Happy Saturday, Friends, and welcome into the first ever NFY episode Bible Reading podcast. This particular episode, if I was recording it from my home state of Alabama, deep in the hollers of L.A. - lower Alabama, of course, I would rate this NFY - Not For Young'uns. Don't worry -we're not going to get too saucy, but it is a bit of a mature topic.
Short episode today, because I have a massive plumbing job to go finish up on, so that's good news for some of you, and maybe not so good for others. For those that prefer the longer shows, know that I'd much rather be podcasting than plumbing!
Today's Bible readings include Numbers 9, Psalms 45, Song of Songs 7 and Hebrews 7. I don't know if you've noticed it, but Song of Songs, AKA Song of Solomon has a lot of sexual language in it, and some of it is fairly explicit. I'm not going to quote anything, but chapter 5 in particular is very, very....colorful in its language, and today's chapter is too. Some of the language is quite strange to us - some very funny and odd euphemisms and metaphors were used thousands of years ago:
Song of Songs 1:9 "I compare you, my darling,
to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots."
2:9 "My love is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
See, he is standing behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice."
4:1 "Your hair is like a flock of goats
streaming down Mount Gilead."
4:2 "Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn sheep
coming up from washing,
each one bearing twins,
and none has lost its young."
4:4 "Your neck is like the tower of David,
constructed in layers.
A thousand shields are hung on it—
all of them shields of warriors."
5:12 "His eyes are like doves
beside flowing streams,
washed in milk"
But don't laugh too hard, because some of our metaphors and euphemisms are kind of odd too. Most people think Christians are prudes, and that the Bible is anti-sex, but is that true? In fact, there is a word in our culture, puritanical, that is named after a particular group of Christians and means, "having standards of moral behavior that forbid many pleasures." The only thing is - the Bible itself is not at all anti-sex (within certain bounds) and the Puritans weren't puritanical either. Consider a few of these quotes from our Puritan friends:
Puritan William Gouge, writing in the 1600s says, ""One of the best remedies that can be prescribed to married persons (next to an awfull feare of God, and a continuall setting of him before them, wheresoever they are) is, that husband and wife mutually delight each in other, and maintaine a pure and fervent love betwixt themselves, yielding that due benevolence one to another which is warranted and sanctified by God’s word, and ordained of God for this particular end. This due benevolence (as the Apostle stileth it) is one of the most proper and essentiall acts of marriage: and necessary for the maine and principall ends thereof: as for preservation of chastity in such as have not the gift of continency, for increasing the world with a legitimate brood, and for linking the affections of the married couple more firmly together. These ends of marriage, at least the two former, are made void without this duty be performed. As it is called benevolence because it must be performed with good will and delight, willingly, readily and cheerefully; so it is said to be due because it is a debt which the wife oweth to her husband, and he to her (1 Corinthians 7:4).
Source: (Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties, 215-216; cf. 234-235)
Richard Steele at around the same time wrote:
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 . . . plainly shows that even the sober use of the marriagebed is such a mutual debt, that it may not be intermitted long without necessity and consent. . . . Neither desire of gain, nor fear of trouble, nor occasional distastes, nor pretence of religion, should separate those from conjugal converse and cohabitation, (unless with consent, and that but for a time,) whom God hath joined together.
(Steele, “Duties of Husband and Wife,” 275)
It is also worth knowing that one man, James Mattock, was excommunicated from the his Boston Puritan church for denying his wife her conjugal/sexual rights for two years.
As well, there are several sex-positive passages in the Bible - all written in the context of marriage:
each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman should have sexual relations with her own husband. 3 A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. 4 A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:2-5
How beautiful you are and how pleasant,
my love, with such delights!
7 Your stature is like a palm tree;
your breasts are clusters of fruit.
8 I said, “I will climb the palm tree
and take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like clusters of grapes,
and the fragrance of your breath like apricots.
9 Your mouth is like fine wine—
Song of Songs 7:6-9
Let your fountain be blessed,
and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving deer, a graceful doe—
let her breasts always satisfy you;
be lost in her love forever.
20 Why, my son, would you lose yourself
with a forbidden woman
or embrace a wayward woman?
And that last passage really kind of nails the Bible teaching on sex overall - that sex was designed for husband and wife - not merely for procreation (as some Christians in the past misguidedly thought) but also for PLEASURE. Yes - the Bible points us to the pleasure of knowing God and following His ways - including the blessing of pleasure of sex inside of marriage. That said, the Bible is explicit in its condemnation of sexual pleasure apart from the marital relationship as we see here in Proverbs 5:20. So -
is the Bible anti-sex? Not at all - the Bible encourages husbands and wives to have delightful and pleasurable and regular sex. Sex is made for marriage, and it is created to make marriage pleasurable and fruitful. Yes, all sex outside the bounds of marriage is forbidden by the Bible, but sex inside of marriage is never treated like a gross or unclean thing in the Bible, and not at all like a necessary evil, but rather like a beautiful gift that is designed to bless and sustain both husband and wife. God is not anti-pleasure, He is the source of the greatest pleasures!
You reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures.
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