Song of Solomon is a book that sometimes makes us uncomfortable. Throughout the history of the church, many have tried to allegorize it instead of letting it speak as it is: an intense description of love and sexuality between a groom and bride. While the book is explicit in its detail it stays away from becoming sinfully illicit as it presents sex as the beautiful gift God intended for enjoyment and intimacy between husband and wife.
Sometimes it is questioned whether or not the Bible speaks against sex outside of or before the commitment of marriage. If you’re looking for such a precise statement, you’d be hard pressed to find it; but the idea is clearly present in several ways. First, in the fact that over and over the Bible idealizes sex only within marriage; and, second, in places like the Song of Solomon where we read lines such as this:
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (2:7).
This is such an important aspect of the book that we find it repeated in 3:5 and 8:4. The context is clear. “Love” here is not the general love that we’re to have for all people. And it’s not even the puppy love that first develops between a new boyfriend and girlfriend. This is the love that combines steadfast commitment and intense passion physically, emotionally, and spiritually, which the most intimate of relationships provides.
The Bible never downplays the pull of a person’s sex drive. While only a small part of what Paul and the rest of scripture teaches about marriage and sex, there is a reason why Paul adjured the single and widowed: “If they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). This is also why when Paul told Timothy to flee temptation and pursue righteousness, the temptation he named was “youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22).
Deep love is captivating (Song of Solomon 4:9). The pull towards physical intimacy is great. But God intended a time for such (marriage) and a time to refrain from such (non-marriage). So one must be careful to guard their hearts and minds, to not awaken love until ready.
To follow is a list of several points taken from a message by John Piper about battling sexual temptation; these can help a person stay faithful to pursuing purity and to not awaken love until its ready…
- Recognize that sexuality is a good gift from God.
- Recognize that Biblical prohibitions are intended to protect something precious not deny something pleasant.
- Believe God is for you.
- Ponder the eternal danger of lust.
- Think often that God has given you even now many good things.
- Preach to yourself that there is more joy in God’s presence than in sin. Transpose desire.
- Realize that lust disables and weakens our capacity for higher spiritual joys with God.
- Don’t ask: What’s wrong with it? Ask: Does it maximize my experience of the power of Christ, my enjoyment of his fellowship, my perception of his beauty, my reflection of his glory?
- Cultivate a passionate devotion to the honor of God’s name.
- Develop a worldview that views absolutely everything in relation to God.
- (For singles) Recognize that sexual relations are not essential to full personhood and happiness.
- (For the married) Recognize that God designed marriage to be a living parable of his commitment to the church.
- Be vigilant over your eyes. Avoid unnecessary stimulation.
- Look on the opposite sex as eternal persons. Realize that lust inevitably depersonalizes and despiritualizes people.
- Think often that Christ suffered agony for your purity. Fight image with image. Christ crying in agony.
- Do not be excessively alone.
- Get in a group where you exhort one another every day against the deceitfulness of sin.
- Memorize many scriptures.
- Stockpile your thoughts with good things.
- Pray at all times in the Spirit for God’s deliverance.
(For more points and to see the verses to go along with them, check out: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/strategies-for-fighting-sexual-sin)
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.