|LESSON 12||*March 17 – 23|
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’ ” (Jeremiah 31:3, NKJV).
Key Thought: How are we to understand the loving side of God?
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 24.
The First Romance
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23).
We need to begin with the initial chapters of Genesis for the first romance in Scripture, that of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve are special creations of God. Both male and female reflect His image (Gen. 1:26, 27). Both Adam and Eve receive their life as a result of God’s incredible creative power. The complexity of our physical bodies remains one of the most powerful testimonies to the wisdom and might of our Creator.
Read the biblical account of the creation of Eve (Gen. 2:21–25). How would you describe the kind of relationship between them as depicted in this account?
Perhaps the most obvious point from this account is just how intimately and closely tied together with one another these two are. God creates the woman out of the body of the man; they are, literally, of the same flesh and blood.
Adam then breaks out into what has been called the Bible’s first “love song” or “love poem,” in which he openly acknowledges just how closely tied they are with each other. In Hebrew, the word for “man” that he uses in verse 23 is ish; the word he uses for “woman” is ishah, again showing just how closely tied they are to each other.
In verse 24, the Bible says that a man will leave his parents and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be “one flesh,” another powerful indicator of the intimacy meant for them. (Some have wondered, What parents is the Bible talking about here, because there were none then? The point is, Moses wrote this account many centuries after it happened, and he used the story of their creation to explain in more detail what marriage meant.)
Finally, their nakedness also revealed the intense closeness and intimacy between this first couple.
Whatever else their relationship originally entailed, romantic love was certainly a major part of it. God is not against romance. On the contrary, He created us as beings capable of experiencing it. In fact, that seems to be one of the basic elements He created in us.
|Romantic love is such a wonderful, God-given gift to humanity. If you are in a proper romantic relationship, what things can you do to protect it from all that can go wrong?
Though the Bible covers a lot of history, it has made time to depict some romances. There was a strong, affectionate bond between Abraham and Sarah. He doesn’t desert her during her long years of barrenness. In fact, it is only at Sarah’s urging that Abraham takes Hagar as a surrogate wife. The ties of love between Abraham and Sarah are strong. See Genesis 16.
It takes a lengthy chapter in Genesis to record Abraham’s servant’s long trip to find Isaac a wife. Upon his return with Rebecca, the inspired account includes another love story. See Genesis 24.
Another romance given a lot of time in the Bible is the one between Jacob and Rachel. In quick strokes the picture is painted of Jacob’s impulsive and warm response to Rachel. Apart from the Song of Songs, there isn’t another example in Scripture of a man and a woman kissing, certainly not before marriage. And if we recall that God is the ultimate author of Scripture, and through His inspiration the book of Genesis was written, we are reminded that God is a romantic, because He includes this love story and this kiss in the Bible. See Genesis 29. (If you were writing a history book spanning thousands of years, covering the creation of humankind and its Fall, why would you include this romantic detail?) In the historical period enclosed within the book of Genesis, there must be many time gaps. Yet, God inspired the inclusion of these warm love stories.
Go back over the stories of these romances. Whatever the love that existed, these accounts are in many ways similar to romance and love stories all over the world; that is, these people faced many challenges and suffered from the mistakes of one or both parties. What were some of the things done wrong that brought so much pain and suffering to these relationships? Most important, how can we learn from their mistakes?.
|Unfortunately, many have made similar mistakes, or even worse. The good news is that God not only forgives, He heals. Whatever romantic mistakes you have made, how can you learn to seek the forgiveness and healing that come from the Cross?
Genesis shows, right from the start, that romance was to be a basic part of the human experience. One man with one woman, period. That was God’s ideal, the biblical prototype that models what romantic love was to be about.
It’s fascinating, too, how often the Bible uses imagery of love, of marriage, to depict the kind of love relationship God seeks with His people. Nothing is to be more intimate than a husband and a wife—except, perhaps, a person’s individual relationship with God.
Read Exodus 20:5. What word in there reveals God’s feelings toward His people? How are we to understand that word in the context of God?
Many times God expresses His jealousy over His people. (See also Exod. 34:14, Deut. 4:24, Joel 2:18.) Jealousy is a feeling lovers get when they think that their beloved is not faithful to them. God is not a distant, non-feeling, impersonal benign “force.” He is a personal Being with profound affection for the human family. However hard it is for us to grasp, God does love us and, like any lover, He is pained by our unfaithfulness.
Look up the following texts. What are they saying? How do they help us understand God’s feelings toward us? Isa. 43:4, 62:5, Ezek. 16:1–15, Jer. 31:3, Rev. 21:9.
The Bible openly teaches that God deeply loves individual human beings. This is not an easy concept to grasp, only because the concept of God, the Creator of the universe, isn’t an easy concept to grasp. After all, we can barely understand the universe as a whole; how much less, then, the One who created it? At the same time, though, God has not only declared His love for us, He has shown it to us in many powerful ways. The greatest, of course, is the Cross and what happened there. What more proof do we need of God’s love for us than what we have been given at Calvary?
|Think what it would mean were God to hate us or to be indifferent to us or to merely like us. But the Bible says that God loves us. What does that mean to you, personally, and how does this amazing idea (that God loves us) influence how you live?
A Book of Romance
Libraries could be filled with books that deal with the difficult question of human suffering, difficult especially for those who believe in a loving and all-powerful God (for the atheist, suffering is merely part of what it means to live in a godless and meaningless universe and thus doesn’t present the difficult philosophical questions it does for Christians). However, without an understanding of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, most of those books don’t make much headway (even with an understanding of the cosmic drama, the question of suffering is, indeed, difficult enough).
And though the question of human suffering touches all aspects of life, we mustn’t forget life’s pleasures either. Why does food taste so good? Why so many taste buds perfectly matched to sense the many appealing flavors in food? Why are there so many shades of colors? Why is the human eye able to connect with and revel in all the vivid colors? Why the joy of married sexuality? Reproduction certainly doesn’t require the kind of pleasure that sexual activity offers. Some forms of life simply split in half to reproduce. Imagine if that were what we went through in order to reproduce. Even now, humans occasionally use methods of artificial insemination that don’t involve pleasure. Why do we have the exact nerve endings needed to enjoy sensory pleasure, even sexual pleasure?
The answer to all these questions is the same: it’s because God has made us that way. God created humans as physical beings who are to enjoy physical pleasures.
No book of the Bible deals with this topic better than the Songs of Songs. Why is that book in the Bible? It is a book of sheer romantic pleasure. All the sexual pleasures included in the book have no connection to child-bearing. The book explicitly reminds us of the specific pleasures God designed and intended for husbands and wives. The effervescent springs of romantic love can be traced to their source in God.
Skim through the Song of Solomon. What does the book say to you about how God views the pleasures of the flesh in the right context?
Of course, compared to many of the crude and licentious practices of our surrounding culture, Christian ideas about sex, marriage, and physical pleasures in general can seem outdated, prudish, and restrictive. But these principles come from the One who created our physical pleasures, the One who knows how they can best be enjoyed. Who alone but God can even begin to assess the pain and suffering caused by abuse of these wonderful gifts? Who hasn’t been impacted one way or another by their abuse?
Jesus and Romance
Read John 2:1–11. What does this tells us about Jesus’ attitude toward marriage and romantic love? What does it mean that He gave His blessing to such boisterous and long-drawn-out affairs as Jewish weddings were in that day and age?
Jesus had just returned from the wilderness of temptation, where He Himself had drunk the cup of woe. But from there He came forth to give the human family the cup of blessing and to consecrate the warm relationships of human life. Jesus, who officiated at the first wedding in the Garden of Eden, now performs His first miracle. Where? At a wedding meal.
A Jewish wedding in biblical times was an impressive occasion. A marriage in the small village of Cana in Galilee might have been the event of the year. The partying went on for days. Rabbis and students would stop studying. Everyone brought presents and, in return, the hosting family was expected to keep guests well supplied with food, drink, and merrymaking.
The running out of drink was, then, more than a minor disappointment. It was a catastrophe. And the mother of Jesus comes to describe the emergency to Him. She suggests nothing, nor is she passive. She speaks to the servants of the household and urges, “Whatever He tells you, do it.”
Jesus then tells the servants to fill six water pots. Archaeologists say that at that time a storage jar could hold 15–25 gallons. At a minimum then, we are talking about at least ninety gallons. Some scholars suggest at least one hundred twenty gallons.
The next thing we hear is the steward’s exuberant exclamation to the bridegroom, congratulating him: “ ‘ Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’” (John 2:10, NKJV).
If there are four quarts to a gallon and each quart yields six glasses, the size generally used at wedding receptions, that is a minimum total of 2,160 glasses. This means, then, 2,160 servings of the finest drink for one little wedding party in a backwater village of Galilee. Jesus, at a wedding, pours out the best that anyone had ever seen.
In this miracle we can see God’s creative power, the same power that created our world. And, in Jesus’ earthly ministry it is first expressed in the context of a wedding.
Romantic love and marriage are, indeed, wonderful gifts from God. We must remember, too, that Jesus was never married, and thus He leaves an example that shows that not everyone has to get married. Single people can live full and productive and joyful lives as well as married people can.
|In both the Old and the New Testament, marriage is utilized to represent the tender and sacred union that exists between Christ and His people. To the mind of Jesus, the gladness of wedding festivities pointed forward to the rejoicing of that day when He shall bring home His bride to the Father’s house, and the redeemed with the Redeemer shall sit down to the marriage supper of the Lamb. He says, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5, NKJV). “You shall no longer be termed Forsaken” (vs. 4, NKJV). “But you will be called, ‘My Delight’ . . . for the Lord delights in you.’ . . . God will rejoice over you” (vss. 4, 5, NASB). “He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17, NKJV.)
Scripture concludes with this same glorious theme. When the vision of heavenly things was granted to John the apostle, he wrote: “I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright. . . . Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ . . . These are the true sayings of God” (Rev. 19:6–9, NKJV).