As a Christian, I can tell you that I KNOW my identity, worth, security, my everything rest in my Savior and not in man, his approval or his affirmation. That being said, few things on this earth encourage me, drive me forward and lift my spirits like a well timed and sincere compliment. For example, as a Pastor, Mondays can be tough. I’m drained emotionally, spiritually and physically from the rigors of spiritual warfare that I’d engaged in the day before as I’d “earnestly contended for the faith once delivered unto the saints” and stepped into a fight for the souls of men. Now, to be sure, I KNOW that if I’d faithfully executed my task from the pulpit and accomplished that which God had willed for the day, then no matter the “results” at the invitation or in meetings held afterward, God has approved my work. That gives me great joy. At the same time, though a word of encouragement or affirmation from the Body of Christ isn’t what I rest in….I cannot even begin to express how much Gospel good it does for me. I can be in the dumps as I awake early Monday morning and often (praise God) I’ll get a phone call, text, FB message or card from one of our Church members that simply states, “Pastor, I love you and see God moving through your life…. I’m with you…. I have your back…Your in my prayers today..etc” and I’m immediately on cloud 9.
I can tell you that for a Pastor (& his family), a little compliment goes a long, long way.
Can I tell you a secret that will probably fan the flames of your marriage?
Frequent, “true to the bone” compliments offered to your spouse does more good in the promotion of a white-hot marriage than we probably even realize.
You see, I spend much time counseling troubled marriages. Some are with a couple who have minor issues that are quickly resolved, some sessions iunvolve marriages that are just not hitting on all cylinders and need some Biblical counsel on how they can remedy that and yes, some of the counseling that I do with couples involves deep, dark and potentially damning issues. Point is, I do a lot of marriage counseling and I have seen it all.
Because God has given me a passion for healthy, Biblical unions and plenty of opportunities to counsel couples…I’ve developed an eye for potential problems in a marriage. Just little things that I see concerning couples and how they interact that may be barely noticeable to them but serve as a giant neon sign flashing “WARNING” to me. When I notice these things, I’ll often ask the couple to drop by my office and I’ll bring what I see to light. Often, they’ll take my words to heart and kill the problem before it grows into a divisive monster and sometimes they’ll ignore my counsel and view my concern as “prying”. Truth is, I love them and care about the health of their marriage too much to remain silent when I see a potential storm coming. What they do with my counsel is on them.
One of those indicators that flashes neon is when I notice a man or his wife struggle to publicly affirm or compliment their spouse. I’ve found that when a person in the context of marriage is hesitant to speak encouraging, loving words that highlight their spouses publicly, well, it’s more than likely not happening privately either. This is a indicator of trouble in the relationship. An even greater indicator of a marital storm brewing is when a person DOES have things to say about their spouse publicly …but it’s always negative. Opening up about all that “HE” isn’t…or highlighting “HER” faults, etc.
Since I’m here….and since we live in a Social media world…there are few things that infuriate me more than a husband or wife (specifically a husband or wife who professes Christ as Savior) airing out the marital grievances on Facebook. What a self-centered, petty, childish and cowardly thing to do! It benefits no one, will not remedy a problem and in time, will turn your own family and friends on your spouse as they develop opinions about them solely based on your immature gripes.
If that offends you deeply, it was meant to. That kind of behavior is ungodly. (OK, off my soap-box).
The fact it, your spouse (and mine) has faults and guess what? Most of the time they are very, very aware of them. Those faults weigh on them daily and the last thing they need is for you to consistently harp on what they already know (and are most likely already working on). Yes, there are occasions within a marriage relationship where lovingly calling out sinful actions would be practicing Biblical faith but those cases are fairly rare and the call to “keep one another accountable” is not to be abused. It’s to be done only when justified scripturally, with restoration, mercy and grace in mind…and privately.
Take a moment to think of your own marriage relationship. When you speak of your spouse (privately or publicly) do you find yourself expressing condemnation of affirmation. Do you more frequently highlight their strengths or weaknesses?
I can say that experientially and MORE IMPORTANTLY, scripturally – when a marriage is full of public and private affirmations of one another it’s like someone has stoked the coals. HOT!
We see that fact come to life in today’s study of Song of Songs (1:12-17).
Remember that last week we saw Shulammite struggling with fear and insecurity. In the midst of her struggle, the wise and observant King Solomon took notice and demonstrated in word and in deed the love and adoration he had for his wife. These actions put Shulammites insecurities and fears to sleep in today’s text, sparked a compliment contest of sorts as they attempted to “outdo” one another in affirmation (By the way, this little game is Biblical…Romans 12:10 “…outdo one another in showing honor…”)
“While the king is on his couch, my perfume releases its fragrance. My love is a sachet of myrrh to me, spending the night between my breasts. My love is a cluster of henna blossoms to me, in the vineyards of En-gedi. How beautiful you are, my darling. How very beautiful! Your eyes are doves. How handsome you are, my love. How delightful! Our bed is lush with foliage; the beams of our house are cedars, and our rafters are cypresses”Song Of Songs 1:12-17 (HCSB)
In verse 12-14, Shulammite responds to the love and commitment that was demonstrated by Solomon with heavy and sincere adoration.
(12) “While the King is on his couch, my perfume releases it’s fragrance”
Notice, she addresses Solomon as King. This is not only in relation to his position in Israel but also a term of endearment of sorts as it’s a term of nobility. She admires Solomon. She respects both him and his God given role within their home (“…for the husband is head of his wife as Christ is head of the church” Ephesians 5:23).
She goes on to say that Solomon “is on his couch” – this is also translated “reclines at his table” and speaks of ease and relaxation. One of a mans very basic but vital needs is for his home to be cultivated in such a way that it’s kind of a safe-haven for him. His home must be a place where he is free to “let down his guard” (more on that in a later study). Shulammite is sensitive to this need of her man and has provided such a place!
(13) “My love is a sachet of myrrh to me, spending the night between my breast”
Here Shulammite compares her husband to a sachet of myrrh. This is beautiful as you begin to understand the meaning of what she is saying.
Myrrh is a resinous gum that’s produced and collected from a rare South Arabian tree. It could be purchased in solid or liquid for. The liquid form, of course would be carried in small vile and was commonly used for the preparation of a body for burial (among many other uses). In solid form, as described here, as they myrrh resin hardened, fat would be added to it. It would them be placed in a small sachet (or pouch) and worn around the neck, under the clothes (usually extending to the area between the breast). As body the natural heat from the body begins to warm the sachet the fat would slowly melt, releasing the aroma of myrrh over an extended amount of time, filling the room with a wonderful fragrance.
When Shulammite compares her man to that sweet, fragrant sachet of myrrh that lay all night between her breast, she was implying that even the thought of Solomon, the man he was, the things that he would say and do was like a pleasing aroma that stayed with her all day long and was as close to her heart as could be.
She goes on – (14) “My love is a cluster of henna blossoms to me, in the vineyards of En-gedi”
Some of the most inhospitable terrain of Solomons time was the area surrounding the Dead Sea. Parched, unresourceful and bone dry desert…except for a small area on the western shore called the “Oasis of En-gedi. En-gedi provided the only fresh waterfall for miles around and lush vegetation sprang from its banks due to its semi-tropical temperature. Standing out among the lush natural gardens of the En-gedi was the henna bush. What caused the henna to command the eyes attention were the thick yellow and white flowers that would bloom year round..
Moving through that dry and unforgiving desert climate, a pilgrim be awed and refreshed by the beauty of the henna blossom.
The analogy Shulammite makes here is striking to say the least! For her, Solomon was like an oasis in the desert. Refreshment when she needed it most. As I read her words, it’s as if she is saying to him, “This world is a desert of men but you have been my oasis. You are refreshing”! Wow!
Quick Marriage Tip: Passion often flows from praise. This fact should be noted regarding concerning the marriage bed. Real passion in the bedroom is preceded by passion in every other room first. Words of affirmation through the day set the stage for what takes place during the night! Real passion begins when we whisper “sweet nothings” in our spouses ear and ends when we whisper nothing sweet at all!
So, Shulammite is showering praise upon her man! She loves him, respects him desires him…and makes that very clear through her complimentary words. In verse 15, Solomon decides she’s not going to have all the fun here, “I’ve got something to say to you too!”
(15) “How beautiful are you my darling. How beautiful! Your eyes are like doves!”
Solomon addresses Shulammite as his “darling” (also translated, “my love”). Either way, it’s a endearing term. He compliments her appearance twice here as he describes her as “beautiful”. NOTE: this isn’t the first or last time he does this! Guys, your lady needs to hear this more than once in a blue moon! Yes, let her know she’s beautiful when she’s fixed herself up for a night on the town but also when she’s been in her P.J.’s all Saturday morning too! She CAN NOT hear it too much!
Solomon goes on to compliment her eyes. Don’t misread this. This is a big deal. You see, Jewish tradition identifies beautiful eyes with beautiful character. Beautiful eyes was more than a reference to pupil size or color but were a hallmark of perfection in a woman (reference Rachel / Leah in Gen 29). You’ve undoubtedly hear it said that “the eyes are a window to the soul” and that’s kind of what Solomon is getting at here! As Solomon gazes into the eyes of his lover, he notices that they are a witness to the radiance within her.
Solomons compliments provoke further response from Shulammite
(16) “How handsome are you, my love. How delightful! Our bed is lush with foliage”
The word used here, “Handsome”is actually the same Hebrew word that would be used for beautiful. The difference here is that it’s used in a masculine sense. Shulammite is affirming Solomons strength and poise. She’s complimenting his masculinity! (BIG, BIG deal ladies))
She calls him “delightful”. This word means “pleasant. He put her at ease. He was kind and gentle.
In these two compliments Shulammite indicates that Solomon is appealing to him because of both his masculine qualities such as strength and ability to provide and protect in regards to her physical needs as well as his ability to be tender and sensitive, providing for her emotional and personal needs as well.
She describes their bed as being “lush with foliage”to highlight that their marriage bed was one of fruitfulness, pleasure and passion. It was fresh and alive (just as God intends for it to be).
In verse 17, she speaks of the gratitude she has for providing a safe, strong home for her (again ladies…BIG DEAL…silent gratitude never really helps anyone)
“The beams of our house are cedar, our rafters cypresses”
Then she turn to herself. Not in a vain or self-centered way but she speaks of the way she now feels about herself due to Solomons compliments
“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys”
Solomons words of affirmation make her feel like a wildflower, beautiful, free and untamed by the gardener named “Insecurity”. My, oh, my! What a contrast in her words from our last study until this one! A few verses ago, Shulammite implores Solomon not to even look at her and now she compares herself to the most beautiful of flowers!
Why? A Few Words Of Affirmation!
Let me ask you again…in the context of your own marriage relationship – What are you saying to (or about) your spouse. Building up or tearing down? The way you answer that question means everything. BTW, DSChurch folks heed the principles found in this text and it could keep you out of my counseling office!
Grace and Peace – Pastor Kyle