************ Sermon on Song of Songs 1 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on August 27, 2000

Song of Songs 1
Deuteronomy 24:5
"Romance in Marriage"

God's order for marriage is that husbands are to love their wives and wives are to respect their husbands. Paul touches on this in his letter to Ephesus:
(Eph 5:33) However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

With this verse in mind, let me reduce what I am going to say to a useful over-simplification: men derive their self-esteem from being respected; women feel worthy when they are loved. God made us this way. This is probably the most important distinction between the two sexes.

This distinction helps to explain why men and women have such a different approach to marriage. A man is happy as long as his wife prepares his dinner each evening, is reasonably pleasant, and doesn't nag him during the football, baseball, and basketball season. The romantic element is nice but not necessary. Women, on the other hand, need and want and thrive on romance. Women want to be treated as the special sweethearts of their men, being respected and appreciated and loved with tenderness.

Yet, most men seem to be totally unaware of their wife's need for romantic affection.
One man listened carefully as his wife's frustration was explained to him. He promptly went out and bought some flowers for her and rang the front doorbell. When she opened the door, he extended his arm and said, "Here!" Having met his marital responsibilities, he pushed past her and turned on the television set. Needless to say, his wife was not exactly overwhelmed by the romance.
Another man said, "I just don't understand my wife. She has everything she could possibly want. She has a dishwasher, microwave, and a new dryer, and we live in a nice neighborhood. I help out with the kids and take my turn cooking. I've been faithful since the day we were married. But she's miserable and I can't figure out why!"
The reason she was miserable: an unromantic husband. She was willing to trade everything away for a night of romance, tenderness, and love from her husband.

I want every husband here to think back to your wedding day. Remember your promise? You promised to love your wife till death do you part. The kind of love that a woman needs and God's Word demands includes romance. You heard me right: God's Word requires husbands to romance their wives.

I God's Command to Husbands: Romance
A Many Christians are embarrassed that the Song of Songs is in the Bible. Let me tell you, the message of this book is not and cannot be understood and appreciated by secular men and women. The worldly person looks at the Song of Songs and reads a story found in a thousand soap operas: a story of unbridled sex and lust and passion. The worldly person befouls the romance of the Song of Songs, demeans the sex, and turns something beautiful into something dirty and sinful.

We as Christians cannot escape this world. We live in it, we work in it, we are touched by it in a thousand different ways. This world's secularism gives us problems in seeing and hearing and understanding the message of the Song of Songs. I'm afraid that's why many Christians also demean and befoul the message of the Song of Songs.

The message of the Song of Songs is a message of romance, of ideal human love and marriage. We are given a beautiful picture, a picture of faithful, passionate love. We are told about a pretty Shulammite virgin in love with a shepherd. She is brought to Solomon's court against her will in order to become another one of his many wives. Solomon declares his affection for her, he gives her royal promises, and the harem women urge her to join herself to the blood line of David. Through all of this the Shulammite maiden remains true to her betrothed lover, who is desperately searching for her. When King Solomon realizes she will not relent, he allows her to return home. The story ends with a romantic scene that movies are made of: the Shulammite and her lover are reunited, renewing their vows, pledging their love, and living together in joy and faithfulness.

What we have in front of us aren't words of unbridled sex, and lust, and passion. Rather, they are words of love and romance between two people who delight in each other, who are faithful to each other, who rejoice in each other.

B Our text from Deuteronomy 24 gives us a Biblical prescription for a happy and fulfilling marriage, a prescription that every husband would be very wise to follow.
(Deut 24:5) If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.
What luxury! Newlyweds were given one full year in which to adjust to married life, with no responsibilities or duties during that period. Compare that with the first year of marriage today, when the man and woman are both working, starting a career, going to school, buying their first home, beginning a family, and doing work in the church and kingdom too.

During this year the husband has one responsibility: "to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." Imagine that: for one whole year the husband's first and only responsibility is to be the happiness of his wife. And after that year, then what? Does the Bible say one year of romance and then it is over? Not at all. That first year of marriage is supposed to set the pattern for the rest of the marriage. During that first year the husband is supposed to develop the habits of a lifetime.

Our text makes it clear that the emotional well-being of a wife is the specific responsibility of her husband. It is his job to bring her "happiness." It is his job to romance her. It is his job to "cheer" her.

C Men, how do you live up to this? Do you romance your wife? Do you look after her emotional needs? Do you make her happy? I'm afraid that America is facing a crisis in the family because too many men renege on their God-given responsibilities. Men, you are called to care for your wives, to make them happy, to love and to cherish, to romance. Instead, too many men think only of their own needs, pleasures, and status. Is it any wonder that marital dissatisfaction is a problem among women today? Is it at all surprising that many women today complain of loneliness, isolation, and boredom?

So this message needs to be heard by the man who is a workaholic, the man who works 6 or 7 days a week, the man who comes home every night absolutely exhausted. This man doesn't have the time or energy to romance his wife or spend time with his children. This sort of man deserves the marital conflict and familial discord that is certainly coming.

This message also needs to be heard by the husband who spends all his non-working hours on his own pleasures: fishing, golfing, boating, sports, tv, books. Yes, everyone needs recreation, but when these activities come at the expense of a wife's emotional well-being and a child's need for attention, then they have gone too far.

This message also needs to be heard by those men who spend all their non-working time on church and kingdom activities and in politics. Yes, it is important work for the Lord you are doing in these areas. But your wife and children are more important.

Finally, this message also needs to be heard by those men who spend all their free time with friends and acquaintances. Everyone needs friends and it is important to be there for friends who need your help, but your wife and children still ought to come first.

But I don't want to blame all marital and family woes on the husband. For every complaint women have against men, there is a corresponding bellyache on the other end of the line. Women can be just as selfish and irresponsible as their men. With 700 wives and 300 concubines, King Solomon saw this more than once. Listen to what he says in Proverbs about one or two of his sweethearts:
(Prov 21:9) Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
(Prov 21:19) Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.
(Prov 27:15) A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day;
An old Arab proverb says 3 things makes a house unbearable: tak, nak, and bak. In the English: the leaking through of rain, a wife's nagging, and bugs. A wife who nags, quarrels, and complains is as bad as a husband who neglects, ignores, and forgets. A wife who lets herself go to pot, who looks like she spent the day in a tornado, is no inducement to romance. It should be obvious that neither the husband nor the wife has a monopoly on offensive behavior.

But for those who follow God's leading in marriage, it is clear that the husband bears the initial responsibility for correcting any problem that exists. It is his job to make his wife happy, to love his wife, to fulfill her emotional needs. Again I think of the words of Paul to Ephesus:
(Eph 5:28-29) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it ...
Hear that men? You are to love your wife. You are to cherish your wife. You are to romance your wife.

You are to do this "In this same way ..." We might ask, "In the same way as what?" In the same way as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (vs 25). Husbands are to give themselves totally, whole-heartedly, and sacrificially to their wives.

II How to Romance
A How do we go about having romance in marriage? Let me start off with some advice for young people and single adults: if you are considering marriage, don't marry someone you are not a little crazy about. You need to be a little "wild" about each other, especially at the beginning, and you should work at those feelings your whole marriage.

Dr. Joel Nederhood of the Back to God Hour tells about a story he heard once:
Topic: Marriage
Subtopic: Romance
Date: 8/2000.101
Title: A Little Lust

A young man asked his girlfriend's father for his approval to marry her. The nervous young man tried his best to convince the father that he wanted to marry the young woman because of all her fine qualities. He spoke of her kindness, her diligence, her intelligence, her compassion, and her spirituality. He emphasized that, after carefully analyzing all of her qualities, he had concluded that she would be just the person for him. Her father listened carefully, pleased that this young man wanted to marry his daughter. But then he said, "I hope you have a little lust for her too."

This father had a good point. He reminded the future groom that there is a physical side to marriage too. There should be a physical attraction between a husband and wife. If that is missing, marriage can be pretty dull. This means that the husband and wife have to do whatever they can to keep themselves attractive for their spouse. I realize our society overemphasizes appearance these days; even so, husbands and wives have an obligation to be as attractive as possible for one another.

This attractiveness applies to our habits too. We have to be careful about the habits we develop over the years; some of them may seem like nothing, yet they can be extremely irritating to our spouse. Talk about these matters together and try to eliminate those annoying little quirks.

B Second, work at your relationship with your spouse. Work on the romantic side of it. Men, make an effort to be tender, considerate, intimate. Spend time on your wives. Talk with your wives. Court them just like you did before you were married.

C Third, keep the marriage bed pure (Heb 13:4). I have to say this because today the TV and movies give the impression that very little warm affection occurs once people become married. The unspoken message of our culture is that people can find romance and excitement outside of marriage, not within it. Romance and excitement come from pre-marital and extra-marital relationships. But that is not the Bible's view of marriage. Marriage can be as fulfilling and beautiful as God intended it only if we keep ourselves pure for our spouse. "Sexually active teenagers" and promiscuous adults only end up diminishing their present or future marriage. Only those who are absolutely faithful to each other can experience the full joy of marriage.

D Fourth, have high expectations for your marriage. Or as Proverbs puts it, "rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18). It is possible to have joy and romance in marriage. Don't ever assume, just because so very many marriages are falling apart, that yours is doomed. Don't ever assume that just because everyone else seems to be giving up, you must too. Don't ever quit on your marriage. And never, never threaten divorce in a fight. Divorce is simply not a viable option for any of God's children. In other words, fight for your marriage.

E Fifth, use the language of romance. Did you notice, in our Scripture reading the man as well as the woman talks the language of romance:
(Song 1) (1) (The woman) Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for your love is more delightful than wine. (9) (The man) I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh. (10) Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. (15) (The man again) How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. (16) (The woman) How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.
This may not be the language of our romance; yet, men and women today still do and even must talk the language of romance.

Let me ask: when is the last time you romanced your spouse? I hope this is a daily occurrence in your home. When is the last time you complimented and praised your wife or husband? I hope this is a daily occurrence in your home. When is the last time you expressed your desire and affection for your marriage partner. I hope this too is a daily occurrence in your home.

When it comes to sex and romance, our society celebrates the young and the beautiful. Every magazine stand, every commercial, every movie portrays only well-curved young women and well-muscled young men. Yet, the Bible does not think of limiting this to the young. Again I think of the words of Proverbs, "rejoice in the wife of your youth" (5:18). An aged Solomon says this. When you are young and when you are old, "rejoice in the wife of your youth."

God's will, God's leading, in marriage is for the husband whether he has been married for 1, 15, 25, or 50 years to romance his wife, to rejoice in his wife, to look after the emotional needs of his wife, to make his wife happy. So I ask you, do you follow God's leading in marriage?
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