Sabbath School Lesson for May 4-10, 2019
The Song of Solomon contains more words of wisdom that center on the marriage relationship, especially the intimate, sexual expressions of love that are reserved for a husband and wife. From this royal love song, we learn that…
- our physical and spiritual lives are not separate entities, but are both declared “good” by God from the Creation of our world–our sexuality and spirituality are connected and are both gifts from God (Sunday)
- intimate, self-giving expressions of marital love can enhance the love that exists for parent and child, between church members, and believers and God (Monday)
- God planned from the beginning for man and woman, through companionship, commitment, and sexual expressions of love, to become “one flesh”, that they would “know” each other freely and without force, providing us with insights into the holy union of Christ and His church (Tuesday)
- reserving sexual intimacies until friendships have been well-established and marital commitment has been publicly declared is our greatest safeguard for a successful marriage (Wednesday)
- although many perverted forms of love have become commonplace in society today, we must continue to uphold the standards of God through prayer and with the aid of the Holy Spirit (Thursday)
One of the biggest seasons of most of our lives is marriage; and not surprisingly, God included a love song in the Holy Scriptures that describes the beauty of conjugal love and intimacy.
Marriage can be our greatest challenge, but also our greatest blessing. Sexuality, the most powerful expression of the love between a man and woman, can be a blessing, if we are careful to follow the guidelines that God has established for this sacred relationship.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames of fire, a most vehement flame.” Song of Solomon 8:6 NKJV
Jealousy is mentioned in the first four of the Ten Commandments. God announces in the midst of them, “…For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” Exodus 20:5 NKJV This provides us with a hint of the way we are to see our marriage commitment, as similar to the faithfulness in our relationship to God.
Thus, the Song of Solomon, one of the smallest and least-read books of the Bible, should not be overlooked, as we continue to explore all phases of family life and seasons this quarter.
Sunday: Indivisible Life
Some religions, even those outside Christianity, hold to a philosophy known as dualism, that sees the physical side of humans, including our sexuality, as separate from spiritual life. This philosophy of the Gnostics led to two major streams of thought:
- ascetic sexuality, which says that anything that pertains to the body is inherently bad, and those things seen as spiritual are good
- hedonistic sexuality, which says that since the body and the spirit are separate, then it doesn’t matter what you do with your body
A closer look at the Scriptures, however, reveals a close connection between these two natures. God must be involved in the thoughts and intents of our hearts (our spiritual nature), as well as our behavior and conduct in the everyday affairs of living (our physical nature).
Therefore, we must endeavor to discover what God’s will is for marriage and sexuality, keeping close the connection between our spiritual and physical needs.
The openness about this topic in the Song of Solomon encourages us to explore God’s original plan for men and women to become “one flesh”. We can and should feel comfortable talking about this special gift, given to us at Creation.
Read Genesis 2:7 and 1:31. How do these verses support the belief that our physical and spiritual natures are not separate entities?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 and Psalm 84:2. How can we glorify God in the marriage relationship, including the physical intimacies between husband and wife?
Read Song of Solomon 1:2, 2:6, and Genesis 2:25. Why are these and other common expressions of love found in the Song of Solomon not meant to cause embarrassment in the context of marriage? Why is there a need for more discreet, appropriate conversation when discussing our sexual nature?
Monday: The Loves of the Love Song
The true love of a man and woman, that begins as friendship and results in a lifelong commitment, influences other loves of our lives. Such as the love and trust between parent and child, between church members and neighbors, and even our love for God.
Yes, God wants a bond of intimacy with us that matches the bond between marriage partners. Spending time with God and giving ourselves completely to Him are also vital to the success of this divine-human relationship, much as it is in marriage.
Read Song of Solomon 5:16. Why is it important that husband and wife also be friends?
Read Romans 5:5. What is the source of love between a man and woman, and between us and God?
Read Philippians 1:19-21. How do hopes, expectations, boldness, and magnifying each other also describe what we experience as we enter a marriage relationship and then continue that bond through the many years spent with each other?
Tuesday: A Loving Knowledge
The Bible uses the word “know” to indicate the conjugal act that leads to the birth of a baby (Genesis 4:1). But this intimate knowledge of each other reminds us of the close bond God desires to have with His children. He wants desperately for us to “know” Him (John 17:3).
In addition, no force or manipulation should characterize the marriage union. The balance we see in the Song of Solomon, with both partners voicing their love for each other, points to the equality expected of spouses in God’s original plan for marriage.
Adam supports this equality when he declared in Eden, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” Genesis 2:23 A Christian marriage should strive for this same level of equality, if we are to reach the standard God intended for mankind in the beginning.
Both male and female, although different, are both equal in the eyes of God. Together they make up the image of God (Genesis 1:27 and Galatians 3:28).
Read Genesis 4:1 and John 17:3. “Knowing” each other led to the birth of Cain. What does “knowing” God lead to?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:3. Why are loving someone and “knowing” them an important combination?
Read Song of Solomon 2:16, Ephesians 5:28, and 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 6:19, 20. How does the idea of ownership of one’s body help us in having satisfying, sexual relations with our spouse?
Wednesday: Love at the Right Time
Timing is of utmost importance when it comes to marriage and the family. The Song of Solomon addresses when sexual encounters should and should not occur, if we read its ancient words carefully.
The brothers of Solomon’s wife wondered if she would be a “door” or a “wall” (Song of Solomon 8: 8, 9). In other words, would she be chaste (a “wall”) or promiscuous (a “door”) before her marriage.
Three times she counsels her friends, daughters of Jerusalem, to be chaste (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4). “Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases,” she tells them.
And this counsel to chastity would apply equally to the husband. God does not sanction any sexual activity outside the marriage relationship of a man and woman. He says plainly…
“Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality…” 1 Corinthians 6:16-18 NKJV
Read Song of Solomon 8:8, 9, Isaiah 55:7, and Psalm 103:12. How does this veiled language of being either a “door” or a “wall” instruct us about the importance of remaining chaste before marriage? How willing is God to forgive past sexual indiscretions, when we repent of them?
Read Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4. Why was this counsel repeated in the beginning, middle, and end of this love song? Why is there a need for modest, appropriate behavior throughout our lives?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:16-18. What are the reasons that men and women are to flee sexual promiscuity? What harm is there?
Thursday: Safeguarding the Creator’s Gift
Besides the Sabbath, no other gift of God at Creation has the potential to bless the heart of man and woman as much as marriage, including the intimate expressions of love spouses have for each other.
But Satan has worked hard to pervert the gift of sexuality, introducing all kinds of variations that do not reflect God’s image. They actually destroy that image, and we are repeatedly warned about them in the Holy Scriptures.
Homosexuality is only one of the many sexual sins, mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, we must not let that issue divert us from all the other ways we dishonor God. (Adultery and divorce without just cause are still far more prevalent.)
Let’s remember that there are no degrees of sin with God. Sin is sin. Let’s not let society dictate our position. All of us struggle with something, and therefore, we must uplift fellow believers and not react in ways that condemn each other.
Through faith, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can all overcome our unsavory sexual habits and seek to obey Christ, even in our thoughts. For God owns our bodies, and we must do all we can to forsake practices that God has not sanctioned.
Read Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 10:4, 5. Why are our thoughts as important as our actions? When does a tempting thought become a sin?
Read Romans 8:6-11. What’s the difference in being carnally minded and spiritually minded? What is the only way to have life, and not death?
Read 1 John 1:9, John 8:11, and Matthew 7:1. Is judging the same as condemning? Why didn’t Jesus condemn the adulteress?
In Hebrews 11:25, we find that Moses denied himself the “pleasures of sin”, in order to follow God’s directions for rescuing His people from Egyptian slavery. Satan would have us believe that all pleasurable activity, including sex, must therefore be sinful.
This twisted form of logic has done much to distance people from God and desensitize them to the normal, natural use of our sexuality. God’s purpose for regulating our sexual behavior, however, is for the purpose of maximizing our pleasure.
As this royal love song demonstrates, there is intense satisfaction in a lifelong, monogamous, intimate relationship with one’s best friend. Solomon evidently enjoyed this intended pleasure with the Shulamite woman for a time.
Sadly, we know that he later strayed from God’s ideal marriage and married multiple wives, a practice indulged in by the surrounding pagan nations. It did not provide the king the happiness he was seeking, but instead led to untold heartache and suffering for all parties involved.
Many of us, like Solomon, have followed the wrong path in our relationships, and regret our past wanderings from God’s ideal pattern. The good news is that God can forgive any and all of our personal indiscretions, when we confess and surrender them to our merciful Savior.
Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance that is well worth memorizing. King David, Solomon’s father, must have experienced immense guilt and anguish after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. This psalm reminds us of the power of forgiveness that only God can provide. We can trust Him to erase our guilt, to wash and cleanse us thoroughly. What a wonderful freedom we are given when we surrender our will to His.
Tip for Sabbath School Teachers: Be sure and read Ed Dickerson’s recent series of blogs and learn how to be a great facilitator for any small group study!
To hear a podcast about Sabbath School that features two of Outlook’s bloggers, Connie Nelson and I:
Next Week’s Lesson: Keys to Family Unity
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/