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Many of us have a deep longing for connection and commitment, but our pursuit of meaningful relationships has left us anxious and lonely. Is there any hope for us in this modern dating culture? Join us this week as Ben Stuart kicks off our brand new collection through the book of Song of Solomon! Today, Ben surveys the difficult landscape of modern dating and challenges us to start by evaluating ourselves before we evaluate others we are attracted to.

Key Takeaway

"When I am looking for someone, I elevate character and kindness before I move on to chemistry. And before I go looking for someone, I need to make sure that I possess what I am looking for."

An astronomical amount of people are not finding lasting love today.

It used to be easy. Your options were in a small pool with defined boundaries and a community that offered security and identity. Now, the pool is massive, yet we are isolated and lonely. The ache of loneliness is hurting us. The words "romance, dating, love, marriage" are supposed to be associated with excitement, but instead, they are matched with "anxiety, depression, disappointment, despair."

What do we do with all of this as a church? Well, we can avoid it, obsess over it, or we can celebrate what God has called good.

The Song of Solomon is poetry, stirs the heart, and is a compilation of his best songs. In the Hebrew language, you repeat words to assign emphasis. This is called the Song of Songs. In 1 Kings 5, we see that God gave Solomon wisdom, so when he wrote this poetry, he it is best work on romance, love, marriage, and sex.

In the Ancient East, when the Old Testament and the New Testament were written, there was an obsession with and a lot of pain stemming from the misuse of sex. The people of God held up a standard that showed the world something different.

Song of Solomon is filled with a lot of imagery and calls us to a higher standard. Rather than focus on the prohibitions of what should stop, let's focus on what could be.

The first part of the book is called 'The Book of Longing.' If you are looking for a relationship, what should you be looking for?

  • Song of Solomon 1:2
    • She jumps right in! She tells him what she wants: his kisses. The desire for intimacy is not wrong; it's actually Biblical. God created the equipment we play the game with.
    • What did the guy do that made her desire him like this? "His love is greater than wine." Wine was the most delicious thing you could put to your lips. It's rich.
  • Song of Solomon 1:3
    • Senses are involved. First taste, now smell. She's saying that he smells good and cares about basic hygiene. Then, she invokes his name and compares it to oil. Smell is most tied to memory. You move towards what smells good. His name elicits a response. It's his character and summation of the moral choices he's made. How do people react to your name? His name is sweetness to her.

The first thing you should be looking for is character. She doesn't start with his appearance or talent. If those were the keys to a successful union, then Hollywood would be the standard for good marriages, and they are obviously not because those things fade. She's asking, "How does he treat me? Is he impatient, selfish, a bad listener?" If he is a stench now, what makes you think he'll smell sweet later?

Anyone can take on the name Christian. You need to see that the character of Christ has been formed in their life. Psalm 1:1-3 that is the type of partner you are looking for. 1 Corinthians 5:11- you don't have to go on a date with someone because they call themselves a Christian if you see them being sexually immoral, swindling, greedy, practicing idolatry. Let the Word guide you. Proverbs 22:1 says that a good name is desirable. Some of us don't need to focus on the character of others. We need to let God carve it out in ourselves.

  • Song of Solomon 1:3
    • The woman's friends see his character as well. A woman's friends matter! We need friends who aren't turned on by them to help us evaluate them more clearly.
  • Song of Solomon 1:4
    • Before the pairing off, her friends encourage her that she has placed her affections well because of his character.

Warning: we've removed dating from community. People can put on a good face for a little while in public but be a monster in private. If you quickly join into your social circle, you see how he treats people that he's not sexually attracted to, how he interacts with your annoying friend, and how he gets along with your guy friends. Anyone can lie for an hour, but see how he responds to people when they aren't at their best because that's how he'll treat you.

  • Song of Solomon 1:5-6.
    • She has her own character. She's dark (from working outside) but desirable. She's tough, but she's luxurious. She had to work hard in the sun. She's blue-collar. She hasn't been able to care for her body like the richer girls would have. Today, we prize tan, lean bodies, but that was considered the peasant class in ancient times. They wanted pale and plump. She doesn't fit the beauty standards of the day and that's ok. She's so secure. She resists the pull of obsession over her body. She's secure, stable, and hardworking. Men, you want a woman with moral standards; when she speaks, it's with wisdom; when she works, it's to bless. She's been shaped by the character of God.
  • Song of Solomon 1:7
    • She has a willingness to be around him, but she doesn't want to force it. She wants him but doesn't want to have to chase him. She's not desperate. See Proverbs 31:30. You want someone who will love you because they love the Lord, and their character has been shaped by Christ.

They don't just have character; they have kindness.

Look at how they talk to one another. Nine times, he calls her "rayati," which is a term of endearment that means companion or friend. He enjoys her on an emotional and intellectual level, not just her body.

  • Song of Solomon 1:9
    • He's not calling her a horse face. Horses are a combination of strength and grace, dignity and power. They're majestic. He's saying that she is like a well-cared-for horse. Egypt was known for its breeding of horses. He is saying that she is the best of the best.
    • He compliments her face, the relational contact point, where all of our emotions and expressions are relational. Studies show that men don't know how to have face-to-face interactions today. Gaming and pornography are arousal addictions that become addictions to variety. By age 21, a guy has played over 10,000 hours of video games, and the average boy watches 50 porn clips a week. The conclusion is that boys' minds are being rewired. They are constantly trolling for instant arousal and have lost the art of romance, which is slow and gradual.
    • The man compliments her face and doesn't rush toward her body. He calls her friend. He doesn't just want a sexual playmate. He wants a relational equal. He cares about her heart and her mind.
  • Song of Solomon 1:12-13.
    • She compliments him back. She calls him "dodi", which means he's like family to her. Before there is this erotic expression, there is a deep communion connection.
    • The idea is that her body is heating up as he is kind to her and listens to her as his character is on display. His strength and tenderness is a sweetness to her.
  • Song of Solomon 1:14
    • Engedi is an oasis in the desert. He is a safe and nourishing place for her in harsh places.
  • Song of Solomon 1:15
    • There is a softness to her beauty. She's hardworking, but she's not harsh.
  • Song of Solomon 1:16-17
    • She again compliments him. The imagery is that their relationship doesn't dehumanize. It's life-giving. It's like a garden, green and vibrant. Being around him makes her better, not just sad. There's not just encouragement and sweetness to it; there's strength to it. Their relationship has character and boundaries that are healthy, they are like cedars that are strong.
  • Song of Solomon 2:1-2
    • She says she is a lily in the valley. He says she's a lily among brambles. Everyone is like thorns compared to her. She doesn't diminish him as a man. There is a sweetness and a kindness to him.
  • Song of Solomon 2:3-4
    • His strength is not a threat to her; it's protection. She feels safe with him. Not just physically but morally and with the character of their decisions. She can trust him. He is safe and nourishing to her because he has character and kindness. The way he speaks to her makes her feel safe. "His banner over me is love." is the picture of a military banner. His flag declares that he loves her. She's not hidden or on the side. His banner of strength and power is a declaration of kindness to her.
    • Proverbs 19:22 says what's desirable in a man is kindness.

When you have character and kindness evaluating, then you can move to physical attraction. When someone is kind and generous, they become more attractive to you.

  • Song of Solomon 2:5
    • Apples and raisins are fruits with a lot of seeds in them, so in ancient cultures, they were seen as an aphrodisiac. She's overcome with her desire for him.
  • Song of Solomon 2:6
    • This is a sexual position and probably a flashback because she's talking to her friends and reminding them of the progression of the relationship. She warns them in the next verse.
  • Song of Solomon 2:7
    • She warns them to not arouse love until it's time. She has observed him and determined his character is observable in the public square. They all saw it. He blesses her and is a source of life. It leads her to attractiveness. She speaks words of wisdom to him, she is like a lily among thorns, and it is natural that he is sexually attracted to her. Even so, don't arouse love until it pleases.
    • So much confusion in dating today comes from putting sex before the evaluation of emotional intimacy. Sex is fun, and it fires off all these chemicals in your body that say, "Do that again!" And yet, if you do, it messes with the evaluation process of whether or not that person has character and if you can trust them. So this isn't an unkind prohibition. God is celebrating love, He's just saying to make sure this person is worthy of your affection.
    • "I adjure you, but the gazelle and the deer," those are symptoms of love. So she is saying, for the sake of your own love, move slow. You can't jump up on a deer. You have to approach it slowly. You want a relationship that lasts. So don't rush the physicality and miss the greater intimacy. Look for character and kindness, and then to chemistry as there is a commitment of a banner of love.


  1. Don't feel the pressure to go and find this person right now. Before you evaluate others, evaluate yourself. Have you been kind? How do you need your character to be shaped? How can you become a cedar that's strong and an apple tree that's nourishing?
  2. Before you seek others, seek the Lord. How could the man and woman be so secure and possess an impeachable character to be able to resist temptation? 1 John 4:7-12 explains how when you know you are loved, you can love others.

All romantic love is meant to be a picture of Christ and the Church.

He's righteous, true, and kind. He moves toward you with grace. He sent his son into the world that we might live through him. Before you meet a bride or a groom, you need to meet Jesus, the Bridegroom. Just like he revealed that He is the living water to the Samaritan woman, He's everything you need.


"You don't get discouraged if you don't meet the beauty standards of the day. What's solid in a relationship is that you have character shaped by Christ and kindness that mirrors the kindness of Christ."

Ben Stuart

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Scripture References

  • Song of Soloman 2:1-7
  • Proverbs 31:30
  • Proverbs 22:1
  • Song of Soloman 1:1-17
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.