The Marital Bond

January 15, 2017 / No. 3863

Dear Radio Friends,
In marriage God binds a man and his wife into one flesh. The husband, as we have found, is the head in this relationship, and his wife is given him by God as a help. Together they make up one whole—one unit with two sides, just as a coin has two sides. That is what Scripture means when it speaks of a husband and wife being one flesh. Such a relationship is meant by God to picture for us the intimate relationship of Christ and His church.
This idea cannot be separated from the words of Solomon in the verse we consider today. We read in the Song of Solomon 2:16, 17, “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies until the day break, and the shadows flee away.” Although we will concentrate on the bond of a husband and wife in marriage, nevertheless we cannot overlook the fact that this book of the Bible is actually God’s love-letter to His bride, the church.
There is something more to this verse that we must discover too. We are not talking about the relationship of a husband and wife in the abstract in this verse, neither in this entire book, for that matter. It is one thing to say that God has mysteriously bound a husband and wife into one flesh with each other, but it is another thing to live constantly with this awareness before one’s consciousness. It is a husband’s calling before God and his wife to enter into an intimate life of love with his wife. He must live as one flesh with his wife in order that, as a result, his wife will be able to say from her heart, “My beloved is mine, and I am his!” Or, using but a different word order than does chapter 6:3, “I am by beloved’s, and my beloved is mine!” These words are those spoken by a wife concerning her husband, and can be words spoken only because she is living in an intimate relationship of love with her husband.
To understand this, we must realize that it is Solomon’s wife that is speaking the words of our text. A discourse is taking place through chapters 1 and 2. Solomon had just spoken to her. The words we consider today are the response of Solomon’s spouse that she now expresses in her great love for him. And it is this response of a wife toward her husband we wish to consider in our broadcast today.
I. The Upright Husband
Here is the description this loving wife gives to her husband: “he feedeth among the lilies.” This language is poetry, of course, and therefore is symbolic. If we read through this Song of Songs we find the symbol of a lily used frequently. Not only does this husband feed among the lilies, he is himself a lily. Solomon states in verse 1 of this chapter, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” The lily referred to in this verse and in the verses we consider is the white lily. We appropriately call it the wedding lily—probably because of the references to it in the Song of Solomon. As such the lily is a sign of beauty and royalty. Jesus states in Luke 12:27, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” The lily is also known for its fragrance: We read of that in the Song of Solomon 5:13: “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, sweet flowers: his lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.”
This is a fit description of the upright man, that is, the man who fears God and keeps His commandments. White is a symbol of purity. It speaks of a godly man’s holiness, his consecration to that which is good and pure. He is freed from the lusts that characterize the thorns around him, since he has been freed from sin in the blood of Jesus Christ. The upright husband is cleansed and purified through the death and resurrection of his Savior. Though his sins were as scarlet, he is made whiter than the snow in the precious blood of his Savior. The godly husband has been molded by Christ for holy service to God and to his wife. This purity is the upright husband’s beauty. The ugliness of sin has been washed away. He is beautiful in the sight of God.
As the psalmist writes, God beautifies the meek with salvation. This is true of that husband who fears God. This is also the sweet smell that the godly husband emits. It is not the sweet smell of his wife’s favorite cologne. It is the sweet smell of a godly life. In other words, the purity of his heart comes out in his life. He lives in that purity. The life of a godly man rises up to God as a sweet smelling savor, and God is pleased with him.
Beautiful symbolism, is it not? This is the description God gives to that husband who fears him. And this is what a godly wife sees in her husband as well. Are we lilies, men? Is the beauty of the Lord our God upon us? Can our wives see by our walk of life our deep love for God and our desire to keep His commandments? Does such love for God show itself in our daily walk with our wives?
It should, you know! Because this Song of Solomon is written about the relationship of Christ and His church. Our text is the church’s response to her loving husband, Jesus Christ! He is the lily of the valley! He shines forth in His royal beauty. He is the Son of David who in his rule is pure and holy. He it is that offered Himself up as a sweet smelling sacrifice to God. He it is that makes us holy by means of His work in our sanctification! And the upright husband is a picture of Christ! He has set us up in our home and family, in our marriage relationship, to be a godly example of Christ. The failure of a husband to be such a picture to his family is a horrible failure to his family and to God! A husband must be a lily!
But then, so must be a godly wife. She is a lily too. Notice what Solomon says about his wife in Song of Solomon 2:2: “As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” All other women are but thorns compared to my wife. She is a lily among thorns. The point is: she too is a lily. And everything we have said about her husband can be said of her as well. She too is pure and holy. She too is cleansed from the impurity of her sins in the blood of our Savior. She too is fitted by God to be a sweet smelling savor to Him and to her husband and family. It is not as if this relationship between husband and wife is one-sided. She too, as a godly example to her husband and children, must show herself to be one who fears God and loves His commandments. The words of our text, though spoken by a wife about her husband, nevertheless imply a sanctified relationship between the two.
This purity of heart and life must be evident in the wife’s life too, because she is a picture to her husband and children of the church of Jesus Christ. As the church deeply loves her Savior and Lord and submits to Him, so also the wife must deeply love her husband—with that love of Christ. And that love must exude from her toward her husband as well. This is what children must see in order that they might desire the same relationship with their spouse and with Christ when they grow up. That is the beauty of the symbolism of the lily.
But there is more. Do not forget what our text teaches us: the husband is he that feeds among the lilies. The idea is that the godly man leads his life among the lilies. He feeds his flock there and abides in the valleys where the lilies are found. We read in chapter 6:2, “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.” Here we find the husband picking lilies in his garden. The idea of this symbolism is that a godly husband lives and seeks a wife in the realm of the lilies! He found his wife among the daughters of Jerusalem—in the realm of the church among believers.
Though it is not our intention today to go into this idea at length, nevertheless we do stress to young men to look for a wife among those who fear God. The church is the place where lilies grow—both men and women who are lilies. The believer must live his life in the church. And it is among the God-fearing in the church that we seek out and find a wife. It is among the God-fearing that a wife looks for a husband. Such is the idea expressed here in this Word of God. And that has some real practical significance for us too. Believe me, to find a wife among the lilies will avoid some very real heartache and pain in marriage. It can mean the difference between a happy and fulfilling life and a miserable life of strife and perhaps even divorce.
II. The Joyful Relationship
Now, we need to take note in this connection that the words spoken in the verse we consider are that of Solomon’s wife. But more, these words are the inspired Word of God to us. Where Solomon failed in his life, this passage of God’s Word points to the joyful relationship between an upright man and his wife. It is said that this Song of Solomon was written at the end of his life, when he had come to a realization of his sin and the proper relationship that belonged to a husband and wife. And that relationship is expressed in these beautiful words, “My beloved is mine and I am his.” These words of the spouse of Solomon express what ought to be the very heart of every marriage. My husband is mine and mine alone! He belongs to no one else. He is my exclusive possession, and I am his. I belong to him too. I am no other man’s possession. I give myself to no other man, but I remain exclusively my husband’s.
Now, we need to know that this is true of the very essence of marriage. When a man and woman marry, they become one flesh. Christ commands us, “What God joins together, let not man divide asunder.” The husband in whose heart the Spirit of Christ lives is given that knowledge. He belongs to his wife—alone. God has bound him to his wife and she is his. She is one with him. And he is one with her. This is why we can say in a real sense that this passage is speaking of Christ and His bride the church. They are one flesh with each other. Christ belongs to His church. He was chosen from eternity to be the Head of His church. At no time is Christ viewed by God apart from His church. He was sent as her Redeemer and Lord. Neither is the church at any time without her husband. She is His. She is His body, of His flesh and blood. There is an intimate bond of union between Christ and His bride. It is this bond that is reflected in the marriage of a man and his wife. In fact, this becomes one of the motivating factors that causes a godly man to seek out his wife in all things. Just as the church is so very dependent on Christ, so also the wife, when tied together with her husband, is so very dependent on him. They joy in each other. They dwell with each other. They are friends with each other.
But it is one thing to say that this is true of a man and his wife’s relationship. The point is: the husband must strive to live in the joy of this relationship. This wife of Solomon in her life with her husband could say: My beloved is mine! He loves me with an exclusive love. And he makes me know that by the way he lives with me! I joy in that knowledge! He belongs to me! He is my love. And, likewise, I belong to him! He has eyes only for me. I am sure that he thinks of me as the best thing that has ever happened to him in life. That is the kind of love that a wife must feel and know in her life with her husband. But the question is: How can a husband make his wife know this? We do it, first of all, by telling our wives that we love them. We must speak our words of devotion to them. I have heard a man say: “I do not have to say anything to my wife to make her feel wanted and loved. She should know that. After all, I am married to her, am I not? To express to my wife that I love her is not necessary! That is all sentimentalism.” That is not true, beloved saints! How often God speaks of His love for us in Scripture. He showed His love by sending the very Son of His love to death to save us from sin. How often we hear Solomon express his love and devotion to his wife in this Song!
But it goes beyond words too. An upright man will by his deeds make his wife know she is the beloved of his life. She is the one he desires. She is the one he adores. She is the one he views as the most beautiful woman in the world—no matter how old she gets. She is the love of his life. His desire at the end of a day or night of work is to come home to his wife. And when he is with her, he spends time listening to her. He shows her that her life is important to him when they are apart. He speaks with her about his goals and his frustrations as well as his joys. He discusses with her his failures and fears. He does this because his beloved is his! And he makes her to know, too, that he is hers. His eyes are not roaming to see if there is something better for him out there. We live in an age when pornography and movies and billboards and magazines and even commercials on TV lure a man’s eyes away from his wife. We live in an age when everything is permitted sexually. Women in the workplace do not care if a man is married. It just presents to them more of a challenge. An upright husband gives his wife the assurance that these thorns of the world mean nothing to him. His wife is his lily; and as a lily among thorns, so is his love among the daughters of this world. Listen to the Word of God in chapter 7:10: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” This, too, is why Solomon also writes in this Song, chapter 4:5, 6, “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins which feed among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, will I get me to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.” Ah yes, godly men, the marriage bed is undefiled, but adulterers God will judge.
III. The Lasting Bond
The passage before us places before a husband a bit of knowledge that no godly husband ought to ignore. Marriage is a sacred bond, intimate and holy unto the Lord. It is not a human institution. It is a God-created institution that every man who fears the Lord holds sacred and dear. He may not treat it as an ordinary bond that he shares with his wife. The vows he takes at the time of marriage are not to be tampered with. God looks down from heaven and guards this sacred institution. Woe to that man who insults his wife, who says to her that he loathes her or that he finds her undesirable. God will judge him. Woe to that man who in his lust leaves his wife and seeks to drink waters out of another cistern! Woe to that man who looks down on his wife and treats her as a commoner instead of the royalty that she is. She is his lily! White: pure, undefiled, and arrayed in a beauty to which Solomon in all his grandeur cannot be compared. And in this bond of love we can only pray that our wives will say of us what Solomon’s wife said of him: “My beloved is mine, and I am his!”
How long does this relationship last? Until the day break and the shadows flee away. That is how long her beloved feeds among the lilies. He lives in the midst of his church with the wife of his bosom until the end of his life. When the day breaks and passes away into the darkness of death; when the shadows of this life flee away, then this bond of marriage ends. There will be no more marriage in heaven. But until our days on earth come to a close and the light of our earthly life is extinguished, we strive to establish the intimate relationship of our marriage. Then love and marriage become a lasting bond. Such is the calling of the upright man in marriage. God bless the lilies of the valleys. May those lilies grow in our homes and in the church.