Lessons From the Old Testament: Passionate Marriages

What is God’s standard for marriage?  What is it He desires to see as a reflection of His relationship to His people in the lives of married couples?  Surely He requires us to keep our vow of lifelong commitment, but is He satisfied if we tough it out in miserable perseverance, not feeling loved by or loving our spouse?  Not according to the Old Testament.

Proverbs 5:19 says, “A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”  Here Solomon is encouraging his son(s) not to resort to a relationship outside marriage.  The way of the adulterer is death (5:5).  But it is not enough to simply steel ourselves against the desires of our hearts for a more romantic, more exciting relationship than we consider our marriage to be.  Instead, we must put the passion (or better, keep it stoked) in our marriage.

The language Solomon uses here is the language of intoxication.  The idea behind being “captivated” by my spouse’s love is that I am rocking and  reeling and drunkenness over how special my spouse’s love is.  That is God’s standard for marriage!  But how do I get that, or keep that.  I know what it feels like because that is how I started my marriage.  But what keeps that intoxication going?  What must I keep drinking to get drunk on love?

The Song of Solomon gives us the answer.  My take on the message of this Song of Songs is that romantic love is wonderful, powerful and noble when harnessed to commitment, but all such relationships will have their problems.  That is the realism of God and the realism of marriage.  Even God’s marriage to us is marked with such realism.  But of interest to us immediately is how this couple manages to keep the fires going.

Intimacy!!!  They are drunk on intimacy! They feed on intimacy.  They primarily feed on emotional intimacy in the context of sexual intimacy.   How do they do this?  They talk to each other.

They talk to each other!  Did you get that?  And the way they talk to each other is most important.  They do at least three things in this regard:

They affirm each other over and over.   There might be some negative things to say to each other, but they focus on the things they like about each other.  Of course, they do it in terms that we would not use in our culture (“I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariot horses,” 1:9),  but you get the point.  This is their habit and their commitment.

They talk to each other when they make love.  I’m not trying to get too explicit here nor do I think that there is some prescription for how one has to talk before or during sex, but so much of our sexual interaction can feel selfish if we are not really focused on our partner.  Affirmation during love making puts sexual intimacy in the proper realm of emotional intimacy.  Now it is not just an expression of our yearnings, but of our love, as well.

They affirm the high value of their relationship.  After an argument, they affirm the value of their marriage (chapters 4&5).  In their recounting of the history of their relationship they affirm the value of their marriage and their love for each other (chapter 8). 

Place me like a seal over your heart,
   like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
   its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
   like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
   rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
   all the wealth of one’s house for love,
   it would be utterly scorned. (8:5-7)

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