WARNING: The following material is intended for mature audiences. While this is a Bible study, the Song of Songs is written with references to sexual themes, intimate textual innuendos, and suggestive figurative language that may not be suitable for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised. It is recommended that you approach this book from God with pure motives and pray that His will in preserving these lyrics can be a blessing to you. It is advisable that if you have been enjoying this podcast with young ears present that you refrain from doing so. Wait until you are in a private setting. Thank you for taking this word of caution into consideration as we begin today’s episode.
Welcome to Season 4 - Episode 1 of our new series on the Song of Songs, called Love Awakening. Before entering into any of the episodes on the textual study of the book, I highly recommend that you listen to all of this introductory material in the first few episodes to get a better foundation for learning. Understanding the background, proper interpretation methods and any preliminary guidelines will increase the benefits that you can take away from each episode. Thank you for joining Net Cast as we study the greatest love Song of all time.
When is it right to begin to love? When is it time to awaken our passions for intimacy? We all have the quality of love built into us by God who is the epitome of love. I John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We need to know when it is okay for us to express love for the opposite sex as we were created to do. The timing must be right, and when it is, we must give it all. The real question is when is it proper to awaken romantic or intimate love in our spirits? There is a common theme in the Song of Songs where we hear the words, “Do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). We should not make sexual intimacy the pinnacle pursuit in relationships, for once a young man or woman has had their eyes opened, and they experience the awakening of love before the time is right, it is not pleasurable. The eyes can never be shut securely again, so that love and the insatiable desire for it can never slumber peacefully. We are forever awake and it can be a nightmare with our eyes wide open! What is God's will for our love awakening? This will be the theme of our study.
To adjure someone to not awaken love until it pleases is a command under oath that is made, not as advice that we can take or leave, but is a direct statement that leaves us without another option. This repeated phrase causes a sudden stop to all potentially fulfilled longings as we are reminded of both the consequences and the unquenchable pleasures and pains of love fulfilled. While the woman and man in our Song seem overwhelmed with love, we must always remember that these are poetic song lyrics that, while expressing real human desires, are never to be seen as literally transpiring. For this couple, while they seem fixated on finding a way to awaken love, they are always reminded of the need to squelch lovemaking until the timing is perfect. She often proclaims her adjuration right when intimacy is about to unfold and it is a reminder to all, although addressed to the daughters of Jerusalem in the context, to find a suitable time and place for the fulfillment of our wildest fantasies and desires for love. There is a time for everything. There is a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:5. Then he adds in verse 8, that there is also a time for love and yet a time to have hatred or war as opposed to peace. We need to be able to tell what time it is when it comes to lovemaking. We also learn in Ecclesiastes 9:9 that the context for love is with a spouse in marriage, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” This is the only place and time where love and its physical pleasures are to be enjoyed in this life. The waiting of a young couple for marriage in order to enter into sexual activity is critical to the intimacy of the relationship over time. When a young woman loses her virginity in the early teen years or a young man stumbles upon his neighbor’s stockpile of pornographic magazines, leading to years of masturbation and sexual misconduct, the experience alone is for them some kind of an awakening. The feelings and the visions captured by the senses in those moments whether truly romantic or sincerely desirable are the perpetual opening of the eyes to stir up sexual desire and misdirected love before the timing is right. This is a rude awakening and is not ultimately pleasurable, no matter how it may feel at the moment! Many people are carrying the scars of the promiscuous behaviors of their past. This reality cannot be taken lightly because of the serious nature and consequences surrounding a decision to love out of the context of God's approval. The truth is that once we are awakened to sexual acts, while we may be able to put this newly born behavior to bed at times, the fact is, it only takes the smallest noise, sight, taste, touch, sound, or smell to bring its eyes wide open again and screaming for more. For this reason, we have many addicts to sex, people of both sexes attending SA meetings, prisons full of people that have committed sexual crimes, and many more that are dying inside, with the improper application of what God intended for a husband with his wife, sharing in true intimacy and pleasurable love. Let me also say that even if someone remains single all of their life, they can be fulfilled with the love of God. The awakening never really has to happen for them in the flesh beyond falling in love with the Lord above. In western culture, we make marriage and sex as much a part of life as we do becoming an adult. We express that we can’t wait to graduate from school, get a good job, find the love of our life, and start a family. While these are good goals to have, if that is what you desire, remember that there are those that dedicate themselves, including the sexual desires that are innate in humankind, to the service of the Lord. They are contented to sacrifice the awakening of earthly love for being fully committed to God and his calling for them (Matt. 19:12). Paul the apostle never married, from what we learn in the New Testament, and he stated that, if you can, you should do the same. While there seems to be present distress that prompted this teaching, Paul does give a valid reason for this admonition. A married man cannot focus on God alone, but must also please his wife (I Cor. 7:32-33). To those who take this path, God bless you for your ability to find solace in the arms of God alone. But for many singles, they are not single by choice. They struggle daily with desiring feelings of love and the longings for intimacy along with an eager passion to find someone that they can share their love within this life. Regardless, we must learn to keep our emotions, feelings, and expressions of intimacy in check until we are married. Once we are married, we must learn to maintain our love exclusively with our spouse and find ways to be enraptured with their love always. To be firm on this point, it is advisable of every man and woman that they are fully in a dedicated relationship with the Lord, before ever attempting to fall in love with another person in this life. It is from the Lord that we have the establishment of marriage, and it is He who sets up the parameters for how our love should be expressed. When we violate His commands on how we are to behave with the opposite sex or the same sex for that matter, we are in sin, and sin will always have consequences that are not pleasurable at all. Hence, we see the rise in a calling for liberation to free sex of its boundaries. We are being bombarded with subliminal messages in commercials, ads, etc. and we are confronted blatantly with efforts to open up the world of sex to whatever seems right or feels good in the moment. This is why you see young kids having babies before they are grown-up themselves. Even if a young person does not bring a child into the world during these sinful premarital sexual encounters, you see them carrying around the guilt of never being able to approach their husband or wife that they plan to marry, with the innocence of knowing that they have saved themselves for their life-long covenant mate. Homosexuality is no longer happening in a closet. The activists have all come out of the closets and into the forefront of society. But do not be alarmed. God is aware of what takes place in a closet and or in the open square. It is still a sin in His book and laid bare before His eyes. For those that even desire heterosexual relationships, but you have married after being awakened, instead of waiting for marriage to experience love for the first time, you know the burdens that you bear as a result. Former partners get compared to the current spouse. The images that are seared into your brain from the past come rushing in, uninvited at times. We battle each day to maintain fidelity either to God or to the spouse to whom we said: “till death do us part”. This is why a man will turn to sexual images or an extramarital relationship at the office while his conscience is unaffected. This is why a woman will get lost in a fantasy romance novel, with graphic scenes of improper lusts, celebrating the so-called victory plot of a sexual relationship outside of marriage. It is not farfetched that she would consider pursuing such an improper relationship herself. Then when you open the Bible to read the teaching therein, God would condemn the behaviors and call it fornication or adultery, both of which are forms of immorality that will keep us out of heaven. What used to disgust us about the homosexual community is now made into commonplace behavior that we all need to be more tolerant of, when God says those that practice such things will be condemned. Even the term in our land laws that used to punish what was known as sodomy, comes from a biblical text where God destroyed an entire city called Sodom for its sexual sin. Notice here, how I am not just pointing out the flaws of any particular sexual practice of sin, but I am trying to get us to see that we need to return to marriage principles and sexual practices that go all the way back to the foundations that God laid down for this relationship (Gen. 2:24). Marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life. It is to be a pure exclusive relationship full of desire, love, and passion for the partner of the opposite sex that we have vowed to love until death parts us. We have to rescue the marriage bed! Hebrew 13:4 states, “Marriage [is to be held] in honor among all, and the [marriage] bed [is to be] undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” We need to know that God can forgive our wrongs and or heal the wounds of our past and create us anew for a sanctified version of love and marriage. Again, while you may have been awakened to love before it pleases, you are able to learn what the will of the Lord is and apply it to your life. You can channel your desires and offer them in proper places, demonstrating them in ways that are blessed by God. Most importantly, you can take every obscure thought captive to obedience to Christ and learn to love Him more each day. God can restore love and as our Creator, the making of love! As you contemplate the idea of waking up love, can you go back in time and pinpoint when your awakening took place? Again, this may have been out of your control. It may be a painful reality to revisit. I am not asking for you to go into details and share this moment with anyone. I just want you to be able to put your index finger on the timeline of your life and remember the day that you woke up. Were you molested at a young age? Did you violate another person in their innocence? Did you give your purity away hoping to gain some kind of elevated status of no longer being called a virgin due to peer pressure? Was the first experience innocent, but it led to years of sexual promiscuity? In some cases, it was not real love at all, but lust, or some other improper sexual encounter. In some instances, we were forced into an experience, where when we revisit the place, we must quickly turn away and move on to a time where we experienced true love. In some cases, we think we are experiencing real love but we are really hurting inside. For this reason, a woman will stay in an abusive relationship, because that is all that she knows. A young man may go around thinking that he is making love by sleeping around with any girl that he can lure into the bed, when in reality he is living out lusts of the flesh and stirring up love before it pleases, sinning against a holy God. I want you to know that you are not alone if you were identified here. While you can never get back innocence or give it back to someone for that matter, God is able to heal our hearts and minds. This will ensure that moving forward from the time we repent and seek forgiveness, allowing the blood of Jesus to wash us clean in the waters of baptism, that our sins will be remembered no more. For those that have sinned against us, we pray. It is time for a real biblical awakening to love in order that we can learn how to live in the will of God while enjoying the pleasure of marital love. We need to open our eyes to the Song of Songs which will enlighten us and bring to life what God intended from the time that we are courting (dating) to the time that we enter into marriage and make our vows.
It is not wrong to have a desire, for God gave that desire to us. The command given to us by God in Exodus 20:17 is, “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." It doesn't say that desire is wrong, but that desire should be steered into the right place for fulfillment. We cannot desire (covet) our neighbor's wife, but we must have a full desire for our own spouse. If we are not married yet, we seek a marriageable partner that is free before God to be married. We need to learn His perfect will and engage in healthy fulfilling relationships that honor Him. To this end, we approach this holiest Song that is inspired by God for His people to learn from and enjoy.
Before I close this first episode in Season 4, I want to take a brief moment to recognize a few authors/commentators that I followed closely during my study of the Song of Songs, and because of their scholarship and dedication to the text of Scripture, they have allowed me to share in their insights and prepare these episodes. First, I want to acknowledge Mr. Tom Gledhill for his work, "The Message of the Song of Songs". This work was invaluable in my studies and I truly felt that he gives, what can be considered, accurate representation and commentary on this beautiful inspired Song of Love. No one can say it better than God, but Mr. Gledhill certainly offers a clear understanding of the book that is plain to the reader. This is the task that every writer, preacher, or teacher hopes to accomplish. In many verses of the study, Tom said it in such a way that I could not say it better. For this reason, I have included his teaching in mine, and I will recommend that you get a copy of his book from InterVarsity Press for an even more in-depth study of this holy and divinely inspired Song. The approach to the book and the interpretation of the Song follow very closely the work that Mr. Gledhill has produced, especially in the way that the Song is shared in cycles of events.
Below is another list of books that I had at my fingertips and gleaned many other concepts from, that I included for your further research. There were many authors and a variety of interpretations that were considered during my study, which regardless of these perspectives helped my effort to learn more about these sacred lyrics from God to us.
Please take note that all scripture references in these episodes are taken directly from the New American Standard Bible: Updated Edition published by the Lockman Foundation (Foundation Publications, 1995) unless otherwise noted in the material. The reason for this decision is based on the biblical accuracy of this translation which allows for both a scholarly reading, but also a clearer rendering.