************ Sermon on Song of Songs 8:6-7 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on February 8, 1998

Song of Songs 8:6-7
"Keep the Flame Burning"

I have officiated at 57 weddings. Never once has the bride been dragged kicking and screaming down the aisle. Not once has the groom spoken his vows with the bride's father holding a gun to his head. On every occasion, without exception, the event was entirely voluntary. The man and the woman really wanted to enter into a marriage relationship. The man and the woman, using the words of our text, want to say to each other:
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm ...

In the Ancient World a seal was used much like a signature on a document today. Seals were used to make letters and commands official. They were used to close business deals and treaties. They represented power and authority. So, for example, when Pharaoh's ring was given to Joseph (Gen. 41:42) and when Ahasuerus' ring was given to Haman and then to Mordecai after Haman was hanged (Est 3:10,12; 8:2), these men were given the authority of the king. Needless to say, seals were important and valuable. To keep them safe they were either worn on a chain around the neck or as a ring on the finger.

When a bride and groom say to one another the words of the lover and the beloved of the Song of Songs they are asking to be treated and guarded as a precious seal:
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm ...
They want to lie always upon the other's heart and to be always at the other's side. They want to be united and bound to each other.

There is a reason for these romantic words. The reason is love. But not just any love. The reason is marital love.

I Marital Love
A In four statements our text describes marital love as the strongest, most unyielding and invincible force in human experience. Marital love is a strong love, an enduring love, a never ending love.

What is marital love like? First, marital "love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave." This comparison may surprise you comparing marital love to death and the grave. But think about it: death is the end of every man; no one can escape it; to it everyone must finally yield. Marital love is like this in that it also seizes upon men and women with irresistible force. Marital love, as it were, kills the person it afflicts in regards to everything and anyone else.
Topic: Marriage
Index: 1620-1621
Date: 2/1998.101
Title: Meadow Larks and Rainbows

A story is told of a farm girl who spoke of sparrows that sang like meadow larks and of rainbows that formed in the soap bubbles when the dishwater was thrown on the road. Then in bated breath she gave the reason for such fantasy: "My lover kissed my eyes last night."
Marital love means that the one you love has in love chosen you above all others on the earth.
I take you from among all others
to love and cherish above all others ...

B What is marital love like? Second, marital love "burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame." Think of a red-hot fire. It consumes everything in its flames. Marital love is like that. The lover and the beloved are inflamed by each other. There is a spark between them. Lightning flashes when they come together. Today, books, movies, and soap operas depict sex not marital love as a fire that engulfs two people. But God's will is that this flame of desire be within the context of marital love.

C What is marital love like? Third, "many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away." Floods can cause a horrifying amount of damage. Tidal waves strike fear into the hearts of those who live along costal regions in Asia. Buildings, cars, and people are tossed around like so many match sticks. When there is a flood or a tidal wave a mighty fire can be extinguished just like that. But the fires of marital love cannot be quenched. No circumstances, no matter how bad they may be, can snuff out the flame of marital love.

D What is marital love like? Fourth, "If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned." Marital love cannot be bought or sold. A couple of years ago a movie hit the theaters about a newlywed woman who agreed to go to bed with a stranger for a million bucks. True love, marital love, cannot be bought like this. In fact, it is not up for sale. There is no price that can be placed upon it.

Marital love is love that lasts. Or, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 13, it is love that "never fails."

II Keep the Flame Burning
A I hope that every married couple has this love, this strong marital love that the Song of Songs sings about and rejoices in. However, with Valentine's Day approaching, what I want to explore with you is how to keep the flame of that love burning, and burning brightly.

It starts off with the Lord Jesus. This is nothing new to anyone here or it shouldn't be. We can love each other as husbands and wives with a strong, unending, enduring marital love only when we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. To keep the flame burning Jesus needs to be the Head and Center of our home, the Lord of our marriage, the Cornerstone upon which our house rests. Only in union with Jesus can we, as Christian couples, keep the flame burning.

B How do you keep the flame burning? I have a word for you. It is an old-fashioned word. It is word that the world smiles about. It is a word that our secular neighbors don't use and don't care to hear. The word is commitment.
Topic: Marriage
Index: 1620-1621
Date: 2/1998.101
Title: Commitment

There is a custom in an area of the Netherlands where a newlywed couple enter their house through a special door. The door is never used again until one dies and the body is carried out through that same door. God designed marriage like that house. It has one door that is locked tightly. That lock, which keeps the marriage bond secure, is loving commitment for life.
Those with the marital love that the Song of Songs talks about make a commitment to each other. They view marriage as a promise that is made to be kept. They realize that God keeps His promises to us, and likewise He expects us to keep our promises to each other.

Commitment. This means that Christian couples give no thought to ending the marriage. Commitment. This means they keep the marriage bed pure (Heb 13:4). Commitment. This means they love each other as the marriage vows put it for richer and poorer, in health and in sickness, in joy and in sorrow, as long as they both shall live.

Our world thinks we are foolish to have commitment. Our world thinks we are just plain silly to keep our word. Can you imagine a couple saying to each other that no matter what, they will love, honor, cherish, trust, and protect? The world says this but adds the little word "until." The man and woman of the world says, "I will love, honor, cherish, and protect until I find someone better, until I get sick and tired of you, until I am no longer happy."

To keep the flame burning, we need commitment.

C How do you keep the flame burning? Together with commitment you need to 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 fulfilment in marriage. Don't ever assume, just because so 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. In other words, live under the assumption that the wife of your youth will also be the wife of your middle age and the wife of your old age as well. Assume that you will be happy together. Have high expectations for your marriage if you want to keep the flame burning.

D How do you keep the flame burning? To keep the flame burning husbands and wives need to rediscover romance and the language of romance. Listen, for a moment, to some of the words of chapter 1:
(The woman) (2) Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for your love is more delightful than wine.

(The man) (9) 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) How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.

(The woman) (16) How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming!
This may not be the language of our romance; yet, men and women today still do and even must talk the language of romance if they want to keep the flame burning.

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.

A survey was recently done on what wives want to hear from their husbands. The following list may seem obvious, but men don't say the obvious often enough:
Topic: Marriage
Index: 1620-1621
Date: 8/1990.5

"Put on your best dress. I'm taking you out for the evening."
"Let's take a walk together. Just the two of us."
"You are always so thoughtful (sensitive, caring)."
"I love your eyes (legs, ears)."
"You're the best wife a man could hope for. If I had to do it over again I would marry you."
"When I think about you I get a warm feeling all over."
"I'm going to town. Is there anything I can get you?"
"It's just a little something I bought to say 'I love you.'"

I can hear it already: the protests of some of the men sitting in front of me this evening, men who think this is totally unnecessary and dismiss romance as an Emily Post kind of thing to do. Hold it, men! You're not getting off that easy. 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.

Men, 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 low self-esteem 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 or in community activities. 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 Valentines:
(Proverbs 21:9) Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

(Proverbs 21:19) Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.

(Proverbs 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 night 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.

Helmut Thielicke, in his book How the World Began, made this observation:
Topic: Marriage
Index: 1620-1621
Date: 2/1998.101

I once knew a very old married couple who radiated a tremendous happiness. The wife especially, who was almost unable to move because of old age and illness and in whose kind old face the joys and sufferings of many years had etched a hundred lines, was filled with such a gratitude for life that I was touched to the heart. Involuntarily, I asked myself what could possibly be the source of this kindly person's radiance. In every other respect they were common people, and their room indicated only the most modest comfort. But suddenly I knew where it all came from, for I saw those two speaking to each other, and their eyes hanging upon each other. All at once it became clear to me that this woman was dearly loved.
It was not because she was a cheerful and pleasant person that she was loved by her husband all those years. It was the other way around. Because she was so loved she became the person I saw before me.

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).

The point is this: it is possible for any couple young or old to keep the flame burning. It starts with the Lord Jesus. It requires commitment. It calls for high expectations. And, it involves romance.

Why don't you make this your Valentine's Day present to each other?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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