Often, I find that our goals in talking about sexuality in the church are way too small. And it reveals how we are letting the culture guide us, define the terms, and dictate the conversation. We have classes and curriculums about sexuality focusing on the sin of homosexuality, the distortion of transgenderism, and saying don’t have sex before marriage, abortion is wrong…
It is right to care about these issues, but we need to look at what is behind them. Why are they so weighty? Why are these the issues in our culture? Is what it means to be a man or woman image bearer of God reduced to these issues? We know this is not so.
We need to direct our eyes to Christ and his exclusive love for his bride. We need to give the church Christ, and all these things will fall in place. This is where I see the Song of Songs serving so well. Like the holy of holies, it takes us behind the curtain to experience the intimate presence of Christ. We need to begin with Christ’s spousal love for his bride. When we get that, when we know that, then we see our masculinity and femininity expressing this order of love and beckoning the beloved to Mount Zion.
The Song is profoundly Deuteronic. It is the enactment, the embodiment, of the greatest command given in Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” And in it we see why that is our ultimate longing, desire, and fulfilment—because he first loved us.
But before I get to that, let’s preview how this spousal love of God for his people is proclaimed throughout Scripture. It’s expressed in his covenant with us. We see it right in the beginning. God wants us to know this, so he reminds his people over and over. And they sometimes get it and say it back to God:
“I will confirm my covenant that is between me and you and your future offspring throughout their generations. It is a permanent covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you.” (Gen. 17:7)
“I will take you as my people, and I will be your God.” (Exod. 6:7a)
“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Lev. 26:12)
“You established your people Israel to be your own people forever, and you, Lord, have become their God” (2 Sam. 7:24)
“You will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:28)
“My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God and they will be my people.” (Ezek. 37:27)
When Paul addresses the issues of his day, he begins with this covenant love:
“And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.” (2 Cor. 6:16)
We see its consummation in Revelation:
“I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples and God himself will be with them and will be their God.” (Rev. 21:2-3)
And there it is—this covenant with his people is spousal. We see that throughout Scripture as well.
“I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
“Then I passed by you and saw you, and you were indeed at the age for love. So I spread the edge of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged myself to you, entered into a covenant with you–this is the declaration of the Lord GOD–and you became mine.” (Ezek. 16:8)
“For your husband is your Maker–the LORD of Hosts is His name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” (Isa. 54:5)
“For as a young man marries a young woman, so your sons will marry you; and as a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.” (Isa. 62:5)
Paul speaks of this spousal love in Ephesians 5:32: “Thus mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church,” revealing that marriage is a picture of this very love of Christ for his church!
And so Paul can also say,
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I promised you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (I Cor. 11:2)
The Song of Songs enfleshes this covenant love. The bride gets it. She gets what all of Scripture is about. And she can’t contain herself, bursting on the scene, saying, “Oh that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (SoS 1:2a). This line is spoken to us. She wants us to hear. She is evangelical. And throughout the Song, she sings of this spousal, covenantal love of God:
“My love is mine and I am his; he feeds among the lilies.” (SoS 2:16)
“I am my love’s and my love is mine, he feeds among the lilies.” (SoS 6:3)
“I am my love’s, and his desire is for me.” (SoS 7:10)
She, the bride/church, is the lilies. “Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among the young women” (SoS 2:2). This is not only desire redeemed. This is the eschatological end of desire. This is it! The real deal! The true orientation of desire that is from him, through him, and to him (Rom. 11:36).
This is what we must first know. God desires his bride. Get in on that and then we will have the orientation to talk about all these other issues of our day. This order of love is so important. And like I’ve previously written, it transforms the way we see ourselves and others. It transforms the way we view our masculinity and femininity. It transforms the way we think about our bodies. It transforms the way we think about life and sex.
We need to get behind the curtain and into the holy of holies. Like the bride in the Song, like Anna the prophetess, like the woman at the well, like Mary Magdalene, like the bride in Revelation, we receive and wear this love, calling others to it because we cannot contain an overflowing river.
Instead of responding to the so-called sexual revolution of the world and letting our culture set the categories of desire, the church needs to open her eyes to the true sexual revolution in God’s word.