We are finishing our series from the book of Song of Solomon as we look at chapter 8. We have learnt about dating, marriage, romance and intimacy through this book which has been practical and relevant for people both single and married.

Today we will look at how a marriage can grow into a lasting and satisfying one. How can a couple grow together as friends, in wisdom, fulfil God’s purposes, navigate various issues and challenges in life, pursue each other in love, fight for romance and live out faithfully till the end? This is possible because of faithful love. What kind of a love is this? This passage shows us a picture of faithful love and how we can prepare for faithful love.

A. Picture of faithful love

8:1 Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother's breasts! If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me. 2 I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother—she who used to teach me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranate. 3 His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me!

The couple returns from their trip to the village. They took time off to connect, chat, be renewed, refreshed emotionally, physically and spiritually. They have expressed satisfaction in each other through verbal and non verbal expressions of love and affection. They have been intentional in planing for seclusion, to deepen commitment and to fight for romance. On their way back they feel nourished, loved and energised. They are also playful with each other.

She says if only Solomon was like her brother, she could hug and kiss him publicly. In that culture, public affection was only expressed between parent and child and between siblings. Any other form of public affection was frowned upon. So she playfully wishes he were like a brother so she can publicly show affection and be in each other’s arms.  

4 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases

She warns and charges her listeners as before to make a vow and not awaken love before time. This experience, these getaways, romance and intimacy is a privilege of 2 people willing to commit each other for marriage. This is a result of a safe, secure, committed relationship within the bonds of marriage. Do not listen to culture that mocks God’s wisdom, a culture that has no fear of God, who live like he does not exist. Do not plan these getaways before marriage and do not get intimate emotionally or physically before time. This is like playing with fire and we get burnt when we do.

God’s word is clear about God’s will for our lives.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God

As they return from their trip, others notice them.

5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved? Under the apple tree I awakened you.

Their friends notice and ask, who is this returning from the wilderness? They notice that they are leaning on each other, glowing in love. This is how love awakened at right time looks like. There is no shame, or guilt or fear. But there is joy, freedom, happiness, acceptance and gratitude. This is God’s gift for our joy.

And we begin to see a description of this faithful love in v.5. The Hebrew word used here is ahava, meaning an intense, emotional bond, loyal, faithful and everlasting love, a love between a husband and wife, a love between deep abiding friendship and even used to describe God’s covenantal love for his people. Here are 5 descriptions or pictures of this faithful love.

a. Persevering love: nothing can hinder this love  

5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved? Under the apple tree I awakened u. There your mother was in labor with you; there she who bore you was in labor

Ahava is compared to a mother in labor pain who is about to deliver her child. Mothers endure months of pain and discomfort which climaxes into labor and yet they gladly endure it for the joy of seeing their baby. Giving birth is hard work. Faithful love in marriage is persevering like the mother who perseveres during labor. Faithful love is painful and yet nothing stops or hinders this love.

Why is it painful? It is because marriage is between 2 sinners, broken, selfish, who forget their covenant and constantly act out of self interest. Most days you feel like your spouse is unloveable and not worthy of your love, grace and forgiveness. You dont feel like wooing them, admiring and adoring them. You will face unmet expectations and your spouse will disappoint you often. But ahava perseveres and nothing hinders this. This is how we are called to love our spouse. We would love to experience love like this, but are we prepared to give love like this?

b. Possessive love: nothing can compete with this love

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm

A seal is a symbol of possession, belonging and loyalty. It shows value and being treasured. A seal in the heart points to thoughts, intention and feeling, while a seal on the arm is outward pointing to words and actions. It is referring to the whole person.

Nothing competes or gets in the middle of your love for your spouse. Ahava is visible, expressed and evident. Friends, hobbies, work, material things, gadgets, games, children, parents or even ministry, nothing takes priority over your spouse. You give your best to your spouse, time, effort, affection and appreciation.

Does your spouse feel they are number one in your life? Do they know that they have a place of priority? Is it evident? Do they sense that they are valued and treasured. This is what it means to love your spouse with a faithful love. It is possessive and nothing competes for your love toward your spouse. We all want this kind of love but The questions is whether you are prepared to give this love?

c. Permanent: nothing can move this love

6 for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Ahava is permanent as death and the grave. Once dead, you stay dead. It is permanent. The Grave is jealous and wont return the dead. Similarly, ahava is resolute, unshakable, enduring, firm, relentless. It does not change with emotions or circumstances. One does not press eject during conflict or threaten to leave the marriage. This love is permanent, stable and reliable.
d. Passionate: nothing can resist this love

6 Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

Ahava has energy, power and intensity like flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. This love is like a blazing fire that overpowers and sweeps anything in its way. It is irresistible and unstoppable. Even many waters and endless floods cannot quench or extinguish it. This is what it means to love your spouse. Nothing can resist this kind of a love. Even a difficult person can be won over with ahava.

e. Priceless: nothing can buy this love

7 If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

Ahava is priceless, it is not for sale, cannot be bought by money or traded for anything, it cannot be earned or compared to any wealth.

We see a picture of faithful love, ahava is persevering, possessive, permanent, passionate and priceless. This is what it takes to have a marriage that is lasting and enduring, that is satisfying and fulfilling. Are you prepared to give this love?

B. Preparation for faithful love

(Others) 8 We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for?

The listeners have little sisters at home who are young and not a woman yet. They want to know how they can help their sisters and prepare for marriage. From this young age to the time when they are asked for marriage, what could they do? How do they know they are ready for marriage? In that culture we see the role of brothers in protecting sisters, preparing them for marriage and committed to their life.

9 If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver, but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.

Wall and door are symbols character. A wall keeps things out and a door lets things in. A wall denotes self control, self restraint, modesty, maturity, wisdom, ability to say no to unwarranted advances, good judgment, ability to resist temptations and to keep oneself pure. A door points to a character that is the opposite, immature and lacking wisdom.

The brothers themselves answer their question, it depends on their sister’s character. If she is a wall, we know she’s maturing, growing and on the path for marriage. We will reward her with honour and respect. But if she is a door, reckless, lacking wisdom and vulnerable, then she is not ready for marriage and we need to help her with discipline, take responsibility to protect out sister till she grows in wisdom.

This applies to both men and women. Marriage is like lifting weights. We don't add a 100 kg weight to someone struggling to life 10kg. Marriage involves hard work, commitment, respect, submission, sacrifice, faithfulness and making and keeping a covenant. Ahava is persevering, possessive, permanent, passionate and priceless.
Culture considers marriage as some fantasy or a dreamland. People dream of an instant crush, love at first sight, sexual compatibility, a fairy tale wedding, endless romance and live happily ever after. But they don’t consider the work it goes into the marriage to make it lasting and satisfying.

(She) 10 I was a wall and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace

She says she was a person with character, obedient, submissive, pure, respectful and lived with honour. She kept her garden locked, grew in maturity and now enjoys a marriage that has ahava.

11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.

In Chapter 1, her brothers made her work in the vineyard and she said how she could not take care of herself but she took care of the needs of her family. Whose vineyard was she working in? It was Solomon’s vineyard that was leased to the brothers.  

Here she was submitting, responsible, being patient, serving and putting the needs of others ahead of herself and God was shaping her character, virtue, helping her grow wise and prudent. God was preparing her to be a queen one day. If she had not submitted, been arrogant or lazy, cared more for herself and her appearance, living a promiscuous life and being wise in her own eyes, then she would not have been noticed by Solomon who was standing right there.

Sometimes we completely miss God’s purposes, his joy, delight and the blessings of God just because of our attitude in life and our posture toward him.

You prepare for faithful love by learning to fear and love God first above all things. You prepare for faithful love by letting God shape and form your charcter through people God has placed in your life. In the process God is working in you, for you, through you. Character traits that are obedient, submissive, humble, respectful, wise, showing reverence are very attractive.

12 My vineyard, my very own, is before me; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.

She is grateful for her brothers who took responsibility for her life. She says let Solomon have thousand pieces of silver, meaning all her delights and her brothers 200 pieces of silver who have taken responsibility to protect her, help her grow in wisdom, catch those little foxes in life and be a wall for her. She is grateful for those who have helped her along the way.

Are you someone who is welcomes and is willing to submit to such discipline, care and wisdom from those God has put in your life? This can come from family but there are times when family reacts in ways that is contrary to God’s word and his purposes and act out of selfishness and out of cultural obligations. This is why God has given us an extended family in the church to give is wisdom and guidance, to protect us and lead us. Are you someone who will welcome and accept this kind of wisdom and discipline with humility and meekness?

(He) 13 O you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice; let me hear it. (She) 14 Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.

They are still pursuing each other. He says I am thinking about you when I am at work and she says I am thinking about you when I am at home. Here is a picture of passionate, loyal, faithful and exciting love between a husband and wife.

We all want a love like this but are we prepared to give love like this?

Some may find this love, some may find and lose it, some may never find it and this is the reality of life. But the gospel is true for all of us. Song of Solomon is about a romance between Solomon and his beloved, but it points to a greater romance. It ultimately points to the love of Christ our saviour who romances and pursues you as his bride.

Jesus kept himself pure, faultless, obedient, faithful and submissive to the Father’s will so he can receive us as his own, so we can become faultless, pure and blameless before him and enjoy all his delights forever.

Jesus persevered in love, nothing could hinder him. Jesus’ love was possessive toward us, nothing could compete with it. Jesus’ love was permanent and nothing could separate us from it. Jesus’ love was passionate, enduring forever. Jesus’ love was priceless and there is no greater love than this.

He overcame all barriers and went to the cross as our substitute. Why? Why did he go to such great lengths? Here Solomon is showing his love on the mountains of spices but Jesus showed his love on the mount of calvary. It was not with the fragrance of spices but the fragrance of his love was from the blood that flowed in calvary.

As you wait patiently, faithfully and obediently by faith even in the midst of trials, delays, disappointments, maybe even at the risk of not knowing such love in the form of marriage, oh may you never forget that he has not forgotten you. May your heart be for him alone, may you delight in his riches, may your heart melt at Calvary’s love. There is no earthly love that can be compared to the love of your saviour. You will be in his arms for eternity, basking in his love, singing his praise, transformed into his image, reaping rewards of unimaginable joy for ever.

The book of Song of Solomon is ultimately about the faithful love of Christ toward you and me.

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Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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