In Chapter 3, Solomon and his beloved got married. They had pursued each other in love, prepared intentionally for this day, deepened their commitment and fought for purity. In Chapter 4, they consummate their marriage. What has happened in their hearts finds its expression physically in their bodies with the blessing of God.
This passage should not concern us too much though it is uneasy and unusual. But God is the author os marriage, has given husband and wife to enjoy physical intimacy within marriage, has created man and woman with distinct and different personality, features and desires. They are different, not wrong. Sexual union and physical intimacy in marriage is a good gift from a good God for our joy. Most young people get their influence from Netflix and other cultural references. But it is important to hear and listen to what God has to say about this in his word.
Till Chapter 3, there was no hint of wedding or marriage as the couple were courting each other. They warned others not to awaken love before time and fought for purity in their relationship. Now in Chapter 4, they are married and the restraints are off.
The question we will ask in this Chapter is how do you approach your first night of your wedding? What can you do that will set the tone for the rest of your marriage? Here are three insights from God’s word.
A. Sexual union and physical intimacy in marriage is a communication of covenant love
Solomon and his bride have been waiting for this day since their first meeting. Their love has blossomed and even seen some tough moments. Now they are together physically for the firs time after marriage. Solomon begins by walking through how beautiful his bride is. He is going to take time and adore her beauty, express how much he wants and longs for her. But he is going to take his time patiently. There’s reason for this. Men respond to what they see and they are visual creatures. Women on the other hand respond to how they feel and what they hear. This is God’s design and its important to listen and learn.
1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
He describes her eyes and compares it to doves and her hair to a flock of Gilead goats which have black flowing hair. Remember these are cultural imagery appropriate and understood during that time. He is a shepherd king who references beauty from his day to day life. He basically says you are beautiful to me, I love your eyes and hair.
2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.
Ewes are female sheep which after shearing and washing becomes white and clean. He compares her teeth to this and finds them white and beautiful and all in its place.
3 Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.
He compares her lips to scarlet thread or ribbon. It is bright red making her mouth and smile lovely. Her cheeks are like halves of pomegranate, rosy and pink because of her blushing.
4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors.
The tower of David was a prominent location which could not be missed by those passing by. It is majestic and awesome. He compares her neck to the tower of David and finds it beautiful, commanding his attention. The warriors hang their shields on the tower of David and her neck is similar as it is adorned with layers of jewellery.
5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies.
A Fawn is a young baby deer which is easily scared. And he compares her breasts to how you deal with a baby dear, tender, gentle and soft. He does not scare her or grab her, but is gentle on their first night together.
6 Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. 7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
He says I have all night with his bride and he is in no hurry. He can until day appears to enjoy this view and explore it, breathe in fresh fragrance, be ravished by her beauty and attractiveness like the views from a mountain top. To him, his bride is beautiful, flawless and precious.
What do we learn here? He is communicating his covenant love.
He communicates his love with words.
He uses words, images, pictures to communicate how beautiful, valuable and precious she is to him. He is expressing with words his desire her, not just physically but all of her. He is using words to adore and admire every part of her, eyes, lips, teeth, neck…
Back in Chapter 1, his beloved had some insecurities about her looks. We saw how women are generally insecure about their appearance while men are generally insecure about their performance. So here he is affirming and driving out any insecurity. He is making her feel secure, special, exclusive by affirming with words of affection.
How can he do this? He is able to do this because he’s taking time to observe his bride, to notice her and as he notices he compliments. He is not trying to not embarrass her or make her feel uncomfortable. He is genuinely affirming and admiring his bride.
Physical intimacy and sexual union is not just physical act. It is a sacred and delightful opportunity where the husband exercises his God given responsibility and privilege to lift the heart and speak into the soul of his wife. No parent, sibling or friend can speak like the way a husband can. No one can affirm, adore, admire and speak life into her like the way her husband can. This is a God given influence and authority to make your bride feel honoured, respected, loved, admired, valued and dignified.
Some husbands say they cant speak like this. Men do have a problem expressing with words. But we should not settle for a passive lifestyle and abandon our God given responsibility. This is a privilege and a responsibility toward your wife.
He not communicates verbally but even though non verbal gestures. He does this by being gentle and patient. His tenderness and affection is in display. He is in no hurry. This is a way a husband honours his wife. Sacrificial love commanded by God in marriage for a husband starts in the marriage bed. By communicating through verbal and non verbal, through words of affection and by being gentle and tender, we put the needs of our wife above our needs and affirm and respect how God has created us different.
B. Sexual union and physical intimacy in marriage is a celebration of covenant love
8 Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.
They have dreamed and longed for this moment, they have felt the pull in their hearts to show physical affection, to be close and intimate with each other but they have fought to be pure. Now their desires are becoming a reality with the blessing of God as they celebrate their love.
He continues to be patient and gentle with her, inviting her to express her love, not forcing himself on her but is waiting for her to respond.
9 You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. 10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! 11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
The term sister is a term of endearment in that culture referring to the fact that they are now one family. We see the repeated reference to her as his bride out of delight and love. In v.9, he expresses how he is captivated by her glances and in v.10 he says how her love is more intoxicating, satisfying and pleasing than wine. And in v.11 they celebrate their love with passionate kisses.
Sexual union and intimacy in marriage is a celebration. It is ordained by God for husbands and wives to enjoy each other, be delighted with each other, to be satisfied with each other as God has ordained it to be. Sexual union in marriage is not just a duty or a means for procreation. It is to be cherished, treasured, enjoyed and celebrated.
But it is also important to recognise that sexual union does not define a marriage. A marriage experiences brokenness because of sickness, sin, relational and marital problems, seasons of trials and other issues. Some use physical intimacy as a selfish tool, or withhold it to punish the other or as a means of power play. But in spite of all this brokenness God has ordained it as a celebration of covenant love.
Proverbs 5:18 says, Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
Her is a picture of something deeply satisfying being in arms of your spouse as compared to hooking up in a casual manner or moving from one partner to another. Culture glorifies hooking up, casual sex, one night stands and losing your virginity. But it basically reveals a deep emptiness and dissatisfaction from momentary pleasures. Such decisions take you down a path of hurt, pain and deep disappointment.
Sexual union is a celebration of covenant love. It reflects the vows we make as we celebrate this union whether we are rich or poor, in good health or sick, during ups and downs, during seasons of laughing or mourning, joy or sadness. It is a celebration of a deepening commitment in marriage, of unconditional and sacrificial love, of growing together as one, seeing God leading you and sanctifying you and being faithful in love with your spouse.
Can a marriage exist without this kind of physical intimacy for various reasons? Yes. But God has given this gift of sexual union in marriage that is wonderful, delightful and satisfying. It is a celebration of your love with your spouse.
C. Sexual union and physical intimacy in marriage is a consummation of covenant love
12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed.
She has kept herself pure for the man she is going to get married. This applies to men too. We see commitment first and then union. Covenant first and then intimacy. Culture looks down on these values. But my plea is not to look at culture and not to listen to those who mock God’s wisdom and counsel. We are not people of the culture but we belong to God as his children. We are people who live by faith and trust the good purposes of God for our life. We are people of covenant who live to honour Christ in every way. God wants to protect you from a path of hurt, pain and disappointment by keeping you pure and to wait so you can fully experience the delight, be fully satisfied in the physical expression of your love which is amplified by the waiting, longing and the romance.
13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes with all choice spices, a garden fountain, a well of living water and flowing streams from Lebanon
In v.12 she was a garden locked. Now the garden is open to Solomon and she is inviting him. He is a gentle and God honouring man who does not force himself when his bride not ready. He is not pressuring her or being selfish but takes time to be patient and gentle with her. By doing this he honours and respects her. As we saw before, men are aroused visually while women are aroused by how they feel and what they hear, how they are wooed and loved.
The first lesson for men to have a satisfying intimacy in marriage is to learn that it is not about your needs. Wait to be invited into the garden. It is a way you honour God and your wife.
(She) 16 Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
(He) 5:1 I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. (Others) Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!
She invites him to take her as they fulfil their love, as it culminates into this moment and they consummate their marriage union. We see a pronouncement of blessing of God upon their union.
How do you approach the first night of your wedding and set the tone for the many nights that follow? You communicate, celebrate and consummate covenant love through sexual union in marriage.
If you follow God’s wisdom, then you are laying a foundation for a marriage that is exciting, full of love, where you can overcome any hurdle, conflict or deal with any trial or problem and live with mutual love and respect toward each other.
If you are married and have lost your way in this regard, don’t give up. Repent and deepen your commitment with your spouse. Don’t threaten to leave. Live as covenant people by loving and respecting and honouring your spouse as Christ loves the church. Christ’s love is based on a covenant with us. He does not leave because we don’t reciprocate his love or are disobedient. He continues to be faithful and woo us with his love. Similarly, we are called to deepen our commitment which is the way to reviving the romance. Get help from others to catch the little foxes that ruin the vineyard.
If you have awakened love before time, repent and seek forgiveness of Christ. Seek him and his grace to renew and restore you to a place of joy and truth.
Remember, physical intimacy and sexual union in marriage is not the ultimate satisfaction or pleasure. It merely points to a greater reality, a deeper satisfaction which is in Christ. A person can live a full, blessed, rich, useful, meaningful and God glorifying life without ever experiencing physical intimacy with anyone. The Bible says that marriage is good, sex is good but singleness is also good, even better according to Paul, that celibacy is good and purity is good.
In Chapter 3 and 4, Solomon comes on his golden chariot to marry his bride and brings gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense to show her value to him. Jesus came marching into Jerusalem as a king for his bride but he didn’t come on a golden chariot or with perishable gifts. He rode on a donkey and became poor for us as we were poor in sin and brokenness. He paid the price for his bride, the church with his own life, his own blood on the cross. He died in our place so we can be with him forever. One day he will return in glory, with the angels of heaven and we will be united with our Saviour forever. We will experience the ultimate banquet in the presence of our redeemer and king and enjoy pleasures for ever and ever.
Jesus is much more satisfying than any physical union, any person and any pleasure. May we wait for his return, faithfully, patiently, preparing our hearts to live pure and holy before him.