I would like to begin today by singing the chorus to one of the many love songs that are so popular here among Legacy students. The song is called “Tonight,” by Westlife, and the chorus goes something like this:
Tonight I gonna make it up to you.
Tonight I’m gonna make love to you.
Tonight you’re gonna know how much I missed you, baby.
Tonight I dedicate my heart to you.
Tonight I’m gonna be a part of you.
Tonight you’re gonna know how much I miss you,
And I miss you so. 
The point of this song is fairly obvious, and also very common in the love songs that we all listen to frequently if we play our ipods or cell phones or listen to the radio. The singer expects to sleep with his patient and longsuffering girlfriend in order to show how much he cares about her and how loyal he is to her, even though he is often far away touring around the world.
But what is missing from this song’s lyrics is every bit as important as what is sung. The lead singer is not apparently married to the girl he sings this sweet love song to. He apparently feels, as do many people these days, that sex is perfectly acceptable outside of marriage. He may even believe that it is acceptable outside of a relationship, if he enjoys the pleasure of “groupies,” the young women who seek the attention of famous entertainers, while he is on tour. Anyway, the singer enjoys the pleasure and thrill of sex, but feels no need to limit its enjoyment to marriage. In that, he feels no different from many people in this world today, and probably many of you.
The Bible’s Hostility To Immorality
Most of the people I am speaking to today are Lahu. The Lahu are famous around the world for two things. Lahus are famous for being hunters. Lahus, however, are infamous for being promiscuous and sexually immoral. I hope that is not true of any of you, but it is something that your people are known for. It is also, sadly, something that my people are known for as well. In many places I have visited around the world, such as West Africa, random strangers on the street would insult me for being sexually immoral because I was American, regardless of the fact that it was not and is not true of me. Hopefully the same may be said of you all.
The Bible is very hostile to sexual immorality. Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and let us look at a set of sins that will keep someone out of the Kingdom of God, and will prevent someone from having eternal life. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reads: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
This is very blunt language. Who are fornicators? Those who have sex before marriage. Who are adulterers? Those who have sex with someone they are not married to. Who are drunkards? Those who drink too much alcohol (or, even more broadly), do drugs and so are not in control over their mind or body. Who are idolaters? Those who put anything ahead of God on their list of priorities. Who are revilers? Those who curse people in authority? Who are thieves? Those who take the property of others for themselves. Anyone who lives in these sins, and does not repent, will not enter God’s kingdom. All of these behaviors are sins against God that we struggle against as human beings and which are all around us.
We must first understand that the language of First Corinthians is no harsher than the language of Leviticus to describe God’s hostility against those who revel in immorality. It is a common but mistaken belief that the God of the Old Testament was harsh and mean but that the God of the New Testament is all love and mercy and no judgment. This is incorrect. The mercy of God extends only to those sinners who repent and change their ways, not to those who persist in rebellion against God’s righteous laws.
The Song of Solomon
Nevertheless, there is another error that is commonly held that God is hostile to pleasure or sexuality, or that sexuality is itself sinful. This error is so deeply entrenched that there are many people who cannot read the book of Song of Solomon without immediately jumping to its symbolic meaning about God and Israel or Jesus Christ and the Church of God and completely ignoring the Song of Solomon’s very passionate physical meaning. This is a false dilemma, because in reality we do not have to choose between sexual immorality, and a hostility to any kind of sexuality at all. We can choose a godly sexuality within the boundaries of marriage, which is what the Bible consistently endorses.
Nowhere is this endorsement more obvious than the book of Song of Solomon, in which I would like to spend the rest of my time today. Here in the Book of Song of Solomon I would like to talk about what advice about human sexuality this book gives us that remains applicable to Christians. I understand, and I want you all to understand, that this book has a deeper meaning as well that many people often talk about, but I am more interested in its practical use for us today, so that we can understand the difference between the view of love songs and the biblical view about godly sexuality.
In fact, the passionate nature of godly sexuality in the Song of Solomon is so great that Jewish rabbis thought it was improper for people to read the book before the age of 25, especially while unmarried, because of the great fear of those rabbis that people would misunderstand this book. As it is, the Song of Solomon has long been a book of the Bible I paid close attention to, even though it is one that is very obscure to most Christians. I would like to do some small part in changing that unfamiliarity for you all, if you are now unfamiliar with this book. We need to understand that on the one hand God is an enemy of sexual immorality, the promiscuity and fornication that are so rampant in this and many other societies. But at the same time, it is important for us to understand that God created sexuality, and that it is something good within the proper boundaries.
The first point I would like to make about the view of godly physical love from the Song of Solomon is found in Song of Solomon 2:6-7. Here in these two verses we see both sides of godly sexuality. Song of Solomon 2:6-7 reads: “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.” Here we have a curious statement that is repeated in Song of Solomon 3:5 and 8:4—we are not to awaken or stir up love until it pleases.
What does this mean? Let us find the answer in Song of Solomon 5:1. Song of Solomon 5:1 shows us what relationship existed between the Shulammite woman and her beloved. It reads: “I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk wine with my milk.” The man and woman who say these passionate words to each other are husband and wife. They are, in fact, newlyweds. When the woman says not to stir up nor awaken love until it pleases, she is telling us very wise advice that we are not to play around with sexuality until we have made a covenantal bond of marriage with our spouse, and that they alone are to enjoy godly sexuality with us. Sex is not something to be experimented with, or to be played around with; rather it is to be enjoyed within the boundaries of a godly marriage.
The second point I would like to make is that the Song of Solomon is genuinely very passionate on the part of both the husband and the wife. Let us look at one example about what the husband and wife in this song say about each other. These are not the only examples of such passionate language, but they should be enough to give the general flavor. Song of Solomon 4:2-5 gives a passionate picture of the way the beloved views his wife. Song of Solomon 4:2-5 reads: “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep which have come up from the washing, every one of which bears twins, and none is barren among them. Your lips are like a strand of scarlet, and your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like a piece of pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an armory, on which hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, which feed among the lilies.” What is the beloved saying here? He is talking about how his bride has such excellent and white teeth, such sexy red lips, such a pretty face, such a beautiful neck, and such beautiful breasts. He says all of this beautifully and poetically, and the godly sensuality of what he says needs to be respected. This is not only talking about Israel or the Church of God, but it is also talking about a real and beautiful flesh and blood woman.
What the bride says of her bridegroom is just as passionate. Let us give one example, in Song of Solomon 8:1-3. Song of Solomon 8:1-3 is extremely passionate in its love, saying: “Oh, that you were like my brother, who nursed at my mother’s breasts. If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be despised. I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.” This passage is clearly describing a wife playfully teasing her husband about how affectionate she is in public, because it was not considered proper in many ancient societies for a woman to kiss a man, even her husband, in public. In the next two verses the wife very passionately teases her husband about the fine pomegranate wine of her breasts. Anyone who reads the Song of Solomon with any kind of awareness of ancient love poetry is aware of how full of godly sexuality this poem is . Let us not be deceived—the Bible has nothing against sex, or against the passionate exploration of sex between a husband and wife. Far too many people have been deceived about this.
Let us not be deceived either, though, about the Bible’s hostility toward sexual immorality, even in the Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon 8:8-10 gives the commitment of both men and women to keeping godly sexuality within the bounds of marriage. As the bride’s brothers say about their sister in Song of Solomon 8:8-9: “We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; and if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.” To which the bride replies in Song of Solomon 8:10, “I am a wall, and my breasts like towers; then I became in his eyes as one who found peace.”
What is this passage saying? The bride and her brothers are speaking in the language of sexual morality, comparing people to towers and walls and doors. A wall is someone who is moral, and who keeps himself or herself pure before marriage. This is extremely rare these days. But such a person will be crowned with battlements of silver for their righteous behavior. On the other hand, if someone is a door, if they are loose or promiscuous, then they will be boarded up and locked inside away from potential lovers for their own protection because of their inability to keep away from temptation. The bride comments both on her sensuality—she has breasts like towers—and also on her virtue, by being a wall. Therefore the Song of Solomon frankly, and even graphically, describes the sexual bliss of a married couple while also strongly warning against fornication and sexual immorality.
Today we have discussed the romantic perspective of the Song of Solomon. The viewpoint of the Bible is far different than our own cultures’ views concerning sexuality. While promiscuity and sexual immorality are rampant in our cultures, the Bible itself strongly condemns sexual immorality without condemning the godly sexuality that takes place between a husband and a wife in marriage. Let us therefore all hope to use our God-given sexuality in godly ways, and to seek an honorable marriage bed for ourselves, rather than to find judgment from God as a result of our immorality and fornication.