” Men need to learn to give touch without ulterior motives.
Fourth Show affection by focused conversation
Put the paper down, turn the TV off, and look her in the eye. It’s crucial she has all of you. Conversation is affection. We all know that marriage is oneness, but the only way to have oneness is communication. Some scientists made a study by wiring little girls and little boys with microphones–100% of the time with the girls was filled with conversation to themselves, to another, or to an imaginary friend. Women generally talk to themselves more, talk to others more, and have a greater need for conversation.
Studies showed that the noise of little boys was 60% conversation–the rest was bombs, trucks, sound effects, etc. The biggest complaint of women is, “My husband won’t talk to me.” So, what is conversation? Here is a definition: conversation is verbal attention, showing you value what she has to say and how she feels.
The problem is it is not the nature of men to sit around and chew the fat, but it is a need of women. Does this sound familiar? “I have a problem, Honey?” “What is it?” She tells you. You say, “Do this and that.” You get up, walk away, and she’s even more frustrated. Why? She wanted to connect–she wanted you to feel her trauma. Yeah, but 9 out of 10 of her options were dumb. Listen, work it through, converse. How do you do it? You make time for it.
Many are still married, but have lost their heart-to-heart oneness. So make time for communication. So attraction and affection . . .
Make time to be alone with your wife. In the book of Song of Solomon, King Solomon got away with his wife together. Look at 2:10-13 . . . it’s basically an exhortation to go away for awhile.
“My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come along. For behold the winter is past the rain is over and gone, the flowers have already appeared in the land the time has arrived for the pruning of the vines and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance, arise my darling, my beautiful one and come along.’”
This is during their courtship, and is a dating experience without compromise. They were to get away together in the springtime in the mountains. Turn over to chapter 7, verse11. Here, the wife initiates the get away. “Come my beloved let us go out into the country. Let us spend the night in the villages.” This verse talks about a second honeymoon. She talks about getting away in the country to a secluded village, and there they will love each other.
Part of married life is to get away alone. Once a couple was asked the secret of their long marriage. One of them answered and said, “We take time to go to a restaurant twice a week, have a little candlelight dinner, soft music and a slow walk home. She goes on Tuesday, and I go on Friday.” No, plan for time together.
Now, the Bible is not talking about violating the commands of Scripture. You are to minister your spiritual gift, be involved in the body, be in corporate worship, be in prayer, study the Word of God, give sacrificially and be a witness. But you are also to be one with your spouse, and that demands time and probably some money.
Most of you know Solomon could have spent millions of dollars to get away, but getting away does not mean you have to spend lots of money. You can find secluded spots that cost very little. What’s stopping you? First, you should want to be alone: whatever partner is stopping the process needs to rethink their priorities. Look for specials, hotels, those friends who offered their cabin, small trips away, even camping for those who love dirt. Get the calendar out, and plan a time away.
The best way to start is to plan a regular date night. Trade with another couple and watch each others’ kids, and get some time alone with your spouse. It doesn’t have to cost—
1) go to the mall and figure out what you’d buy if you were rich
2) go to the airport, watch the planes and make up stories about the people arriving and departing
3) make your spouse breakfast in bed
Take time to be alone. So attraction, affection, alone and . . .
In order to cultivate Biblical romantic love towards your wife, you need to learn to adore her. Do you talk lovingly to her? Listen to the words of Solomon in Song of Solomon 2:5, our courtship verse. It says, “Sustain me with raisin cakes; refresh me with apples, because I am lovesick.” There is a sense of endearment here, there is a sense of poetry, the language of love. In the proper tone, in the proper terms, we need to adore our wives. You can say it, you can write it, you can find other ways to speak it, but it is critical for the husband to talk lovingly and romantically to his wife.
This is a major problem for men today. I know this because when some of us men watch “The Sound of Music,” and we observe Colonel Von Trapp whistle a series of signals, watch his children tumble down the stairs, line up in descending order by age, and stand at attention while an astonished Maria looks on, some of us men laugh. But a lot of us think, “Hey, what a great idea!”
We live in a cold impersonal society, where most feel like a number. That’s why provision is not enough, men–we are to cherish our wives. Listen to Ephesians 5:29. Speaking of a husband loving his wife, Paul says, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” What is to cherish? The overall sense is that she is more important to me than anyone, anything, anywhere, all the time. Next to Jesus, she is it. Note this, men–when you honor her, God smiles on you.
But there is a problem–men are destination-oriented. On vacation, men have a goal to reach. That’s why they start with the gas tank full and everyone’s bladder empty, and will drive until the tank is empty and everyone’s bladder is full. But God help the child whose bladder is full before the gas tank is empty. Men are generally goal-oriented.
When you were dating, men, you worked hard to woo your wife-to-be. You gave her focused attention until the wedding. After the wedding, a subtle transition occurs. You met your goal, you got your wife. Now you have a new goal–what? Move on in my career. Within six months, there is less courting. When the kids come, it disappears.
Wives say, “He’s changed. Before we were married, we talked ‘til midnight . . . now he grunts, then snores. All he wants is food or the channel changer.” The fact is, he met his goal–marriage, kids, and now he’s moving on. But godly men, to cherish is focused attention, it’s adoring continually. You don’t move on.
All of us cherish what is most important. Men (or women), does your spouse get more attention, affection than your career, your home, golf, hobbies, your children, your friends or your ministry? But how can I know for sure? Here’s the true test of a godly man–how willing were you to listen to your wife during the NFL playoffs? (Of course no true spiritual woman would ever think of interrupting her man during the playoffs, but it does put things in perspective, doesn’t it?)
Now you know what Biblical romantic love is. The question is, will we do it? I believe we have it all backwards today–we think romance is what wins a mate, then we retire to the easy chair. We’ve forgotten romance demonstrates the cherishing, affirming, loving heart of Christ. It should grow in marriage, not disappear. This Valentine’s Day, make a commitment to love your wives and impact your children by doing so. Make her attractive to you, give her affection, spend time alone with her, and adore her.
1 You can’t live the Word of God in your own strength. We’ve all heard the commitment of marriage expressed in Ephesians 5, “Husbands love your wives, wives respect your husbands”– but it’s easy for us to forget that you can’t live Ephesians 5 without Ephesians 1-4 being true in your life.
And Ephesians 1-4 tells us you must be saved, internally transformed by Christ first. God must draw you to Himself, and cause you to turn from your self-sufficient sin and depend on Christ alone to forgive you. And when He does, you will have a new heart that wants to obey the Word of God in dependence upon the Spirit of God. Only then can you treat your spouse according to Ephesians 5.
If you’re wondering how you can become a genuine Christian, one who has Christ living inside, talk to the men who will be up front here after the service.
2 The affections for your spouse display your affections for Christ. As you love your wife, you love the Lord. As your affections for your spouse diminish, so do your affections for Christ–they are linked. I John 4:21says, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” Make no mistake, how you treat your family members and church family too, demonstrates how you really treat Christ.
3 God is the one who invented romance, not the world, not the movies or books, but God invented this kind of special relationship. It only works when we stop trying to imitate the world’s way, and commit ourselves to pursue His way. And nothing can come close to the joy that God makes available to His children when they walk according to His Word.
Snow White didn’t live happily ever after?
Four-year-old Suzie had just been told the story of “Snow White” for the first time in her life. She could hardly wait to get home from nursery school to tell her mommy. With wide-eyed excitement, she retold the fairy tale to her mother that afternoon. After relating how Prince Charming had arrived on his beautiful white horse and kissed Snow White back to life, Suzie asked loudly: “And do you know what happened then?” “Yes,” said her mom, “they lived happily ever after.” “No,” responded Suzie with a frown, “they got married.”