Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

This website uses modern web technologies not supported by Internet Explorer.
Please use a recommended web browser such as Edge, Firefox or Chrome for the best viewing experience.

"True Love Waits"

Song of Solomon 3: 1-5

Proverbs 5: 18-23

     There is a short book tucked in the middle of the Bible which gets little attention from the church.

Ironically, the subject matter of this little book gets more attention in our modern culture than any

other.  It’s content is something we Christians are a little squeamish even talking about.  And we sure

don’t cry out in protest when the message of its content is perverted and cheapened within virtually

every nook and cranny of our culture.  It’s been said that what this book of the Bible speaks of “sells.” 

But what has been sold is a debauched and corrupted understanding of one of God’s greatest gifts to

humankind.  So turn with me now to a book variously called “The Song of Songs,” “The Most Excellent

of Songs;” best known to us as “Song of Solomon,” although there’s not a shred of evidence that Solomon wrote it,

or had anything to do with its writing.  We’re going to read from chapter 3, verses 1

through 5.

          (READ SONG OF SOLOMON 3:1-5)

      The Song of Solomon is a book about human sexuality.  It’s about physical attraction.  But more importantly,

it’s a book about emotional and spiritual attraction.  The content of Song of Solomon is without question a radical departure

from the other books of the Old Testament.  While we might rate the books of Joshua, Judges and 2nd Samuel R for graphic violence,

the book of Ezekiel PG for bizarre and sometimes lewd acts, the books of Amos and Hosea PG13 for strong language, we could rate

Song of Solomon NC17 for strong sexual content.  In its time, it was a lusty piece of Jewish literature.  Moreover, within its eight chapters,

the name of God is not mentioned once.  No references are made to any of Israel’s sacred religious traditions.  Some have gone as far as to call

Song of Solomon a “secular work” which has no place in the Bible. These are perhaps some reasons we rarely if ever preach or hear a sermon from this odd little book. 

      In terms of form, the Song of Solomon presents an anonymous couple dialoguing back and forth

through a series of poems and letters.  They do so against the backdrop of a utopian garden, replete

with critters, hillsides, and exotic flowers.  Many see the Song of Solomon as a metaphor for Eden,

where the first humans lived in blissful love, just the way God had originally intended it.  That was the

reasoning by some in the early 4th century who argued for its inclusion in the church’s canon.

      This morning, we’re going to fix our attention on just five verses which, I believe, have something

Important to say in our time; a time of disintegrating sexual mores and ethics; a time of wholesale sex

which usually has nothing to do with relationship beyond the physical and sensual; a time when sex

sells everything from automobiles, to exercise equipment, to beverages, to chocolate, to soap and

shampoo, to vacation getaways.  Who can argue with the fact that we are barraged daily, if not hourly,

by speech and images of a sexually-provocative nature; commercials, television sitcoms, reality shows,

magazines, film, internet, roadside billboards; even in our political discourse .  It is inescapable. 

      The Song of Solomon rises above all that with a presentation of sexuality which is not only pure in

motive and wholesome in expression, but presents and appreciates sex as the gift from our Creator it is

intended to be; something to be greatly desired; rightly enjoyed, and maybe most significantly, highly

anticipated.

      Remember back in the old days, there used to be this quaint tradition practiced between a couple.

It was called ‘exchanging love letters.”  This is quite different from the online rage which sweeps our

cyber-culture today that we might call “exchanging lust letters.  We even have a new category of

texting called “sexting.”  We need not get into the details of that.  Once upon a time, when a couple

was separated for some reason – different colleges; one stationed stateside or overseas; family homes

 

separated by some distance; or even if they weren’t separated – it was common for lengthy letters to

be sent back and forth regularly.  They would say things like “I love you with all my heart,” “If I don’t

see you soon, I think I’m gonna die.” They opened with salutations like “Dear Sweetheart,” “Love of my

Life,” and closed “With all my love,” “Hugs and kisses,” “Yours always and forever.” 

      As we read the Song of Solomon, we find love letters of that day between two person who were

clearly very attracted to each other.  Granted, the language may not be appropriate to 2018 America.

I don’t know how impressed, even in the 70’s, my wife would have been with love letters wherein I

used the language used by the male writer from the Song of Solomon:  Dear Vale, “Your cheeks are

like halves of a pomegranate….. Your neck is like the tower of David built for an arsenal….. Your hair

is like a flock of goats…. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes….. Your two breasts are like two

fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies.”    

      The point is, there was once a day when we cultivated love with someone we were very attracted

  1. We wrote lengthy love letters. We dated.  We met each other’s parents and families.  We went to

church together.  We whispered sweet nothings in each other’s ears.  We got to know what made each

other tick.  Then, the sexual act was a consummation; in a spiritual and emotional sense, the sealing of

an established relationship; the pinnacle of intimate communication between those who had already

forged a deep bond, and entered into a sacred covenant. 

      And yes, there was tension in this period of coming to know one another.  We called it “courtship.”

The anticipation of the relationship someday moving from the spiritual and the emotional to the physical was in and of itself exciting and pleasurable. 

The first verses of chapter 3 give voice to a woman’s anticipation of being united with the one she loves; who is her soul mate.  She dreams of him: 

“Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves.”  She envisions him.  She longs for him. She

anguishes that she’s made to wait, but continues to anticipate her being united with the one with

whom she can share every facet of herself – her mind, her soul, her heart…. and yes, someday, her

body.  And when she and this love of her life are united, she would never let him go.

      Yet part of her dream of union with the one whose soul she loves is an exhortation; an instruction;

in fact, a warning, repeated three times throughout the book:  “I adjure you” [that is to say, I urge you,

I advise you earnestly] “O daughters of Jerusalem” [those who live under the covenant of God’s Law]

“by the gazelles or the wild does;” [by God’s very created order] “do not stir up or awaken love until it

is ready!”  Maybe a piece of the problem today is that too many think they’re “ready” on the first date.

      This is a verse, inspired by Almighty God who thought up the whole idea of human sexuality to

begin with, which speaks a clear word to people of any and all generations.  A few years ago, there was

a phrase coined by evangelicals , which is now something of a joke among most young persons:  True

love waits  The maiden writing this love letter exhorts patience with and in love.  Granted, she is

cautioning readers who are already accustomed to postponing sexual pleasure until a relationship had

become deep, strong, and committed.  She is reminding them of what they know only too well:  Love is

a powerful force that should not be rushed into, or provoked, or pressured.  Fast forward a few thou-

sand years to generations which have grown up listening to the lyrics of a hit song which encouraged

its hearers:  “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” 

      The verses we read this morning -- and really the entire Song of Solomon – challenges us as people

living under God’s covenant to reclaim some things:  There is virtue in patience.  There is wisdom in

delayed gratification.  There is joy in exploring each other’s hearts long before we explore each other’s

bodies.  One of the things which makes Song of Solomon so inspired – and in my opinion, worthy of a

place in the canon of Holy Scripture – is that unlike so much banal religious literature today, it does not

deny our need for physical contact and communion; doesn’t make it something dirty, or inherently sinful. 

Song of Solomon in fact takes the body and human sexuality seriously.  But it also takes seriously that we are more than a body. 

It’s not breaking news that a relationship cannot thrive, or even survive, when based solely on physical attraction and sexual intimacy. 

Song of Solomon, with its use of dialogue, conversation, allusion, love letters, poetry reminds us how important it is for two persons

attracted to each other – maybe even falling love – to talk and to listen to each other.  It places before us the wisdom in being patient,

delaying the giving and receiving of one of God’s greatest gifts until the time is right to give and to receive. 

      I’m a realist.  We live in a day and age when sex has become cheapened to the value of last week’s

newspaper.  We have an entire generation of young people at the height of their physical drives who

have never even been exposed to teaching such as this.  Patience, let alone delayed gratification,

sounds so square in the ears of those living in a drive-thru, microwave, high-speed internet era.  They

are growing up in a world where condoms are advertised on television during NFL football playoffs,

and handed out in some schools like number 2 lead pencils.  So the teaching of Song of Solomon swims

against the rising tide of devaluation of sex, presented in our culture as having little to do with deep,

committed, permanent communion between two persons.  The day we liberated ourselves sexually,

we inadvertently set ourselves on a down-sloping road toward sexual bondage.  And in light of the

plethora of social and cultural ills plaguing us in 21st century America, it seems we’re reaping just what

we’ve sown.

      We as people living under God’s covenant can’t turn back this tide overnight.  It’s been a long time

coming into shore.  But in our homes and families, with our children and grandchildren, by the example

of our own lives committed to fidelity and patience in relationships, maybe we can influence a generation that will turn the tide. 

Human sexuality is a great gift of God for the reclaiming; not to be given as a commencement to a relationship, but to be saved

as a consummation of a relationship.  If the Song of Solomon teaches us anything, it is to not capriciously throw away one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

 

 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102