I recently began studying the book of Song of Solomon. I find many of the details difficult. It is a very poetic book and it is a challenge to interpret the flow of the book and its very beautiful language. But one thing that is not a challenge to understand is God's purpose and message in this book, although many in church history have confused the purpose of this book. Many have understood Song of Solomon as an allegory with the young woman as the church or the believer and the young man as Christ. While there is some merit in this approach, as I will explain later, I think this way of looking at this booked is flawed. There is a simpler and more logical way of understanding God's purpose for us in Song of Solomon.
God gave us the Song of Solomon to honour marriage and sexual intimacy in marriage. God wants us to see what wonderful gifts love, marriage, and sex are. God wants us to enjoy marriage. Sexual intimacy in marriage is a gift from God to be enjoyed. Such a book calls us to honour marriage too in our words, deeds, and thoughts. It calls us to love our wives or husbands more. Song of Solomon should lead us to worship such a good God who gives such wonderful gifts to His creatures.
Sadly, marriage is dishonoured among so many, even in the church. The early church thought low of marriage. They had a high estimate of celibacy, which was to be perfered over marriage. The truly holy were those who were celibate. Marriage was often thought to simply be a way to protect a person from lust and fornication. Later this turned into forcing all the clergy to be celibate. The Catholic church even controlled the sexual activity of its people in the Middle Ages. There were many special days where people were forced to abstain from sex. Sex was considered carnal and fleshly, only to be done to produce children, not to be enjoyed. Song of Solomon corrects these wrong ideas about marriage and sex. Song of Solomon honours marriage and sex. Both are to be enjoyed as gifts of God, so long as they are used as He prescribes.
Another problem that can be corrected by understanding Song of Solomon is talking about sex in a coarse and crude manner. So many make dirty jokes, disgusting innuendo, and vulgar remarks. These have no place in the Christian's speech. Song of Solomon uses poetic language to veil the private and sacred nature of sexual intercourse. It speaks of these things in a discreet and respectful way. God wants us to do so as well.
Song of Solomon shows us how God views marriage and how we should view it as well. In an age of failing marriages and divorce, people are cynical about marriage. It is so bad now that people don't even get married because they know it will fail. The marital state is mocked and belittled. But the problem is not a defect in God's design of marriage, but a defect in people. The fall into sin has corrupted us. Sin has ruined us. Sin destroys relationships. Sin abuses marriage. Sinful people have taken God's gift of marriage and sex and dragged them though the manure or devalued them. Marriages don't work, because people don't work. How sad God must be to see this broken world. But God has given us hope that marriages can be fixed.
Thankfully we can be fixed since there is hope in Christ. In Christ, God can forgive us and change us by causing us to be born again. We can become new creatures in Christ. Through His power and sanctifying work in our lives, our marriages can be restored to what God intended them to be. The more a couple grows in holiness, the better marriage they will have. The most important thing we need in our marriages is more holiness. We can't realize the delight of marriage on our own. We need the power of the gospel in our lives. As we read Song of Solomon, keep this in mind.
Marriage is to be a picture that illustrates the love of Christ and His church. We can understand this from Ephesians 5 verse 23-33. There the relationship between Christ and the church is the pattern and model for how a husband and wife are to live together in marriage. This connection between Christ and the church and marriage is called a mystery. In the New Testament a mystery is something that was hidden in the Old Testament but now revealed in the New Covenant. So in the Old Testament they would not have understood that marriage was to be a picture of the future relationship with Christ and His Church. Since marriage is to reflect Christ and the church, the love of this couple in Song of Solomon can give us a picture of the love of Christ for His church and the love the church is to have for their Lord. It is in this way that we can apply Song of Solomon to Christ and only this way. The book is not a allegory or a parable. To read it this way is to confuse and ignore the reason God gave us this beautiful book.