In any relationship, the “honeymoon phase” eventually comes to an end and conflict is inevitable. Having a successful marriage has a lot to do with the ability to work through conflict in a healthy way. In this message, we look at Song of Solomon chapters 5 and 6 to see an example of a relationship that is unbreakable.
Hello, friends. How are we doing, Porch? Yeah! It's great to be here. Hello to all of our friends watching online and our different Porch.Live locations. We are glad to be together. We are making our way through Song of Solomon. This is a classic story, a love story between this shepherd king, this glorious noble one, and this woman he loved. He gave her beauty and significance and meaning and joy, and there were all kinds of energy between the two of them.
We have been working our way through principles we've seen in this love story, this Song of Songs, from what should attract you to how you should begin to court one another to what intimacy looks like in a God-ordained relationship. You're going to find out this isn't just a love story; this is a real story. In the midst of every real story, every real relationship, you're going to find out it's not all a honeymoon.
There's a great story about a little girl who had a mom who was occupied, busily working in the house and trying to clean the house and get ready for different things, so, as parents are prone to do, had the little girl sit down and watch a little movie. It happened to be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The little girl watched it, and it was over, and she kind of came running in afterward and said, "Mom! Mom! You're not going to believe it! It was an amazing story!"
The mom goes, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've seen it. I've seen it." She goes, "No, no! Mom, it was awesome!" She goes, "Well, what happened?" So the little girl starts to tell the story about Snow White and all that went on and how she ate the apple and the wicked witch put her to sleep and she was kind of there, and then this gorgeous young man came up and kissed her. And the little girl said, "Do you know what happened next?" The mom said, "Yeah. They lived happily ever after." She goes, "No! They got married." Like, those two things are not the same.
Disney doesn't show you what happens after the kiss, because Disney is just a fairy tale. It's just a story, but this isn't a fairy tale. This love story is a real story. People have said for a long time, "Every wedding is happy; it's the living together afterward that causes the trouble." One guy walked up and said, "Hey, I wanted the ideal; I got an ordeal, and now I want a new deal." "There's the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering." These things are all over the place. So people are like, "Hey, what's going on?"
What I'm going to show you is this book God gives us that talks about the basis of relationships, what should ultimately be the source of your attraction, how you go about evaluating the potential life mate you might have, what God delights in in the context of a healthy relationship where we freely give ourselves to one another… Sex is God's idea. He is kind, and he's telling you how to use this amazing gift. He's now going to tell you what to do when you get involved in a relationship and it's not all about the honeymoon.
Let's go back for a second to the honeymoon. I'd encourage you to go back and catch those last three weeks if you're just diving in with us, but before we dive into this next section… By the way, this should tell you something. You get one chapter on attraction, you get one chapter on courtship or dating, and you get about a chapter and a half on sex, but you get two chapters on conflict. About 25 percent of this book deals with relational discord. Why is that? Because life is filled with conflict.
Conflict is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to glorify God, to serve others, and to grow yourself. It's an amazing gift to be able to work through conflict. In fact, if you look at people who study marriages and human relationships, they will tell you the number-one predicter of marital failure is the habitual avoidance of conflict. Some of you guys, when you get in conflict, are what I would call peace-fakers. You withdraw, and you just kind of make peace, and you don't deal with the real issues that are there before you. That's not the way God calls you to go.
Some are peace-breakers. "You come at me, I'm going to come back at you twice as hard." You're peace-breakers. You escalate. You don't withdraw. In fact, we tell couples all the time, "Listen. There are four basic things people do in the midst of conflict." What we do to help ourselves remember is we say, "Don't be a WENI. Deal with conflict biblically."
What do most folks do? They withdraw (they're peace-fakers). They escalate (they're peace-breakers). They negatively interpret. The reason there's a problem is because they've been so battered and bruised throughout a lot of relationships they're going to always look for trouble that's coming, so they're going to negatively interpret every action and even every movement, maybe, toward reconciliation or they're just going to invalidate another person's feelings. Those are things you don't want to do in conflict.
I'm going to show you what to do in conflict from Song of Solomon. God has your best interests in mind, so he has given us a record of this amazing love story, but real love is real. It's not pretend. Love is reality; lust is illusion. Only in the midst of passion is there any confusion. Some of you guys are convinced you love somebody because you're moving toward intimacy. In fact, you're not having a real relationship where you're getting to know one another because you're distracted by the strong pull of sexual intimacy.
Just like when somebody gets addicted to alcohol or certain chemical abuses and they stop maturing… That's just a fact. Right? If somebody gets addicted in their teen years and the way they deal with life's hurts and hang-ups and problems is by escaping into a false reality, you're going to see that they don't mature, and when they finally sober up around 28 or 30 or when they are between binges, you're going to find they're just like a child. They throw tantrums.
They're a 28-year-old chronologically, but they're still a 16-year-old in the way they go through human relationships, because they didn't face those relationships with the natural maturing process God uses as we go through various trials. When you escape with them with a false enablement, when you numb yourself to pain instead of dealing with it, you don't grow to the full measure of a man or woman you should be.
Sex is like that in a relationship. It's just a fact. If you live in the context of a honeymoon without commitment and covenant, you're going to have one or two things happen. Premarital sex will keep you in a bad relationship longer than you should be in there or it's going to be a source of guilt and shame and is going to drive you out of what could have been a potentially great relationship before its time.
Love is reality; lust is illusion, and only in the midst of any kind of passion is there any confusion about what it is. I'm going to talk to you about the primary problem with premarital sex tonight in the context of talking about conflict. Before we get there, though, I just want to remind you of the kindness of God. We're not selling anything with you here. We don't get any commission for your conversion.
What we're trying to do is share with you the kindness of God. We are one beggar who has found bread, and we're telling other beggars where they might find the satisfaction we have found. We're just letting you know about the goodness of God. "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it." What the Enemy always wants you to do is to focus not on the result of your sin but on the initial sweetness of it, but the Lord is not like that.
It's the blessing of the Lord that makes your life full of what you want your life to be full of, and he adds no sorrow to it. There's no aftertaste, no bitterness. Let me just compare and contrast God's version of sex and maybe the version of sex that way too many of you guys have already experienced. Look at this.
We ended the honeymoon last week in Song of Solomon, chapter 5, verse 1. At the end of this coming together, you have the lover, the male, say, "I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey…" That's a very intimate description of a rather in-depth pleasuring with a woman. "…I have drunk my wine and my milk."
Then there is this little injection right here, and there's a lot of debate amongst scholars about who it might be, but I believe the easiest and best explanation of this is the creator God who has been observing this covenant love expressed in the context of oneness between a man and a woman. I think it's God, and he says, "Eat, friends; drink and imbibe deeply…" That word drink means drink for pleasure. Imbibe means take it all the way in. God delights in that.
I do this thing called Real Truth. Real Quick., and one of the questions I asked one week, because it had been emailed in, which is where we get our questions… Somebody asked, "Will we have sex in heaven?" I don't want to be a buzzkill to you, but there's no indication that the answer is yes. Let me give you a little taste of why. By the way, you're like, "What? Let's go. Let's figure it out."
I can remember when I was single, and by the grace of God, I hung on. I came to know Christ late in my teen years, and I came to believe God's way was the right and the good way, and he in his kindness preserved me, but I can remember there were some times in my early 20s… I got married when I was 28, and I can remember there were some times I was thinking… There are always these crazy people who are putting a date on the return of Jesus.
So I was like, "All right. If the Lord is coming back next Thursday and they're as sure of that as they say they are, I'm just going to marry the closest thing I can to pretty, because I'm not going to heaven where there may not be sex without tasting that." Here's why I would say it to you. The thing I would tell you about that idea is I don't expect you or me… We see, the Scripture says, right now through a mirror dimly. We can't imagine…
When you ask a pagan, "Hey, what's heaven like?" they'll say, "I don't know. It's like you get 70 virgins." Have you ever heard anybody say that? "If you serve Allah well, then your reward will be you'll get 70 chicks who have never been with another guy, and they're yours forever." Or have you ever heard somebody say, "You'll be a god, and you'll get to populate a planet with multiple wives"? Pagan ideology and theology.
When you have to place something that is outside of the very nature and goodness of God into your heaven, what you're really doing is exposing that your god isn't all that a true God should be, which is all-satisfying. There is nothing God gives you that you need to give you complete satisfaction and joy besides him. That's why when the psalmist gets a really good glimpse of who God is he says, "There is nothing in heaven or on all of earth that I desire besides you. In fact, all things become shadows in the light of you."
But right now we're just children. We're living in an age where we see dimly. We can't even imagine the goodness of God. We get glimpses of him. We preach about him. We hear people preach about him. We sing songs about him, like he's a miracle way-maker and he's kind and he's all of these things, but I don't know. No sex?
It's kind of like when you ask, "What would be the biggest blessing your little 5-year-old self would ever have?" You'd be like, "Oh, I don't know. I mean, I'd wake up, and I'd get Skittles for breakfast and ice cream for lunch and whipped cream for dinner, and I'd get to go to Toys 'R' Us and get whatever I wanted."
Isn't that what a 5-year-old would say? I mean, I get it, but how about if when you were 25, I stuck you with what you wanted when you were 5 years old? "You get Skittles for breakfast, and tomorrow you get ice cream for lunch, and we'll give you whipped cream for dinner, and you can go into Toys 'R' Us (which is bankrupt) and get anything you want."
I'm telling you, your view of God is bankrupt if you're like, "I don't want anything to do with God if I don't get sex in heaven." So go listen to that Real Truth. Real Quick. I developed that more in five or six minutes. I'm just going to tell you God is not going to rip you off. When we finish the honeymoon in Song of Solomon, chapter 5, we hear God saying, "Hey, have it all."
By the way, the closest thing we have to the picture of who God is on earth… When people ask, "What's God like?" we don't really know. Sometimes people do crazy stuff when they're trying to describe the Trinity. They go, "I don't know. It's like water, like H
O, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. It's kind of like water is a liquid at room temperature, below freezing it's a solid, it's ice, and when it's really hot, like below boiling, it's steam, and God is kind of like that." That's called modalism. It's heresy.
God doesn't morph into the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit depending on the climate. He is eternally dwelt in the person of the Son and the Father and the Spirit. God says, "Here's the closest thing to what I'm like. It's when a man and woman without sin become one." There's still distinction. In other words, man never stops being man and woman never stops being woman. There is equality. Man is made in the image of God. Woman is made in the image of God. There's also subordination. There's headship, and there's subjection.
Pay careful attention, gals. The headship is headship that does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind considers the woman as more important than itself, and doesn't merely look out for its own personal interests but especially lifts up that other one and has in itself the same attitude as Jesus, who said, "Not my will but the Father's be done," and the Father said, "This is my Son. Listen to him. There's no other name in heaven or on earth that's going to be more exalted than Jesus."
The Spirit is going to remind you of Christ and exalt Christ, and Jesus says, "When I leave, it's going to be better for you, because the Spirit is going to come." What you get inside the Trinity is this mutually submissive, exalting, "equal in dignity" relationship. Girls, the guy you dream of is not like you, and he doesn't even just like you; he loves you, and he puts aside his interests to cherish you, to honor you, to protect you, to provide for you and care for you.
That's the kind of guy you dream of, not some passive, submissive guy you can control and jerk around, and you certainly don't dream of a jerk who, whenever he's around you, does whatever he wants to do for his own delight. No. What you're dreaming of is the kind of relationship… This is what God says: "There's no perfect picture of who I am on earth, but the closest is when you get two distinct individuals who are equal in glory and dignity and have different strengths and abilities and roles, but they are mutually submissive to one another in love, and when they come together, there is more delight than any other fleeting thing on earth."
Doesn't it make a little sense to you, if God is God, that intimacy with him is better than just an orgasm, than a moment? Man, he'd better be or your god is too small. I get it. He's not mad at you that right now you can't imagine 25, your old life, if you're a 5-year-old, without ice cream, but I'm telling you, there's something better. Something is coming. God has told us that. So you're not getting ripped off when you think about what may not be in heaven, because what's in heaven is God, and you will fully know him as you're fully known.
Now watch this. As you think about God giving you delight in the context of the kind of relationship he intends for a man informed by the love of God, you're going to see the man in this relationship we just celebrated last week, all through chapter 4 and one verse in chapter 5, is a man informed by a love that should make you think of Jesus, should make you think of God the Father. You're going to see that worked out beautifully in this focus on conflict that we're going to be on this week.
When you get a man who is Spirit-filled and God-surrendered and spiritually appraised and a woman who is Spirit-filled and loves and wisely chooses to yoke herself to somebody who knows the kindness and love of God, who has himself been forgiven so he forgives, who has himself received grace so he extends grace, and that woman understands that to be subject to God's order is not going to cause sorrow but a blessing, and they come together in mutual submission and selflessness and recklessness and service, it ends in "Oh man!" and God delights in that.
Let me just show you earthly sex. To do that, I'm going to take you very quickly to Proverbs 7. I'm going to contrast where we ended last week with what the world is offering you. This is another man who comes with a woman to a place of great intimacy. In Proverbs 7:21, it says, "With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly…"
You're not going to find next, "Drink deeply." There is nothing but warning. "Careful! Careful! Don't be seduced by the promise of fleeting pleasure, because it's not the pleasure I designed. Don't try to get a God-given pleasure in a God-forbidden way. Don't meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way, because it's going to lead to death."
I'm going to insert right here, before I read what happens next, this illustration which is so powerful to me. It's how Eskimos would deal with wolves that would come in and would be predatory to their region. They would take a knife, a sharp blade, and they would have killed some livestock, and they will take that blade and dip it in blood, and they will take that blade dipped in blood and put it outside where it's cold, and that will freeze.
Then they'll re-dip it in blood and let it freeze, and they'll re-dip it in blood and let it freeze, and they'll re-dip it in blood and let it freeze. Eventually, you have this blood popsicle outside the blade. Then they will dip it in blood one more time, and these wolves that had been marauding their dogs and their children and their provision… They'll dip it in blood, and they'll stick that knife blood popsicle into the ice, and they'll go to bed.
Now, wolves will smell the scent of that blood, and they will come in, and they will move toward it. Now what do you think will happen when the warm tongue of that wolf starts to lick on that blood that's dripping down? What happens is the warmth of their tongue melts the next layer of blood, so there's more blood, and the more they lick and the more they get excited, the more there's this frenzy on top of this popsicle.
What happens is while their warm tongue is melting the cold ice, the cold ice is numbing their tongue until, eventually, this source of great delight becomes a source of death. What happens is now they're licking the blade, but there's now fresher blood than there has ever been and more of it, and they don't know it's theirs.
This part of the Scripture says we have to remind each other that it's the blessing of the Lord that makes the gifts God intends for us to have gifts where there's no sorrow attached to them. Satan always wants you to focus on the reward of sin and not the result of sin, and the reward is so fleeting. You don't get enough licks of that blood popsicle to justify the blade.
This is Proverbs 7. When you read the whole thing, it's very seductive. It almost reads like pornographic literature, and we are at the climax of it in verse 21. She has seduced him. Her many persuasions have enticed him. Her flattering lips bring him in. Suddenly, though, here's the reality. "Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that [this intimacy is not one to imbibe in;] it will cost him his life."
That same God who was there in Song of Solomon 5:1 is here for you in Proverbs 7:24. "Now therefore, my sons [my daughters] , listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart turn aside to [the ways of the Enemy who wants you to focus on a fleeting reward and not the ultimate result] , do not stray into her paths. For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain." Some of you guys have died that death, haven't you?
It says, "Her house, the way of the adulterous way, leads to Sheol," which is the resting place of the dead. "It descends to the chambers of death." How many of us have had the scent of "There must be life over there," and we move toward in our flesh without listening to a wise God who says, "I know it looks good. I know you think it'll feed you. I know you don't think it hurts. I'm just promising you…you don't understand."
It's why you have to read Song of Solomon 1 and 2 and the first part of 3 before you move to that honeymoon, because God loves you. He wants it to go well with you. He's not trying to rip you off; he's trying to save you from the way that descends to death…the unwanted pregnancy, the unwanted, used-up, and discarded night. No, you are to be cherished and loved and valued by a lover who loves with the love of God. You're going to need it, because this is earth, and none of us are perfect lovers.
God tells us when we're going to yoke ourselves to somebody… In effect, if I could say it in a very crass way, don't marry somebody who's already well married, and what I mean by that is… It says in the Scripture, "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become as one flesh." We know that in the New Testament Paul takes that verse from Genesis and says, "This mystery is great, but when I speak that way, I speak of the love of Christ for the church."
When a man or woman comes to understand who God is, we do the exact same thing. We leave our mother and father and our earthly ways and we no longer pursue the earth's ways; we begin to cleave to something else. We set our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth, and we become one with God. We don't lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways we acknowledge him.
When you become that person who forsakes and adjusts every relationship because you've met your Lover, God, the kindness of God, and you give yourself to him, and you no longer cleave to the world or run to the world but you evaluate every new idea, every new opportunity, by saying, "Will this bring me closer to my Beloved or will this pull me away from him, so I can be one with him…"
When you find somebody who has found the love of God, who has left and forsaken the ways of the world and is cleaving to him, Jesus is saying that's the one you want to go to bed with. That's the one you want to covenant with, because they will know what forgiveness and grace and mercy and love really look like. They won't be lustful people who are confused. They will be lovers who have been redeemed by a cross where a sovereign Shepherd King has redeemed them.
This woman in the story of Song of Solomon was a migrant worker. The man was a noble king, and he brings her home and says, "You're no longer going to live in the fields, slaving to bring forth fruit from a cursed earth. Come into the palace of relationship with me." Wow! That's what God has done with Todd Wagner. He has redeemed my life from the pit. I was a migrant worker who was being abused by a greedy slave master who had me toiling to find a nugget of rest under the beating heat of sin, and he redeemed my life from the pit.
I'm inviting you to know my Lover. He's a Shepherd King. He's the King of peace. You're going to see a picture of me in this Shulammite woman. You're going to see a picture of me in my forgetting the kindness of God and the conflict I create with this God that I said, "I'll leave and forsake all things. I'll cleave only to you." Sometimes I get indifferent to God, even to this day. It's unbelievable, but I do, and he's still so tender toward me.
Watch this. What you're going to have here is the woman, and she's going to have a dream. You could really look at it one of two ways. It either really happened or it happened as a dream. Why do I say that? Because it says right here in Song of Solomon 5:2, "I was asleep but my heart was awake." There are two ways to read that. First is "I was asleep," but you know when you're sleeping your heart is awake or you're dreaming, you're living in a world that's not real, but there's a picture here in a dream.
I think it's just as easy to interpret this that what she's saying poetically is, "I was asleep, but my beloved was not. He was out working. He was in the fields. He was doing what men do sometimes. They work long and late hours." So whether this is a dream or whether it actually was him at work, you're going to see the same idea. I believe she was asleep but her heart, her beloved, the man of her dreams, if you will, was awake.
Then she was startled. "A voice! My beloved was knocking: 'Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, my locks with the damp of the night.'" What he's saying is, "I've been working all night. I've been working dusk till dawn. I've been beating down." What do you think the guy wants when he knocks on the door late at night? He goes, "Darling, my dove, are you asleep?" "What are you wearing?" That's what I see implied in the text.
Without reading verse 3, what do you think she's going to say? Do you think she's going to go, "Oh baby! I'm so glad you're home! I don't mind that you woke me up. Let's go!" Let's read it. She's like, "What? Who's knocking?" You have to realize there's a gap between the honeymoon. Now we're into the marriage. We had the ideal. Now we're in the ordeal. The guy is like, "Baby," and she's like, "What?" She has curlers in her hair, slobber on her pillow.
She's not wearing that nightie anymore. Those girls long ago put that sucker away. They can't even find it. They're back in that flannel nightgown their grandmother gave them. "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." What every woman borrows throughout the rest of their marriage… "Did your great-grandmother wear that to bed?" She's kind of sitting there, and she says, " [Look, dude.] I have taken off my dress, how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet…"
"It's like 20 feet to the door. You don't want me to get my feet dirty again." In Hebrew, what this actually says is, "I have a headache." That's what it says in Hebrew. "Just let me be." Without reading, what do you think this guy is going to do? "What? I've been out working all night. Hey, you're a migrant worker sleeping on silk. Did you forget who I am? Do you know who you are? Do you know what I've done for you? Open the door! Brush your teeth, and let's go." Right? Is that what you expect? No. Watch this. This is beautiful.
Verse 4. She's talking. "My beloved extended his hand through the opening…" The bolt, the door. The best way I can describe it to you is those little locks with the little chain on them that kind of comes open and you kind of get your hand through there. His hand is coming through the door, and maybe after he knocked he looked through there, saw she wasn't asleep, and she saw his hand, and maybe he just went… No yelling. "I thought it was dawn enough that you might be up. I'm so sorry." Watch what he does.
She says, "…my feelings were aroused for him." That's not the word like sexual arousal. It's like compassion, like, "Oh my gosh." I get it. When we're startled sometimes in our sleep… It says in Proverbs, "He who awakens a friend with a loud voice in the morning, it shall be reckoned a curse to him." He's excited to get home. The guy is a newlywed. We don't know how long they've been married, but he's like, "Baby! Baby dove! Oh, you're still sleeping."
What do you think she's going to do? Do you think she's going to go, "Good! And don't do it again! How much money did you make? Go make more and let me sleep!" Do you think that's what she's going to say? No. It says at this moment what happened is she came to her senses. It says, "My feelings were aroused. I felt some compassion." She says, "I arose to open to my beloved…" When she went to the door, it says, "…my hands dripped with myrrh, and my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt."
In other words, what was tradition at the time was if you would go and visit somebody and they weren't home, you would leave perfume on the door. You would anoint the door, because a friend is like a pleasant aroma, like, "I love you." Almost like you would have a family perfume. "Oh man. The Wagners were here. It's so pleasant when they come by." That was a tradition of the day. He didn't go and get angry. He was like, "Oh baby," and he anointed it. He just said, "I love you. When you think of me, I want you to know I love you." He just drenched it.
Now he doesn't come at her. He doesn't do this thing that maybe so many of us would do, which is to just drop some truth on her. "In 1 Corinthians 7:3, there's this verse that says, 'The husband must fulfill his duty to the wife, and the wife must fulfill her duty to her husband. The wife doesn't have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the woman has authority over his.' So the wife doesn't have authority over her body. Wake up!" He doesn't do that.
Guys, it's not what you should do. Now that you've discovered 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 is in your Bible, don't go, "Dude, I'm underlining that, and when I get married, that's going to be in our vows. I'm going to just say, 'Babe, I don't care. Just memorize this one verse. We'll get to everything else. Just know that verse.'" That verse is not in the Bible for you to quote to your wife. That's a verse for your wife to obey. The verse for you to obey is to love her as Christ loved the church.
There's a reference here. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.""But I'm not going to kick the door open. I'm not going to rush in and go, 'Do you know who I am? You'd better give your heart to me.'" No. He's just gently going, "I'd love you to come in. I've been working so you can rest. In fact, it's finished out here. Are you ready to come in?"
Jesus is inviting you into that, and he does it with kindness. That's exactly what the Scripture says. It says, "You think lightly of the kindness and tolerance and patience of God, not knowing it's his kindness, that myrrh of grace and forgiveness and provision…" His head isn't drenched with the dew of the morning; it's drenched with the blood of judgment. He's just trying to wake you from your stupor and your sleep.
Scripture says what we're called to do is to be individuals who, when we move toward somebody, we don't go, "I'm going to change you." No. In the Scripture, you never change your mate. What you do is you love your mate. Let God deal with them. Let God change them. You love your wife. You love your husband. Your job is to love, not change. This is the biggest mistake most people make in the context of marital relationships.
By the way, this is what always happens. Girls always marry guys thinking they'll change them, and guys marry girls thinking they'll never change. And they change. They don't look like they look when you married them after they've had a couple of kids, nursed a few babies, and gravity has had its way. Is that a surprise to you? "Really?" No. Bodies deteriorate, but character and persons develop. That's why charm is deceitful, beauty is vain.
Guys marry a girl like, "Babe, whoa!" thinking they'll never change. They change. Girls marry guys and go, "I'll change him." Nuh-uh. He is never going to be more motivated to be kind and gracious and deferring to you than when he's trying to close the deal. So if that guy isn't doing well before the deal is closed, just brace yourself. You're not going to change him.
What the Scripture is saying right here is that the way you deal with conflict… I'm going to use Solomon as an example of what we should do, because Solomon is a type of Christ. The male lover in this story is a type of Christ. The bride (we're called the bride of Christ) is a type of me. Indifference has crept in, and there's conflict in the relationship, but watch what the beloved does. It says she came and put her fingers on the door and the handles of the bolt.
This is what the Scripture says: You never pay back evil for evil to anyone. That's just not what you should do. You bless those who persecute you. You bless and do not curse. This is now from Romans 12:19, and it's going to quote from Proverbs. "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…" Let God deal with them. You just love them. "…for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay ,' says the Lord.""I'll get their attention." Your job is not to get their attention; your job is to love them.
This is what most people do in conflict. They manipulate back, like, "You're going to hurt me? I'm going to hurt you worse, and you're going to learn not to hurt me. I'm going to cut you off sexually. I'm not going to respect you. I'm going to limit finances to you. You're going to learn you don't jack with me." Does that work? What do you do when a cold wind blows? You just curl up. You pull the hat down and you curl up. You're like, "No, man." It doesn't work.
Harassment, anger, guilt, criticism, manipulation don't work. Do you know what makes the flower unfold? Love. That's why the Scripture says in Romans 12:20, quoting from Proverbs 25, " But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head ." In other words, you'll put conviction, a sense of guilt. They'll get them.
Do you know what happens all the time? This is a fact. When I see people who are in a problem in a marriage, what some people want to do, especially as they move toward divorce, is they try to get that other person to respond to them in anger, because it's a whole lot easier to leave somebody who's angry at them and saying horrible things to them. "See? That's why I'm leaving them! That right there!" It makes them feel better about themselves.
But when you have been wronged and you love and you don't take into account a wrong suffered and you don't act unbecomingly, you're not provoked, you don't seek your own but you bear all things and hope all things and endure all things… I'm not talking about staying in the midst of physical abuse. I'm not talking about enabling sinful behavior, but I'm talking about moving toward somebody in love with wisdom.
I'm going to tell you what God will do. God will bring judgment on them. Your job is to love them. Let God deal with them. I tell people all the time, "You know what you should do? You want to live your life in such a way that everybody who knows that other person who left you will know them to be a fool. You clothe yourself in dignity and kindness and love and grace, and you extend to them what you have received."
I can tell you, in my relationship with my wife, so many times… I know when I'm being a jerk. I know what I'm doing, and I just watch her move back to me in love. This is what it says in Proverbs 15: "A gentle answer turns away wrath…" I just see her move toward me in love. By the way, do you know what God does with guys who continue to be abusive toward women? The Bible tells us what he does.
In 1 Peter, chapter 3, it says, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker…" Because she's a woman. Women, you're physically weaker. Also your emotions are entangled. You can't bifurcate your life decisions as much. Women are made differently than men. We're not the same, but we are equal. If you don't believe that, just look at the transgender craziness now, when guys who take hormone blockers and testosterone-reducing drugs still compete as a woman. They dominate.
There's just a difference in the sexes. It's embedded. When you have guys who use what God has given them… He has blessed you to be a blessing, and when you use that to be abusive, let me show you what God is going to do with that. It says, "…show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."
What God basically does to abusive guys… He goes, "You know what? You want to use your power to not be kind to that woman when she cries out to you in need? I'll just show you what that's like. Pray all you want, but I'm going to tell you something. Your prayers are going to hit the ceiling. They're not going anywhere. I'll show you what it's like to have a sovereign over you who doesn't pay attention to you."
Your job is not to change; your job is to love. Your job is to extend to others what you have freely received. That doesn't mean you get abused. A loving wife and a loving husband… One of the things you do when somebody is caught in sin is you approach them, you talk about that, but then if they don't respond, you widen the circle, because you love them. Somebody asked me one time, "Todd, what's the best thing you do to lead your wife in marriage?" I go, "That's easy. I give her permission to tell on me."
I told her, "I want to be God's man. I want to love you as Christ loved the church, but I'm also lazy. I'm also indifferent. This is still earth, so I'm not glorified yet. I'm not everything God wants me to be, so when I come back at you and I verbally dominate you or I even physically intimidate you or I withdraw from you, don't let me do that, because I'm marrying you to complete me, to help me be the man God wants me to be."
In fact, I'll tell you a great story about my wife. She went to dinner with a bunch of other wives early in our marriage, maybe three or four years into marriage. I was working. I came in late at night. I had dew in my hair. It was early morning, dusk to dawn. She was still there in her nightie. It was amazing. It was gorgeous. No, I'm just kidding. I came home, and we started talking, and I said to her, "Hey, babe. How was your day?" She said, "Oh, it was good."
I go, "What did you do?" She goes, "I went to lunch with so-and-so, so-and-so, and so-and-so." I go, "Oh. Was it a good time?" She goes, "It was a good lunch. It was okay. Actually, one of the things that started to happen is everybody was kind of telling stories about their husbands and the things that annoy them." I went, "Oh, really?" Then she goes, "Do you want to know what I said?" I went, "Yeah?"
She goes, "I didn't say anything about you. I mentioned to the girls, 'Hey, this is all funny, but listen. I know you. I know you love your husbands, but this is not going to be…'" She said, "As tenderly as I could, I just said, 'Hey, we're not going to make sport of how awesome we are because we put up with the Neanderthals we said "I do" to.'" She did. She said, "We redirected the lunch."
She said, "But do you know what I said?" She goes, "Nothing about you, and the reason isn't because there's not stuff about you that annoys me. It's because I realized I hadn't told you what those things were yet." What do you think I did when I heard that? I turned to her and said, "Baby, tell me what those things are, because I don't want… A woman who would honor me and respect me like that and would not make me sport for her friends to laugh and be popular because she's the noblest of all women who lives with Todd…"
Have you ever heard that? "Oh, your wife is a saint." Guys say that to one another all the time, but guys don't ever come and go, "Dude, your wife is throwing you under the bus. She's a saint." That never encourages a guy. I just looked at her and said, "Babe, tell me what those things are," and she said, "Okay." We just sat down, and she said, "Look. Will you forgive me for not mentioning this earlier, but here are a few things. I know who you are, and I believe in who you want to be. Here are some things you can do to love me better."
We talked, we prayed, and I said, "Thank you." I also told her, "If I don't respond to that, what you do is you widen that circle. You get the mighty men who were a part of my wedding processional to come around me and say, 'Hey, guys. Can you encourage Todd? I've already told him this. He knows I'm calling you, but he's struggling. I know who this man is. I know who he wants to be.'" Man!
Watch this. It says, "I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and had gone!" So this is what the woman is going to do in response to this kind of love. "My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me." Now watch what happens. Here comes that sense of judgment. She realizes, "What was I doing? I wasn't with my beloved." So she goes out to the random world, to random guys, not her beloved.
"The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, they struck me and wounded me…" You can make a case here that this is how you know it's a dream, because she didn't move toward him in her dream. She was indifferent to him. She was thinking, "He's kind of a bother. I want to get my sleep." Then she realized, "No. Before this guy, the random guy was abusive toward me. He wasn't like my beloved."
She goes on in this. "…they struck me and wounded me; the guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me. [I was cold.] " Instead of finding peace with her man, she found harsh treatment. There's no life here. "I wish I had run to him and clung to my beloved." She has come to her senses. Isn't that you after sin? Isn't that what you do every time? You're like, "What am I doing? I'm beaten again. It's cold. God, why did you leave me?"
"I didn't leave you. I was like, 'Come, come. Come off those silk sheets, the false promises. Come here. Let me embrace you.'"
You start to feel like that, don't you? Watch what happens. She goes out. She's saying, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, as to what you will tell him: for I am lovesick.""I miss him. I want to be reunited." They say, "What kind of beloved is your beloved, O most beautiful among women?"
This is exactly what we need to do. We need to remind each other. It's why we get together corporately and sing, and we just say, "Hey, listen. I have to remind you who God is. He is a way-maker. He is the way of peace. He's the way back to restoration and forgiveness and wholeness and dignity and beauty."
"What kind of beloved is your beloved…" Then she just starts to rehearse. I love Psalm 101 where it says, "I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to You, O Lord , I will sing praises." In other words, what a wise person does is they wake up and go… When you wake up and you're in your bed, the first thing you ought to do…
When you're startled awake by your alarm, may your first thought be of your Beloved. Just say, "O God, you are the God of grace and mercy who redeemed my life from the pit, who loves me, who makes me whole again. Oh, let me run to you. Let me wake and not be indifferent to you this day."
This is what she says: "My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is like gold, pure gold; his locks are like clusters of dates and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk…" Do you get that? He doesn't need Visine. This guy's eyes pop. Girls, can you see this guy? He's tall, dark, and handsome.
"His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of sweet-scented herbs; his lips are lilies dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold set with beryl; his abdomen is carved ivory inlaid with sapphires. His legs…" She's going from his head to his feet, and she is reminding herself, "My beloved is altogether wonderful." Do you do that?
In the midst of your indifference to God, maybe indifference to one another, do you remind yourself, "No, I know who you are. You're a child of God, and your desire is to be who God wants you to be. I'm going to move back toward who you are in him." Specifically, even in sin, I'm going to use this even more, not so much in a marital relationship, but I'm going to use this toward you and your relationship with God. Do you remind yourself who he is? Those songs? From head to toe God is splendid.
"His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." They're like, "Are you serious? That's who he is? That's who you were indifferent toward in your bed?" The girls say, "Where has your beloved gone, O most beautiful among women? Where has your beloved turned…""Let's go. Maybe he has a brother. Maybe he has a single friend."
This is what my wife did with her girlfriends. Shouldn't it be a badge of honor, girls, when you talk about the way your husband loves you and seeks you and serves you, is kind toward you? My wife said, "Todd annoys me. You guys know Todd." They were all my friends at the table with her. "But I haven't told him yet some of the things, so I'm not going to laugh about him with you." They're like, "Dang."
"And I know he'll listen when I tell him."
"And I bet your husbands will listen too, because I know them."
How about when your friends are like, "Man, why are you leaving? How come you don't want to party with us like you used to?" Do you know enough of your God to start from the head of who he is to his feet? And people are going to lean in and go like, "Can I know that God?" This is who he is. Watch this. She says again, "I'll tell you where he is." She's confident. "My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of balsam, to pasture his flock in the gardens and gather lilies."
"He's right where he should be. He hasn't moved on. He isn't looking for some woman who's going to treat him right. He went back to work because he saw I needed some more rest. I am secure in his love." You ought to be secure in God's love for you. Look at verse 3. "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine…" She goes, "There is commitment here."
When I become one with my wife, I'm one with my wife, so when things are not going well with my wife, I don't discard her. When my knee hurts, I don't amputate myself at the thigh. When I jam my finger, I don't put it in the kitchen drawer with a knife and go "Off with that." No! When my wife is hurting… The Bible says, "You go to her, because you're one."
I'm just going to tell you, it's a fact. My life is not doing well when my wife isn't doing well, but when my wife is a George Strait song, when she looks so good in love, when I stole some stars from the sky and gave them to her to put in her eye, I'm like, "Man, she looks good in love, and it's good with me."
There's no way I can love her unless I give her the love I've received, unless I have met the Shepherd King who reminds me, "Hey, no matter what she does to you, big boy, whatever indifference or moodiness or meanness, it is nothing compared to your moodiness, indifference, and meanness to me, and I love you. So you go give her that love."
She is secure. There's a covenant commitment here. This is not just a fleeting… There's no back door, if you want to use a phrase. They're not just living together, and when things get hard they'll go, "I'm moving on, babe." No. There's a covenant commitment here. She was sure about his covenant love, and she was sure about his kindness.
" [My beloved is he] who pastures his flock among the lilies.""He's gentle. I know I wronged him, but he is gentle, and he will love me." So she finds him. This is now the beloved. This is God toward you in your sin when you come back and are reminded. You come to your senses. Have you been there? You come to your senses.
"You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling…" That's a mountain city. Like Aspen in the fall, just beautiful, crisp, clear air, high blue skies. He says, "That's who you are to me, darling. You're invigorating. You're as lovely as Jerusalem." That's the Holy City. "You're still holy to me. I said I loved you. Your beauty comes from my attributing it to you." "…as awesome as an army with banners.""You're worthy of all."
Can you imagine? You've been indifferent and complacent and got away from God, and what does the Enemy say? Most people say, "Well, you've screwed that up, you migrant worker. Do you think he's going to love you again?" If he's God's man he will. If it's God's woman, she will. But you don't continue to sin so grace can abound. You just come to your senses quickly.
She wasn't sleeping with six guys in her bed. She had a moment where her flesh was indifferent to the wonders and mercies of love. It ought to concern you if you hope he doesn't come knocking in the morning so you can just run a few other lovers through your bed until you're convicted. There's a quick coming to your senses, and you come to your senses when you're reminded who you are.
She responds to him, and watch what he says. "Turn your eyes away from me, for they have confused me…" What he's saying there is, "Baby, you're coming at me right now hard, and your eyes…" Remember earlier in the love chapter where he looks at her eyes and just melts. He's like, "Okay, I'm going to melt into those eyes, and we are going to be one." He's saying, "Baby, this is who you are to me, but let there be no mistake."
What he's really saying here is, "My love is real. It wasn't manipulative love, so don't come to me like you want me now, because I wasn't kind to you so that you would come pursue me and give yourself to me. I just love you." Then he says this. Watch this. "I don't want sex. I'm not looking for make-up sex." By the way, in your relationships, there should be make-up sex, because there should be sex in the first place.
Let me just insert this right here. Are you ready? This is the biggest problem with premarital sex. I already told you it'll keep you in a bad relationship longer than you should and it will push you out of a good one before its time, but here's the biggest problem with premarital sex. Some guys will say, "I can't control myself, baby. You're so fine. Surely God wouldn't want me to not do this. He made me this way."
This is just a fact. If you think it's hard to control your sexual urges before you're married, wait till you see how hard it is to control your tongue after you're married. It is easier to keep your pants zipped than your lips. Read James 3. This thing sets the world on fire. It destroys relationships. By the way, you marry a guy, and you're not going to want him to be abusive and manipulative and critical and remind you that you're just a migrant worker and you're lucky.
A guy who doesn't control his flesh before marriage and a guy who doesn't want to honor God before marriage… Why are you going to be surprised after he puts a ring on it that all of a sudden he's going to go, "Hey, I know I've never done what God wanted; I just did what my flesh wanted to do"? Why are you going to be surprised? I'm not even talking sexually, but you ought to think about that. The thing you caught him with is the thing you're going to lose him for.
Even if he's not unfaithful, he is going to be unfaithful, because he has already showed you, "I don't roll the way God wants me to roll." So don't be surprised when there's conflict when I don't roll the way Solomon rolled. "I awoke love before its time because I love me some me, and over here, when you're bothering me, I'm going to love me some me, and I'm going to let you know you don't do that!" Don't come to me surprised.
The biggest problem with premarital sex is it's a tell. It's showing you that this guy doesn't care about you and doesn't care about a loving God who has your best interests in mind. He cares about him. So he is not going to execute the playbook of restoration, reconciliation, kindness, and covenant commitment over here. He has told you that.
The problem is that there is a huge red flag and declaration here that you are not yoking yourself to somebody who knows the goodness of God, and then you're going to want the goodness of God to show up with that guy over here. Watch what he does. You marry that guy… He's not trying to manipulate you back into kindness; he just wants you to know, "I love you, baby. Don't confuse me. Don't even be confused by my love. I don't want something from you. I just want you to know I love you."
Here's the thing. Song of Solomon 6:5 is the same as Song of Solomon 4:2, which is at the height of the honeymoon. This is what restoration and reconciliation look like. "…your hair is like a flock of goats that have descended from Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes which have come up from their washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost her young."
What God is doing right here is showing you that this is what real conflict resolution looks like. It is a reconciliation. You're right back where you were at the height of your love, because you're married to somebody who never stops loving you. This is a picture of how godly people relate, and this is a picture of how God relates. Have you ever felt that? Like, "Oh man. I can't go back again, Todd." Yes, you can.
This is where God speaks. This is where the lover speaks. He says in verse 8, "There are sixty queens and eighty concubines [I could go a lot of places] , and maidens without number; but my dove, my perfect one…""My one and only, the one I covenanted with. That's you. You're unique. I don't just run to some other woman because it's hard, because you're on your period, because you've been mean. I'm the guy you hoped for, because he's the God I hoped for, and his love lives in me."
Ladies, does your heart go aflutter when I talk like this? Men, do you want to be that kind of guy who can do that? "You're the pure child." "The maidens saw her and called her blessed…" Of course they do, because they're like, "Who is this woman who loves like this?" "Who is this that grows like the dawn, as beautiful as the full moon, as pure as the sun…"
In verse 12 it says, "Before I was aware, my soul set me over the chariots of my noble people." In other words, "My beloved took me back and put me right where I was before. He put me back in a place of honor, a chariot over all the people." The women yelled at her, "Come back, come back, O Shulammite; come back, come back, that we may gaze at you!"
The word in Hebrew for Solomon is Shelomoh, so a Shulammite is like, "You who are one with the king who is glorious in all you do." The king looks back and says, "Why are you surprised that she's here with me, as at the dance of two companies?" What he's saying there is when a couple first falls in love, there are two companies that come together, the bridal company and the groom's company.
They come together, and it's a glorious thing when there's a new family. What he's saying is, "Yeah, there was conflict. Yeah, there was trouble. Why are you surprised like two companies are coming together? We were never not one. This is my beloved. Yes, we had a moment. It's earth. But there is gentleness and kindness and reconciliation, and there is covenant commitment. Don't be surprised."
Gang, you're going to have conflict, but you want somebody who moves in conflict the way the God of grace moves toward you in your indifference to him. I don't know who you think you are, but let me close by telling you, you little migrant worker like me, who is toiling with bloody fingers picking cotton with a slave master over you and there's no freedom, that you have been redeemed and you have been brought into relationship or can be brought into relationship with the King.
The Lord stands at the door tonight and knocks and says, "Come here. Come on. I can redeem you. I'm the King. That's not the one who has power. I can take care of him. Just tell me you want out. Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden. I'm not choosing you because you're beautiful. I'm going to make you beautiful. I'm the King, and I'll make you mine."
Then when he makes you his, there are going to be moments when you don't walk perfectly, but he's going to say, "Remind yourself of who I am." Surround yourself with others who say, "Rehearse to me again who the one you love is. I know you just moved away, but come back home." Don't run lovers through your bed. You might have a moment of indifference. We all do. If you've gone to deep dark places, read the book of Hosea. He's still there. But it should concern you if you're taking advantage of that.
So if you've never come home, come home. If you've been discouraged because you've left him briefly, come home. If you know his love, don't yoke yourself to somebody who doesn't. Be a person of commitment. Some of you guys are in relationships you need to not reconcile with, because you're in a relationship with somebody who hasn't been reconciled to God. Let them alone to find God. You keep walking with him. When you've found him, use the keys he has given you in your relationship with him to make your relationship with one another work. He adds no sorrow to those relationships, even though it's tough.
Father, I pray for my friends, that they would see all the wisdom and the goodness of your way. We see in this story not just a picture of beautiful love. We see a picture of the most beautiful of loves, that you are the noble Shepherd King, that you've redeemed our lives from the pit, that you want us to delight in every gift you've given us, but you don't want us to find those gifts in a way that there's an aftertaste, where we're chasing after things that look life-giving but lead to death.
No, Lord. Save us from that. Redeem us from the one who lies to us and wants us to focus on the reward and not the ultimate result of death that so many of us have tasted. Oh, bring people to you, Father. As we have rehearsed the kindness of who you are, as we do it again now through song, would you bring some lovers home to you?
For those of us who have grown a little indifferent, thank you that we're here again together tonight, that we can awake from our stupor and be reminded of who you are so that others say, "Hey, do you think that God you're so secure with could love me?" and that we can say, "Oh yes." Then, Father, help us to be wise. Help us to only yoke with those who are devoted to this kind of love and work through conflict the way you work through it with us. Awaken our indifference. Save us in our sin. Glorify yourself in our love. In Jesus' name, amen.