Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Song of Solomon, Day 20

Episode Resources

Get more from this study. Meditate through the "Making It Personal" questions located at the bottom of the transcript.

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth knows that so many people are focused on what they can get from a relationship. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When we focus on how we can be givers of pleasure to others, that’s when we find the greatest joy and pleasure, when we realize it’s not about me. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Friday, March 18, 2016. 

Nancy: Over the past thirty years of ministry, I've had the joy of teaching verse by verse the Song of Solomon many times, including here on Revive Our Hearts. I’ve always found it to be a rich study. As a single woman, God has used this book to call me into a more intimate love relationship with Christ.

Well, after getting married to Robert last year, I found the time I’d spent in the Song of Solomon over these years was even more meaningful. Now, partly because of my parents’ influence, I hadn’t filled my mind with the world’s view of romance, love, sex, marriage—those movies, books, or music that supposedly tell us what love is all about. But I'm so thankful that over the years I had immersed myself in this book about a human king and his bride that points us to Christ and the Church.

No matter what season of life you’re in—whether you are single or married, I know this book has rich insights to share about how much your king loves you. Let’s continue in this series, “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.

Nancy: Well, throughout this study, we have been focusing on how the Song of Solomon reveals the amazing love of Christ for His Bride, His Bride the Church, individual believers who are part of His Bride, and this is the primary message of Scripture. It’s something that has been in the heart of God from the foundation of the world, God’s redeeming love for sinners, pursuing them, making them a Bride for His Son. That’s the heart of the gospel, how God has done that. 

Human marriage is intended to point to that relationship between Christ and His Bride. It’s not that God made marriage and then said, “Oh, what could that illustrate? Oh, it illustrates the gospel.” No! God came up with the gospel, and then He designed marriage to be a picture of the gospel.

So I want to pause for two days in our study to consider a little more carefully what Song of Solomon has to say about human marriage.

Now, one might ask: Why would a single woman be interested in insights on marriage from the Song of Solomon? Somebody was just saying to me that they had a friend who didn’t want to come to this session today because they said, “I’m single. That book is not for me.”

Well, if you’ve been listening to this series, I hope you’ve come to understand that this book is for all of us, married or single.

I just had a widow, her name is also Nancy, who’s sitting on the front row here, and she was saying to me . . . You’ve been widowed how long, Nancy? Two-and-a-half years. She was just saying how precious this book has become to her as a widow as she’s realized that Christ is her Bridegroom.

So, whatever season of life we’re in, this book has a message for us. But I think it also has a message for human marriage, and, again, the question is: Why would I, as a single woman, care about that, or why would I dare to do two sessions on what the Song of Solomon has to say about marriage?

Let me just give you a couple reasons I’m doing this: First of all, I, like you, am part of the body of Christ. We all have a responsibility to do everything we can to encourage, to strengthen, and to protect the marriages of other believers. Whether you are currently married or not, we’re all in this together. This is part of our responsibility.

And we have an enemy, as you know, who deceives. He’s out to destroy. He targets Christian marriages, and this goes back to Genesis, to the Garden of Eden, where he set out to separate the wife and the husband by means of deception.

God has a plan for marriage, and we’ve seen that plan lifted up in the Song of Solomon, among other places in Scripture. The enemy does everything he can to steal that plan, to destroy it, to defile it. When he destroys marriages, he’s really assaulting God Himself and the redemptive story. That’s why we all have to care about marriages reflecting what they were intended to reflect—the gospel story.

Sadly, I’ve heard younger people say from time to time, “I don’t know any marriage that I would want to emulate.” Maybe you’ve heard that, too. I want to tell you that every time a Christian marriage fails, and when non-believers see so-called “Christian” marriages floundering or in conflict or just existing, this cold, lifeless, joyless sort of marriage that so many people experience; every time that happens, it distorts the picture that God designed to reflect the amazing love of Christ.

We need marriages today in our churches that tell the gospel, the redemptive story in a compelling way. Now, no marriage tells it perfectly, but every Christian marriage needs to want to tell that story well. And that’s a moving target. It’s not something that happens overnight, but it’s really, really important. That’s why I want to take this program and the next one to just focus in a bit more on what the Song of Solomon has to say about human marriage.

Now, we’ve seen throughout the study the supremacy of genuine love. This is the Song of Songs, the ultimate theme in Scripture. We’ve seen the transforming power of genuine love. We’ve seen that God loves us with this amazing, gracious, unmerited love, and that love transforms us and flows through us so that the lives of others around us can be transformed by His love.

The perfect love that Christ has for His Bride, the Church, and the response of reverence and love and submission that She is to have toward Her Bridegroom, Christ, all of that provides the divine pattern for a relationship between a husband and wife.

Now, this is going to be a little, I don’t know if random is the word I want . . . I want to just hit on several things that I see in the Song of Solomon that I think have application to marriage.

First of all, there’s this whole area of motivation for love. Why do we love? Our love for Christ can be based on different motivations, and the same is true of love in marriage, a wife’s love for her husband, or a husband’s love for his wife. I see three basic motivations, and some are better than others.

The first is the motivation of duty. “I love him because it’s the right thing to do.” That’s an "ought" motivation.

We’re commanded to love God with all our hearts. Right? So if we had no other reason to love Him, that would be enough because He says we’re supposed to. Well, the same is true in marriage. There are times when you don’t feel any other motivation to love your mate than the fact that you know you’re supposed to. And if that’s the only motivation you have, then love your mate out of duty.

Some people say you shouldn’t love out of duty; that’s a bad motivation. I’m saying, if that’s the only motivation you have, then it’s enough to love because we’re commanded to. But don’t settle for that motivation in your relationship with the Lord or with your mate. Ask God to give you a love that is based on higher motivations—a love for Him and a love for your mate that’s based not just on duty.

Here’s another motivation, and that’s the motive of delight. That’s, “I love him because when I do, I’m blessed.” In the early stages of the Song of Solomon love relationship, love story we’ve been studying here, the bride loves her groom because when she does, he delights her. He makes her happy. He rescued her from that family vineyard where she’d been working, and she was so worn out. Then he took her to the palace to live with him. I mean, what kind of delight she experiences in his presence.

God delights in delighting us. I’ve been memorizing Psalm 16 and meditating on that this week. “You will show me the path of life. In Your presence there is fullness of joy, and at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” God wants to delight His children. And the fact is that obedience, when you do things God’s way, it does bring blessing; it does bring joy. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I want to suggest that there’s an even higher motivation in our relationship with the Lord and in human marriage, and that’s an evidence of a more mature love relationship. It’s the motivation, not just of duty, not just of delight, but of devotion. “I love him, not for what I get out of the relationship, not for any benefits I receive, but simply because I desire to bring pleasure to him.”

That’s the ultimate motivation—totally giving of yourself to meet the needs of your mate, without expecting anything in return. I want to suggest that if both partners have that kind of love, there’s no way the marriage will break up. Now, you can’t make your partner have that kind of love, but you can pursue that kind of love for Christ and for your partner.

The Song of Solomon illustrates a lot of ingredients that contribute to greater intimacy or oneness in marriage. I want to highlight several of those today and then a few more tomorrow—not in any particular order. And don’t try and jot all this down. It will be on the website. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com, and you can get these points in a more orderly fashion perhaps.

But number one is this principal that intimacy is not spontaneous. It requires a processWhat’s the goal of that process? The goal in your marriage, the goal in your relationship with the Lord is complete onenessbody, soul, and spirit.

Now, there’s a sense in which, legally and factually, you have that oneness when you say “I do” at the altar. Legally, factually, you are one, but you know that you have to grow in experiencing and living out that oneness. Right? You have to make it work, the oneness work, because you come from two different background, two different ways of doing things—his mother’s cooking, your mother’s cooking—I mean, there’s just so many differences you bring to marriage. In fact, the differences are what attracted you, so you don’t just naturally, all of a sudden, walk away from the altar and you’re all one.

Now, positionally you are, but in reality, in life experience, you have to work that out. That’s a process. You’re always discovering new things about each other. Even after you’ve been married eons, you keep learning new things about each other. The process of developing intimacy, it can’t be static. You’ve got to keep your marriage fresh, always growing, always developing.

And this process is one in which both of you become less preoccupied with yourself and more committed to the good of your mate; less self-consumed, more consumed with what will bring blessing and benefit to the other one. As you engage in that process, the greater the intimacy, the greater the communion, the greater will be the joy and the delight for both partners. Joy flows out of intimacy.

So we’re talking in marriage about pursuing oneness, pursuing intimacy, and realizing that that requires a process.

Number two: Intimacy does not just happen, even over a long period of time. You can be married fifty years and still not have intimacy. It takes intentionality to pursue intimacy. Building a healthy marriage takes constant effort and attention. You never arrive, and you can never afford to stop working at cultivating intimacy. You can never afford to drift.

If you’re not growing in oneness and intimacy, your relationship is going to decline. Am I right? If you don’t keep protecting it, keeping intentional about it—it’s true in our relationship with the Lord, and it’s true in a marriage relationship.

My friends who have the best marriages are always working at it. They are sometimes failing but always going back, humbling themselves, starting again, pressing into it, and having that constant vigilance. They are dealing with the little foxes we talked about, those breaches—not just wiping them under the carpet, but dealing with them, rooting them out, those issues that threaten the oneness.

Here’s another ingredient I see, and that is humility. You see it throughout the Song of Solomon. This bride sees herself as being unworthy and undeserving of his love. So when he expresses his love to her, she doesn’t say, “It’s about time you talked to me this way.” She sees his love as an undeserved privilege for which she’s deeply grateful.

We have such a rights-crazed generation with such an emphasis on self-worth and high expectations people go into marriage with about how we ought to be treated. And so when those expectations aren’t met, which, again, anybody who’s been married longer than, what, three or four hours or something, knows the expectations are not going to be met. When they aren’t, what do you do? You set yourself up for hurt, for disappointment, for conflict.

So freedom comes in humbly releasing those expectations and realizing, “I’m not in this relationship for what I can get out of it, ultimately.” Freedom comes in remembering, too, that we are sinners—both partners, he is, she is. They’re both sinners in need of grace.

When you realize that you can receive gifts of love, of companionship, of friendship from your mate with a grateful spirit rather than a demanding spirit . . . When you have a humble heart, when you don’t get all that you had hoped to get out of the marriage or the day or the twenty-fifth anniversary . . . I have more friends whose twenty-fifth anniversary date was a flop. I don’t know what it was. They all had those high expectations. It’s the women who consider it the flop. Right?

They thought it was going to be like this, and it was going to be like this, and then it didn’t go like this. I have several friend who had their twenty-fifth anniversary the same year. I was hearing these stories from them of how awful it was because they had expectations. Instead of having humble hearts, they got hurt. So humility keeps you from . . . It doesn’t mean you don’t get hurt, but it enables you to deal with the hurt in a way that’s appropriate.

Number four: Responsiveness. Throughout the Song of Solomon we see a bride who is responsive to the initiative of her husband. We saw early in the book, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his lips.” It’s a responsive bride who desires to meet his needs. And in chapter 5 when she’s slow to respond to his initiative, what’s the result? There’s a breach in the intimacy. Right?

Now, physiologically, it’s obvious that God designed men to be initiators, women to be responders. She cultivates intimacy in the relationship by being willing to respond to his needs, by being willing to respond to his initiative. Sometimes his need is that you do take initiative. So sometimes that's what it means to be responsive even in the physical realm. We’ll talk more about that in the next session.

Here’s another ingredient of intimacy that I see in the Song of Solomon, and that’s reverence.

This bride reverences her husband. She acknowledges him as her king. He’s a king, and she realizes that, and she reverences that.

Now, Christ is the King of the universe. Right? And the Church is to reverence Him and be submissive to His reign and His rule. That cosmic reality is pictured in a wife’s reverence and submission to her husband. This is not just about you and your husband. This is about something much bigger than you and your husband. You’re trying to picture the Church’s reverence for Christ.

Now, that doesn’t mean, and you’ve heard me say this before—we have whole series on expanding some of this more—it doesn’t mean the husband is superior. It doesn’t mean he’s more spiritual. It doesn’t mean he can lord it over his wife. It doesn’t mean that the wife doesn’t have opinions or that she never shares those opinions. Scripture teaches that husband and wife are heirs together in the grace of life.

But it does mean there’s a recognition that God has established an order in the marriage—equality of value but diversity of functions and roles. And as a wife, you can reveal to our world what it is like to reverence and submit to the headship of Jesus Christ, to come under His authority and rule, and to show the blessing and the freedom and the joy that come from living in that arrangement.

Here’s another principle, and that is mutual ownership. The bride says in chapter 6, verse 3: "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." First Corinthians 7 makes a similar point this way. It says, "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (v. 4).

Mutual ownership—what they’re saying, and what this bride is saying when she says, “I’m my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” is, “Our lives are not our own. We belong to each other.” That means we can’t operate independently. Each mate wants to know what will honor and bless the other, what will bring their mate joy. Each mate wants to care for the needs of the other as you would want your own needs to be cared for. They are always asking, “What will meet the other’s needs?” That flows out of this concept of mutual ownership. “I am my beloved’s, my beloved is mine.”

Here’s another one: Selflessness, other-centeredness. This is a key to cultivating intimacy. This bride’s greatest motivation is that everyone would do what pleases her beloved. She wants to know what brings him pleasure. She wants to provide satisfaction for him. She notices what delights him and wants to fulfill that.

And the thing is, when we focus in any area of life on how we can be receivers of pleasure, we end up miserable. But when we focus on how we can be givers of pleasure to others, that’s when we find the greatest joy and pleasure, when we realize that it’s not about me.

We think of that verse in Philippians chapter 2 where the Scripture says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but [and here’s the alternative to that] in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vv. 3–4).

That would be a great verse to put at the center of a marriage, wouldn’t it? And to ask yourself this question: Do I count my mate as more significant than myself?

Now, there’s a fear in our world’s thinking today that if you do, then you’re just going to get obliterated, you’re going to be a nothing. Who’s going to pay attention to you? Who’s going to take an interest in you? If you don’t look out for number one, who will?

But in God’s topsy-turvy, divine math, it works just the opposite. As we set ourselves, in any realm of life, to please Him, to serve others, to put ourselves last—“Jesus and others and you, that’s the way to spell J-O-Y.” We used to sing that when we were kids—it works in marriage. As you count the other more significant, as you look out to their interests, you find God meeting your needs.

It doesn’t make it always easy. I don’t want by the fact that I’m saying these things to make it sound simple. But I think these principles, these ingredients will give you mooring for your marriage and some marks to say, “Okay, if we don’t have intimacy, if we’re living in a battleground in our marriage, are there some of these ingredients of intimacy that maybe are missing, that need to be restored?”

Don’t get overwhelmed with it. We’re going to take one or two more days on this. I’m just throwing out a list, but ask God to show you one thing, maybe, that He wants to target in your marriage, in your relationship with your mate.

And, O Lord, how I pray that coming out of this series, that You would do a work of grace in many, many marriages. And, Lord, I just thank You that You’re a redeeming God who is making all things new, and You can do that in any marriage.

Lord, I pray that You’d heal and restore, and You’d give a new spirit of humility and oneness, and that people would not weary in the process and would not throw in the towel, but would be willing to stay engaged, to be intentional in crying out to You to do what only You can do in making these marriages reflect the incredible love that Christ has for His Church.

And all of this we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: In all of life, true fulfillment comes not from asking, “What can I get?” but “What can I give?” Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing how that relates to marriage. That message is based on the Song of Solomon which we’ve been studying in the series, “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.”

Nancy: And Leslie, I’m so glad I was able to explore this important idea from the Song of Solomon before getting married to Robert last year. After teaching that message, now I’m having the opportunity to live this principle out day by day. The time spent in God’s Word has such a big practical effect on our lives and marraige. If you appreciate the practical teaching you hear on Revive Our Hearts,  you can help this ministry continue.

We can only continue to bring this program to you each weekday as long as listeners like you partner with us by: praying and supporting the program financially. When you support the ministry with a gift of any size during the rest of this series, we'd like to give something back to you as our way of saying "thank you." We'll send you a devotional book I've written called The Wonder of His Name. In this book we get to know Jesus better by exploring thirty-two of His wonderful names.

This is a beautiful book. It is illustrated by world-renownd calligrapher, Timothy Botts. It's the kind of book you can set on your coffee table and it will beautify your home. And even more importantly, it will remind you and everyone in your home about the beauty of Christ.

Be sure to ask for The Wonder of His Name when you call with a gift of any size. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or you can donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: You know, a godly, growing marriage presents a picture of the gospel. On Monday, you'll see ways you can make that picture as beautiful and clear as possible. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version. Song of Songs references are taken from the New King James Version.

Making It Personal

Day 20 – Cultivating Intimacy in Marriage 1: It’s Not About Me  

  1. Whether you’re married or single, as part of the body of Christ, how can you encourage, strengthen, and protect the marriages of those around you?
  2. Can you think of a marriage that beautifully reflects the divine pattern for a husband/wife relationship? What was it about that couple that made you think of them?
  3. In the Songs of Songs, we see at least three different motivations for love: duty (it’s the right thing to do), delight (I get blessed), and devotion (I desire to bring pleasure to the one I love). Which of these motivations is reflected in your love for Christ (and your mate, if applicable)? How so?
  4. In this session, Nancy identified seven ingredients that contribute to greater intimacy in marriage. Which one(s) particularly spoke to you as you think about your marriage? Is there one that you find especially difficult to embrace?
  5. Whether you are married or single, can you identify one or more ingredients that would help cultivate greater intimacy in your relationship with Jesus?
  6. Do you struggle with expectations in your marriage (or other relationships)—i.e., “What am I getting out of this?” How does humility set us free from setting ourselves up for hurt, disappointment, and disillusionment in relationships?
  7. Do you have a strong desire in your relationship with Jesus to give Him pleasure, and in your marriage (if applicable), to please your mate? How can you become more tuned to what delights your Beloved? Your mate?

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