At its simplest level, the Song of Songs is a celebration of human erotic love, and God’s stamp of approval on it. In this verse we have the woman delighting in the fruits of the man. The same is described in more detail elsewhere, ‘His body is like ivory work… His legs are like pillars… His mouth is sweetness; yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend’(Song of Songs 5:14-16). The song also contains explicit descriptions of the man’s delight in the woman, ‘How beautiful and how pleasant you are… your stature, is like a palm tree, your breasts like its fruit… “I will climb up into the palm tree. I will take hold of its fruit.” Let your breasts be like clusters of the vine, the smell of your breath like apples, Your mouth like the best wine, that goes down smoothly’(Song of Songs 7:6-9). There are also mixed passages: ‘Blow on my garden, that its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and taste his precious fruits. I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride. I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, friends! Drink, yes, drink abundantly, beloved’(Song of Songs 4:16-5:1). We find the same elsewhere in the Bible, ‘Rejoice in the wife of your youth… let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Be captivated always with her love’(Proverbs 5:18-19). So human marital love expressed in sexuality is okay with God, after all He invented it ‘male and female he created them. God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply,…”’(Genesis 1:27-28). It’s part of God’s good creation: ‘God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.’(Genesis 1:31)
Creation as a whole is an expression of God’s glory: ‘the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity’(Romans 1:20). More than the beauty of nature generally, mankind specifically was made in the image of God. ‘God Said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”’(Genesis 1:26) – notice the plural: Part of this image of God in us is our relational nature. Just as God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, unity in diversity, so human society reflects this in many ways. It would function perfectly if bound by the same love and perfect cooperation. Human marriage is part of this, so human sexuality is different and special, fully functional in all its splendour when saturated with love.
Ultimately however human sexuality is not only part of God’s beautiful creation, and a reflection of the Trinity’s relational love, but a picture of the spiritual relationship we can enjoy with God as He cherishes us and we delight in Him, like bridegroom and bride. This metaphor is found throughout scripture (e.g. Ezekiel 16:6-14; Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 19:7-8). It’s why God is not mentioned explicitly in the Song of Songs. We’re to re-read it at a deeper metaphorical level. It’s pointing to something above and beyond human sexual love: delight in fleshly beauty pointing to spiritual beauty, erotic excitement and thrill pointing to eternal deep joy and satisfaction, human intimacy pointing to heavenly divine communion.
So in the Bible human sexual desires and love point us to the spiritual relationship God wants with us. Whether married or not, most of us understand sexual passions and know how intense they can be. If it’s possible to spend hours craving the physical presence of another human being, then why not spiritual communion with God? Shouldn’t the real thing be better than its image? We should stir up such thoughts. They’re especially comforting for those of us who through circumstance, choice or both are gifted a physically single life. Although we can’t delight in the intimacy, pleasure and beauty of sexual love, it’s only a picture anyway of the greater spiritual equivalent that can be enjoyed in relationship with God, but unlike the physical that shrivels and fades, the spiritual blossoms and burns brighter, rising to all eternity. When craving the former we should divert our attention to the latter, realizing its greater potency to satisfy our deepest desires.
So, whether aided by the example of human sexual love, or freed up by the absence of it, our greatest passion should be our spiritual desire for the Lord, as we ‘see Yahweh’s beauty’(Psalm 27:4), rest in His presence and delight in His fruit.