After a long day of work, I came home and once I got home I was greeted with a cold shoulder by my wife and a blank look at me as she walked by to continue on with her tasks she was doing. And then it hit me, It was 5:45pm and I told her that I’d be home 4:30pm and I never called her to tell her I was running way behind or anything. But I told myself, she should forgive me and there is no reason for her to to just ignore me and pretend I’m not here….I deserve respect!!
So, I toughened up and went about my duties, played with the kids, tried to help with dinner but got kicked out of the kitchen only to get even more upset. Dinner was served by Amy and I got the kids around to eat dinner, we had superficial talk with the family but no interaction with her and I….the game was on! I wasn’t gonna give in and show my weakness, so I remained tough, even showing her outward signs of how unhappy I was by closing doors harder and making sure the fridge was shut hard enough for the dressing to rattle and sound threatening. I was gonna win this battle if it was the last thing I did. She needs to apologize to me, I thought. She doesn’t have to punish me like she did when I first got home, I mean come on, this only happens once a month or so….
Well, the night went on, we put the kids to bed and did our separate things for about an hour until it was time to go to bed. Now both of our hurts are much deeper than they should be, the wounds we gave each other are worse than they would’ve been had I humbled myself at the get go and confessed my forgetfulness and repented to her for not making her feel cared for. But now that I’ve waited all this time, our pain is not only deeper, but now it’s so much harder to repent and ask for forgiveness for my stupidness.
But because my wife is wise, she knew she wasn’t the one to rescue us from my lack of sticking to my word, I ended up heeding her wisdom and humbled myself as I was the one who was wrong, and told her how wrong it was of me not to call, and it was even more wrong not to humble myself as I realized I was wrong and that I was sorry for dragging this night through the mud and ruining a night with the family.
From there, we mutually confessed to one another, forgave one anther and enjoyed the rest of our night and went to bed friends, not enemies.
This is picture of the kind of night we have had in our marriage over the years and how we have handled conflict and reconciled. This is where we are going tonight as we read this text, except Shulammite refused to let her pride and fear control her (recap last week’s sermon very briefly). Last week, after Solomon had left from being rejected by his wife, Shulammite’s friends ask her do you know where he is?, to which Shulammite answers: 6:2-3: 2 My beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. 3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.
Shulammite here expresses her commitment to her husband by saying “I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s is mine.” This small statement is sometimes assumed by married couples, but not often expressed and pressed until each spouse believes it. This is so huge for marriages. Husband, wife, are you for your husband even when you are mad at them? Are you committed to the relationship or are you waiting for the marriage to stop being a bargain for you and you are out of there?
Let me remind you of the covenant you made before your spouse, before God, and likely before many others. The marriage covenant was created by God and given supreme importance because He ordained it. In Ancient Near East culture, a covenant that one got married to was based on the way they did covenant’s then, just like God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:7-21. Turn there and let’s read together.
In a marriage covenant, the animals that were cut in half were walked through by the man and the woman committing themselves together (this is where the idea of walking down the aisle came in the picture…romantic huh?). As they linked arms together and walked through the middle of the animal halves twice, they are saying, let what happened to these animals happen to one of us if we break this covenant. Marriage is no joke and it was never meant to be treated the way we treat it these days.
Husbands and wives must learn to stop threatening with the “I’m gonna leave” card or “I have options” or “I don’t have to put up with this”. God walked through the parts by Himself and this shows us that He is the one who is going to keep covenant with us, so then if God ever breaks His covenant, then you can break your marriage covenant. But if He never does, which He never will, then the marriage covenant will always stand as it should.
Spouses, are you looking at marriage as a bargain for you and if it ever stops being a bargain, then you will reconsider being a part of it? Let me ask you, when Jesus died on the cross for you, was it a bargain for Him? What was He getting for dying? He didn’t die because we were worthy, He died to make us worthy. Eph. 5:21 tells the husbands “to love your wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her.” Husband, this means you die to make your wife lovely.
This is what we call costly love. We want to get rid of the bargain idea, and love like Jesus, which is a huge risk, and very costly. Solomon and Shulammite are modeling this kind of love here. As Solomon is gathering flowers for his bride that he is committed to no matter what, he realizes that flowers are always good to give to your wife, but they are never a replacement for loving words of affirmation, forgiveness and acceptance.
4 You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners. 5 Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me—Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. 6 Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
that have come up from the washing; all of them bear twins; not one among them has lost its young. 7 Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 8 There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins without number. 9 My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, pure to her who bore her. The young women saw her and called her blessed; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.
Solomon’s words are clear, direct and convincing. He loves her. He forgives her. He understands and is in it for the long haul! But notice what Solomon says in verse 5: “Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me–”
Solomon wants to assure her of his motives in the words that he is sharing with her. He is not only trying to flatter her so that they can have some make-up sex, he wants to reconcile personally and deeply before they express it sexually. He knows that emotional bonding must come before sexual bonding, or else their love making will be hollow and not as fulfilling.
At this point, I can just imagine Shulammite pulling a Jerry McGuire on Solomon here: “Shhhh, you had me at hello Solomon, you had me at hello.” And then throws her arms around him and begins to kiss him passionately! Solomon’s grace and words created more acceptance and safety for Shulammite. The day that began with fear and anxiety, is gonna end with joy and happiness.
And like all good girlfriends, they are right there wondering what happened. “Did you find him? What did he say? Why are you crying? Oh….they’re happy tears!” And then they all begin to cry together. Isn’t that kind of how it goes?
10 “Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?” The same friends who shared in her sorrow, rejoice in her happiness as well. This is the kind of friend we all should seek to be.
Then Shulammite goes on to tell them the whole story and they all celebrate the relationship some more: 11 I went down to the nut orchard to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom. 12 Before I was aware, my desire set me among the chariots of my kinsman, a prince.
In describing the moment of reconciliation, Shulammite shares the joy and excitement that is experienced when two lovers are committed to each other, basically saying in verse 12, my paraphrase: “Before I even realized it, I felt more lovely and more worthy than I could ever imagine.” This is the experience and joy of forgiveness and reconciliation. She can’t say exactly when it happened, but it happened. “Something happened inside and I can’t really explain it…but it’s good!!”
Now in verse 13 her friends are still rejoicing with her and long to share in the joy of Solomon and Shulammite’s commitment: 13 Return, return, O Shulammite, return, return, that we may look upon you.
COMMUNITY: It is so healthy for friends who are not married to see a healthy marriage and what it looks like to work through conflict, and forgive one another and show mercy. This is why community is so important. We were meant to disciple each other in this way, and this will never happen if we do not open ourselves to others. Healthy relationships are birthed out of good models being observed.
This last comment from Solomon serves as a transition to the next refrain, but we will include it today, as well as next week. Solomon ends with explaining to Shulammite’s friends of the importance of their reconciliation: Why should you look upon the Shulammite, as upon a dance before two armies? The next scene that we will cover is the “dance before two armies (or camps)” and is played out in chapter seven.
But for now, Solomon and Shulammite are reconciled and have displayed the beauty of Jesus to those of us who are on this side of the New Testament. This is what Christ intended to happen within marriage as a part of what He did on the cross. Yes, He took our sin, and reconciled us to the Father, but there is so much more. Once we are reconciled to the Father, now we can more freely forgive because we have been forgiven.
2 Cor. 5:17-19: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Because of what Christ has done for us, we can now administer reconciliation more boldly and not run from the pain of sin, because at the cross, it is no more and we are free to love, forgive and even be hurt and rejected while offering love and forgiveness because we are accepted before the throne of God and reconciled to Him no matter what happens here on earth.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 23, 25-26: “Our community with one another [in Christ] consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a human reality. In this it differs from all other communities.”
Tim Keller: “Christians in community are to never give up on one another, never give up on a relationship, and never write off another believer.”
This means we are to be voluntary sufferers for the sake of reconciling to others and becoming more like Christ. This is what forgiveness is. To forgive is to cancel a debt by paying it or absorbing it yourself. Someone always pays every debt. This is extremly costly!
Many here have been deeply wounded by broken relationships and unforgiveness. Much of those relationships are broken because of fear and pride. The very thing that the gospel of Jesus means to eradicate. Others are deeply wounded by some for of abuse. What Satan wants is to have the abuse forever get the upper hand in our lives.
When we harbor anger and never work towards forgiveness, we are letting the abuser have more effects on us than the abuse. Letting God deal with them is much more effective. Not forgiving is willingly walking into living death and destruction.
Tim Keller has put together three things you must be aware of when seeking to forgive someone:
1) Refuse to hurt the person directly; you refuse vengeance, payback, or the infliction of pain. Instead, you are as cordial as possible. When forgiving you must beware of subtle ways to try to exact payment while assuring yourself that you aren’t. Here are specific things to avoid:
-making cutting remarks and dragging out past injuries repeatedly
-being far more demanding and controlling with the person than you are with others, all -because you feel deep down that they still owe you
-punishing them with self-righteous “mercy” that is really a way to make them feel small and to justify yourself
-avoiding them or being cold toward them
2) Refuse to gossip or direct slander to diminish those who have hurt you in the eyes of others. You don’t run them down under the guise of warning people about them or under the guise of seeking sympathy and support and sharing your hurt.
3) Refuse to continually replay the tapes of the wrong in your imagination, in order to keep the sense of loss and hurt fresh so you can stay actively hostile toward the person and by contrast, feel better than them. Don’t vilify or demonize the offender in your imagination. Rather, recognize the common sinful humanity you share with him or her. Don’t root for them to fail or for pain. Instead, pray positively for their growth.
By bearing the cost of someone’s in against you, you are doing two things: modeling the deep love and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus and supernaturally becoming more like Him in that act of faith and love. Remember, on the cross, God’s love satisfied His own justice by suffering, bearing the penalty for sin. There is never forgiveness without suffering, nails, thorns, sweat, blood. Never.
For reconciliation to happen, forgiveness must first occur. But this is exactly the place where things get tricky. For reconciliation to be fully realized for us as sinners, we must confess our sin, and repent (turn and call on Jesus as Lord). So in our human relationships, the same goes for our reconciliation to one another. But it is still messy.
The speed and degree of this reconciliation entail the re-creation of trust, and that takes time, depending on the nature and severity of the offenses involved. Until a person shows evidence of true change, we should not trust him or her. To immediately give one’s trust to a person with sinful habits could actually be enabling him to sin. Trust must be restored, and the speed at which this occurs depends on the behavior.
Refusing repentance looks different w/ Xtians and non-Xtians w/ different courses of action on our part. Christian (discipline). Non-Christian (remain kind, open and cordial).
Because we are also to speak the truth to one another (Eph. 4:25). We are not to over look an unrepentant brother or sister and forgive without holding them accountable to be reconciled to God and others. JUSTICE AND MERCY GO HAND IN HAND! This is where the fullness of the gospel must be understood and believed:
Humility: The gospel on one hand tells us that we are so sinful and jacked up that we can do nothing on our own and are desperate for someone to save us. This is why Jesus came to die for us, because He knew we couldn’t fix what’s broken. This should drive out pride and cause us to fall on our faces before God and give Him continual thanksgiving for His deep mercy and acceptance of us on behalf of His son, Jesus. This should also cause us to humble ourselves in our marriages and relationships as well.
Boldness: On the other hand, the gospel tells us that we are more accepted than we could ever imagine and have nothing to fear because Jesus took God’s wrath and we now stand confidently before the God of the universe because Jesus purchased us. This should remove the fear of being rejected when trying to reconcile in your marriage or other relationships. This is the key to healthy, gospel-centered relationships.
Do you see this? Are you beginning to see the particular thing that Christ has done to bond humans together to display His beauty. This is how marriages make it, and any relationship for that matter. This is how forgiveness happens. This is how we can love when it’s terribly costly. This is how reconciliation works.
Closing Prayer: Eph. 2:11-16:
— 12 remember that you (v. 11: Gentiles) were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.