The Rev. Tommy Nelson draws upon the Song of Solomon's rich imagery to convey wise principles about dating and courtship. (Part 2 of 2)
John Fuller: On today's "Focus on the Family" some unique insights about relationships from Pastor Tommy Nelson.
Tommy Nelson: Dating is observation; courtship is depth. Dating, there's no strings attached. Courtship, you have responsibility, trust and you're now vulnerable and you can be hurt. Dating is marketing; courtship is "the close," if you know what I'm sayin'. (Laughter)
End of Recap
John: Well, some great humor and some great insights, as well from Tommy Nelson. He's easy to listen to and he's with us again on today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, Tommy Nelson, he is sharing dating advice that he's gleaned from the Song of Solomon and that's right in the middle of your Bible, if you're not sure where it's comin' from. It's the story of the young King Solomon and his true love, the Shulamite woman. We never hear her name and that's how she's referred to.
And for those who weren't with us last time, Pastor Nelson encouraged singles to, among other things, take a really good long look at the character of the person that they're dating and to not rush the process, especially on the physical side of the relationship.
Jim: Yeah, this is really kinda countercultural messaging from Tommy Nelson, but it's straight from the Scripture. If you missed any of the presentation last time or you can't stay with us through the end of the program today, get the CD or the download. We'll have both parts and some extra content, as well. That's at www.focusonthefamilycom/radio or call us and we can tell you more, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Here's Pastor Tommy Nelson, working from chapter two of the Song of Solomon and this message is geared toward adults, so parents, you'll want to steer your children away from the mature subject matter that's coming up.
Tommy: You know what the next way you're gonna find out about your mate is the inevitability of time. You're gonna stumble onto things. I remember. I'm not a really good pathfinder. I get lost easily. My wife is Daniel Boone. (Laughter) She never gets lost. I kid you not. On one occasion we were driving around and I was in a place and I said, "Where are we?" And Teresa went, "There's our backyard right there." (Laughter) Honest, she can find her way anywhere. I can't find my place no place [sic].
Dating early on, I and my dear sweet wife-to-be, my dear precious dove (Laughter) and I would go to speak in the metroplex area and whenever I would get kinda lost, I would do the obvious thing you would do to find your way around. I would look for a water tower with a high school mascot on it. (Laughter) And I knew if it was a "Fightin' Farmer" or if it was a "Grand Prairie" whatever, where I was, okay? Smart guy.
And I, one time I got mixed up and I said, "I don't know where we are." I went in and I said to the 7/11 guy, I said, "Where am I? Is this Lewisville?" He said, "No, you're in Irving." I went, "Ah-ha-ha." And I went out and I said, "Teresa, we're in Irving. We're gonna be late." I thought that was so funny." (Laughter) And she looks at me with these eyes and she ain't laughing.
And I found out some things about my wife. And I found out little things that still today I discover about her. My wife is of the genus species what is called packus ratum. (Laughter) She saves everything. (Laughter) We have boxes of hair from the shower, not really (Laughter), but that's the way she is. Me, I love to clean house. I take a trash can bag and I clean like Sherman did Atlanta, all right? (Laughter) Everything's gone. I've thrown away paychecks. I've thrown away bills, everything. She don't [sic] think that's funny. Can you imagine? (Laughter) And she and I sometimes do this.
You're gonna inevitably learn things. Now what do you do when you start finding out the flaws on your mate? "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." You and your wife are gonna be emery boards. You and your husband are gonna shave each other like this. What do you do?
Verse 15, there's a common commitment. "Catch the little foxes for us—the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards while our vineyards are in blossom." People, there's a mutual commitment by both of them to resolve problems. Now let me tell what this text means. The worst thing you could get in those days was a fox in your vineyard, because he would get in there and he would eat the blossom. And the blossom would never fall off; you'd never get a bud and you'd never get a grape. It would never come to maturity, because something would eat it. Sometimes in your relationship, it'll get nipped. And the reason it'll get nipped is by little foxes that never let your relationship mature.
Two major things that eat you up: unresolved conflict. You've got to learn how to fight clean. Every couple conflicts, but you've got to learn how to fight clean. And if you don't, it's gonna nip your relationship. Let me tell you a way to do this. Imagine [if you] play tennis. You're at the base line. You're gonna volley with the person. Bomp, bomp. And it hits—bomp—and the guy don't [sic] hit it back. And it goes bomp, bomp, bomp, psshh. [It] hits the fence. You do it again. Bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, psshh. (Laughter)
If you keep hitting and they don't hit it back, you just quit playin'. Now that's what happens if you get an uncommunicable [sic] male. (Laughter) I know the way you are, guys, that she starts having problems and you just get the channel changer, "Yeah, go ahead." (Laughter)
If you don't talk, she gets frustrated and she doesn't want to play anymore. And you just can't talk, you've got to look at her. And some of you guys are rotten listeners; I know, because I'm one of ya. Women like facial contact. Men just need data. "Just give me the data, all right?" (Laughter) One time, my wife grabbed me. She said, "Listen with your face." (Laughter)
When your wife talks, you listen. She knows the answer, but that's okay. (Laughter) You just listen. (Applause) And fellows, you have to do this in courtship. You're gonna have conflicts. When she's hurt, you stop everything.
And incidentally, in premarital and marital problems, this is what's called "cancer." This is not a little problem. Whenever a woman comes and says, "I'm tryin' to talk to my husband; he won't listen," that's the most terrifying that a woman gets. She doesn't need a perfect man, but she needs a guy that is perfectible.
And fellows, if you're one of these guys that's never wrong and you're never gonna listen and you think it's gonna assert male pride by dominating this woman and then that's the head of your house to do it, you can forget that. Men that go to crosses to die for those they love, that's the way you love your wife. And you turn and you listen to her.
And when she says, "I got a problem," you get out your pen and say, "Yes," and you write it down (Laughter) and you take good notes. And ladies, the same way, when he's hurt, then you listen. And fellows, you don't give a logical response. "Well, dear, A is B and B is C, A is C so therefore …" (Laughter and Applause) It won't work. And she will get ya. She will deliver.
Here's another case, all right. You've got the apathetic person; now you've got this one. Bomp, bomp and they go to the net. Psshh! All right? (Laughter) No, we're gonna volley. We're gonna volley. We're gonna exchange and talk. Don't go to the net and hit it back. And this is the guy that she talks and the guy explodes, "Well, that's ... I'll tell you why that … let me tell you something!" Or the girl goes off, "You're just like my Daddy!" (Laughter)
That's cancer. You've got to deal with that, because that ain't [sic] funny in marriage. And you're not gonna tolerate it in marriage. And don't think that you're gonna enjoy life, 'cause you tolerate this insensitive human being so that you can go ahead and bind them in marriage. Now you got a real problem, 'cause it's hopeless.
You know, a great verse, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city and contentions are like bars of a castle." So, you can have foxes in your vineyards whenever God lets you discover your little dove and you can't reconcile problems.
You want another way? Now listen to this. There's one commentator that feels this is the major interpretation of the verse. All through the Song of Solomon, the woman refers to her body as a vineyard. In chapter one, she said, "I haven't taken care of my vineyard." When they get married, the husband's gonna call the sexuality of his wife, a well and a spring and her sexuality, a vineyard, that he will now gather his fruits. It's a delightful thing. At the end of the book, she's gonna take her body and tithe her best to her husband.
Here the same motif is used, the vineyard. Do you know what one noted Hebrew scholar thinks this means? That he says this is the logical response to a dove coming out and a couple getting to know each other, that every couple struggles with premarital sexual tendencies. As Howard Hendricks said at the seminary, "If you don't lust, young man, you've got another problem." (Laughter) We all struggle. If you don't deal with the foxes that get into your premarital relationship, your vineyard will not come to fruition.
Let me tell you, if I was an atheist and I was dealing with pure conjecture on what I've seen in couples, if I was an atheist, I'd tell you three things. Never borrow money excessively. I've never seen a peaceful person that is heavily in debt. Secondly, never be unforgiving. I've never met an unforgiving person who is happy, ever in my life. Thirdly, never get into premarital sex. If I was an atheist, I'd say, "Don't do it." It's the worst thing you can do for your future marriage unless there is the stopping, repentance.
And incidentally, in all of this stuff we're talking about, it's a standard that none of us completely fulfill. And that's the wonderful thing about the redeeming grace of God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and forgiveness. God can, Joel … "restore the years the locust has eaten."
So, I want to stop right there. Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus, no matter how bad you've gotten—Paul, David—God can redeem you. And He can make you weep on His feet and dry His feet with your hair, so deep is His love. So, we're looking at a standard. And I hope it brings conviction, but don't think that you are unimprovable, because all of us need improvement.
John: Some encouraging biblical insights from Pastor Tommy Nelson on today's "Focus on the Family." And in just a few minutes, you'll hear what the Bible's Song of Solomon says about a couple's wedding night. And as you might guess, it's gonna be content for mature ears only. Now by the way, you can get a CD of this program to listen to again or pass along and also Pastor Nelson's Book of Romance, written by Pastor Tommy Nelson, when you call 800-A-FAMILY. You can also find the book and an instant download of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . And let's go ahead and return now, more from Pastor Tommy Nelson, as he speaks from the Song of Solomon on "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note
Pastor Tommy Nelson: But to you that are getting into relationships, you watch the foxes, fellows and ladies, that can get into that vineyard.
When you get married and go to your honeymoon, you don't want to just have a honeymoon that's business as usual. You want to turn around, guys and see that woman and go, "Zoong!" (Laughter)
And her mother stand up and her come down and you want to go to your honeymoon and be excited. I kid you not. I got married in Harrelton, Texas. We honeymooned 60 miles away at the White House Motel in Tyler. (Laughter) Big bucks. (Laughter)
And as we were going there … she's gonna kill me, sharing this, but I'm going to share. (Laughter) As we're going there, she's just so excited. We're on our honeymoon. We're heading off to our honeymoon, all right? And my wife and I stayed pure. We had to chase the foxes off. I loved her; I wanted her, but we chased the foxes off and we let our vineyard grow. And as we approached Tyler, she was talking; I'm going 50. (Laughter) Oh! (Laughter) I'm going 60, 70. She ain't talking so much. Pretty soon, she's over by the door. I'm going 90 miles an hour. Rrmm! (Laughter)
Oh yeah, it's an exciting time. And you know what? You go to your honeymoon and then you kneel by your bed with that woman. And there before God, the two of you consecrate your union to God and ask God to bless it.
When I taught this at Denton Bible years ago, I had to stop and I could watch and the girls in our congregation, their eyes would fill up with tears. And you could see 'em saying, "I wish I'd have known that, what God said."
And I want you to know Joel, book of Joel, "God can restore what the locust has eaten." And I don't care how you've been to this point, you can start something new and God can bless it. We have couples in our church with such a wonderful union. And they've worked through some tough stuff, but I'm here to tell ya, God can make it new.
Watch this. Fellows, you treat a girl like this and I conclude with how that girl should feel. Verse 16, "I am my beloved's and he is mine." My beloved is mine. I am his. This girl has trust. Mary Magdalene wept on Christ, because "He that is forgiven much, loves much." When your mate knows you, guys, and loves you, you're gonna love her so deeply. This woman says, "I trust him. I belong to him. He knows me cold."
Listen, every once in a while at my house, I get to messing up as a husband. You know what my wife "goes?" She goes, "Preach on, Song of Solomon man." (Laughter) And you know, it's so wonderful to love her, 'cause she knows me cold. She is not under the illusion of anything.
Verse 16, not only trust. Look at this, guys. The woman says, "He pastures his flock among the lilies." She sees herself like a sheep laid down in green pastures. This guy cares for her. That's how the woman feels: "He's so gentle with me." I buried a guy years ago, an admiral for the Surgeon General of the United States, 80-plus-years-old, married 60 years. Put in that casket; his wife walked over by him with tears in her eyes and she touched his head. And she said of Jerry Savor, her dear husband, Ruth said, "Sixty years and he never hurt me." You know what she could have said: "He pastures his flock among the lilies." He took care of me."
Look at this, verse 17. What else changes? "Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away"—that means in Hebrew, all night long—"the shadows flee away in the morning time when the darkness dissipates and the coolness of the day comes." Genesis says, "God walked with Adam in the cool of the day," meaning the morning. "Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of Bether."
She calls this young stag to mount the mountains of Bether all night long. Now what does this mean? Young stud, climb upon the twin hills all night long. I don't know. (Laughter)
I'll give you a hint. On the honeymoon she calls it her "hill of frankincense and her mountain of myrrh." (Laughter) At the end of the book she calls for him to be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spice. It's talking about the breast of the woman. This is not reproductivity. This is the delight of sex. We're talking about the breast of the woman. She wants this man all night long. (Laughter)
You know now why this book ain't [sic] taught. How would you like to be one of them little ole' preachers just tighter than a snare drum? (Laughter) "Uh ... we don't really … Father, we thank You for uh …"
Audience: (Laughter and applause)
No. You see what grows, ladies? What grows is her trust, her admiration and her passion. Now look at how she goes on. In verse one, "On my bed, night after night, I sought him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but didn't find him. I must arise and go about in the city, in the streets and the squares and seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but didn't find him and the watchmen who make the rounds of the city found me and I said, 'Have you seen him whom my soul loves?' Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves and I held on to him and would not let him go until I brought him into the house of her who conceived me." Her mother. Why? Because she wants her mother's consent to marry him. She says, "I ain't [sic] gonna wait no [sic] longer."
I asked my wife. I said, "Give me help with this thing. This looks like a panicky woman that wants this guy." I said, "What does it mean?" She said, "That's a panicky woman that wants that guy." (Laughter) And I said, "How is that?" She said, "If you were a girl, you wouldn't worry." She said, "You guys can break up relationships, get on the phone and start another one. We want to get married. We want to be wives. We want to have children, but we can't start relationships and we get kind of nervous." This woman wants him emotionally and she wants him physically.
Now don't look at the rest of the text. What do you think it's gonna say? Do you think the next text will say, "And Solomon rose up and said, 'Foul woman. (Laughter) Licentious woman. How dare you speak of your breasts.'" Do you know what Solomon says? "Let's just wait until next week and we'll just …" (Laughter)
Verse five, "I adjure you, oh daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field" and you see it now for the second time. Don't arouse or awaken love until it pleases; not yet (Sound of clapping hands). He says, "Sweetie, that's okay. That's normal. That's right, but it's not now. Just wait; just wait." She was passionate in dating; she's passionate in courtship. And we're gonna close this.
Fellows, who takes the lead? The guy does. Ladies, there is nothing more frustrating than marrying to a man who will not lead. Gloria Steinem said, "We women have finally become the men we always wanted to marry." (Laughter)
This guy takes control. I'm done. Do you all see from the Word of God what courtship is?
Father in heaven, thank You for this delightful group of men and women. And we are not what we should be, but by Your grace, we are not what we were. And I pray that as we yield to the Spirit of God, to the character of our Father, to the example of our Lord, to the truthfulness of the Word, to the admonition of the Body of Christ in the pulpit, that You might make us what we ought and raise up in our day, light and salt and a standard of what ought to be.
I pray for any that have hurt themselves. Thank You for your forgiveness. Thank You that You make water into wine. You are the God of recreation. Bless your Holy Name. And for any here this evening that are more than aware of their failings and their fallenness, let them know that Jesus Christ is not another rung for us to ascend to earn Your favor, but He is One who died upon a cross for the sin that we committed. And He rose from the dead as the Holy One of God for the righteousness that we do not have. And thus by faith, by receiving Him as Savior, we can stand spotless and blameless and changed to live a pleasing life forever. We thank You, for Christ's sake, amen.
John: And with that powerful prayer, we come to a close with this presentation from Pastor Tommy Nelson on today's "Focus on the Family," as he was drawing wisdom for singles from the Scriptures in the book, the Song of Solomon. And Jim, so many of his insights about romance and what makes a good relationship are so good. And let me put you on the spot here. I mean, as you think about your relationship with Jean, it seems that you two have a very, very solid marriage that was built on a great foundation when you were singles.
Jim: I think that's, you know, true. Hopefully, it's self-evident. But the key was that foundation. You know, I think we talked about spiritually where we wanted to be and what we wanted to exhibit. I remember the first date we had, shaking her hand and she told me later she thought that was sweet.
John: That's how it ended with a handshake.
Jim: I did. I shook her hand. Is that horrible? But you know what? I just felt like that was the right thing to express. And it did communicate to her that my intentions were right.
Jim: And I think that was a good thing. I'll say it again. Make sure Jesus is the center point of your relationship.
John: I think that's a crucial thing and a lot of young people get that. I hope that Tommy's message today has reinforced the importance of keeping God in the middle of everything.
And certainly a good way to reinforce that message would be to review this presentation from Tommy and to get his book, The Book of Romance: What Solomon Says About Love, Sex and Intimacy. And of course, it covers so much more than we could possibly bring to you in two days of radio programming.
Jim: John, let's make that book available for a donation of any amount. I really, really want our single listeners particularly to have this information, to guide them as the make decisions that could lead to marriage and a family down the road, which for many people, not all people is the goal. And I want to make sure you have this resource.
And John, there's another great resource I do what to mention for our single and dating folks, people that aren't quite committed yet, www.boundless.org . They are hosting a conference called Pursuit on July 9th and it's a great weekend of teaching and worship and you know, mixing with others who are like-minded. It's here in Colorado Springs and you can find out more at our website.
John: It's really a great event and we so enjoyed having all the attendees last year. Please plan to be part of Pursuit 2015. Details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or we can tell you more when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And when you get in touch, please be as generous as possible so we can continue reaching out and helping young adults built strong marriages to go the distance. And as our way of saying thank you for your kind gift, we'll send The Book of Romance by Tommy Nelson as a thank you for your use or perhaps to share with someone else.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll discover how to overcome some of that mommy stress that affects so many women. We've got Lysa TerKeurst joining us for more encouragement to help you thrive.
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Tommy NelsonView Bio
Tommy Nelson is the senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, TX. He has authored many best-selling books including The Book of Romance, A Life Well Lived and Walking on Water When You Feel Like You're Drowning. Tommy and his wife, Teresa, have been married for more than 40 years. The couple has two adult sons and six grandchildren.