Summary: Christians must seize the ardor of love that is taught in the Word to fully appreciate the life God intends for those who are married.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised.”
“‘Til death do us part” hangs on as a quaint slogan with no real meaning that is used in modern wedding ceremonies. I have observed that many modern marriage ceremonies now include vows that declare the marriage will last “so long as love shall last.” Of course, this is quite different from vowing fidelity so long as “both shall live.”
Where did the faithful get the idea of commitment expected from husband and wife so long as they both shall live? How is it that the churches of our God stressed permanence in marriage so strongly? Didn’t believers in an earlier era take into consideration the possibilities of family pressure, new love interests or temptation intruding into the lives of married couples? Or why do Christian pastors fail to consider that people might fall out of love? Perhaps theologians from an earlier era were so focused on esoteric concepts that they were incapable of thinking realistically? Or, can it actually be possible that from earliest days believers accepted what is written in the Word as authoritative for life and practise?
The Song of Songs is a love poem. This poem presents in graphic detail the love of Solomon for a young woman, and it expressively, colourfully speaks of the love with which she reciprocates. There is passion—raw passion—in this poem. However, there is an aspect of love that is absent from much of modern love underlying all that is written in this brief book.
I suspect that women in this day are as romantic as they ever were. Every woman wants to be appreciated for who she is, loved for her own character and not only for what her lover can take. Men still want companionship—someone who will stand with them as they move throughout the stages of life. Both men and women today are inundated with the message that they must engage in an endless search for satisfaction; the reason the search is empty is that they are taught that personal gratification trumps selfless love that gives without thought of receiving.
I don’t know that I will convince the young that biblical lovemaking is truly gratifying; there is no way to know this until you have lived long enough to verify it as true. I suspect that having been raised in the confused and confusing atmosphere of the modern pursuit of personal gratification, it will be nearly impossible to believe that one can find fulfilment through giving without reservation. However, the precepts of the Word stand—commitment to one person and selfless giving to make her or him all that she or he should be still yields the richest rewards.
Before launching into the message proper, I believe it will prove beneficial to take the time to point out the different complexions of the word “love.” The Hebrew term speaks of affection between two human beings [e.g. GENESIS 22:2; EXODUS 21:8], as well as people loving God [e.g. DEUTERONOMY 6:5]. In a similar manner, God loves mankind, especially His chosen people Israel [e.g. DEUTERONOMY 4:37; ISAIAH 43:4]. As an aside of perhaps some significance, nowhere are children commanded to love their parents; children are to revere, honour and obey their parents. Husbands are to love their wives, and wives are to love their husbands [1 SAMUEL 1:5].
However, people may love things that are concrete or abstract. Isaac “loved” delicious food [GENESIS 27:4]. Others are said to love wine and oil [PROVERBS 21:27] and bribes [ISAIAH 1:23]. The Psalmist loved God’s commandments [PSALM 119:47], His law [PSALM 119:97], His testimonies [PSALM 119:119] and His precepts [PSALM 119:159]. At other times, men are said to love death [PROVERBS 8:36], vain words [PSALM 4:2], cursing [PSALM 109:17] or a false oath [ZECHARIAH 8:17]. At other times, men are said to love truth and peace [ZECHARIAH 8:19], salvation [PSALM 40:16] and wisdom [PROVERBS 29:3]. Thus, it should be evident that the concept conveyed by the Hebrew word is akin to what is conveyed in the most neutral sense by our English term “love.”
In contradistinction, the Greek words translated into English by our word “love” break down into three concepts. One word—not found in the Bible—refers to the act of love, the physical expression of love. Another word speaks of affection such as would be expressed between family members. However, the word usually associated with God’s love for mankind, and consequently the love that is urged on those who believe in the Son of God, is a selfless love that seeks to benefit the one loved. This selfless, sacrificial love is in view in our text.