Song of Solomon 5:9 – 6:3
It seems nothing brings out a person’s selfishness and self-centered in life more than having to share life with another person. We assume marriage will solve all our problems when in reality it just adds another layer of problems to be worked through. Like children, we do fine when we get what we want when we want it, but try putting our needs on hold so we can put someone else first, and sinful attitudes we didn’t realize we had raise their ugly heads. God uses marriage to make us more like Jesus by first showing us how little like Jesus we really are!
SHULAMITH’S SELF-CENTEREDNESS Shulamith wasn’t doing too well accepting Solomon gone working so many hours (see previous article in this series, No. 9). After being convicted in a dream of purposely hurting him (rejection) because she allowed herself to think he was purposefully hurting her (rejection), she awakes to feel guilt and remorse about how she has been treating him. What made the difference? It was how she saw her husband. Would she focus and dwell on his weakness’ and imperfections, on his failings and shortcomings and take them as personal rejection? Or would she instead keep foremost in her mind the fact that he loved her and wouldn’t really reject or hurt her, remembering why she married him in the first place? Like most things in life, our mental attitude determines our emotions and actions.
When I counsel people who are having marriage problems, especially very severe ones, I ask them two questions: 1) Do you love your mate? and 2) What attracted you to your mate in the first place? By focusing on this and remembering the good things, the problems can be put in better perspective. By renewing the friendship and enjoying each other as they are (without all the later expectations we add) a relationship can have a foundation to start working through problems and pain that have damaged it. This is what Shulamith is doing.
REMEMBERING THE GOOD The current passage, Song of Solomon 5:9-6:3, starts with the chorus posing a question (v. 9) to get Shulamith thinking about Solomon’s good points: Why do you love him? What are his good points? Shulamith pictures Solomon in her mind, thinking of his appearance (v. 10-16). The visual image, however, stands for the total person, inside and out.
To Shulamith, Solomon is handsome and rugged (v. 10), with excellent hair (‘gold’ v. 11) that is wavy and black (v. 11). His eyes are like doves bathing in milk (v. 12), His cheeks and lips are associated with the spices he wore (v. 13). His arms are strong and well-formed (v. 14) and his entire body is beautiful and smooth, flat and firm (v. 14). His legs are also strong and well-formed, very masculine to her (v. 15). The words from his mouth are tender and loving. He isn’t just strong, but also gentle. A man must be both strong (to be the head of the wife) and tender (to make the wife feel loved and secure). A man must be strong enough to be gentle. Strength alone is cold, gentleness alone is weak. both are necessary. God is both strong (sovereign) and tender (loving) (Romans 8:28-39) and in that combination alone we find all we desire, the balance that meets every need.
The chorus has another question (6:1), to take things to the next step. Now that she sees him back in proper perspective, they ask why he isn’t with her. Is it because he doesn’t care and is rejecting her? Or is it because he would love to be with her but has other things that must be done at the moment, then he will spend all the time with her he can? Shulamith realizes he is busy with affairs of state, something he warned her about before they were married (1:7; 2:16). She can’t pity herself, she knew the cost and was willing to pay it to be married to him. She can’t change her mind or the circumstances now. She knows you can’t marry someone then expect to change them! She knows he loves her (v. 3) and, while she still misses him greatly, she doesn’t take her pain our in anger on Solomon. If she doesn’t make this mental adjustment she will keep hurting him back and long term damage will be done to the relationship and their intimacy with each other.
LET YOUR MIND EXPLAIN REALITY TO YOUR EMOTIONS When you think about the change in her, it becomes obvious that now she is rationally considering all the facts while before she was reacting emotionally. She is letting her mind explain reality to her emotions, something especially important for a woman since the time of Eve when Satan used her emotions to derail and mislead her (I Timothy 2:11-15). That is why men are to be the leaders. Men, too, get their emotions involved, especially in conflict with their wives.
PAST HURTS MAGNIFY PRESENT PROBLEMS Remember Shulamith’s background? She spent years working in the orchards with her brothers (becoming dark tanned) who seemed to be responsible for her upbringing (1:5-6). Was her father also busy and gone a lot when she needed him as a little girl? Or was he gone because he had already died? Were her brothers, who took the place of her father, working so long and hard they weren’t available when she needed them? Could these past hurts of seeming rejection make Solomon’s being gone all the worse? Is this a sensitive area that she over-reacts to? I’m sure it is. We all have them, don’t we. They make things much worse, and turn our minds off and emotions on without us even realizing it is happening. We must all be aware of unresolved hurts from the past which make us super-sensitive to anything that seems like the same hurt from our mate. We must know what to watch out for in our own life as well as our mate’s life. For women it is usually a hurt (rejection, criticism, etc.) from their father. When the husband does something similar they quickly over-react, usually without even realizing they are doing so. For men it is often their pride being hit, their wife treating them like their mother did, stepping on a weak and sensitive ego. The solution is to keep our mind in control of our emotions, to remember our mate loves us and isn’t purposely rejecting or hurting us, and to not take out past hurts on them.
ON BEING A SERVANT These wrong attitudes in marriage are made much worse when we focus on what we think we deserve, where our mate fails to meet our needs, and when our self-centeredness dominates. Jesus says we are to be servants of each other (Matthew 20:26-28), loving our mate unconditionally (I Corinthians 13). “Ask not what your mate can do for you, but what you can do for your mate.” Treat your mate as you want your mate to treat you (the Golden Rule applies to marriage, too). Make meeting your mate’s needs your goal and forget your own needs. God will take care of them if you do, usually through you mate. Then the relationship will grow and mature into what God wants it to be and you wont’ be hurting each other but helping each other. Learn from Shulamith. Watch your self-centeredness!