In our sex-obsessed society, it is hard to miss the message from our culture that sex is everything—that if one is not sexually active, one is missing out on the only thing that makes life meaningful. Television shows, movies, music, advertising, and a host of other things tell us that we are to pursue sexual intimacy at almost any cost and that it will satisfy our deepest longings.
Scripture teaches that sex is not everything, but it also embraces and approves of the sexual desire of a man for a woman and a woman for a man—in the proper context of marriage. Marriage is where love and sex are to be treasured and enjoyed (1 Cor. 7:1–5). Why? Certainly the answer is because that is how God has designed things (Gen. 2:18–25). But we can say more. Love and sex are to be treasured only in their proper context because of the power they have. We learn this from passages such as Song of Solomon 3:5.
The call not to "awaken love until it pleases" is also found in 2:7 and 8:4, and it is one of the most important lessons of this book. Essentially, the bride exhorts her friends not to enter into love before the appropriate time. Her handmaidens, seeing how enraptured she is with her husband, may long for a similar relationship and rush into it before it is time. But love between a man and a woman cannot be hurried. It must be allowed to grow and develop. There is a proper time for love. One cannot help but hear echoes of Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, particularly if Solomon is the author of both Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon (this is the traditional position, and we have no compelling reason to question it).
We dare not take lightly the love and the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. As Song of Solomon illustrates, the sexual union demands much from us physically and emotionally. The woman describes herself as "sick with love" (Song 2:5; 5:8), her desire all but consumes her, exposing to her husband just how vulnerable she is. Because she has given herself to him fully, he holds incredible power to build her up or to destroy her. She has the same power over him. He will stop at nothing to be joined with her, surrendering much of himself in the process (2:9, 17; 8:14). She holds his very life, as it were, in her hands.
Love is truly a force to be reckoned with, particularly in sexual relationships. It must not be entered into lightly or hastily. Rushing into it too quickly or in an illicit way through extramarital intimacy is sure to bring only destruction.
The potential for love and sex to steal, kill, and destroy is seen in the diseases, broken families, and shattered hearts that follow in the wake of adultery, abuse, and sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Thanks be to God, He can bring healing through the gospel even where such destruction has occurred, but we will escape much hurt and pain if we avoid this destruction in the first place. Following the Lord's design for love and sex will spare us much anguish.