The Dancing Puritan

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fruit from the Palm Tree: Intimacy in Marriage

Is the woman in The Song of Solomon the Virgin Mary and her navel the baptismal font?

Wrong views about sexual expression have led people to fanciful interpretations of biblical passages concerning marital intimacy.

Some have imagined that the woman in The Song of Solomon represents the Virgin Mary and that her navel in chapter seven portrays the baptismal font (or communion cup). That is a strange, unusual and totally unjustified interpretation.

More common is the view that the Song speaks of God's love for Israel or for the Church. Though ultimately marriage is about God and the gospel and is designed to display the love relationship between Christ and his people that is not the immediate message in the Song. That begin said, all of the Old Testament points to Christ and finds it's fulfillment in him (Luke 24:25-27; 44-47). Therefore, even as we read the Song as a love song between a man and a woman, we must look to Christ.

Why is there such a problem celebrating God's gift of intimate expression in marriage?

Historically some Christian leaders have struggled in this area. Some went as far as to encourage abstinence even in marriage.

Perhaps some have imagined that when God covered Adam and Eve in the garden that it was his design that they forever remain covered--even in marriage. It is true, as a result of their sin, intimacy changed. Gone were the days of unhindered bliss. Intimacy felt the impact of sin as both Adam and Eve (and their offspring) would struggle against self-centeredness (and other sins) in sexual expression. It was not long before polygamy and homosexuality was seen in the ancient world. Even the greatest of Israel's leaders (David) would fall to immorality.

However, though sex is now fraught with dangers as a result of sin, it is nevertheless a good gift from God. Though Adam and Eve were clothed--they would disrobe in the presence of one another.

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, 'I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD' (Genesis 4:1).
Dates on a Palm Tree

The Song of Solomon chapter seven finds the lady in full view of her husband. He examines her body from her feet to her hair and describes the palm tree in the most erotic of terms. The man speaks of the feet, thighs, navel, belly, breasts, neck, eyes, nose, head and hair of his beloved. He is entangled in her flowing locks (5). There is no doubt what he is talking about when he speaks of the palm tree and it's clusters.

There is also no doubt what the lady is referring to when she speaks of fields, villages, vineyards and then says, There I will give you my love.  She has old as well as new pleasures laid up for her beloved (13).

Only the most extravagant of interpretations lead to an understanding other than that of sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife.

Physical intimacy in marriage is a gift from God.  To deny the gift for an extended time is to sin and to enter the valley of danger.  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (I Corinthians 7:5).

Gifts are to be received with great delight.  The man in the Song of Solomon saw his wife as a daughter of delight. He delighted in her and she delighted in him.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, and a graceful doe.  Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love (Proverbs 5:18).

Marital love stands in need of redemption in order to be properly delighted in. One must first delight in Christ before they can rightly delight in their spouse. As always--look to Christ and the gospel.