David Jeremiah - The Language of Love
In between the books of Ecclesiastes and Isaiah is a little book called the Song of Solomon, perhaps the most un-preached book in the Bible. And after you start to preach it, you can understand why. For this book is a book written to help us understand our relationships with one another. I need to tell you that I have never had people send me more material in the mail and on email than since I started this series. One of the things that I love is when people take a subject like we're dealing with and they find things that children say. That's just a wonderful way to take a look at this from a different perspective. I got a letter from someone who had a list of things children have said in response to this question, what does love mean?
These kids are ages four through eight, and they have some interesting insights on this subject. What does love mean? Kara, age five, "Love is when a girl puts on perfume, and a boy puts on shaving cologne, and they go out and smell each other". That's love. This is Emily, age eight, "Love is when you kiss all the time. Then, when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My mommy and daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss". This is Noelle, age seven, "Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, and then he wears it every day". This is Chris, age seven, "Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty, and still says he's handsomer than Brad Pitt". This is kind of one of my favorites, "I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes, and she has to go out and buy new ones".
Now, that little girl has been worked. I don't know who did that, but somebody took her in. Here's the last one. This is a young man by the name of Joel, who's age ten. "I'm not rushing into love. I'm finding fourth grade hard enough". That's some pretty good advice, isn't it? Right, get through fourth grade, then you can start worrying about love. In their outstanding book, "The Gift of the Blessing," Gary Smalley and John Trent give us some biblical and practical helps on how we can bless each other in our marriages. When it comes to marriage and when it comes to our mate, the counsel that they give us is crucial. In one part of the book, they write, "God has put us together in such a way that we have emotional and physical needs that can only be met by affirmation, acceptance, encouragement, and unconditional love. We all have the desire and the need," they wrote, "to receive that blessing. That involves passing along a message to others that affirms their intrinsic worth and value as a person".
Praising them as valuable is the key idea that they're driving for. Well, the Song of Solomon verse 9 through 14 in the first chapter tell us that there is power in praising your partner. Here we see in this chapter important and essential aspects of how we can bless one another in our marriages with the words that we speak. It begins in verses 9 and 10 with being personal with your praise. Verses 9 and 10 give us some clues to how we do this. Solomon, the young king of Israel, had holdings near the Lebanon mountains. And one day, he was up there visiting one of his vineyards, and he saw in one of the vineyards near the Lebanon mountains a young girl. She was different than any girl he had ever seen. She had been out in the vineyards working, and the Bible tells us she had become black with suntan, she was darkened, and she talks about her dark skin. And when Solomon saw her, he was just taken, he could not get his eyes off of her.
And the story is that he began to court her. He took as many business trips to the Lebanon mountains as he could put in his expense report. Every time he went up there, he wanted to see this young girl. And now, as we come into this passage of Scripture, we're no longer in that setting. We've moved out of the shepherd's realm, and now we're in the splendor of the king's palace, in his royal digs if you will. And verse 9 is in the world of the kings. And Solomon, you see, was aware of Shulamithe's insecurity. You remember how she said when she walked in among the girls who were in the palace, that she was the only one that looked like she did? All of the other girls were fair-skinned, they were indoor women, if you will, they never got outside.
And as you remember, last week we learned that a suntan back in that day was not what it is today. We kill for suntans today, but back then, it was not considered to be something to look for. And so, she felt a sense of a bit of insecurity. And what Solomon's going to do in these early verses, he's going to praise her, and he's going to lift her up. First of all, he tells her that she is loved. In verse 9, he says, "I have compared you, my love, to my filly among Pharaoh's chariots". Now, begin, first of all, noticing that Solomon calls her for the first time "my love". Or the New King James Version has my love, and some other passages have my darling. This is the first time that this appears in the book of Song of Solomon, but it appears nine more times before we're finished. It is one of Solomon's favorite terms for the Shulamite woman. He makes reference to her in this way often.
Now, remember also that Shulamithe has been mistreated by her brothers. In the earlier part of this text, we learn that she was forced to work out in the vineyards because her brothers were angry with her. We don't know anything about that except she had some sibling problems at home. And Solomon wants her to know that she's going to be comfortable in his presence, that he will never mistreat her, he will honor her, he will protect her, he will provide for her and love her. And what Solomon did next I would not suggest any of you men take literally. Solomon assures his bride that, to him, she is as beautiful as his horses. And to us, this seems hardly flattering. The closest we ever come to that is the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be. But at that time in the Orient, the horse was not a beast of burden, but the cherished companion of kings.
And if you know anything at all about Solomon, you know how Solomon loved his horses. In 1 Kings chapter 10, we read that Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen, and had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen. You can only imagine how many horses he had. Now, you see, Pharaoh's chariots were pulled by stallions, all of them stallions. And a mare among the stallions would have been very unusual. So Shulamithe is being likened to an only female in a world of males. In other words, she is one in a million. What incredible value she possesses. And she was, in Solomon's estimation, utterly priceless. She was desired not just by him, but by all others. She was his special occupation, his special love, his special attention. She was unique, she was different, and she was loved. Tell her she is loved.
When we first get started, we do that a lot. When we're engaged, we're on our way toward marriage, we tell each other we love one another all the time. And then when you get married, you still do it, but it kind of slips into the background. Because, you see, in a marriage relationship, a lot of our language ends up becoming very functional language. Isn't that true? "Who's going to take out the trash today? Have you got the kids? Who's going to take care of the bank account? Who's getting the groceries? Is everything okay? When are we taking", All this stuff, all this. And if you're not careful, all of this language, and it's very difficult more today than ever before because life is so complicated. If you're not careful, all the functional language pushes out all the romantic language, there's no time for it.
Howard Hendricks was my professor at Dallas Seminary, and used to love to tell the story about his Bible study with the Dallas Cowboys back in the days when they were winning championships all the time. And there was an offensive guard whose name I won't tell you, who weighed 380 pounds. He was about 6'8, 380, just a mountain of a man. And he used to come to these sessions, and Dr. Hendricks found out that he was having some marital stress at home. And so, he counseled with him. One of the first questions he asked him, he said, "Do you ever tell your wife that you love her"? He said, "I told my wife that I loved her the day we got married, and it's in effect until I tell her it's not".
Now you understand why they were having some problems in that home. Friends, we have to say that a lot, don't we? We have to find ways to say it, be creative with it, say it often. No one ever, ever is told they are loved too much. So, Solomon begins by telling Shulamithe that she is loved, and then he tells her that she is lovely. In verse 10, he said, "Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with chains of gold". Solomon now focuses on Shulamithe's beauty. Her cheeks were lovely and beautiful, they were enhanced by dancing earrings, the ornaments and jewelry that graced them. Her neck was also beautiful with strings of jewels. Her ornaments did not detract from her beauty. They enhanced her appearance. There was nothing extravagant or excessive about her. She had a simple beauty that was just unequaled.
How many of you know there is a simple beauty, especially when we are young, that oftentimes gets complicated when we try to add things to it that carry the beauty away, and the attention becomes the ornaments instead of the beauty? In this situation, Solomon is complimenting her. He is telling her how beautiful she is, and describing the way she appears to him as he looks at her through the eyes of love. When we praise one another, we should be particular in our praise, and it will speak to our mate's heart and create an environment of romance. Someone says, "Well, tell me, Pastor, how do I do that? I'm not good with those words". Well, I'm not going to tell you how to do it because if I do, and then you tell her what I said, she'll say, "Oh, you just heard that at church," and it won't mean anything at all. I'm depending on you to get a bit creative.
Find out how to communicate your love to your spouse, and this is primarily the problem of a man so that she gets the message, and it's not just the routine. So be personal with your praise, that's the first thing. Now, here's something very interesting. Number two, be public with your praise. Verse 11, "We will make your ornaments of gold with studs of silver". Now, I want you take your Bibles, if you will, and look down at verse 9. And what is the first word in verse 9? What is it, class? I. All right, now look down at verse 11, what is the first word? So something has taken place between verse 9 and verse 11. In verse 9, this is personal praise. But when you get to verse 11, this is praise taking place not in the private of the beloved alone, but this is praise in the public forum. The friends of verse 4 join Solomon in honoring his lady. And there is an apparent application in this obscure change in person. What we say about our spouses in public is important.
In his New York Times bestseller "The Five Languages of Love," Gary Chapman writes, "You may also want to try giving indirect words of affirmation. That is, saying positive things about your spouse when he or she is not present. Eventually, someone will tell your spouse, and you'll get full credit for love". Then he makes this marvelous suggestion. Men, take notes here. "Tell your wife's mother how great your wife is. When her mother tells her what you said, it will be exaggerated, and you will get even more credit. Also, affirm your spouse in front of others when he or she is present. When you are given public honor for an accomplishment," wrote Gary Chapman, "be sure to share the credit with your spouse".
Winston Churchill once attended a formal banquet in London, at which the attending dignitaries were asked this question, "If you could not be who you are, who would you like to be"? And this was going to be answered at the end of the banquet, and all of the dignitaries had to respond. And Churchill, seated next to his beloved wife Clemie, was the final respondent to the question. He slowly got up and gave his answer, "If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be," and he paused and took the hand of Clemmie, "I would most like to be Lady Churchill's second husband". And James Humes, who wrote the history of Churchill, said, "That night, the old boy made some points".
You remember when we were studying "Captured by Grace" and John Newton's life, and I told you how much he loved Mary, and the things he used to say about her? Remember, he one time said, "When I walk into a room where Mary is not present, it seems as if the room is unfurnished". And you always hear that and you think, "Why couldn't I think of something like that, you know"? Here's what I want us to take away from this section of our talk today. How we refer to our spouses in public says so much about our relationship. We should never, ever say critical things about our husband or our wife in front of others. As a pastor, over the years, I have watched the devastation that takes place when this happens.
Thirty years ago, almost to this day, we were going through a capital campaign to raise some money for a building we were getting ready to build. And we had a big, formal dinner at a country club. Many of the leaders of our church were there, and all of the committee members for the capital campaign were there, and we had a wonderful dinner. And we had stayed afterwards to talk a little bit, some strategy that we were going to need. And one of the men who was in our group, his wife came over while we were talking, and she called him by name, she said, "You know, we have a babysitter tonight. We're going to have to go pretty quick". And in front of all of us, he turned around and he said, "Well, if you want to go home now, why don't you just walk"? And I mean, it just stunned everybody, shut the place down practically.
Now, listen to me carefully. That was 30 years ago, and I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I see the picture, I hear the words, I see the devastation on that woman's face. And I was thinking this week, if I remember it that vividly, what do you suppose happened in her heart? Don't use your words as a way to bludgeon your mate in the presence of others. That will do more to destroy your marriage than just about anything you can do. Always speak positively. If you got an issue, go home, shut the door, and deal with it. But don't run it out in front of other people in a way that would be devastating to your partner. Here, we get into some interesting discussion beginning in verse 12. Be passionate with your praise.
Now, something's going to take place here, we have another transition. Up until this point, Solomon has been praising Shulamithe. But now, beginning in verse 12, Shulamithe is going to praise Solomon. It's very interesting because here in the text, it looks like Solomon and Shulamithe are having a contest to see who can say the nicest things about each other. What a wonderful contest for marriages to have. And Solomon has expressed his love and his affirmation for Shulamithe, and now she's ready to respond. And she's trying to outdo him, you can see this.
I was reading Gordon MacDonald's book, "Magnificent Marriage," which was written way back in the 70s. And he was talking about this passage in his book, I was kind of surprised to find it. And he said, "These are two people whose emotions are so swelled that words are inadequate to express what they are feeling. They must resort to other images like the strength and the beauty of trees, or the taste of fruit". He said, "Suddenly, I realized why a man may call his wife honey or baby. A loving couple began early in their relationship to develop a private vocabulary, some of which they would never disclose to the outside world. These words have significance which only the two understand".
When Donna and I first got married, we went off to seminary, and I was taking Greek. And one day, I came home, and I told Donna that I loved her in Greek. And she said, "How do you say that"? and I told her. And from that day to this, those words are special words between us, the Greek words for "I love you". Now, you know, Greek isn't a spoken language, at least not Koine Greek, so these are really, really special words. They are not spoken anywhere anymore. We've got them all to ourself. And you know, friends, when you do that, that's a special thing. And I would encourage you to do that, that's great. People hear you talking, and they don't know what you're talking about. Even our kids didn't know that until I told them today. Special words. Well, first of all, Shulamithe is going to be passionate about Solomon's dignity.
Notice verse 12, "While the king is at his table, my spikenard sends forth its fragrance". Now, she's going to describe her love for Solomon by using the description, now watch this, of three different kinds of perfume. There are three perfumes in these verses that are before us. The first perfume is what she called spikenard, sometimes called nard. And it is a very, very special perfume. Spikenard was derived from a plant native to the Himalayan region of India. It was very difficult to get, it was very scarce. If you were to walk into a cosmetic counter to buy it, if you could transfer that image into that day, it would have been the most costly perfume available. Where she got it, how she got it, I don't know, but she had some spikenard. And the pungency of spikenard is illustrated for us in the New Testament.
Do you remember the story of Mary of Bethany, who had an alabaster box, and she had this expensive perfume in it, and she poured it on Jesus? And the Bible says it filled the entire house with its fragrance. It was pungent stuff. So you could imagine a small amount skillfully placed on the body of the Shulamite was certain to reach the nostrils of Solomon. She's excited about her king, seated at the royal banquet. She's passionate about his dignity. And then she's passionate about his devotion. Notice verse 13, "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts". Literally, Shulamithe says, "My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts".
Now, let me tell you a little bit, first of all, about myrrh. It is a resinous gum gathered from a species of a south Arabian tree. If you had it in liquid form, you carried it in small bottles like a perfume. But it was also used in solid form, and that way it could be carried in a small pouch or sachet worn about the woman. And it worked like this. It was mixed a little bit with fat, and as the fat melted because of the heat of the body, the aroma of the myrrh would fill the room. Now, listen to what Shulamithe is saying to Solomon. It is not really a sexual thing at all. It's simply how she feels. And she says her thoughts to him are as fragrant and refreshing as the perfume that rises before her. She compares Solomon to this precious, sweet-smelling bundle that's in this little sachet and lays all night close to her heart. She's saying, "Solomon, you are always with me. You are always close to my heart".
Her thoughts of him are fragrant and refreshing as the perfume that rises before her, and she carries those thoughts of Solomon through the night in peaceful sleep. Pretty tender, pretty special, pretty intimate between this couple. And then she's not only passionate about his dignity, and passionate about his devotion, but in the next perfume in verse 14, we're going to see that she's passionate about his distinction. "My beloved to me is a cluster of henna blooms in the vineyards of En Ge'di". En Ge'di is a very interesting place on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It is barren and desolate and desert, and has sort of a semi-tropical vegetation, if you will. And on this place, in this place near En Ge'di, the henna blooms. And it's a beautiful white kind of flower. And it has yellow in it, and it's in clusters, and it smells like roses.
And the analogy here is very striking. To Shulamithe, Solomon was like an oasis, with its surprising pleasures, in the midst of the desert. She says, "All I have seen up until I have seen you is a bunch of men and it's a desert of men. I've seen a desert of men till I came to you, and then when I saw you, you were like my oasis in the midst of it all". You see, we have to go back into the culture of that day and kind of translate the way they talked into our day. When was the last time you told your husband how blessed you were to have him as your husband because he was obviously uniquely prepared by God just for you, distinctly yours and yours alone? So what we have here is praise between a man and a woman: personal praise, public praise, and passionate praise.
Now, when we look at all of this, and we say, "Okay, now I'm going to go back to the real world tomorrow, Pastor, what can I take away from this"? and so I thought of this. Where would you go if you were at the edge of the sermon right now and say, "Okay, how can I get some really practical principles that will help me do a better job with my words"? And where would you go except to the other writing of this same man? Where do you find short, succinct principles on how to live life? It's in the Proverbs, isn't it? So you just go back a few pages. And as you page through the book of Proverbs, you realize that the wise man Solomon gave us some principles, and I want to just give you four quickly before we shut our Bibles today.
Number one, speak sweet words to one another, speak sweet words. Proverbs 16:24, "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and the health of the bones". John Gottman wrote a book called "A Couple's Guide to Communication". And in that book, he said, "The most consistent research about what is different in the communication of strangers and people married to each other is that married people are ruder to each other than they are to strangers. They interrupt their spouses more, put their spouses down more, and are less complimentary to each other". Someone once said, "A courtship begins when a man whispers sweet nothings, and it ends when he says nothing sweet".
So guys, I know that's hard for a lot of us, but we can learn. And the Bible tells us in 1 Peter that we're to dwell with our wives according to understanding. That means, among other things, we're on a learning curve, and we'll be on that learning curve for the rest of our lives. It's not bad to not know all that you should know, but it is bad not even to be trying to learn. So, however you go about it, find out how you can make your words sweet. A marriage ought to be primarily words of sweetness between two people.
Number two, speak soft words to one another. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger". Harsh words are really never, ever necessary in a marriage relationship. And listen, often in our communication, it isn't the words we say, it's the tone of voice in which we say them. Solomon says that a soft answer is the best way to deal with anxiety in a relationship. How we speak is so important. Ogden Nash gave us this little poem to remember. He said, "To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup, whenever you're wrong, admit it. And whenever you're right, shut up". What he was saying is don't let arrogance and pride ruin your relationship.
Number three, speak sweet words to one another, soft words to one another, and sensitive words to one another. "He who gives the right answer kisses the lips". Whoa. What is he saying? He's saying that when you're in a relationship with each other, it's not just what you say, but it's the sensitivity you have to what's been said and how you respond to it. And when you hit it, when you make it work, it's like kissing the lips. As you grow together as a couple, and spend more time, and you make this something that you care about, you will discover along the way how to say just the right thing to your spouse. Finally, speak sweet words, soft words, sensitive words, and finally, strengthening words, strengthening words to one another.
Proverbs 12:25 says, "Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad". Let me just translate that into our culture. Ladies, this is kind of for you. Your man comes home, he's had a stressful day. Lot of anxiety out there in the business world, can I get a witness? I mean, it's tough to make a living today. A lot of things are different than they used to be, so he comes home and, man, he's giving it everything he has, and he walks in the door. And the Bible says a good word will make him glad. A good word. Do you know one of the words that a guy likes to hear more than anything else is, "Honey, I am so proud of you for the way you provide for us and for our family". That never gets old, ever. Guys like to know that they are being respected, and honored, and loved. And that's one of the ways you can say that.
And listen to this again. "Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad". Did you know that in the New Testament, there are 15 different passages that talk about how to respond to one another in the family of God, 15 different ones? And five of those passages say the way you respond to one another is with encouragement. Encourage one another. In our marriages, do our words build up one another, or do they beat down one another? In his book, "The Fine Art of Friendship," Ted Engstrom tells of a man named Joe. Joe had just about had it with his wife of 3 years. He no longer thought of her as attractive or interesting. He considered her to be a poor housekeeper. She had gotten overweight. He no longer wanted even to live with her.
In fact, he didn't just want to get away from her, he didn't like her, and he wanted to pay her back for all the misery she had caused him in 3 years. He was so upset that he finally decided to get a divorce. But before he served the papers, he made an appointment with a psychologist with whom he was friends for the specific purpose of figuring out how to make her life as difficult as possible in the days that remained before the divorce became final.
Well, the psychologist listened to his story and gave him some counsel. He said he had thought about this, and he came up with a real sinister plan. "Joe, here's what you've got to do. Starting tonight, when you get home, I want you to treat your wife as if she were a goddess. That's right, a goddess. I want you to change your attitude toward her 180 degrees, start doing everything in your power to please her, listen intently to her when she talks about her problems, help out around the house, take her out to dinner, literally pretend that she's a goddess. And after 2 months of this wonderful behavior, just pack up your bags and walk out. That should get her".
And Joe thought, "Wow, what a plan". He couldn't wait to get started. That night, he started treating his wife as if she were a goddess. He couldn't wait to do things for her. He brought her breakfast in bed, had flowers delivered to her for no apparent reason. And within 3 weeks, the 2 of them had gone on 2 romantic weekend vacations. They even read books to each other at night. And Joe listened to her as never before. It was incredible, all the effort he was putting into this scheme. And he kept it up for two full months.
After the allotted time, the psychologist gave Joe a call at work. He said, "How's it going? Did you file for divorce? Are you a happy bachelor again"? He said, "Divorce? Man, I'm married to a goddess. I've never been happier in my life". Which says this: we become how we're treated often, do we not? You don't like the way things are at your house? You have all the options in your hands. You do the right thing. And we're going to learn more about this later on in this study. There is a predictable cycle in our relationship that means you can start wherever you are and begin immediately to make a difference. And I hope that you will.
Now, you know, in this series, I've been telling you, and I will continue to tell you, that the greatest thing you can do for your marriage is to get on the same page with your partner in relationship to God. And I know that some people don't understand how that works, and so I want to share with you how it works. You see, men and women, there are three kinds of intimacy that we know. One is physical, that's what everybody talks about. One is emotional, and that's very important. But the most intimate of intimacy is spiritual intimacy. That's the reason when God wanted to find a way to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church, he chose the marriage relationship as his illustration.
And some of you say, "Well, Pastor, how does that work"? Well, it works like this. Suppose you and your husband have been married for a short time. And we'll just use this as an illustration, and I don't have anybody in mind here. Your wife has become a Christian, and she has a relationship with God, but you don't. And if you look at that picture, you realize there's an empty side of this triangle that needs to be completed. And at the base of the triangle, you and your husband are like this. But let's suppose because he watches your life, and he sees you living for Christ, and it's made a difference in the way you love him and in your submission to him as a wife, he starts to become a seeker. And he looks after God. And when he does that, what happens is interesting. He not only gets closer to God, but in the process, he gets closer to you.
Do you see the line between husband and wife now is shorter than where we started? And let's suppose that he continues to seek, and he wants to know the Lord. And somewhere along the way, he accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, and now you can see not only is he getting closer to God, but he's getting closer to you. And finally, as you go along, the ultimate goal is to continually grow until you're together in Christ. And that is the most intimate place you can ever be. And that's why, if you want the best in your marriage, if you want your marriage to be all that it can be, you can stay down here like this and still be married, but if you start coming together toward God, and here's another part of that illustration that's very important, even for Christians.
Two tuning forks tuned to the same piano will be in tune with each other. One of the best things you can do for your marriage, sir, is to stay close to God, to walk with him, to love him and be loved by him. Same thing for you, ma'am. And the more you love God, the more you love each other, the more you grow closer to him, and the more you grow closer together. And so, you see, the reason I want you to come to know Christ as your personal Savior, if you haven't done that already, is because until you do that, you will have some intimacy in your marriage, but you can never have the intimacy God created you to have because he didn't create you to have one side left open. He created you to be a personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual person.
When God comes to live within your heart, that doesn't mean you never have any marital issues or stress. Christians have those too. But now you discover that God is enough, and he helps you through those challenges. So my encouragement to you is this. If you've never trusted Christ, whether you be the wife in the relationship or the husband, or whether you're here as a couple, and you're dating, and you're trying to figure out what this marriage thing is all about, the greatest thing you can do for your future and for your marriage is to invite Jesus Christ to come in and be your Lord and Savior. And then, together as a couple, you can have this oneness that the Bible teaches is so special. And you know what? That's what I want for all of you. That's why I'm doing what I'm doing, so that you can hear the real message in this book is about your relationship to one another and your relationship to God.