David Jeremiah - Lovesick and Love-Healthy
After living separate lives, a retired business executive and his executive wife discovered in their retirement a painful reality. Sitting at home one evening, the couple called some friends to see what they were doing. "Oh," said the other wife, "we're just talking and drinking tea". The executive's wife hung up the phone. She turned to her executive husband, and she said, "Why don't we ever do that? They're drinking tea, and they're talking". So, the executive said, "Well, make us some tea". And soon, they sat with their freshly brewed tea, staring at each other and stirring, stirring and staring, staring and stirring. Finally, the executive husband barked, "Call them back and find out what they're talking about".
And I guess that tells us that the communication cycle, the learning of communicating with one another, is something that we have to continue to work on no matter where we are, what stage we're in, whether we're engaged to be married or we've been married for many, many years. It's important to remember that the Song of Solomon is divided up into three sections: the courtship, the wedding, and the marriage of Solomon and Shulamithe. Now, we're still in the courtship section of the book as we continue our study. And in this section of the Song of Songs, especially the pattern of Solomon's writing is that of a dialogue. Solomon speaks first, and then Shulamithe responds, and then he responds to Shulamithe, and it's back and forth.
And one of the most important things as you're reading this book is to keep track of who's saying what. Each interchange, as you move through the courtship section, is just a little bit more intimate than the one before. And we're reminded again that these are words for engaged couples to share. We're learning that communication consists of gracious, kind words, building strong and loving relationships. And both Solomon and Shulamithe understand the importance of the words. And they continue their contest, the only contest I endorse in a marriage, the contest to see who can out-praise and out-compliment each other. It begins in verse 15 with these interchanges going back and forth, beginning, first of all, with Solomon admiring the sensuality of her eyes.
Notice what he says in verse 15, "Behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove's eyes". Now, once again, Solomon calls Shulamite "my love". Some translations render this phrase, "How beautiful you are, my darling"! Twice, he says she is fair. And he uses a word that indicates a beauty far more extensive than physical attraction. Now he begins to describe that beauty, and he compares Shulamithe's eyes to a dove. This was a way to describe her eyes as soft and gentle and simple. And way back in the Old Testament, and way forward to today, the eyes of a woman are one of her greatest beauty secrets. Genesis 29:17 speaks of Leah, whose eyes were delicate, it says. Our eyes, you see, are our windows, the windows into our souls. They communicate who we are more than anything other than our words.
And let's face it, sometimes our eyes are more honest than our words are. When Solomon looked into Shulamithe's eyes, he saw not only her outward beauty, but he saw her inward beauty as well. Rabbinic tradition identifies beautiful eyes with a beautiful personality. Later on in the same book, after Solomon and Shulamithe are married, he is still in love with Shulamithe's eyes, for in the fourth chapter in the ninth verse, we read him saying to her, "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; you have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes".
How many of you people who have been married for a long time know that after you've been married for a short time, you can say more with your eyes than you ever could say beforehand with your words? One look of your eye, one glance, one expression says, "You better not go there". Oh, how beautiful a woman's eyes are, and how communicative they are. I suppose that's one of the reasons why there's so much done in the makeup department to accentuate the eyes of a woman. The eyes of a woman are part of her intrinsic beauty, and Solomon is admiring the sensuality of Shulamithe's eyes. He tells her she's beautiful, and now she's going to tell him he's charming.
Notice verse 16, "Behold, you are handsome, my beloved! Yes, very pleasant"! It's all about her eyes, and it's all about his charm. When Shulamithe tells Solomon that he is handsome, she's using a word that is translated beautiful 14 different times in the Song of Solomon. Here is the only place where it's used in reference to Solomon because beautiful is not a word that you normally use to describe a man. Beautiful is a word to describe a woman. But they've translated this by the word "handsome" because that's the word we would normally say. When she tells him that he is pleasant, she's referring to his charm. His words to her in verse 15 reflected a knowledge of her need to be affirmed. And when he fulfills that need with his words, she loves him so much for it. Our words are so vital to our love life. Affirming the sensuality of her eyes, admiring the sensitivity of his charm, notice admiring the security of their home.
And here something really interesting happens. All of a sudden, the pronouns begin to change. Up until this time, it is I and her, she. But now the pronoun becomes our. Notice verse 16, "Also our bed is green. The beams of our houses are cedar, and our rafters of fir". Up until this moment, she's been referring to him, and now she refers to us. I have a feeling that in most relationships, this is an important moment when you start talking about us and our and we, and stop talking about I and you and me. There's a moment, that's a watershed in a relationship when you start to think about life not separately, but now you start to think about life together. And Shulamithe is here in the place where Solomon reigns. He is the king of Israel. And she's praising Solomon for the very careful preparation that he has made for their home. She begins by saying, "Our bed is verdant".
And of course, here the bed is not the bed of the third chapter, which is the bed of sexual intimacy. This is, rather, a piece of furniture in the house. This is a place of beauty, particularly stylish piece of furniture, perhaps better translated by the word "couch". She is complimenting Solomon for his provision of the furnishings in their new home. And she describes the beauty of their home as a place of cedar beams and rafters of fir. How interesting this is, and how this makes her feel so secure as she affirms Solomon's thoughtfulness. For where in Palestine does cedar grow? It grows in the mountains of Lebanon, the homeland of Shulamithe. Solomon, in his love for his woman, for his wife-to-be, has gone to the mountains where she grew up, and harvested the wood from that place, and come back and created a home for her out of the cedar wood of the Lebanon area of Palestine. He builds this room that is built with wood from her home country.
Surely Solomon knows the incredible journey this girl is making. Think of it again for just a moment. Here is the most powerful man in the world at that time, the king of Israel. No one ever had been like him before, and the Bible says no one ever after him. He was the richest man who ever lived. He was the wisest man who ever lived. And here is Shulamithe. Where did he find her? In the vineyards of Lebanon. On a journey to visit one of his holdings, he saw this woman who grew up in the vineyards. And remember in the first chapter, she's so conscious about it, she says, "I am black, but I am lovely". She had been blackened by the sun in the vineyards. She was so different than all of the fair-skinned women of the palace. And now, Solomon has fallen in love with her, and he wants to bring her to where he is.
And I tell you, it's a long journey from the vineyards of Lebanon to the palace of Solomon. And I believe Solomon goes out of his way to make that journey so acceptable and helpful to his wife-to-be. He brings her to a palace that has been built from the wood of her homeland. In fact, over in 1 Kings chapter 7, his paneled palace is referred to the house of the forest of Lebanon. Admiring the sensuality of her eyes, and then admiring the sensitivity of his charm, and then admiring the security of their home. And now, watch, admiring the strength of her spirit. In the first verse of the second chapter, we hear Shulamithe saying this. "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys".
Shulamithe's security in her relationship with Solomon, her belief in his love for her, and his ability to care for her, has created a new sense of confidence in her heart, a new sense of self-esteem. Her words are not arrogant, but they're the recognition of the position to which she has been elevated by Solomon. When she says, "I am the rose of Sharon," she is comparing herself to a wild autumn flower of the valley. She's in a sense saying, "I am a wildflower in the palace," almost like, "What am I doing here? I'm a wildflower in the palace". But she is confident in her statement. When she says, "I am the lily of the valleys," she is likening herself to a beautiful white blossom. And according to tradition, these were the flowers that were used in weddings. Who knows, perhaps she was hinting here, "I am a lily of the valley".
In effect, Shulamithe has referred to herself as a wildflower in the meadow, her beauty being like that of wild vegetation rather, and different from the carefully manicured flowers of the palace garden. This affirmation corresponds to her observation that, though she is different, she is beginning to feel okay in her skin in this incredible place she finds herself. So, this is truly a paragraph of mutual admiration. For Shulamithe especially, this was so important. Her journey to the palace of the king has been accompanied by many doubts. Her own self-worth has been up for grabs. And Solomon, her beloved, has sensed that. And with his words, he has lifted her spirits. And with his work, he's given her a place of comfort and security, the preparation of mutual admiration.
Now, this preparation begins to move forward. As I told you, we're starting to get into the exciting part of this love story, and it gets gooder and gooder from this moment on, I want you to know that. Now, we come to the pleasure of mutual affirmation in verses 2 and 3 of the second chapter. Solomon begins by affirming his devotion to her. He says to her, in response to what she has already said, "Like a lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters". Shulamithe says, "I am a lily of the valleys". And Solomon says, "Listen, girl, you're more than that. You're a lily among the thorns. You may be a wildflower, but you're my wildflower, and you make all the other flowers look like thorns".
Guys, are we picking up any hints along the way here, taking notes, figuring out how we can be more creative in what we say? I don't suggest you use this one, but maybe take a hint from this one. Shulamithe is now the only woman in Solomon's life. She is his only love. He has expressed his love for her by his words, and by his determination to make a secure place for her in life. She is unique among all the women. And Solomon is saying to Shulamithe that he is a one woman man, affirming his devotion to her. Now, she's going to affirm her delight in him. Here we go again, he speaks, and then she comes back. Verse 3, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. And I sat down in his shade with great delight".
One of the interesting features of this book is the major place that the words of Shulamithe occupy. There's 117 verses in the Song of Solomon, and 55 of them are directly from her lips. Another 19 verses are probably assigned to her. And then many of the other verses are the verses of this group of women who are in the palace. So, whatever else you want to say, in the Song of Solomon, as in most of the ancient love poetry, the woman is the one who talks the most. Some things never change, do they? Someone has observed that a woman has the last word in any argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument. So, don't be surprised if you read this book and you see that Shulamithe is talking more than Solomon.
But let's don't be too hard on Solomon. He's doing pretty good, isn't he? He's not saying as much, but he's choosing his words carefully, and he's framing his expressions of love to his woman in very carefully thought out, creative terms. Both Solomon and Shulamithe dedicate their words to communicating how special and unique they consider one another. She's a lily among the thorns, he's an apple tree in the midst of the woods. And to Shulamithe, Solomon is a special tree in the common woods. And she says she is so devoted to him that she sat down under his tree. She was totally relaxed in his presence. She was at ease with him, and she was delighted in him. Before we continue, let me pause to underline the importance of all of this.
Men and women, we live today at a particular time in culture when it seems like comparison is the favorite indoor sport everywhere you go. We are compared to each other in our jobs, in our dress, in our success, in our notoriety, in our churches, in our attendances, in our budgets, in our books, in all the things that we do in whatever circle we find ourselves. Especially is this true within marriage. There is the potential for comparison and jealousy. Here are two lovers who were going out of their way to make sure that the one they love knows that they have been set apart from all others. I think of the term "holy matrimony". And the word "holy" means to set apart. In the Old Testament Tabernacle and in the temple, the accoutrements of worship were called holy, why? They were set apart to be used only for the purpose of worshiping Almighty God. And when God says that marriage is holy matrimony, what he is saying, first of all, is that this marriage is set apart to God, that it is not just a human thing, but it is a God thing, that we are set apart to God.
But think of it for a moment. Holy matrimony also means that we are set apart to one another, that we belong exclusively and uniquely to one another. Holy matrimony means that I am holy to my wife, and my wife is holy to me; that she is set apart to me, and I am set apart to her, and together we are set apart to God. And one of the greatest things you can do in your marriage is to make sure that the one that God has given you knows that you have set her or him apart to yourself. There is no one else in that circle, and they occupy the unique place that a married person needs to be in for marriage to succeed in the long run. So, don't misunderstand the importance of what is happening here. They are preparing each other with the knowledge of their commitment as they move toward their marriage.
The preparation of mutual admiration, and the pleasure of mutual affirmation, and finally, the passion of mutual attraction. And in these last few verses, we see that this intimacy is growing deeper through their conversation. The setting of love, first of all, in verse 4. Shulamithe says, "Solomon brought me to the banqueting house". Solomon took Shulamithe into the banquet hall in the palace of Jerusalem. The banqueting table was a large area, unusually large, occupied usually by many, many people. And Solomon was not ashamed to let the entire world know that he was dating this country girl from Lebanon. She's a vineyard worker in the hill country of Lebanon. He's the most important man in the world as it was known. And he has fallen in love with her.
How is he about to help her understand that this is not just a plaything, that he's serious about her? She says here's what he does. "He took me to the big ball, he took me to the banquet. He took me into the room with all of his royal friends. He introduced me into the royal family". He was not ashamed to let the entire world know that he was dating Shulamithe. By the way, if you are not so proud of the one you are dating or courting that you want everyone to meet him or her, you had better ask yourself some hard questions. Solomon was so proud of Shulamithe, he wanted everyone to meet her. Can you imagine what that meant to her? "He's taking me, his dark-skinned beauty, to the royal banquet". The setting of love.
Now, notice the safety of love. They walk into the banquet hall, and she writes, "His banner over me is love". And before we stop and sing the chorus that was written to this that really doesn't have a lot to do with what this really means here, let me tell you this is an important statement. The banner was a mark of identity. A banner was used to identify a king's troops. And this woman had no doubt as she entered the banqueting hall that she was with Solomon. It was a mark of presence. If you go to England today, you can tell whether the queen is at home or not by what is flying outside the castle. Kings who had multiple residences in those days often used banners to indicate when they were at home in a particular palace or a fortress.
The woman knew when she walked into the banqueting hall that all eyes were upon her, and everybody in the room knew that she was with Solomon, and that he was with her. They had arrived as a couple, and they would depart as a couple. They were at home with each other in the midst of this public setting, and they were with each other, present to each other. Any person who might intrude into their relationship was only a temporary visitor, not a resident of their relationship. And the banner was also a canopy of spiritual blessing.
Even today, in Jewish weddings, a prayer shawl is suspended like a banner above the couple being married. It's a sign that the two are becoming one flesh and one identity, and that what they are doing is acknowledged as good and right before God. So, when Shulamithe says, "His banner over me is love," she's referring to the abiding presence of Solomon's love in her life, and it was a place where she felt safe. Even though she had come from the hill country and was not in her natural environment, Solomon had made her feel secure in the king's banqueting hall. This phrase speaks of the protective love of her lover.
I had a book sent to me in the mail. I'm on some publisher's lists, and so I get lots of free books, which is a wonderful blessing. The title of this book, because of this series, caught my attention. It was written by Greg and Erin Smalley, Gary Smalley's son, and the title of the book is "Before You Plan Your Wedding, Plan Your Marriage," which I thought was a pretty good line, it's a good idea. And in this book, he's talking about the importance of feeling safe in your marriage. Here's what he wrote. "When you feel safe in a relationship, you naturally open your heart and reveal who you really are. That's the very definition of intimacy. It's feeling free to open up and reveal who you really are, knowing that the other person will still love, accept, and value you. In other words, you hold your heart out to the person, and you say, 'Here is who I am, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and mentally. I want you to know my heart and my soul. I want you to get to know who I am, and appreciate who I am, and value who I am. I am a very fascinating person who will take you more than one lifetime to understand.'"
And all the men will say amen to that. But here's the closer, "But I am not going to offer my heart to you or reveal who I really am if I don't feel safe". How you make each other feel secure and safe in your relationship, mostly it's done with your words, followed up with your actions. Solomon is a good teacher here. The setting of love, the safety of love, the satisfaction of love, notice now verses 5 and 6, it's starting to get a bit steamier. "Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me".
The very thought of being with Solomon causes Shulamithe to feel faint. Here she is in the banqueting hall, here she is in this place that Solomon has created for her, and she can't help but think from whence she's come, "I'm just a little country girl. I'm in the palace, I'm with King Solomon, the most powerful man in all of the world, and he loves me," and she begins to swoon. She begins to faint. She says, "I'm lovesick. I need some apples to eat and some raisins. Could you please replenish me"?
Oh my goodness, this girl, it's over for her. I mean, aren't you just excited that you're reading through your Bible and you see a word "lovesick"? Isn't that a great thing to find in the Bible? Have you ever been around people that are kind of in that particular point in time in their relationship, when, especially the young lady, sometimes we say she's gaga, whatever that means. She's just gone. You know, she's got this faraway look on her face. That's what's happening here. She's come to realize what's going on. And the Bible says that Solomon embraced her and held her. The setting of love, and the safety of love, and the satisfaction of love, and then finally, and here, this is just kind of an interesting conclusion to this little section, the sanctity of love.
And she's in the midst of all of this, and feeling the emotion of her love for Solomon. She turns to all of her girlfriends, and she says, "By the gazelles and by the does of the field, don't stir up or awaken love until it pleases". As Shulamithe recovers from her lovesick fainting spell, she addresses her female friends with this warning, using the gazelles and the does of the field as an illustration. She admonishes her friends not to stir up love until the appropriate time. She's giving a warning that should be listened to today. Shulamithe is engaged, she's about to be married, and she is telling her girlfriends that the sexual desire is very strong, and should not be awakened until the proper time.
May I suggest the Bible is still very much in the need of being read in our culture today. There are certain kinds of expressions and intimacies that do not belong in the dating process. The book of the Song of Solomon is kind of like a macro-picture of marriage in many ways. Read through the book and you will discover, and this may disappoint some of you, that while there are some very intense, intimate passages about sexual intimacy, the vast majority of the book is about the conversation that goes on between the couple. And it's so interesting, a lot of times young people get married and they think that marriage is going to be like one long sexual encounter from the moment they say I do until they finally drag their tired feet through the pearly gates. And then, finally, they get married, and they discover that while it is wonderful, and everything that God intended it to be for two who are committed to one another, it really is a very small part of the marriage relationship.
The marriage relationship is about conversation, and communion, and fellowship, and oneness, and feeling secure with one another. And the book of Solomon teaches us all that. When we go into marriage with the right expectation, we will not be disappointed. We will be lifted up and filled with excitement because of God's marvelous plan. And Shulamithe, knowing where she is in this relationship, warns her girlfriends, "Don't go where I am unless you're with the right man at the right time at the right place". Can I suggest to you, people, this won't be said in many churches, but there's not one shred of evidence in all of the Bible that premarital sex is condoned by God. God forbids it. In fact, you can't even find one shred of evidence that it is acceptable to God. And yet, watch what happens on all of our movies, in all of the sitcoms.
Routinely, we are treated to people meeting in a bar or in a restaurant for the very first time, and the next scene of them is in bed together. They start out physically to have a relationship that should be intimate, that can't be intimate because intimacy isn't just physical, it is about knowing one another. That's why the term in the Bible for intimate sex is "to know". And so, in our churches today, we hardly ever say anything about it. We watch our young people walk down this road that promises them so much, and ends up giving them nothing but pain and sorrow and misery. And so, I'm saying to you today that the Bible says that sex is reserved for a man and his wife in the security and sanctity of marriage. And what Shulamithe is saying is unless you're getting ready to get married, guard your emotions because sexual desire is a strong emotion.
And I always like to pause at a time like this, when I know I have everybody's attention, and say to every one of you some of you came here today and you say, "Man, I didn't need that. Pastor Jeremiah, I've already blown it. I've already messed up. I've already done what you said". Well, I got good news for you. God will forgive you. And he wants more than anything else for you to know the joy of that which I am talking about. And listen to me, you can draw a line in the sand and say, "I have not done right in the past. Almighty God, forgive me for what I've done, and renew in me a clean heart and a new opportunity to walk with you. And by the grace of God, I will walk with you from this moment on". God will honor that.
Here's what you don't want to do: come to a service like this, hear what I'm saying, and say, "Well, I've already blown it, so it's all messed up. I might as well just go on and live the rest of my life like this". That's the enemy talking to you. The enemy wants to take your past, and wrap you all up in it, and keep you from knowing the joy that God has for you. So, what we have as a little slogan around here in this church is when the devil wants to tell you about your past, you just tell him about his future, and the conversation will be over. Amen? That's what you need to do. And remember that God is a forgiving God. And you may not be able to get back your physical virginity, but there is such a thing as spiritual virginity. God will forgive you and restore to you a clean heart, and you can go forward from this place.
Let me tell you something that happens in our church. Periodically, we have people come who want to get married. And as we begin to talk with them and counsel with them, we discover in the process that they have the same address, that they're living together. Now, we don't condemn them, and we don't tell them never to come back. What we do say to them is, "What you're doing is wrong. And it's not going help your marriage. If you want us to marry you, here's what you need to do: move away from each other. Have a period of not being with each other physically. Honor the Lord". You say, "Well, that's really hard". Well, do it, and then come back to us, and we'll help you get started. That's what she's saying. She's warning us, can you imagine, from all the way back there in the Old Testament. She says something to us that is so powerful today. How could we not possibly know that this is God's Word, his miraculous Word that speaks to every generation no matter what is happening? It's a timeless book, and God has given it to us as our gift. So, what we're learning is that this couple has come together, and they're learning about each other, they're beginning to feel secure in each other's presence. They're moving on that pathway toward their wedding.
Here's some applications, and we're finished. First of all, remember the priority of conversation. As you look back over these verses, you will discover something if you take time to observe it, that in the 24 verses that we've studied so far, there are 18 different compliments. So not only is this about conversation, but it's about compliments. The priority of conversation, the power of compliments. It's also very much about the purpose of courtship. It's been impossible not to notice this growing intensity in the relationship between Solomon and Shulamithe. And that's the way it should be. When you go home, remember these three things. The priority of conversation, talk to one another. The power of compliments, find every way that you can to affirm each other. And the purpose of courtship. If you happen to be where courtship is, just remember it's a very delicate time in your life, and guard it before God.
Writer Patricia McGerr tells the story of a man named Johnny Lingo, who lived on an island in the South Pacific. Now, Johnny Lingo was a wealthy trader, and he was respected for his ability to strike a very hard bargain, except when it came to securing a wife. He was unmarried. In these islands, a man bought his wife from her father by paying with cows. One to six cows would buy you a good wife. Two or three cows would buy a fair to middling wife. Four or five, a really highly satisfactory wife. Now, Johnny had already picked out the woman he loved, her name was Sarita. She was a plain woman who lived on the island of Kiniwata, and she was scared of her own shadow. But Johnny saw her, and he loved her, and he wanted her, and he offered her father a sum of eight cows. And the residents of Kiniwata smirked that such a successful businessman would pay such an outrageous price for his wife. They just figured he was a sucker when it came to love.
So, Patricia, who wrote this article, decided to find out more about Johnny and his wife, and she sailed to the nearby island where Johnny now lived, and called on his home. When she met his wife, she was amazed to find the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. And when Patricia inquired about what happened, Johnny explained it this way. "Do you ever think what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, maybe another six. How does the woman feel, the woman who was sold for one or two? This could never happen to my Sarita".
And Patricia McGerr said, "Then you just did this to make her happy"? "Oh," he said, "I wanted Sarita to be happy, all right. But I wanted more than that. You say she is different? Oh yes, much different than when I married her, and that is true. Many things change a woman, but the one thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now, she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands. She knows her worth". She has discovered her value to her husband. Oh, how important it is, husbands and wives, that we value and cherish the one God has given us. I looked at my wife this week, and I told her how much I valued her, and she returned it.
Oh, how precious it is to know how valuable you are to one another. This is the love story of the Song of Solomon. And it's almost the best love story I've ever heard, except there's one better in that Almighty God loves us and values us. And he didn't show that with eight cows. He showed it with his only begotten Son, and gave his Son to this world to show us how valuable we are to him. Can you imagine God in heaven, looking at his Son, Jesus Christ, and saying, "I love them so much, I must give you to pay the price for their redemption"? And he did it. He did it. And I want to tell you something, when I think of that, I feel so valued. I am valued by God. He loves me, he believes in me, and he loves and believes in you as well.
And if you have never accepted his demonstration of love and value, if you have never opened your heart to receive his Son Jesus Christ, this love story is impressive, but it falls short of his love story. He loves you, and he offers you eternal life, which you may receive by faith through prayer, and simply asking Christ to come and live within your heart and forgive your sin, and he will do it today. Husband, it's the greatest gift you could ever give to your wife. Wife, it's the greatest thing you could ever do for your husband. To be one in Christ, to know him in your heart, and to be able to count on the strength that Christ can bring to your relationship. Let me tell you something, he knows all about love, he's the author of it. He invented it. And he, more than anyone else, can help you have the strength you need in your marriage today.