Why You Need Song of Solomon
(or, How Monogamy Could Save Africa)
By Tim Cantrell[i]
“Sexual sin is an ancient problem. Throughout the ages, the godly…have not been spared by the claws of this marauding lion,” writes Zambian pastor, Ronald Kalifungwa. As Mbewe adds:
We are convinced that many young people fall into sexual sin unintentionally, mostly because of carelessness on their part. They allow themselves to get too close to the cliff-edge and just a little push tips them over. They fail to realise that playing with matchsticks when your clothes are drenched with petrol is suicide.
As Solomon warned, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (Prov. 6:27-28).
Imagine if God gave us an entire book that spelled out exactly when, how and where to light this raging fire of romantic love and human sexuality – so that it can be enjoyable, not destructive? Guess what – that’s precisely what Song of Solomon does for us! Our Creator has given us an entire 8-chapter book of the Bible as His antidote for an immoral, porn-saturated world enslaved to lust and drowning in sexual perversion.
We have neglected Song of Solomon and misused it for far too long and it is time to rediscover it. Has there ever been an age where society was more confused about marriage, sexuality, and even gender itself? Just look at what is happening this very week in Canada, the next Western nation to outlaw biblical morality, the preaching of monogamy, and the entire Christian faith.[ii]
A Hidden Treasure
Our faithful Lord has given us His entire Word for defining and defending marriage, from Genesis to Revelation, yielding a rich, whole-Bible theology of human sexuality.[iii] And there’s more – He has given us a whole book that helps us stand still to gaze, celebrate, and sing about marital bliss! Our Creator, in whose image we’re made, knows we need both the light and the heat, the science and the art, the lyrics and the music for a happy marriage.
We all need both theory and practice. So the Author of marriage has given us Solomon’s rapturous song – in order that singles will see that it is worth the wait, dating/courting couples will know how to wait, and married couples will stop waiting!
Yet almost all the Christian dating and marriage books I’ve seen give little or no attention to Song of Solomon, ignoring this treasure chest of divine wisdom for godly romance. Thirty years ago, Pastor Tommy Nelson at Denton Bible Church in Texas, dared to tackle this book next in his regular, expository pulpit ministry, trusting God’s Word to do God’s work in people’s lives.
Nelson’s sermons went viral across the nation and around the world, impacting tens of thousands with the purifying power of God’s all-sufficient, ever-relevant, living Word (Heb. 4:12-13)! This series was given to my wife and I and we were greatly helped by it on our honeymoon and ever since in our 25 years of marriage, and have shared it with many others. Nelson writes:
For many people, Song of Solomon is the mystery book of the Bible…the only book of the Bible that seems to have been edited and censured by the Christian church. Most Christians don’t read it, don’t understand it, and have never heard a sermon from it. Yet no message could be more needed today. Solomon’s song is the book for this generation.
…[It is] a song about a holy love, one that is distinct and exclusive from all others in the lives of the two people involved. It is a song about a young woman from a lowly place who fell in love with a prince, and he in turn with her. It is a song about the very essence of a passionate and committed relationship. There is no other book like it. And there is no more important book for you to read and understand if you have any interest whatsoever in what God thinks about love, sex and intimacy![iv]
The Urgency of Monogamy
Next to the gospel itself (and as the fruit of it), what could bring greater good to this African continent than biblical monogamy? ‘One man with one woman for life’ would transform our society unrecognisably! And imagine how a Spirit-empowered, repentant return to sexual purity and marital permanence could revive our churches, transforming our praying, preaching, singing, fellowship, and our outreach through the joy of clear consciences and happy homes.
Our Lord had given us Song of Solomon for this purpose – to map out for us God’s path of purity in an impure, “crooked and perverse generation” (Php. 2:14). This is how God sets captives free, purifies worldly homes and churches, and sanctifies His people (Jn. 17:17).
Rightly was it said, “Nowhere in Scripture does the unspiritual mind tread upon ground so mysterious and incomprehensible as in this book; while the saintliest men and women of the ages have found Song of Solomon a source of pure and exquisite delight”.[v]
The influential ‘Mark Driscoll’ approach to Song of Solomon of the previous decade, with all its crass crudeness and graphic vulgarity, has shown us how not to teach this book. Here in Johannesburg we saw prominent churches jumping on this pragmatic bandwagon, using sexy preaching as a church-growth tactic, even being shamed by secular authorities requiring them to remove provocative billboards. What a stark contrast to Solomon’s own approach, as Dr. Macarthur writes:
…the language Scripture employs when dealing with the physical relationship between husband and wife is always careful—often plain, sometimes poetic, usually delicate, frequently muted by euphemisms, and never fully explicit.
…In fact, Solomon’s love-poem epitomizes the exact opposite approach. It is, of course, a lengthy poem about courtship and marital love. …Its whole point is gently, subtly, and elegantly to express the emotional and physical intimacy of marital love—in language suitable for any audience.
…Song of Solomon is incredibly beautiful precisely because it is so carefully veiled. It is a perfect description of the wonderful, tender, intimate discovery that God designed to take place between a young man and his bride in a place of secrecy.
May we handle with care Solomon’s sensitive song. May we never approach the Holy Bible with unholy hands or impure words and unsound speech (Tit. 2:8).
Dear Christian reader, my aim in this 4-part blog is to persuade you with seven reasons why you need Song of Solomon. This is an urgent call for God’s people to sing Solomon’s best song in our marriages and parenting, with our singles and dating couples, and as entire congregations. Today we start with Reason #1:
(1) We Need Song of Solomon because it is God’s Word.
If this were the only reason, it should be enough. Church history and modern Christianity are strewn with the wreckage of those who professed the Bible’s authority and sufficiency on paper yet denied it in practice. Song of Solomon tests whether we really believe 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Do we merely say God’s Word is all we need, or do we show it where the ‘tacky hits the tar’? In the nitty-gritty of romance, in the pursuit of sexual purity, in the quest for a happy marriage, is Scripture truly sufficient? Is biblical authority only notional and theoretical for us, or functional and operational?
Song of Solomon has always been recognized as part of the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish canon of the Old Testament. In other words, this was the very Bible of our Lord Jesus, His apostles, and the Christian Church ever since. Solomon’s best song was not man’s idea, but God’s. We dare not then be dismissive, ashamed, or apologetic, about a book that the divine Author handpicked to be included in His inspired, inerrant, perfect Word.
‘But wait,’ you exclaim, ‘what business does Solomon have telling us about marriage, when he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs 11:3)?! We might as well have Lance Armstrong teach us about honesty, or Tiger Woods about sexual purity? Great question!
For starters, Solomon might have written this early in his life, with his Shulammite bride as his 1st wife before he messed things up with 699 others. Or perhaps he wrote it later in life as his public repentance, for the next generation to avoid his folly? As Nelson states:
It is very often the person who has been on the opposite side of good who knows the most about good. …If you want a person who knows the most about purity of love, sacrificial love, and lasting love, who better to consult than a guy like Solomon?[vi]
Does not our God often strike a straight blow with a crooked stick? What about the Law, given through Moses, a man disqualified from ever entering the Promised Land? What about all the psalms written by King David, a former adulterer and murderer? What about all the epistles written by Paul, a former Christian-killer and hater of the Church? Indeed, Solomon’s words put his deeds to shame. But that does not disqualify his words. We must remember that it’s not the writers but the writings of Scripture that are inspired and infallible (2 Tim. 3:16).
1 Kings 4 records that, because of the great wisdom God granted Solomon, he “spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005” (vv. 29-34). He was the wisest man and most brilliant, poetic mind of his day! In Song of Solomon, we see the king’s God-given wisdom also in science, nature and geography: In a mere 117 total verses, he mentions 21 species of plants, 15 species of animals, and 15 different locations on the map! Talk about the original renaissance man! This fascinating book is a lively, colourful, visual ballad to be read with all five senses wide awake.
Where would God’s people be without the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament? Praise God for giving us these priceless books for skillful living, like a four-stroke engine to drive us away from folly and toward godly wisdom. We’ve got the Book of Proverbs for how to live well, the Book of Job for how to suffer well, and the Book of Ecclesiastes for handling life’s frustrations well. Then, as the delicious icing atop this many-layered wisdom ‘wedding cake’, God has given us Song of Solomon for how to marry well. Wise living yields wise loving. No book of the Bible demonstrates this better than Song of Solomon.
G. Lloyd Carr remarks:
The believing Christian comes to the Bible with the faith that it is God’s word to mankind. But we are more than merely spiritual beings; we are human. If God is concerned about our human condition – and the incarnation makes it plain that he is – his revelation will be concerned with every aspect of that condition. And that includes human sexuality.
Hamilton encourages us:
Solomon’s Song calls us to a better life, and we hear the music through God’s life-changing Word. …it sings us right into reality. The mesmerizing Song captivates our attention, wooing our hearts and winning our minds, demonstrating that the way of life depicted in its poetry is more real than the world’s version of the good life.
…Song of Solomon is inviting, exciting, and daunting, and God will use it to make us love Him, to make us long for Christ, and to make us better single people and better spouses, better youth and better adults, better children and better parents.[vii]
My fellow believers, when Jesus prayed for us, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth”, that included Song of Solomon (Jn. 17:17). May God help us to rediscover its sanctifying, purifying power!
 p. 5 in Maintaining Sexual Purity, by Conrad Mbewe.
[i] Tim serves as Sr. Pastor of Antioch Bible Church, and President & Lecturer at Shepherds’ Seminary, both based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
[iii] See here theologically, by A. Kostenberger: https://www.amazon.com/Marriage-Family-Essentials-Andreas-Kostenberger/dp/1433528568/; https://www.amazon.com/God-Marriage-Family-Second-Rebuilding/dp/1433503646/. See here pastorally/practically for counselling, by J. Street, Passions of the Heart: Biblical Counsel for Stubborn Sins, https://www.amazon.com/dp/1629954020/.”
[iv] pp. xii, xv, The Book of Romance.
[v]p. 171, J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, Vol. 3.
[vi] p. xv, ibid.
[vii] pp. 15-17, Hamilton, Song of Songs.