Last week we saw Solomon and Shulammite forgive and reconcile and model to their friends and onlookers, the beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the joy of being committed to one anther. Something we skipped over last week was the introduction of Shulammite’s name.
To identify Solomon’s bride, I have called her Shulammite this whole series, but here it seems as if she was just given this name, a new name if you will. I want to take a minute to unpack what Shulammite and Solomon’s names mean and what they refer to, and then build on that for tonight’s sermon.
Solomon’s name in Hebrew is literally pronounced: Shâlomoh (shel·o·mo) Shulammite’s name literally sound like the feminine form of Solomon: Shuwlammiyth (shoo·lam·meeth). Solomon has a masculine ending in Hebrew, and Shulammite a feminine one. It’s like the word waiter and waitress. This refers to the completeness of their union and that they compliment one another.
This compliment and completeness of one another stems from the root word Shalom found in both of their names. The primitive root meaning of Shalom means to be in “a covenant peace.” Cornelius Plantinga Jr. very poetically gives a definition of shalom in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be : A Breviary of Sin:
“In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (10).
Shalom is the way things are supposed to be. Shalom is Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before they rebelled against God. Shalom is things being done the way God intended for them to be done. Shalom is covenant peace!
Shulammite says in Song 8:10b: then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace. No wonder they have both shared how their eyes are like doves, windows to their soul. They represent a glimpse of the way things should be to one another. They are not perfect. We saw last week that they are human, they are not Ken and Barbie, but they do represent a place of peace for one another, the way things God intended them to be in a marriage covenant.
Tonight, we are going to see a beautiful dance of love between two lovers who are not just infatuated with one another, but who have labored unselfishly to be shalom to one another in radical ways. This is the way things are supposed to be, but only after passing through rough waters in their marriage is the princess given the name Shulammite. Then and only then can a couple be seen in the eyes of others, in a sinful world at least, as shalom in marriage.
I believe this shalom that they’ve shown one another is the very reason why they are able to be with one another the way we are going to read tonight and how Shulammite can so freely dance in front of her lover so freely. Again, this doesn’t just happen. This is labored over and grows out of humility, forgiveness & the grace of God.
Now in the privacy of their own room, the conflict they just resolved feels a thousand miles away. Here Solomon passionately describes his enjoyment of his bride:
7:1 How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. 2 Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. 3 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. 4 Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus. 5 Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. 6 How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! 7 Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. 8 I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, 9 and your mouth like the best wine. And Shulammite’s response to this erotic encounter with her husband: It goes down smoothly for my beloved, gliding over lips and teeth.
This is the second love-making encounter that is recorded in this Song since they’ve been married and it seems to have matured and deepened in passion. Unlike their wedding night in chapter 4, Solomon has no need to address any fears because he has been shalom to Shulammite. She is secure in his love.
There is much talk of wine, the fruit of the vine, etc… which Solomon is likening their time together as lovely and relaxing as a nice smooth glass of wine that relaxes you and intoxicates your body. Shulammite agrees with the imagery when she essentially says, “Yes Solomon, our love goes down smooth, relaxing and enjoyable like a fine glass of wine.”
This is the joy of marriage. Experiencing with your bodies what has been expressed with your hearts. A joyful union to be honored and kept holy…and Shulammite reminds us that she is confident in her man’s desire for only her and no other: 10 I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. This is the ideal love between a husband and wife.
This seems to contradict contemporary stereotypes that men only seek sexual gratification and women only seek emotional intimacy. Here, they deeply delight in one another and Shulammite even dances and entices Solomon as if she wants him just as much. As well, Solomon has spent much time in the Song emotionally engaging with Shulammite.
In the return to paradise, shalom, each partner fully enjoys both emotional and physical intimacy and does not value one over the other; or neglects one or the other. Our culture has insulted God’s plan for shalom when it neglects mutual desires of lovers.
As they now lay in each others arms, Shulammite expresses to Solomon something that she has longed to do… she desires to go to the countryside and stay in a lodge. “Let’s go on a vacation Solomon!”, says Shulammite:
11 Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields and lodge in the villages; 12 let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. 13 The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and beside our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up (or kept) for you, O my beloved.
Shulammite basically just said: “Let’s escape to the vineyards in the forest and there we’ll wake up early in the morning and make love outdoors. We’ll find a place where no one will see us!” Ok, this is any husbands dream and any married couple would do well to follow the instructions of Shulammite. Just sayin’! I know Solomon packed his suitcase faster than Shulammite could even get out of bed. This is an overflow of their emotional intimacy being so fulfilling. When that happens, this happens…
Wives, I’d say with a little careful research, you could find a spot of your own with your husband some time. That’d be a nice surprise for him and I’m sure he would not refuse your offer. It’s ok to want to add a little spice to your marriage. And you are welcome husbands…it’s my pleasure!
This is a part of the beautiful dance of love and the perks of marriage Don’t neglect these perks…. Shulammite hasn’t. She is actually very creative in building his sense of anticipation by appealing to his sexual imagination…this is ok to do…IN MARRIAGE!
The dream of the vacation continues as Shulammite goes on: 8:1 Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me. 2 I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother— she who used to teach me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranate. 3 His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me!
Public romantic affection was frowned upon in that culture, but were Solomon the brother of Shulammite, then it would be acceptable to kiss in public. This is just very playful talk in this kind of literature. She is presuming to be the aggressor here with regards to their sexual intimacy, which is biblical.
This kind of playful, innocent love is as much of a return to Eden as anything else in the Song. Just like the first garden, they are naked and not ashamed of their nakedness. The problem with pictures like this one in this passage, is that we know not of them in this culture between a husband and a wife.
This kind of passion is often not protected for a husband and a wife. It’s often given away too freely. Not labored over. Not upheld to the place that God desires it to be upheld to. Thus, we have broken shalom compounded….which ultimately is the biggest hindrance to godly marriages…and lives!
We will not undo the broken shalom from the garden in Gen 3. Jesus will ultimately, when He returns to make all things new! But we do know that sexual sin is a major part of what Plantinga calls, the vandalism of shalom. When we are against shalom, God is against us, because He is for shalom. This is why we know not of this passion that Solomon and Shulammite share.
Also, we could say that the worship of this kind of relationship, this desire for this and thinking that if you had “that”, then you would be ok, life would be shalom for you, etc… This is still idolatry. The only thing that can and will give you the kind of shalom that fully satisfies is Jesus. This is why desiring anything above Him is compounding the problem
So let’s go there for a moment–let’s define what sin is and hopefully we can paint a bigger picture for why we need not ignore God’s desire for sex to be honored and kept only within a marriage covenant and for it not to be worshipped.
(The following paragraphs in italics are from excerpts from the book, Sin: Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.)
Because God is at the pinnacle of shalom (“the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight”) Christians usually define sin with reference to God. Sin is a religious concept, not just a moral one. All sin has first and finally a Godward force. We could therefore draft a definition like this: a sin is any act any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed—or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame. Then “sin” is the tendency to commit sins.
But once we possess the concept of shalom, we are in position to specify our understanding of sin. God is, after all, not arbitrarily offended. God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be. (In fact, that is why God has laws against a good deal of sin.) God is enthusiastically for shalom and therefore against sin. Let’s say that evil is any spoiling of shalom, whether physically (by cancer, say), morally, spiritually, or otherwise. In short, sin is to be blamed for broken shalom.
Philosophers and scholars of our day notice that “evil” is the main human problem. Even when these thinkers reject God, they recognize that the world is out of joint and that human beings, too, are “alienated” or “divided” or “repressed.” Human beings live irrationally, as philosophers put it, or “inauthentically.” Human life is not the way it’s supposed to be they will agree… And so the world’s great thinkers often diagnose the human predicament and prescribe various remedies for it:
They diagnose ignorance and prescribe education.
They diagnose oppression and prescribe justice.
They diagnose the conformism of “bad faith” and prescribe the freedom of authentic choice (or religious/irreligious freedom).
Others look at the world, fall into a depression, and put their prescription pad away.
Christians think that the usual diagnoses and prescriptions catch part of the truth, but that they do not get to the bottom of it. For example:
The human problem isn’t just ignorance; it’s also stubborn pride. It’s not just oppression; it’s also corruption. That’s why newly liberated victims of oppression often end up oppressing others. The human problem isn’t just that we passively conform to our cultures “superior” manner of life; it’s also that nothing “human” can jolt us out of our broken shalom (even a move to a quite town with very few people or isolating ourselves will never work, because we always bring the problem of broken shalom with us).
The real human predicament, as Scripture reveals, is that inexplicably, irrationally, we all keep living our lives against what’s good for us. In what can only be called the mystery of iniquity, human beings from nearly the beginning have so often chosen to live against God, against each other, and against God’s world. We live even against ourselves… and we can’t change this problem ourselves. We have tried for centuries with nothing to show for it! All the peace campaigns in the world, and we are still broken!!
An addict, for example, partakes of a substance or practice that he knows might kill him. For a time he does so freely. He has a choice. He freely starts a “conversion unto death,” and for reasons he can’t fully explain, he doesn’t stop until he crashes. He starts out with a choice. He ends up with a habit. And the habit slowly converts to a kind of slavery that can be broken only by God or, as they say in the twelve-step literature, “a higher power.”
According to Genesis 3, sin appeared very early in the history of our race. In this chapter our first parents try to be “like God, knowing good and evil,” and succeed only in alienating themselves from God and from each other. They choose to believe the tempter rather than their maker and turn their garden into a thorn-patch. The good and fruitful earth becomes their enemy (see Genesis 3:17–18; cf. 4:12–14) and their own sin then controls them in a terrible and unstoppable way. They are slaves to sin!
Adam and Eve’s pride and disbelief trigger revolt, scapegoating, and flight from God (see Genesis 3:4–5, 10, 12–13). Their first child ups the ante: Cain resents and kills his brother Abel, launching the history of envy that leads to murder. Like his parents and the rest of the race, Cain refuses to face his sin (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”), and God exiles him to a place “east of Eden” (see Genesis 4:9, 16). In a phrase that suggests the restlessness of all who are alienated from God, Cain becomes “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (see Genesis 4:12), a murderer who now fears other murderers, and has to be saved from them by a mysterious mark that God places upon him.
This is the problem. This is where we must start. This is why Jesus offered Himself for mankind. The redemption of the cross is the particular thing that Christ died for us… to restore shalom (the way things are supposed to be). Romans 3 illustrates this same problem, but it also gives us the solution to our problem of being “shalom-breakers”.
“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps (or cobra) is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Are you tracking with me here. We are the problem. Your marriage is not the problem. Your lack of a sex life is not the problem. Your husband or wife or parent or job or whatever else you want to tell me is the problem….is not the problem. We are the problem. If you get this, you are in great company!! If you deny tis, you are in terrible company!! This is why you are in company if you believe this…because what we are about to read is the reality for those who believe what we just read and trust in what Jesus has done:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:11-26)
Jesus is the solution. Faith/belief in Him as the only cure for the restoration of shalom. Jesus being the only cure for your separation with God. Jesus plus nothing equals everything. It is not Jesus plus more obedience, equals everything. It is not Jesus plus worldly wealth equals everything. It is not Jesus plus good sex equals everything.
It is Jesus plus nothing that produces the life of obedience. It is Jesus plus nothing hat produces the joy you’re looking for in worldly wealth, or sex, or relationships. Jesus is it!!