David Jeremiah - Dreaming of a Perfect Love
If you have a Bible, this is probably a book you've never been asked to turn to in church before, but it's the book of Song of Solomon, and it's in the Old Testament. It comes right after the book of Ecclesiastes and right before the book of Isaiah. So, find the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. We're beginning a series of messages which we have boldly announced as, "What God Has to Say About Love, Marriage, and Sex". And I know that some people are gonna be surprised that God has anything to say about that, but you will be surprised. Stay tuned. It's amazing to me the anxiety that this series has raised in the hearts of people and the things that have come out of it.
We got a note this week in e-mail from someone who said they heard that Pastor Jeremiah was gonna do a series of messages on Solomon and Delilah. Now, I don't know where that came from. Obviously, kinda got their biblical stories confused. But what I want you to know before we even begin is this book is in the Bible. That's all we need to know. It's in the Bible. It's not in the Bible to be ignored or pushed back under a cloud of suspicion. It's in the Bible so that we can understand it and apply its truth to our hearts. And it's one book that, in my estimation, is probably needed today as much as any book, because even the most positive of us realize that our families and our marriages are in trouble.
George Barnett tells us that now marriages inside the church are coming apart at the same level as marriages outside the church. And as I begin this series of messages, I am so sensitive to the fact that I know that in this congregation we have people in every phase of marriage. Some who just got married; some have been married 50-60 years; some who are in marriage right now, but your marriage is so shaky it may not last through the series if something doesn't happen; some who just found out their marriage as they understand it is over. Everyone here is touched by this truth in a different way. And here's what I wanna plea for. I want you to ask God to give you the courage to take what's in this book and apply it to your life wherever you happen to be. Some of it won't be for some of you, some of it will be, but all of it is God's truth, and that's all we need to know. God cares deeply about our marriages, and we're going to find that out as we study this book together.
In the book of Hebrews, there is a short verse which, in many ways, describes the division within the church concerning the subject of sex. Listen to this verse, from Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 4. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge". Now, Eugene Peterson, when he paraphrased this verse in The Message, put it this way, "Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex". If you look at this verse in Hebrews chapter 13, and I were to ask you which part of this verse have you heard more about in church, would it be the first part, "Marriage is honorable among all and the bed undefiled," or would it be the second part, "But fornicators and adulterers God will judge"?
Now, don't answer. Don't even shake your head. I already know the answer. It's a rhetorical question. In our churches, we have heard routinely about the evils of casual or illicit sex. We have been taught the last part of Hebrews 13:4, but very little, if anything, is ever said about the first part of that verse. And one cannot help but wonder if the last part of the verse would be less necessary if the first part of the verse had been taught more. The fact is, in an unequivocal statement, God says that sex within marriage is blessed by him. In fact, let me take it a little bit further. God invented marriage and God is the architect of sexual intimacy within marriage. Whose idea was this anyway? It was God's idea. God set this all up this way. And to the surprise of many, he has even given us an entire book in the Bible to help us understand this most wonderful of experiences, and that book is the book we are about to study in these next few weeks.
According to 1 Kings chapter 4 and verse 32, Solomon wrote 1,005 songs. And out of them all, he picked one, and it is his song of songs. Look down at your Bibles. The introductory verse says, "The song of songs, which is Solomon's". And the song of songs is like the Holy of holies. It's like the Lord of lords, or the King of kings, or the God of gods. These expressions reflect the ultimate nature of the word they describe. In other words, the Holy of holies is the most holy of all holies, and the King of kings is the greatest king of all kings, and the Lord of lords is the greatest lord of all the lords, and the God of gods is the god over all gods. And Solomon says this is his song of songs. It's the greatest of all of the songs Solomon wrote. It was number one on the hit parade in Israel.
Now, the Jewish people, after this book was written, didn't know what to do with it. In fact, they wouldn't let their young men read this book until they were 39 years old. I mean, I don't know what to say about that. I'll just put that off to the side. And they allegorized the book. In all the Jewish commentaries, primarily, the book is an allegory of the love relationship between God and Israel. And Christian people, we've done no better. I've looked for every commentary I could find on this book, and I would say 75% of them are an allegory of the relationship of Christ with his church. And while these are wonderful applications of the book of the Song of Solomon, I do not believe for a moment they are the interpretation, nor the intended purpose of this book. It clearly is a book of lyric poems about the intimacy and the physical pleasure God intended for a man and a woman to experience in marriage. It clearly teaches that sex is God's gift, a wonderful gift that he created for the special intimacy and protection of marriage.
In the introduction to the Song of Songs in The Message by Eugene Peterson, he helps us understand why this book was written. Here's what he wrote. "We don't read for very long in the Song of Songs," he said, "before we realize two things: one, it contains exquisite love lyrics, and two, it is very explicit sexually. The Song, in other words, makes a connection between conjugal love and sex, a very important and a very biblical connection to make. There are some," he said, "who eliminate sex when they speak of love, supposing that they are making love more holy. Others, when they think of sex, never think of love. But the Song of Songs proclaims an integrated wholeness that is at the center of Christian teaching and committed, wedded love for a world that seems to specialize in loveless sex. The Song is a convincing witness that men and women were created physically, emotionally, and spiritually to live in love".
Now, if you open this book and start to read it, you'll discover there's two main characters. Solomon is the shepherd lover, and the Shulamite, who most people just refer to as Shulamith, and give her a name. Solomon is the shepherd lover and Shulamith is his beloved. And the book tells the story of their courtship. This is gonna be like a continuing story that you don't wanna miss. Every week, there'll be a new chapter. I can't promise you it'll be as exciting as "24," but it's in the Bible and it's good. And the storyline goes something like this. King Solomon lived in the 10th century BC. He is Israel's richest king and he owns vineyards all over the nation. And one of these vineyards is near the foothills of the Lebanon mountains. One day, while he was visiting his vineyard near the Lebanon mountains, Solomon saw a country girl called Shulamith, and she was drop dead gorgeous. And she captured his heart, and for some time, he kept making extra visits to his vineyard in Lebanon to see her at her country home.
Finally, one day, he asks her to marry him, and Shulamith gives serious consideration as to whether or not she really loves him and whether she can be happy in the palace of a king. But finally, after due consideration, she accepts his proposal, and Solomon sends a wedding procession to escort his new bride-to-be to the palace in Jerusalem. The book opens as Shulamith is making preparation. It goes way back into what she thinks about all of this, and then the details are there of the wedding and of the wedding night. And they're intimately, but tastefully described, and the first half of the book closes. And the second half of the book talks about the joys and the problems of their marriage.
Now, when you read this book, there's a lot of figurative and symbolic language. There are 8 chapters, and the overall structure of this book is, listen to me. It's a series of monologues, and dialogues, and reminiscences, kind of like a journal. And the events in the Song are not necessarily presented in chronological sequence, and that was often the way it was in ancient wisdom literature. Speeches and events don't necessarily follow in chronological order. It's like a movie with flashbacks. The story remains temporarily suspended while the audience views a scene from the past. This explains how this book goes together. And some of you are gonna say, "Well, that doesn't belong there". Well, it probably doesn't, but that's just where it is in the book, and you'll just have to follow along and we'll stay together.
Now, in this book, there are two names that are used for the key characters. The term "lover" refers to Solomon, or the groom, and the term "beloved," or in some translations it's even the word "darling," the word "beloved" to the woman or the bride. Now, the Song of Songs is a series of 15 reflections of a married woman, Solomon's queen, Shulamith, as she looks back at the events leading up to her marriage and all that happened. These reflections are expressed in 15 short love songs, and in some of the translations of the Old Testament, you'll actually see the book divided up into the paragraphs. Now, I'm gonna have to deal with several of these together in a couple of places. But it's important to understand that this is a book about love, it's a book about marriage, it's a book about intimacy.
Let me just deal with one question that some have asked right up front. As you know, Solomon, while he started well, he did not end well. He was a man blessed with all that God could ever have given him, and God gave him everything he asked for. But if you wanna know what happened to him, we can't take time for it today, go to 1 Kings chapter 11, and there you will discover that Solomon, when he was old, it says, turned his heart away from God and began to involve himself with other nations, and he married the foreign wives of other nations, and he corrupted himself. And by the time he was all finished, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And someone says, "Well, how could you ever teach a book on the importance of monogamy and marriage when he has that kind of a reputation"?
And the answer to that is, this book is about Solomon when he was walking with the Lord. He didn't walk with the Lord all of his life, and if you could ask Solomon today, he would say, "I really blew it. I messed up". But in this book, you have the story of his early kingship and his romance with Shulamith. So, hopefully that'll help you going forward. Now, in my Bible, you can't see it from up here, but when I first started studying this, I noticed there was a word that kept being repeated in the first chapter, and it's the word "love". Love, beloved, lover. Ten times in chapter 1, some form of the word "love" appears in the first chapter of the Song of Solomon. Because this is a book about love, and in particular, it is about the dreams of a Shulamite woman who's being courted by King Solomon, and she is dreaming about love. That's what I call this message today, "Dreaming About Love".
How many of you know somewhere in the late teens, everybody starts dreaming about love? Well, this is the Shulamite dreaming about love. And it begins with her dreaming about the expression of love. And I have to tell you, some books kinda warm up to their subject and other books just, wham, you get it in the first verse. And here's the first verse, "The song of songs, which is Solomon's. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine". Welcome to the Song of Solomon. Shulamith is expressing, in this writing, the desire for her lover to kiss her. She doesn't want a little peck on the cheek or on the forehead. She wants a kiss right on the mouth. "With the kisses of his mouth".
In the kiss, the senses of taste and touch come together, and she says the very thought of kissing Solomon is intoxicating. It gives her more pleasure than any wine could ever provide, and she's just thinking about it. I gotta ask you a question. Do you remember your first kiss? "Pastor Jeremiah, that was 80 years ago". Well, we'll let you people off. If it's past 50 years, we won't ask you to remember it. But most everybody remembers their first kiss, and you're kinda thinking there's kind of a funny sensation. It was probably awkward and it was probably, well, you know. I read a story about a little boy who was listening to his sister talk on the cell phone one night, and he heard her telling her girlfriend that she thought that her boyfriend was gonna kiss her for the first time tonight when they came home from their date.
So her little brother thought, "This is something you don't wanna miss," and there was a big oak tree that had a branch that came out over where you go in the house. And so, about the right time, he climbs up in this tree and he's hiding in the leaves up there, waiting for this wonderful moment to occur. Sure enough, the date's over, and the boy brings her home, and he walks her up to the door, and in an awkward sort of way, he says, "Is it all right if I kiss you good night"? She said, "Well, I'm a godly woman and I need to pray first". So she looks up into the sky and she says, "Father, Father up above, should I kiss the one I love"? And her little brother said, "Sister, sister down below, pucker up and let it go".
Now, I think she probably remembered her first kiss, don't you? Well, I need to tell you, I'm gonna have to make you laugh some during this series, 'cause otherwise you're gonna just, it's gonna get so quiet in here it'll be hard to deal with. Marriage counselors tell us that the kiss is highly undervalued. In fact, they tell us that the kiss is a sign of a healthy, romantic marriage, and that even more than sex, one of the first things to go when spouses aren't getting along is the kiss. That's just something to put in your notebook. The kiss is important. Don't stop kissing. Hmm. The expression of love. But more than the expression of love is the experience of love.
We are not past the first few verses of this book before we are made to understand that love is more than kisses. It is more than a moment of passion. It is the most comprehensive and inclusive emotion known to man. It may be expressed in a kiss, but Shulamith suggests several other ways that she dreams of loving Solomon. In the respect, first of all, that he had for himself. Notice verse 3, "Because of the fragrance of your good ointments". She's speaking of Solomon. Please understand that in the culture of that day, there wasn't an abundance of water. One of the reasons why wine became the drink of choice was that it was water with a little bit of wine to keep the water pure, 'cause water wasn't available.
And so, what you can well imagine is that people didn't do as we do today. Nobody ever took a bath every day. Nobody took a shower every day. And so, the way they kept themselves presentable was with ointments. They would dress their body with ointments, and then they would perfume the ointments so that they had a fragrance. And the Shulamith is saying to us that the fragrance of Solomon, to her, was erotic. Solomon had enough respect for himself, he wore good aftershave and cologne, and she reflects on this in her poem. He had a fragrance about him that captivated her. And I think, men, if we don't get anything else out of this, we oughta just put down in our notes that we oughta try to smell good for our wives. I mean, is that a good point to make?
People who have lost their spouses in death have told me on more than one occasion that the one thing they have the hardest time with is the fragrance of their partner that lingers after them. Their perfume, their cologne continues to remind them of the love that they shared together. You can walk into a room if your wife wears a certain kind of perfume, and even though she's not there, you have a sense of her presence. My wife doesn't ever go away very often, but once in awhile she'll go see her brother who lives in New Hampshire and she leaves me home alone. And I want you to feel really sorry for me, because I hate that. I mean, it's one thing for me to go away and leave her alone, but when she goes away and leaves me alone, it's not the same.
Let me tell you what's the hardest for me. Sometimes I turn over in the bed at night when I'm sleeping, and I get her pillow. Guess what I smell? I smell her perfume and it makes me miss her even more. I try not to do that anymore. I put her pillow on the floor, and then I, you know, bad enough already. So, the fragrance of a romance is something, and that's why they have all these exotic titles for perfume. Isn't that true? She experiences his love in the respect he had for himself, but in the reputation that he had for others. Notice verse 3 again, "Your name is ointment poured forth; therefore the virgins love you". Verse 3 describes Solomon's name as an ointment poured forth. That's what she says. "Solomon, your name is like an ointment," like a perfume, like a cologne, "poured forth". And what Shulamith is saying is that she loves Solomon so much that the very sound or thought of his name creates in her heart a longing for him. But more than that, his name is his character, his reputation. And when Shulamith heard Solomon described as a man of character and integrity, in increased her love for him.
One of the greatest needs in a man's life is to be respected by his wife, and we'll see that over and over again in the Song of Solomon. When a man is respected by his peers, that strengthens her respect for him. And the Bible says even the other younger women loved Solomon. He was the most eligible bachelor in Jerusalem. And when Shulamith saw the way the other women looked at Solomon and realized that he belonged to her, it made her love for Solomon even stronger. Page Patterson, who's written a little commentary on the Song of Solomon, adds these thoughts. He said, "The praise of Solomon's name is important because it reflects a theme that will reappear with some frequency in the Song. Namely, that the intimacy of sexual love is predicated on other commitments and perceptions. In this case, Shulamith's adoration of Solomon, her glorying in the mention of his name, portrays an almost worshipful admiration of him. Her perception provided the kind of relationship in which sexual love can receive its most profound meaning".
And what this is all about is that our intimacy with our partner doesn't start in the bedroom. It starts in the way we live our lives, in the respect that we have for one another, in the lives that we live. You may think, "Well, if she doesn't know, it doesn't matter". Yes, it does, because now the people that you know that she knows no longer have respect for you. You can tell when someone respects you. And I wanna tell you something, friends. In our culture today, this is something we have to guard against in every way possible. Men, there not ought to be any way anyone could ever cast dispersions about your character, and let those words be heard by your wife. That will do more to begin the damaging of your relationship than anything I could imagine. That doesn't mean you're gonna be perfect, and sometimes some of you may say, "Well, Pastor Jeremiah, I'm out of it already. I'm not even past the first message and I'm in trouble".
Let me tell you what I know, and this is important. There's is always hope for those who care. If you care about what God says, you may not have done the right thing in the past, but get this, you can start doing it now. Draw a line in the sand and say, "Lord God, I didn't know some of this stuff and I wasn't where I should be in the past, but now I know, and from this moment on, I'm gonna be the kind of man my wife will respect. I'm gonna be the kind of woman my husband will trust and respect. Maybe I haven't always been that way in the past, but I realize how important it is. It's so important that I'm gonna make it a priority in my life". And let me just say, don't give up. Don't be discouraged if you've had failures. The Bible is full of this message: there's hope for all, if you will just start where you are to do what you know. The respect that he had for himself, the reputation he had with others, and then the relationship he had with her.
Notice verse 4, "Lead me away! We will run after you. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine. Rightly do they love you". This paragraph is saying something like this. Shulamith was used to the fact that Solomon was constantly surrounded by admiring women, but she wasn't filled with jealousy because she was secure in his love, and she knew that he belonged to her and that all she had to say was a word and he would whisk her away to himself alone. She was secure in her relationship with Solomon. By his very job, by the nature of what he did, he was the king of Israel. He was a wealthy man with all kinds of business all over the world as it was known then. Very important, but she knew that nothing was more important to him than her. So often today, girls will say something like this about a guy, "He's a real hunk". But the question begs to be asked, "A hunk of what"?
There is nothing wrong with being handsome and appealing, but the real issues is not whether a man is good looking, but whether a man is looking good in God's eyes. That makes all the difference in the world. So, we've been dreaming about the romance of love, and let's make the transition now to verse 5, and we'll dream for a moment about the realities of love. This is what is going on in the next part of this chapter. First of all, Shulamith is going to have to accept the reality of her appearance, and this is an interesting verse. Verse 5, she says, "I am dark, but I am lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not look upon me, because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me. My mother's sons were angry with me; and they made me the keeper of the vineyards".
Now, the text says that Shulamith is coming into the palace, and she looks around and immediately realizes she's totally different than everybody else. She says, "I am dark, but I am lovely". Solomon had discovered Shulamith one day when he was visiting the vineyards, and when he found her, she was working outdoors in the vineyards. And the Scripture says (we don't know the whole story here) that her brothers got mad at her and made her the keeper of the vineyards, and so she ended up outdoors taking care of the vineyards. She'd been forced into this role by her angry brothers, and as a result of living in the sun, she had become very dark. This isn't about race, this is about this fair-skinned woman living outdoors and getting a gorgeous tan.
Now, unlike our culture, that was not considered a sign of beauty back then. Beauty in that culture was to be fair, because if you were fair, that meant you were an indoor woman, that you were in good social standing, you had fair skin. So, as Shulamith walks into the court of Solomon and she sees all these fair-skinned women, she senses that they're staring at her because she looks different. So she blurts out, "I may be dark, but I'm beautiful". And she embraces her own looks. She compares her skin, listen to this, to the valuable black goat hair that was used in tent making by nomadic people of that day. Now, gentlemen, I would not suggest you go home and comment on your wife's complexion using goat hair as something to compare it to. But in that day, it described the color of her skin.
Here's what you need to know about Shulamith. She had a very strong self-image. She knew who she was, who she wasn't, but she was comfortable in her own skin. And then, not only did she accept the reality of her appearance, but she also accepts the responsibility for her appearance. Notice at the end of verse 6, she said, "They made me the keeper of the vineyards, But my own vineyard I have not kept". Now, once again, this is a metaphor that's used in this text, and when she speaks of her vineyard, she is referring to her own body. She's saying, "I took care of the vineyard, but while I was taking care of that vineyard, I didn't really take care of myself".
Her vineyard represents everything that conveys her essential femininity: her looks, her complexion, her dress, her status, her sexuality, all those considerations which would make her attractive to a man. Because her brothers had made her work in the vineyard, her own vineyard had not been kept, she said. In other words, she had natural beauty, but she had none of those things the women of the court had to enhance their beauty. There were no oils, or perfumes, or luxurious baths, or beautiful clothes. They were not the things that a country girl would have. But it is evident as you read this that Shulamith takes the responsibility for who she is, and at the same time longs to be all that she can be for the one she loves. She says, "I am dark and I am lovely, but I could even be lovelier if I had the opportunities that the other women in this court have had".
One of the things you discover in the Song of Solomon is though the outward appearance is not the only thing to be concerned about, it is something to be concerned about. And then, she has to accept, also as a part of this, the reasons for Solomon's absence. Notice verse 7, "Tell me, O you whom I love, Where you feed your flock, Where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself By the flocks of your companions"? Now, this is kind of a convoluted verse, but it's not really hard to understand. Here's what she's saying. Shulamith mentally addresses her love, Solomon, who isn't present. He's busy governing his people, managing his wealth. It is interesting that way back in the Old Testament, some of the same issues prevailed. In essence, what's going on here is "Love me, love my work".
And some of you here had that discussion this last week. "How are we supposed to have a relationship when you're so busy with all that you do"? Shulamith had to deal with that in the Song of Solomon. And I know there's a balance in all of this, but guys need to be free to do their job, and then guys need to have the responsibility to understand that you've been put in a position to be the priest of your family and you better take it seriously. But there's a give and take here, and it starts way back here in the Old Testament. Shulamith seems to be contemplating what it will be like to be married to this man who has so much responsibility. Is she gonna get lost in the business of his royal life?
And when she uses the phrase, "As one who veils herself," she is referring to something very interesting. In that day, only the people who were harlots or prostitutes veiled themselves in the streets, heavily veiled, seeking an invitation. And she contemplates, in her paragraph here, going through the streets trying to find where Solomon is in his busy life and being mistaken for a street woman. And she wants it understood that she has no interest in anyone else except Solomon. She is in love with one man and one man only. And the last verse of the first section is more likely the words of the other women in the court who are there when all of this dreaming is going on on the part of Shulamith. When asked where Solomon is, they respond like this, "If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow in the footsteps of the flock, feed your little goats beside the shepherds' tents".
Now, pardon me if I interject this. This is the first incidence of cattiness in the Bible that I've ever found. These girls are jealous of Shulamith. They're really ticked that Solomon has chosen her instead of them. And when she says, "I wonder where my lover is"? they come back with this. "If you're gonna marry Solomon, you better understand that he's gonna be away on the affairs of state, not available to you. If you can't deal with that, O fairest of women, you better not marry him. You might even wanna think about going back home to the country, feed your goats, and hang out by the tents". You say, "Man, that's pretty cruel". You ain't heard nothing until you hear women who get off in a bad way and start ratting on somebody or the person that's in their group. And I'm not going any further than that except, I mean, I just put that there.
Guys, your turn's coming, so don't think this is, I'm not picking on the girls, but here it is. Isn't this a very normal, practical, what would you expect? I mean, here's this, I mean, she doesn't even look like the rest of 'em. She's a country girl from the hills of Lebanon, and Solomon has chosen her, and they can't deal with it. And so, the end of the first little paragraph is the Shulamith doesn't know where Solomon is right now, the girls she's hanging out with are trying to get her to give up on him and go home, and the story continues next week. But before we close our Bibles, just four things to remember. First of all, you need to remember, as you look back over this text, that the desire for love and marriage is in the DNA of the human soul. Why is it that when we get to a certain age, we start thinking about finding somebody?
We start thinking about being married. Where did that come from? That's not just a human thing. God put that in us. Way back in the book of Genesis, God said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I'll make a companion suitable for him". And so, this whole married thing started. The desire is God-given. He put it into our hearts. Number two, the design of intimacy is spiritual, emotional, and physical. One of the things that people discover as they get married is this, that the thing that was such a great attraction to 'em in the beginning, which is the physical desire, is such a very small part of the total relationship in marriage. You know, it is a very small part. And I know guys wish it were a bigger part, but it's a small part. And so, don't just think about that in the relationship. Remember that intimacy involves the physical you, the spiritual you, the emotional you. Build a relationship between the two people, not just a physical relationship, which is such a very small part of the total relationship.
One of the most important truths we're gonna learn during this series is this: intimacy is more than sex. Shulamith's attraction to Solomon was physical to be sure, but it was so much more. She as in love with him because of who he was and how others perceived of him. She loved him for what he did, and even though that caused him to be away from her on many occasions, she so respected and loved him that it just added to the mystery of their relationship. Number three, this is just for all the younger folks who are here who aren't married yet. The decision to marry should be an informed decision. As you read through the first few verses, you get the impression that Shulamith is learning a great deal about Solomon. She's trying to decide, based upon what she has learned, if Solomon is the right man for her. She is learning all about him and processing all that she is learning, both good and bad.
Listen to me, young people. There is no question that is off-limits when it comes to understand the person you are thinking about marrying. It ought to be your goal to enter into this life-long relationship with as much information as you can get. Believe me, there will be enough unintentional surprises. You don't need any intentional ones. By the way, you spend the rest of your whole life learning about each other. That's why Peter said to the husbands, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with your wife with understanding". Young people, if you're thinking about getting married, you oughta have all the questions answered before you do. Like, are we gonna have children? You wouldn't believe how many couples I've had to help who got into a big argument because one of 'em wanted to have children, the other didn't, and they never talked about it before they got married. Who's gonna handle the money? Oh man, you better get that one straight. You better get that one straight.
You see what I'm saying? Here's a picture in the Old Testament of this country girl, even though her beau was the king, she's trying to figure out what life is gonna be like with him and she's doing her homework. This is an informed decision she's about to make. And then, finally, the last thing, and we've talked about this already. The discussion of outward appearance should be neither inflated nor ignored. Christians, in some circles, have an idea that if you really look handsome or pretty, you must not be very spiritual. What a shame. In the first few verses of the Song of Solomon, both Solomon and Shulamith are described by their outward appearance. Solomon was concerned about his fragrance. Shulamith was concerned about her appearance. And in our culture, this is the totality of the discussion.
We know that there's more to beauty than a pretty face, but at the same time, let's not ignore the importance of making ourselves as attractive as we can for the one that we love. It is true that man looks on the outward appearance and God looks on the heart, but since we are men and not God, we still have to look on the outward appearance and it's not wrong to make that appearance as attractive as possible. And let me tell you something, men and women. Do it for each other. Do it for each other. I don't wanna take any more time to illustrate it except when I get up in the morning and go to the gym, which nobody likes to do, part of my motivation is not to become an old man until I absolutely have to. I don't want my wife to have to be married to an old man, so I'm trying to stay as young as I can and I work out every day. I do that for myself. As many of you know, I do it as the aftermath of illness. That's where it got started, but I take great joy in doing that for myself as a keeper of the temple that God has given me and for my wife who I adore.
What's wrong with that? Be the best you can be for the people you care the most about, amen? Now, I'm gonna get a commission for all of the signups at the gym tomorrow, so. Well, as we finish this first message, I just want to encourage you to take time to reflect on what we're learning. There's so much that God wants to give us from this Old Testament book, but we must be open to receive it. And as I've said before, wherever you may be in regard to your marriage, God loves you and he has something for you in his book. And this book is really a story, and each chapter builds on the chapter before, so if maybe this chapter didn't help you, the next one will if you'll stay focused. And I know there are some very sensitive passages in this book, I've read ahead, but I promise you, and this is my covenant with you, I will not embarrass you or your friends with how I handle this material.
And finally, this book is a book to help Christian couples build strong marriages, and the first and most important thing that you do in building a strong marriage is get both of you on the same page. The Bible says, "Don't be unequally yoked together". That means Christians should not knowingly marry those who aren't Christians. But you say, "Well, I'm already married to one". Then the Bible says in whatever state you are found, you have to remain there, but then you begin to pray that God will bring your spouse to faith.
Some of you men here today came to this series with your wife and you're not a Christian. Do you know the best thing you could do for your marriage, more than anything I'm gonna say in the rest of these whole 12 weeks? If you would become a Christian, you are now soulmates in your marriage. Does that mean you're not gonna have any problems going forward? No, but it means now you're both on the same page trying to solve the problem from the same side of the plate. I urge you, if you are not a follower of Christ, to make this your most important decision. You cannot imagine what that will do for your family. I promise you, you will look back and say, "The best thing I ever did for my marriage was I accepted my wife's Savior, I accepted my husband's Savior, and now he's my Savior, and we're together, and we're one in the faith".