The Senses of Love, Part 2

Good Evening. Please turn with me in your copies of God’s holy word to Song of Solomon, chapter 2. The Song of Solomon, chapter 2. I am continuing to work my way through this book of poetry.

As we have seen, this book is a work of lyrical poetry, or song, and it was written by king Solomon, and it is an artistic expression of love between a man and a woman, a shepherd king, and his betrothed woman. This love is described in various stages, from initial longing all the way through marriage and consummation.

Thus far in the poem the woman and the king are engaged. They aren’t yet married. They long to be, as we will see, but they aren’t there yet. They are anticipating, eagerly looking forward to that day, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Much like the church today, which Paul describes as the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5, we belong to our king, we have been pledged as His, but we eagerly await the final consummation, when He returns and we live perfectly with him for all of eternity.

Today, we will continue note in our text that the author is using all 5 of the senses (taste, touch, sight and so on) to teach us about love. Last week’s sermon was part one of this little section of sermons on Love and the Senses.

The poetry is intentionally evocative, emotive, it is meant to affect us at a level deeper than mere head knowledge. It’s aimed at stirring the heart, at moving the affections.

This scene that we will read involves a back and forth between the betrothed bride and her beloved king. Let’s begin reading in Chapter 1 vs. 12:


12 While the king was on his couch,
my nard gave forth its fragrance.
13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
that lies between my breasts.
14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of Engedi.


15 Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
behold, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.


16 Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.
Our couch is green;
17     the beams of our house are cedar;
our rafters are pine.

I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.


As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.


As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins;
refresh me with apples,
for I am sick with love.
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases.

Last time we examined the smell of love in verses 12-15, and we discussed how each of us has a certain smell. I wasn’t speaking of the odor that we emit, but rather spoke about the words used by the Apostle Paul, who said that we who are Christians are the AROMA of CHRIST.

We should smell like our savior. We should have a fragrant aroma to those who delight in the beauty of Christ and his spirit.

Then we moved on to the sense of sight. In verse 15 of chapter 1 we saw that the two lovers are praising one another for their appearance. There was a clear back and forth in their banter, a playfulness, a reciprocity to their words.

Indeed, that’s where we will pick up. With the sense of sight.

I’ll begin by looking closely at verse 1 of chapter 2, and, that’s also where the a bit of controversy begins. To explain why there is controversy, let me explain a few things about this text.

Verse 1 of chapter 2, which says, “I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.” This verse has been interpreted in two main ways.

And the question about its interpretation centers upon who is speaking. If you will note, you all likely have little subheadings throughout this book that tells you who is speaking, either He or She. Those subheadings are not inspired.

They aren’t in the original text. Rather, just like the verse numbering and the chapter divisions, those were put in later, and the subheadings telling us who is speaking are best guesses by the scribes and the translators to indicate for us who is speaking.

So, the question is, who is speaking in verse 1. The view taken by the majority of church history is that this is the king speaking, and he is representing Christ. The king is taking theologically significant language to describe his pre-eminence among all mankind.

He is a rose, unparalleled in its beauty, of Sharon, a large valley renown for its lush wildflowers. Further, the Lillie language is picked up in Psalm 45, a messianic Psalm, to describe the coming messiah.

And the language of Sharon is likewise used in Isaiah 35, and used to described the future glorious state of Israel, either in the millennium or in the final state, depending on your view of the end times. And so, for all those reasons, largely drawn from outside this book, those interpreters take verse 1 to be spoken by the King, and therefore pointing us to the pre-eminence of Christ.

That was the view of the early church fathers, the reformers, the puritans, Spurgeon, and basically everyone I found prior to 1900. In fact, some of you might remember singing an old hymn “The lily of the Valley.”

I have found a friend in Jesus-
He’s ev’rything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley- in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.

Now, the second view, instead sees verse 1 as being spoken by the woman, and rather than highlighting her pre-eminence as the most beautiful rose, she’s actually saying the opposite. She’s saying “I’m one rose in all of the Sharon valley, I’m nothing special. I’m a dime a dozen.”

She’s speaking in a self-deprecating way, rather than an exalting way. This is the view that is promoted by most commentators in the last 100 years.

And in favor of this view are these arguments: First, the self-deprecating language is already found in this passage. Earlier in chapter 1 she’s already said I’m dark, don’t look at me. More than once does she express the idea that she’s not worthy or not lovely, which would be consistent with 2:1, if she were speaking there.

Secondly, the view that verse 1 is spoken by the woman is consistent with the rest of the book. Nowhere else in the book, that I have found, does the king praise HIMSELF, and His loveliness. His attention is rather found on the loveliness of his bride, and the beauty of their love.

So, for those reasons, I found myself in an unusual position of favoring the interpretation of the moderns over most of church history. Those that know me know how conflicted I must be. Yet, the text of this book leads me to tentatively conclude that the woman is speaking in verse 1.

And yet, like we’ve seen in this passage, the banter between the two lovers is connected. They play off of each other’s words. The bride might be saying that she’s nothing special, that she’s one wildflower among thousands of others, but the bridegroom doesn’t see it that way.

He picks up on verse 2 the same language to speak of how He sees his bride:

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.

You may be a single flower, my love, but to me I see every other wildflower as if it were thorns. You may feel like a dime a dozen, but to me you are priceless. You are the apple of my eye. Your beauty makes all others appear as thorns and thistles.

He’s affirming his singular devotion to the bride. And we ought to have the same feelings about the spouse that God has given to us.

Husbands, does your wife know that your devotion is singularly focused on her? Do you act in a way that convinces her that your gaze is for her alone, and that you find her beauty compelling?

The same question could be asked of the wives too. Does your husband know that you find him lovely and delightful?

We should resist the temptations to comparison. Don’t compare your spouse to others in a way that undermines your devotion to them. Train yourself to focus on them alone. Consider their strengths, the things they do well, and stir up gratitude to God for the gifts that they’ve been given, the things they excel at.

Too often we fixate on the failures, on the weaknesses, and do so in a way that undermines our devotion to them. We compare them to others, wishing that they’d be more like someone else. We foster feelings within us of discontentment with our spouse, which undermines marital joy, and is unfair to them.

Delight in the spouse that God has given to you, seeking their good, praising them for the spiritual fruit that you see in them. Promote their good by encouraging piety. Confront them when necessary, remembering their good, rather than confronting them out of irritation or discontentment.

This takes effort and intentionality. It takes faith, even, because we all know that our spouse doesn’t measure up to what we see in this text. And yet, driven by love, we pursue their good.

And why do we do that? Because that’s what Christ does with his bride. Christ doesn’t fixate on the negative. Rather, he delights in her beauty. He praises her. He washes her with the water of the word, that she might be without spot or blemish.

That means he doesn’t see you as the weak vessel that you are. He sees believers, he sees you, individually, as lovely. He has remade you, washed you, robed you with his righteousness and loveliness, and he’s not frustrated with you. He’s not disappointed in you.

When you fail, he’s quick to forgive. He takes your sins as far from you as the east is from the west. How far is the east from the west? What does that mean?

It means that he’s removed the stain of your sin and cast it eternally away. He doesn’t regret saving you. It’s as if he can’t even remember your failures. That’s good news. And that permits Him to focus on your beauty without any hindrance of your past sin.

When we remember that, when that stirs love within our hearts, that’s what gives us the strength to love someone else who is less than lovely at times. Train your heart to love your spouse well, to love with a love that is quick to forgive, and eager to embrace again.

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.

Now, let’s move on to the next little section in our text. The woman again speaks, and speaks praise for her beloved king. She moves to a new kind of imagery, of trees and a forest.

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.

Just like the king just praised the beauty of the woman, as if she was a rose among thorns, so too does the woman extol the preeminence of her man. If all other men are like a forest of trees, so my king is like a fruitful apple tree among them. He’s the best of the best. His fruit, and his alone, sustains me. She says,

With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

She is able to sit with delight in his shadow. Husbands are meant to provide refreshing shade for their wives.

Imagine you’re back in their day. You’re like the woman who has been forced to work in the vineyards, like we read in chapter 1. You’ve been slaving all day, under the scorching sun. You’re exhausted, you’re tired, you’re parched. And then you have to walk home. You can’t hop into the car and fire up the AC. After a long day of exhausting work, you still have the long walk back to the house.

You want shade. You want some respite. I wonder if any of you can relate with her weariness? With the desire for a bit of refreshing shade.

Husbands are meant to provide that for their wives. A bit of relief from the pressures of this world. A bit of refreshment. A bit of rejuvenating encouragement. A bit of rest.

Husbands, would your wives says that you do that for them? Do you provide a place of safety and refuge, a bit of shade under which they can find some relief? I often speak with women who long for that, who crave that, but instead feel like their husband is more like the scorching sun than the refreshing shade.

They have harsh words, which crush the spirit of the woman. They have neglectful coldness, which weighs upon the woman. The man never seems satisfied, never encourages. Never feeds. Never refreshes.

And wives, the love pictured in this text should cause you to pause as well. Are you willing to rest under the shade of your husband? The bride here chooses to sit under one singular tree. She has a whole forest of trees to choose from, but she chooses the one tree.

She doesn’t disdain the apple tree because it isn’t as tall as the oaks or the pines. She isn’t critical of the size of the fruit or the volume of production. Sometimes wives are tempted to see the fruit tree that they’ve been given, and lament that their tree isn’t like the other trees. They look around, at other pastures, at other trees in the forest, and it makes them discontent.

God has given you the tree that he thinks you should have, so don’t reject God’s good gift of a faithful husband. Of course, he’s not perfect. But neither are you.

Husbands and wives should labor to promote feelings of genuine gratitude and love for the gift of a spouse. Overlooking sin whenever possible, humbly correcting sin when necessary. Seeking to have the kind of relationship pictured in this text.

The king produced a delightful shade, and the woman delighted in it.

But it wasn’t merely his shade that was delightful. Next, we see the poetry switch to another sense. The sense of taste. The sense of Taste.

With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

The king bears a fruitfulness in his shade. The language of tree and fruit is highly reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. There, Adam and Eve were given all manner of trees and fruit. They didn’t have to slave and toil to get their food. The creation freely gave up of its fruit for them to eat.

There was rest and repose. They had everything they could ever desire.

But they weren’t content. They were told not to eat of one certain tree. And do you remember what the text says?

 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes … and she took of its fruit and ate

Eve was not content to delight in what was given to her. She was tempted to delight in something forbidden. Taste and delight go hand and hand.

The same temptation is warned against in Proverbs, where marital infidelity is again pictured in terms of taste and delight. Taste and delight go together.

Proverbs 5: For the lips of an adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,

Proverbs 7: 18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.

The taste of honey and the delight of forbidden love. Satan knows that marital love ought to be a delightful experience, sweet to the taste. And so he knows what to promise in order to lure us in.

Satan wants us to experience delight, and to taste of sensual bliss. But he wants us to do it outside of the God-ordained marital union.

He started with that tactic in the garden. And it worked. And it still works today. He tempts us to be discontent with what God has given us, and urges us to find that delight and sweet taste elsewhere. He doesn’t want us eating from our own tree, the tree given to us. He wants us to take and eat from the forbidden tree.

We mustn’t give in. We must not let our minds wander down that path. Don’t go near the house of the forbidden woman, Proverbs says. Don’t even let your feet go near her door.

Don’t entertain thoughts of what it would be like if your spouse was better at this or more like that. Don’t linger over imaginations of what it would be like to be married to so and so.

Guard your eyes from forbidden fruit. Don’t place before your gaze temptations, like movies or social media, that don’t serve your marital faithfulness and contentment. Be on guard for the tempter. We know how he works.

Because what is our fate if we do? Proverbs 5:

Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol

Just like Adam and Eve, who tasted of the fruit that falsely promised delight, they went to death. Proverbs continues:

With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23     till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.

Death. Death is what awaits someone who gives themselves over to lust. Death is the hook that is concealed by the bait of Satan’s promise for delight and joy.

And we’ve all experienced that. In fact, none of us is born inclined toward faithfulness. We’ve all tasted of some forbidden fruit. We’ve all earned death for ourselves.

That’s the amazing love that we see in the cross. Even though Christ’s bride chose to steal what didn’t belong to her, even though the church collectively, and each of us individually, chose to snatch what wasn’t ours to taste, Christ went down to Sheol in our place.

Christ took the punishment of death that was earned by his bride. Even though we fell for the adulterer’s lies and soiled ourselves with sin, Christ took that all away by taking it on himself.

Therein lies the great exchange. By a tree came sin and death, and by a tree comes it’s undoing. By a tree in Eden came our sentence, and by Christ’s death on a tree comes its reversal.

Remember Christ’s work on the cross, remember his forgiveness, and let that stir you with renewed zeal to forsake all other trees, all other temptations, all other false lovers. Let his faithfulness spur you on in faithfulness to him, and to your earthly spouse.

And if you haven’t yet tasted of Christ and found delight in him, then I urge you to consider him tonight. No other spouse can provide the faithfulness that he provides. No other lover could provide the delightful shade he provides.

Consider the refreshing shade of Christ.

If you’re tired, weary in soul, tired in slaving in the vineyard of this world, Christ offers you rest.

If you’re anxious and worried, consumed with thoughts about situations that you can’t control, he promises to care for you, and to work all things together for your good. Not merely to work things out, but to work them out FOR YOUR GOOD.

If you’re fearful, and feel exposed and vulnerable, he is the rock of refuge and strength for his beloved. He will protect you, just like God protected Moses in the cleft of the rock.

If you’re feeling ashamed of your sin, dirty and defiled, Christ promises to wash you, to make you clean, to clothe you, just like he did for Adam and Eve when he provided the animal skins to cover the shame of their nakedness.

And when you’re feeling parched and dry, having slaved in the vineyard of this world, seeking satisfaction but always finding it eluding you, Christ promises you the water of life, and he that drinks of it will never thirst again.

Delight and satisfaction, contentment and joy, can only be found in Christ.

And when we cling closely to Christ, we can taste of true delight. Verse 4:

He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.

He brings us to a house of feasting, a banqueting house, literally a “house of wine.” Rather than barrenness, we taste of his bounty. Rather than being parched by sin, our thirst is quenched by his wine. And our cup over flows.

That should be our desire. To find our satisfaction in no other. We can say with the woman:

Sustain me with raisins;
refresh me with apples,
for I am sick with love.

We have a taste for no other. Let that be your prayer. Let my taste be for no other. Let Christ sustain me. Let my love for him be so strong, that I’m almost drunk with His love.

Only then can I find true delight in my earthly spouse. Even the best earthly marriages cannot satisfy that longing that we all have for delight. Only Christ can. And Christ is enough.

When we are thriving in Christ, deeply communing with him, we can find strength and joy and delight in our earthly marriages.

Or, for the singles here, communion with Christ is enough to sustain us through the loneliness we might experience here. He is enough.

And our experience of him is like a warm embrace

His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me!

Even when we feel alone, Christ’s love can sustain us. He’s never far from us, even if our feelings tell us otherwise. His gifts are near. His fruit is near. His love is near. He’s brought us to his banqueting table, and his banner over you is love.


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