Why Does the Bible Talk about Sex?
With the conclusion of our journey through the Wisdom Literature of the Bible this past Sunday, I can truly say that I have throughly enjoyed looking at all 5 of the books, although this final message was a little more stressful because it contained mature themes. Talking about sex in the context of a multi-generational group always proves challenging, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about it. In fact, the way we train and equip our kids for the hyper-sexualized culture they live in is not to treat sex as taboo or be ashamed to talk about it, but to help them understand in the context of God’s beautiful and glorious design. This means that the church needs to be ready to talk about sex MORE, not less.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, if the Bible talks explicitly about sex, then it is God’s design for us to be informed explicitly about sex. This conviction has led us to a plain reading of the Wisdom Literature, including the Song of Solomon.
Intimacy and Sex are Gifts from God
The presence of a book about desire, attraction, and sex in the Bible should not surprise us (if it does it proves that we are reading the Bible with too much cultural influence). Love poetry was popular in ancient culture because in the experience of physical pleasure & intimacy, human beings connect with something transcendent. For pagans or polytheists, the literature explained how to seek pleasure in & of itself.
But for those informed by a biblical worldview, pleasure & intimacy prompt us to question the Creator’s intention. As science has explained to us the reality of nerve endings & biological makeup, these things have served as signposts that we have been created for pleasure. Pleasure cannot be an end in itself (hedonism), for this self-centered pleasure-seeking will sour all relationships. Instead, pleasure, romance, intimacy, & oneness are all components of healthy relationships, all of which are meant to bring us delight in God who created us, who created our bodies, who created relationships, & who designed relational security in the context of covenant marriage.
In light of this, it should be no surprise that Solomon either chronicled, commissioned, or catalogued these love poems in the Song of Songs. But in light of the Wisdom literature of the Bible, where does the Song of Songs fit in? As we have been doing an overview of each book, let’s know do an overview of the Wisdom Literature as a group.
There are two divisions that seem apparent when you consider the meaning of each Wisdom book. When we look at the order of the Wisdom books within the Old Testament the sequence is due to chronology, but another perspective of it is extremely helpful.
Category One: The Good Life According to God
The first category consists of the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Job. These three books answer the same question from three different angles. That question is: How does a person live a life of blessing according to God’s design?
The book of Proverbs would answer this question by saying that the good life is achieved by a person gaining wisdom through the fear of the Lord. To put it another way, if a person submits to the Lord, the Lord will lead him or her to walk a path of life & wisdom, generally marked by success & health according to God’s definitions & not the world’s. This last distinction is important due to the fact that success is not always financial & health is not always physical in God’s eyes. This interpretation is a common misreading of the book of Proverbs that interprets the proverbs as promises.
The book of Ecclesiastes deals with the hard questions of those who have sought to live a life according to wisdom, but have found that life is mysterious (namely that things don’t always work out as they should). The world is broken & things that happen often perplex those who seek to live according to wisdom. The narrator of Ecclesiastes uses the Preacher’s words to display this truth: The fleeting realities of earthly life (work, pleasure, time, hobbies, etc.) are not worth treating as supreme, for there is only one supreme, & that is fearing God & living humbly by faith in this broken world.
The book of Job gives us a personal example of this conclusion in Ecclesiastes. Job fears God & lives blamelessly. By a hasty reading of the book of Proverbs, Job should live a prosperous life & never encounter any suffering. But this is not Job’s story. Job is successful, but then he loses everything. So, his friend’s show up to try & help him discover where he has sinned so that he can diagnose why this suffering came upon him. Job holds steadfast to the fact that, while not perfect, he has not walked the path of foolishness & destruction that would lead him to devastation. He doesn’t understand why God has done this to him. Over & over, he cries out to God & asks the question we all do, “Why?!?” Then God shows up in a whirlwind, not to answer Job’s questions, but to reveal His majesty & glory to Job. In the end, Job is humbled at the suffering he’s experienced & the new level of intimacy that he has with God because of the suffering — & he is content with the answer God gave him. Notice that God answer NONE of Job’s questions & yet he is still content & satisfied with God’s actions.
So, what was the point of wisdom? To help us walk the path of life, right (Proverbs)? But the world is broken & the path of life doesn’t always look the way we think it should, right (Ecclesiastes)? So, we should just walk humbly, fearing God & trusting that He can even use the suffering & the brokenness of this world to clarify our view that He is sufficient in every season (Job).
Category Two: Relationships
The second category within the Wisdom books consists of Psalms & the Song of Songs. These two don’t go together just as “leftovers,” but to give us a biblical perspective on the two most important relationships that God has bestowed upon human beings. These two relationships provide the fundamental components of the “good life” according to God’s design. In fact, these two relationships are the two present at Creation, before sin entered the world: man’s relationship with God & God’s gift of covenant marriage.
The book of Psalms is a compilation of different songs, prayers, & praises by Hebrew authors at various points throughout Israel’s history. Yet, the first two psalms & the construction of the book as a whole give a clear picture of the book’s purpose. The first psalm identifies the “blessed” person as one who meditates upon the “torah” or “instruction of God.” This word choice is clearly meant to draw the reader to consider the first five books of the OT. These five books describe God’s work in Israel & a catalog of His promises that invited them to walk with Him. The book of Psalms itself have five different books, which serve as a companion “torah” to the “Torah” (first five books of the OT). By reading the psalms, the person who longs to walk with God will find hope in His promises throughout every season of life. But hope must have a direct object, & that is where the second psalm comes to the forefront. Psalm 2 is about the Lord’s Anointed One, traditionally called the “Messiah.” The Messiah is a victorious warrior who would come & bring deliverance, justice, & peace to God’s people over sin & the enemies of God. With eyes on the Messiah, the one who wants to walk with God finds hope through prayer & praise. The book of Psalms is an invitation from God for anyone to walk with Him in hopeful prayer, with eyes fixed on the Promised Messiah. This is the most important relationship a person can have in their lives.
Song of Songs
The Song of Songs is a celebration of the second most important relationship a person can have in their lives: a relationship with their covenant spouse. Song of Songs is a book of poems which reveals the beauty of relationships & the gifts of intimacy according to God’s design. The pursuit, longing when absent, joy of marriage, gift of sex, & blessing of oneness are all gifts from God & can lead one in worship when pursued according to God’s design. When we seek to define this aspect of our lives according to that perfect design, our emotions, passions, & physical desires will serve God’s purposes in our sanctification, rather than lead us away from God.
Before sin ever entered the world, God had created & blessed humans with these two relationships. The pain & brokenness that people experience spiritually & relationally are not part of God’s design. Sin has distorted these two areas because sin always separates us from God’s perfection. Therefore, the books of Psalms & the Song of Songs are a call for believers to lift up the beauty of these two relationships as essential to God’s plan for human flourishing.
God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). If we want to walk the path of life laid out for us in the Wisdom books, then we need a healthy view of relationships (with God and in with our spouse) and a wise view of our choices, of our selves, and of the seasons of suffering that we will most certainly have in this life. Therefore, let us look at the Wisdom books as a perfect guide for life and as the object of study so that we can walk faithfully with the Lord in this life.