Song of Solomon 4:8-5:1 – Sex and Grace

OVERVIEW

This passage opens with Solomon continuing in his pursuit of his Shulamite bride. Verse eight of chapter four is the first time in the book that Solomon calls the Shulamite “his bride,” which is the word kallah in Hebrew. This word is literally translated as “bride” or “young wife,” thus acknowledging the public status of their relationship. Solomon also calls his bride “sister.” Solomon is not suggesting that his wife is also his biological sister! He is
emphatically verbalizing the close affection they share for one another. They are as close as siblings in their relationship with one another. Their relationship goes beyond physical intimacy, as we have seen already. It is within this context of marriage that Solomon and his bride enjoy the beautiful gift of sexual intimacy. The consummation of their marriage is at the very center of the book, and this portion of Scripture is the climax of this story. There are exactly 111 lines from 1:2 to 4:15 and 111 lines from 5:2 to 8:14. Therefore, this event is the heart of the book and it communicates to us that God intended and designed sex, within the covenant of marriage, to be good and to glorify him! In enticing and exotic poetry, these verses paint the intimate sexual union of Solomon and his bride. The bride’s garden was once locked and her fountain was sealed as she was keeping herself pure for her groom (4:12). Her love had not been awakened yet (2:7, 3:5). However, the time for love has now been awakened and the time for consummation has come (4:16). The two have now joined and have become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This union results in abundant delight and pleasure (5:1). Sex was meant not only for procreation, but also for pleasure between a husband and wife.

GOD’S GOOD GIFT OF SEX

This passage may make some of use feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, many of us who grew up in the church have been taught that sex is bad and shouldn’t even be discussed in church. That’s not at all what the Bible says about sex. Song of Solomon certainly paints a different picture for us. Sex is to be enjoyed between husband and wife, and meant for our good and God’s glory. It is a good gift from our Creator meant to point us to Him. The world may consider sex a god, but God created it as a gift from Him and a pointer back to Him. As fallen humans, we have a perverse inclination to take good gifts and distort them. Sex was designed as a gracious gift to be enjoyed in the intimate union of marriage between a committed husband and wife. However, we have taken the good gift of sex and used it outside of the structure in which God intended for it to be used. A fire nestled in a cozy fireplace provides warmth and cheer on a cold, winter night. As you picture that scene in your mind, now imagine if the fireplace were removed. What would happen if the fire was not contained in a structure in the middle of your living room? When we divorce sex from marriage, we are abusing a gift that was never intended to be used in that manner, and we shouldn’t be surprised at the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Combine our fallen nature with the current state of our culture and it’s no surprise that sex has just become a means for temporary pleasure and fulfillment. When treated this way, sex involves no measure of commitment, no dying to ourselves, and no sacrificial love for the object of our affection. Ultimately, sex has just become another idol in our idol-producing hearts. We’ve diminished sex and have traded biblical love and intimacy found in marriage for a short period of gratification, which leaves us broken, seeking further fulfillment because sex didn’t deliver what it promised.

A SHADE OF GRACE

The intimacy we experience in sex with our spouse was designed to point us to a greater intimacy that we will experience when our Savior appears for His bride at the second coming. The passionate love we display (even in sex between a husband and wife) points us and others to the passionate love that Jesus has for His people, who have been purchased by His blood. In truth, we all have twisted God’s design of sex in some way, shape, or form. Even those who have not stepped out of the boundaries of physical intimacy outside of marriage have twisted God’s design in some way. We should all be reminded that Jesus’ standards for sexual sin are not physical limitations, but heart inclinations (Matthew 5:27-28). None of us are deserving of the love and mercy that God has displayed in His Son, Jesus. We have all fallen short of His holy standards, and rebelled against His good ways. The good news of the gospel is that the condemnation we deserve for all of our sins, sexual sins included, has been removed from us, who are in Christ and have placed our trust in Him. The punishment has been paid by Jesus, who traded places with us on the cross and bore the condemnation we deserved. When we confess our failures, He is faithful to forgive us because the guilt of our sin has been removed (1 John 1:9). He has united us to Himself, and empowered us with His Spirit to battle our sin and glorify Him in our lives and marriages. Jesus didn’t do all this because we were beautiful and unstained. He did this to make us beautiful. The gospel renews what sin has distorted!

STUDY QUESTIONS

LOVE – GOD LOVES US

God, the Creator of all things, created sex to be enjoyed and enjoyable by His creation. He created all things and pronounced them “good.” How is His care for His creation a part of the gospel message?

Sin is always the act of taking what is good and is meant to glorify God and selfishly turning it towards us. How does the gospel restore things as “good” (God’s original intent) in our lives?

DEVOTION – WE LOVE GOD

Often we see sexual immorality as a sin that begins in our body, but this is not what Jesus says in Matthew 15:19. What do our hearts have to do with sexual immorality?

How does using our sexuality within God’s boundaries glorify Him? What does it declare about God?

PASSION – WE LOVE OTHERS

Married: Do you use sex in ways that love and serve your spouse, or do you only use it for your own gratification? Do you withhold sex as a means of getting your way or punishing your spouse? How can you better love your spouse? How is honoring your spouse and serving them in love a picture of the gospel at work?

Single: What are some ways in which you turn God’s good gifts toward yourself instead of honoring Him with them? Is there a way you can use these gifts to serve and honor Christ?

LEGACY – LOVE LIVES ON

How does honoring God’s good design of sex within marriage help to build a lasting legacy that honors our Creator?

How would you communicate truth to others who see God’s design for sex as just a set of rules that ruins their enjoyment? How would our reading of Song of Solomon contribute to your message?