Over a very long and wonderfully relaxing Christmas break, I had the pleasure of listening through a sermon series on Song of Solomon. I’ll include the link below… if my calculations are correct, I believe the recording took place around 1990, from pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church in Texas.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll tell you that my (previous) knowledge of Song of Solomon was very limited. I knew that it was written by King Solomon, who is often regarded as the wisest man in all of history. I also knew that the story functions on two levels: one, to tell a beautiful love story between a God-fearing man and woman, and two, to serve as a metaphor for God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice for us – the church. That said, I could only get so far with it before the poetic language threw me for a loop. “[Your] teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn”? (4:2) Ummmmmm okay?
So, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this series. It is 6 consecutive messages that break down the 8 chapters of Song of Solomon into 6 stages of relationships/marriage. If you click on the link, you’ll find that the messages are titled according to the stage (attraction, dating, intimacy, conflict, deepening, and faithfulness). It really is a nice combination of Bible study (he gives a lot of background and context for the poetic language and metaphors that Solomon uses) and practical takeaways. I think it’s seriously worthwhile for anyone who is single, dating, or currently married. Ie: If you are over the age of 16, this may be for you! Haha
I don’t want to regurgitate too much of what he says, because, let’s face it… he does a better job in the original than I could hope to do in my summary. That said, I’ll share my biggest takeaway, which is this:
We should expect tenderness from our men.
Tommy Nelson is ALL about tenderness. Seriously. He MEANS BUSINESS about men being tender. Here’s why:
1) In 1 Peter 3:7, it talks about women being the “weaker vessel.” Some people interpret this phrase to mean that women are inferior to men… I’m not so sure about this. If you read the whole verse, it says “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (NIV). What I’ve heard pastors and authors argue is not that weaker means inferior (as though life is one big bench press contest) but that weaker means delicate. Like comparing a thermometer to a crowbar or porcelain to plywood. How do you treat porcelain? Tenderly… because it’s breakable, it’s valuable, and it’s something to be cherished.
2) In all of the language that Solomon uses to describe his love, he consistently compares her to things that must be approached gently and tenderly. A brief list of the metaphors he uses include sheep, fawns, goats, ribbon, flowers, etc. Here’s the thing… anyone with any sense knows that you don’t run up to any baby animal with your arms flailing and voice ringing out. You don’t walk carelessly over a bed of flowers. Why not? Because the very nature of these things demands that don’t treat them coarsely, or they will either cease to exist, or cease to be near you. Lol
3) Jesus was a tender and emotional man. He is defined by love, compassion, and mercy. Author Brennan Manning writes “scripture says that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness.” Author Richard Foster says “God’s heart is the most sensitive and tender of all.” (Both quotes from a wonderful book by Manning called Abba’s Child – go read it!) Here’s one more: “Jesus is a man in a way that we have forgotten men can be… the gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to his emotions and uninhabited in his expressing them” (Manning).
Thus, the Bible gives clear direction on the importance of tenderness in all three major sections: Old Testament, Gospels, and the epistles. However, we don’t tend to have much of an expectation for men on this front, do we? I know I didn’t.
We tend to think “boys will be boys” and “men will be men” and “I keep him around because he opens pickle jars and is great at fixing the dryer when it breaks.” And don’t get me wrong, God made men to be masculine… and they should be. But it’s also clear that they should be tender… and that we, as women, have a right to be treated like something precious, and valuable, and praise-worthy (again with dear Solomon – Proverbs 31:30).
So, I encourage you to think about this. I encourage you to pray over God’s design for the kind of treatment you deserve from men and make sure you’re getting it… or getting out. And when you have 6 hours to spare, check out the whole sermon series (for free!) on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/denton-bible-church-love-song/id148822180