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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 1:15-17 Strong house, strong marriage, strong church

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Husband
15 How beautiful you are, my darling!
How beautiful! Your eyes are doves.

The Wife
16 How beautiful you are, my lover.
How delightful! And our bed is luxurious.
17 The beams of our large house are cedar.
Our rafters are fir.

The couple exchange compliments. Notice that when she compliments him, she includes he-man stuff like wooden beams and construction terms. She uses a plural for “house” in verse 17 that is probably a plural of extension, meaning “large house” rather than “our couple of houses.”

Many men act strangely to an honest compliment, since they become used to being criticized for the least little mistake, whether at home, or in the workplace, or just about anywhere. More and more, men become conditioned to defending themselves, owning up to their mistakes, and either dismissing comments or genuinely trying harder to improve themselves without ever receiving real praise. This is why a man will often look confused or almost angry when a woman compliments him. He will be wondering when the expected criticism will come, too.

Verse 16 is the only time in the Song that the husband is described as “beautiful.” Hebrew pronouns have specific genders, even in the second person “you” pronouns, and so we have a fairly good idea of the gender of the speakers throughout the song. Sometimes it is the husband, sometimes the wife, and sometimes her friends or even her brothers.

We confidently say “husband” here and “wife,” too, since the woman talks about “our bed.” There is no way for a godly man and woman to share a bed without being married. This presents a problem for those people who want to read a kind of dramatic progression of the relationship into the Song, because the couple is clearly already married here in chapter 1. It is probably better to take the Song as a series of episodes in the life of this couple, who are married all along.

When we look carefully at the wife happy with the strongly built house, we see a couple whose marriage is founded on Christ and on mutual trust and their promises to one another. A marriage that is not built on attraction alone but on friendship, trust, and shared faith is a marriage that will weather storms, a marriage that will be a partnership in everything, and a marriage that will last, like a strong house. The ravenous wolves of the devil, the world, and the sinful fallen flesh can huff and puff all they want, but they will not easily blow that house down. Of course, humans are frail and fallen creatures, and we make mistakes, so we also pray together that God will keep us strong and safe, and keep our marriages secure. A good marriage is the ideal nest for raising godly children and for keeping them safe.

The reference to the luxurious (NIV “verdant”) bed is to the happy intimacy of the married couple. The Lord blesses human intimacy with stronger affection and attachment; with the familiar fondness of lifelong lovers, and in many cases, with children, too. The Lord in his wisdom has made the bonds of marriage chemical, emotional and physical as well as spiritual. A cord of these strands is not easily broken.

Spiritually, we see the joy of the Christian with the foundation and the building up of the church. The church is not a building, but a gathering of Christians. For the church to be strong, the people need to be strong in their faith.

The true church is present when the people are gathered around the preaching of the gospel (that is, the forgiveness of sins through Christ), and the correct administration of the sacraments. This means that the sacraments are seen to be gifts from God, not rites to be obeyed. As with the preaching of the gospel, the sacraments present forgiveness of our sins. In baptism, forgiveness is in the washing together with the word of God: “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). In the Lord’s Supper, the actual and true body and blood of Christ are offered “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Praise God for the blessed house of the church and of Christian marriages. These two strong houses reinforce and support one another, for both are blessed by God our Savior.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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