The Art of Wooing
The Song of Solomon 1:9-3:5
I remember Sarah! College girl, vividly in love, she smiled dreamy-eyed and floated through the first semester of her sophomore year. Life was all sunshine and roses. When I saw her six months later she wore a bitter face, her countenance etched with pain, dark circles under her eyes. She told me she had been hurt in a relationship that had run amok morally. Too physical. Used and abandoned. Hopes dashed.
Her love was as the country and western song has it, “What Started With A Smile Ended With A Tear Drop.”
It is sad, but that’s how many of us learn–through pain. With no teaching, no rules, no examples, no discussion we get into dating relationships and find our way through trial and error. And I do mean trial. And I do mean error.
It is as if there is a conspiracy of silence in the home and in our churches when it comes to discussing sexual issues. Yet God didn’t give us sex like a loaded gun to a 12 year old saying, “Here! Fiddle with this until you figure it out.”
In the next section of Solomnn’s song, we find a snapshot of the couple’s courtship. By asking simple questions of the narrative, we can get at the truth of the text.
First question is “when?” “When can I date?” “How old do I have to be to go on a date?”
Most of us fathers blanch at the thoughtLeave our little girl is being courted by some young Swain, we panicked, and mutter something about our girl being 30 years old before their first date. New paragraph. But according to the text, it is not a question of age, but a question of maturity. Solomon was mature, he had a good name, his character etched by the finger of God! (1: 3). End the shulamite maiden was a servant, busily making herself useful in the Family Vineyard.
Biblically, there are two maturities to look for in a child desiring to court. First, do you value your body as the Lord does? If I give you $100 and you waste it, you can always earn more. But how many physical bodies do you get? Just 1! And if you squander your physical health, give away your virginity cheaply, there is no place to go to earn a new one. That is, you are stuck with your body for the rest of your life. And since 1 in 5 Americans has an STD, the risk of contracting a serious incurable disease is very real.
The second maturity is the ability to stand alone. In 1:7, the woman tells Solomon that she is not like so many other females of her day who follow the desert shepherds around, offering sexual favors in hope of catching a husband. In short, she is not willing to do anything to get to man! She has standards.
I was standing in a supper line at church one night, and I enquired of a teen girl, “How are you and that handsome young man getting along?” She pinched her face up, and her eyes teared with emotion, and she softly spoke, “We broke up.”
“Oh,” I said, “I’m so sorry to hear it. Was it your idea or his?”
“Both,” she confided, “You see, he came to me and said how he loved me and now that we’d been going out for six months, he wanted to have sex. I told him that was reserved for marriage. And he said he’d break up with me if I didn’t give in. So I told him just to take me home. We were through.”
Now, that’s maturity.
The second question is “why?” “Why do we date?” The clue is given right at the start of the poem! “That he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! (1:1).
Yes, kissing! Who in the world ever thought that one up? Was it in 401 B.C., 4 p.m. on a rainy autumn day, in a cave, the man said to the woman, “I’m bored! TV hasn’t been invented yet. I know what to do. You turn your face this way, mine that way, and press our lips together and see what happens.”
Actually, it was God who invented kissing. In Genesis 2:7, God formed Adam of ground clay, put His lips on Adam’s, and blew the breath of life into him. And Adam became a living soul. His eyes blinked open, and the first thing he saw was God’s face lip to lip.
Did you realize you have more nerve endings in your lips than any other part of your anatomy? It is the most sensitive portion of your body.
And Genesis 2: 18, God makes the first negative statement in scripture. “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a helper fit to be before him.” In Hebrew it literally means a helper fit to be before him. The human sexual encounter, you see is the only one that is lip to lip, face to face, in the same position God was in with Adam when he was given life. So kissing is instinctive. It is a carryover from creation.
Now notice there in Genesis 2:18 following, that God said he’d make a helper fit to be before Adam. Yet before God made Eve, you made a huge succession of animals. I used to see this as a series of goofs on God’s part.
“Let’s see, Adam. You are alone. Not good! So I’ll fix it!” And God made a cat. Wrong! The giraffe. Worse. A moose.. Definitely not! A dog, better! And then finally got made a woman just right!
Then I had children of my own. My daughter, at age 12, came home from school, weeping. “I don’t have a single friend.” I comforted her telling her that I was her friend. “But you have to be, she cried. In the course of our talking, she told me she’d like to have a pet, preferably a cat. Up until now I told her I didn’t need an extra mouth to feed.
In discussing my child’s hurts and needs with other older parents, a wise grandmother told me, “By all means, allow your child to have a pet! It is often their first meaningful relationship outside of mom and dad.”
So we got a cat. Mr Kitty was his name. And such affection! Such loyalty! Such companionship. And my child learned so much about relating. It transferred to her brothers, to a friend at school, to boys, and eventually to a husband. What Genesis 2 is saying quite simply is that marriage is life’s most concentrated form of human relationship. And no one goes from singleness to wedlock in one giant step. It is rather, broken up into a process, a series of smaller steps. Loving God. Loving self. Loving various pets. We master the lesser relationships to get to the greater.
Notice in 2:14 how Solomon calls the young maiden a dove hiding in the cleft of the rocks, and he draws her out to himself. Their intimacy builds. And eventually they marry.
The word symphony is Greek; it literally means to sound together. Before that can happen, an orchestra must tune up. If you’ve ever watched that happen, you know that the violins tune first, then the violas, the woodwinds, and at last the brass section and the tuba. If the tuba were tuned first, since it is so loud and domineering , the softer finer instruments couldn’t hear to tune.
Likewise, the purpose of dating is to get symphonic, to tune up with another human, to draw out, to be drawn out, to break from parental apron strings, to have fun, to explore relationships, to discover likes and dislikes, to become self-aware, to seek out compatibility levels,. But if the physical (like the tuba) begins to sound too loudly in the relationship, the other parts will go unheard.
A college girl confessed, “You know you’re exactly right. My boyfriend and I used sex as a substitute for really getting to know one another. And in the end I knew nothing of his spiritual life, nothing of his vocational dreams, just an uneasy passionate familiarity with his body.”
If you read through the Song of Songs first three chapters, you’ll find the couple never lays a hand on one another–the tuba does not sound! Instead, they tune up with talks, long walks, meals, and endless flirting compliments. In 2:7 the advice is given, “Awaken not love until it please.” Keep physical passion in check and use the courtship as a means to learn the other person’s mind, spirit, will, emotions, family, dreams, etc! But wait on the physical.
A third question is, “Where?” “Where is the best place to date?”
In 1:7 the couple says, “Our couch is green, the beams of our house are cedar, our rafters are pine.” Clearly they are indoors, enjoying a walk in the forest, a picnic on the ground.
In 2:4 the woman exudes “He brought me to his banqueting house.” See in this a family meal? The best forum for courting is on walks, talking, and cafes, at picnics, on porches. A young couple asked me to pray for them. “We are getting too physical,” they confessed. When I inquired where they went on dates, he said “We are so broke I just rent a movie and we watch it in my apartment.” It turns out the TV was in his bedroom. They lay down on the bed side by side to enjoy a movie, and very soon lost interest in anything but one another. Romans 13:14 says, “Make no provision for the flesh.” Keep the tuba until last. “Awaken not love until it please.” It’s been my experience that premarital sex will do one of two things. It will either ruin a perfectly good relationship or prolong a bad one. To keep out of tempting places-– hotels, you’re own bedroom when Mom’s away, dorm rooms, etc. Keep the atmosphere of your dates public, family, and devoid of sexual pleasure.
Whom should I date? Quotation marks Did you hear about the lonely girl’s favorite Bible verse? Let him who would come after me come….actually were called to be a little more selective than that. 2nd Corinthians 6:14 warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. The idea is to team up with someone you’re compatible with in the vital areas of life – – spiritual, emotional, willful, intellectual, vocational, values, Etc. And the love poem the woman I dated Solomon, a man who was older mature and wise. Meanwhile, Solomon went out with a shulamite made in the dash – younger, single, learning to serve her family. You see how this date was between a man and a woman? He was not squaring another man’s wife. She was not courting a pagan! All this is very basic, but it must be said today. Scripture plainly teaches God made sex for for purposes. 1. Companionship. Quotation marks it is not good man should live alone. I will make a helper fit to be before him. Quotation marks Genesis to 18. 2. Procreation. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. Quotation marks Genesis 1:28. 3. Joy. The Song of Solomon as a nuptial poem clearly expresses the joys of marital intimacy. And 4. To be a little picture of the big picture. If he’s in 5 calls Jesus the groom, his church the bride. And an Earthly marriage is we see a glimmer of what God’s covenant relationship with us for all eternity is to be. The word sin in the original biblical Greek is an archery term. It means to miss the mark. Example: of all God intends for sex to be, how does homosexuality Stand start up? Let’s not just pick on that. Divorce fall short. Bigger me fall short. Adultery fall short, and so does premarital sex. So, who do we date? A godly person.
Now, the fifth question: “What do we do on a date?” The nuptial poem reveals four healthy activities.
First, the couple spend time together. They sat together (2:3), dine ( 2:4), give special gifts (1:11), and picnicked (1:17.)
Second, the twosome cultivated each other. When Solomon first looked her way, the maiden protested “Don’t look at me. I’m not presentable!” (1:6). But Solomon goes to work wooing her with compliments. In 1:9 he speaks, “I compare you to a mare of Pharaoh’s chariots.” That’s like telling your date she’s prettier than a jersey heifer in a clover patch! But it will help you to know that horses were in short supply in Israel, and to a warrior a prancing steed pulling a battle chariot was a splendid sight! So she undoubtedly took it as a compliment, for in 2:11 her self-esteem has matured. She breathes, “I am a rose!”
See how the goal of romance is to build one another up? The purpose is to date one another so that when and if you break up you do not leave the other an emotional cripple. Instead, you leave them better than you found them.
Three: the couple spends time desiring each other. Just look at chapter 2: 5-6! “… For I am sick with love. O that his left hand were under my head and his right hand embraced me!” It’s clear there is a magnetism between them. There is serious attraction and bonding!
For: the couple practices restraint. “ I want you!” she breathes to him. And he answers, “And I want you. It is so right! But not yet!” The man, clearly the initiator in the courtship, takes charge and restrains himself. “Awaken not love until it please.” This urging is repeated again and again! (2:7, 3:5, 8:4) Three times!
If you read 3:1, you’ll discover is William Shakespeare wrote, “The course of love never doth run smooth.” For into every romance a little heartache must fall. Let me say that there is no other issue with which an adolescent must deal that is harder than having a romance end. Inevitably, as a young couple tunes up, they come to a section of instruments (values, likes, dislikes) that just won’t sound together in tune. They try again and again, but there’s no progress. Some couples fall into going steady but being stuck. God has clearly shown you the relationship is going nowhere. It’s time to be thankful for what is, realize what can’t be, and move on. But splitting up is so traumatic! What if I hurt him or her? What if no one else comes into my life? So we remain in a stuck courtship so out of tune, and eventually we end up in more hurt. When you must end a romance, here are five vital points to remember.
1. Cry. It’s okay. It lets the hurt out. Jesus rode into Jerusalem, saw the city spread out below Him, knew Israel was his bride but had rejected Him, and he wiped the tears of a lover. “O Jerusalem! How often I would have gathered you to myself… but, you would not.” Luke 19:41.
2. Make a clean break. Put away the photographs, the rings, the mementos, don’t torture yourself by leaving painful reminders about.
3. Admit your break up to friends. Say it loudly, publicly, and decisively. “We broke up. We’re not going out anymore.” That lets others know you’re available again.
4. Know the terrific explosive power of a new love. Nothing helps you get over an old love like a new one.
5. Put your faith in God. Psalm 84:11 promises, “No good thing does the Lord withhold from him who walks uprightly.” If the good Lord removes a romance from your life, it is to make room for someone better. Here in the South we have a saying “Good, better, best! Never let it rest, until the good is the better, and the batter is the best!”
With the wisdom of hindsight, I can see how God brought good women into my life for a season, and then removed them to make room for the better and the best. A succession of honorable relationships came my way–each unique, teaching me so much, and then ending to make room for the next. When I met my wife, Kathryn, I had just ended a two year courtship with a woman who did not feel called to be a minister’s wife. I agonized over the loss, trusted Christ, and moved on. Then Kathryn and I fell in love and agreed to marry.
An ad in the local classified section of the newspaper reads, “For sale, diamond engagement ring. Worth $1,695! She wasn’t worth 2 cents. Call Chester.” God’s word from the Song of Songs is a challenge to each of us to be worth courting. It is a challenge to court and so help another grow. To practice friendships, good times, kindness, and manners. It is a challenge to learn to be a lady, to be a gentleman. Do not awaken love until it please. To so romance that when and if we break up we do not leave our mate an emotional cripple, less their virginity, and with our fingerprints all over their soul. It is a challenge to enjoy the good and the better until we can find the best.
God help us to court one another.