5 minutes reading time (1059 words)

The Song of Songs: A Field Guide for Husbands

Field Guide

My wife, Julie, and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in August. That is 10,950 days filled with countless moments that were sometimes tender and sometimes tense. It is the joy of wedding days, births, and baptisms set alongside the drudgery of dishes, laundry, and yardwork. Almost three decades into this thing and the Bible is still teaching me what it means to be a husband. Some of its best lessons are found in the Song of Songs.

Lesson 1: Listen and Respond to Her

In verses 5-7 of chapter 1, the bride raises three concerns. She is concerned about her appearance because she is "dark." She is concerned about her reputation. If she goes looking for her beloved, will she be considered like one of the veiled ones, a euphemism for prostitutes (remember the story of Tamar)? Finally, she is concerned about whether she will have access to her beloved. She doesn't know where he will be or how to get to him.

Notice that the beloved's response in verses 8-10 address each of these concerns. He tells her where she can find him, alleviates her concerns for her reputation by assuring her of her acceptance, and extols her beauty. Husband are you listening to your wife? Do you know the things that trouble her and are you doing what is within your power to address those troubles?

Lesson 2: Cultivate an Appreciation for Her

In chapter 2 verse 2, the beloved describes his bride as a "lily among brambles." Doubtless there are other women who are more physically attractive than the bride. Yet, in the king's eyes, they are mere thorns, while she is the rose. Commenting on this passage, James Hamilton, a pastor and biblical scholar, speaks to us as husbands when he says, "Married men, if you don't look at your wife and say to her what Song of Songs 2:2 says, you need to repent." 1  He goes on to say,

You need to stop looking as man looks, on the outward appearance, and you need to start looking as the Lord looks. You need to cultivate physical attraction for your wife and for her alone. Pursue your wife. Pray for the Lord to work in you such that she is the only woman in the world that you find physically attractive - whatever she looks like! And then steadfastly refuse to tolerate any lustful attraction for other female beauty . . . Love your wife. Live like she is a lily among brambles. Talk to her that way. Talk about her that way . . . She's united to you body and soul. Love her like your own flesh, and love her alone. 2

If you've been in church for very long, you've likely seen a few things that have caused you to question her – the Church's – beauty. After all, the church is made of recovering sinners of all stripes, so you'd expect a few warts and perhaps a crooked nose to occasionally mar her appearance. Christ is not ignorant of these things. Yet, he loves his church, meets her imperfections with grace and forgiveness, and sets his affections upon her and her alone. Husbands go and do likewise for your bride.

Lesson 3: Reconciliation is a Man's Job

In chapter 5, the King entreats his bride, but she finds the timing inconvenient and rejects him. Let's be honest men. We've all been there. When this happens, we're tempted to respond with pouting, anger, or withdrawal. These are natural reactions, but they are not right ones. They arise from an inordinate focus on our desires and give insufficient attention to hers. What does the King do in this situation? He does not badger, cajole, or pressure her. Instead, he hears her reluctance, and he honors it. He meets her where she is and, rather than pressuring her, he withdraws. But he does not stop there. As he leaves, he provides a blessing of perfume on the door handle.

By putting that perfume on the door handle he is initiating reconciliation. God, through Christ, reconciled us to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). So, when Paul tells husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:22-33), he is telling us that reconciliation is a man's job. When division and distance attempt to gain a foothold in our marriages, it is we – as men – who are called to tenderly mend the tear and bridge the gap. Husband, God has charged you to be an instrument of peace within your marriage. He has charged you to give yourself up for her, to nourish and cherish her as you do for your own body.

Only a fool bears a grudge against his foot when he stubs his toe. Instead, when a member of your body is hurt, you give special attention to it, you bandage and care for it. Husbands who allow distance to take root in their marriages are fools who bring harm to their own bodies (Ephesians 5:29) and hinder their prayers (1 Peter 2:7). Don't be a fool. The moment you sense the distance between you increasing, take a step toward her. That is a significant part of what it means to love your wife as Christ loved the church.

There we have it. Three quick lessons for husbands from the Song of Songs.
1. Listen to your wife and respond to what you hear.
2. See and delight in her unique beauty.
3. Take the initiative to repair any fracture in the relationship.

Do these things and, by the grace of God, perhaps your marriage will begin look a lot like what Solomon describes for us in Proverbs 5:18-19.

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

1 James M Hamilton, Song of Songs: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation (Geanies House, Christian Focus Publications, 2015), 56.

2 Hamilton, Song of Songs, 56. 

June 13, 2021 - First Restrictions-Free Service
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