“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy iscruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned” (Song 8:6-7).
We live in a world that uses the word “love” all the time, and yet it clearly doesn’t know what the word means. Love has been twisted into a mystical experience that can come and go, and that is virtually indistinguishable from lust. Love has been reduced to feelings and sensations, and when the feeling fades, when the sensations subside, the natural conclusion is that love has ended.
But Scripture teaches that love is as strong as death. In fact, it is stronger than death. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. It is a fire that cannot be put out, a vehement flame, a coal that still burns at the bottom of the sea. The zeal and jealousy of love burns even like the grave, even like Sheol. True love is commitment. True love is loyalty. True love is dead set, fixed, steadfast, immoveable, unbreakable. True love is firm, bold, iron clad. People can and do fail, but love, true love, never fails.
It is right that marriage vows are made “till death do us part,” since marriage is a gift for this life, and in the life to come, the Lord says that we are no longer married or given in marriage. But this does not mean that our love ends in death. This doesn’t mean we won’t know one another in the resurrection or love one another. The resurrection is not when we look back in longing for the good old days of this fallen world. No, in the resurrection, nothing good will be lost, and everything good will come into its fullness. In this world, we see glimpses of the good gifts of God getting better, as for example in the care of an elderly man for his wife of over 50 years, but in the world to come, we will see the best versions of everything and everyone. No good thing will be lost, and every good thing will be transfigured into its best form, including love. As the Psalmist said: at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Whatever marriage is destined to become it will not be tame, lame, or boring. It will not be less glorious than what we celebrate here in this life. No, marriage in the life to come will be transfigured into something far more glorious. And at the center of it will be real love, deep loyalty, friendship, passion, joy, and laughter. But this means that even our sexuality will be raised and glorified. We will not be sexless creatures in the resurrection. We are made male and female, and it was very good, but in the resurrection, we will inherit some heightened form of sexuality that I suspect will make all the current liberationists blush.
And we know all of this because God is love. Our love in this world is borrowed. We love because He loved us first. While the pagans and unbelievers have some taste of real love because they have been loved with existence and good food and beauty, it is God’s saving love in His Son Jesus that has come for this fallen world to remake all things, to put all things right. This underlines the firmness of love, the security of love, the immovability of love. To say that God is love is to say that love does not change. Love is not moody. And if God’s love will put all things right, then there is a fixed nature to the world, to reality, to gravity, to logic, to nature, to male and female and marriage.
Love is not whatever anyone wants it to be. It is that very delusion that brings every form of sadness and brokenness into this world – the delusion that love can be anything, that love changes, morphs, and evolves. But that is the path of lust, not love. Lust is self-seeking, self-serving, self-pleasing. But love gives of self, sacrifices self, denies self for the good of others. Their good is not whatever they are lusting for. Their good is what God made them for. Their good is what God loves them for. And so our love is meant to line up with God’s love in laying ourselves down so that others might grow into more of the glory God has for them.
In fact, this is why God sent His Son into this world. The wages of sin is death, and therefore everything touched by sin turns to dust. It is contaminated and cursed. So this is the great problem in this world: God made a good and beautiful world that we contaminated with our sin and death. But God sent His only Son into this world, and down into the depths of this sin-cursed world in order to take the curse away.
Jesus was condemned as a criminal and nailed to the cross for our sins, for our lust, for our selfishness, for our pride, for our lies and sinful anger, both as God’s great justice, and as His great love. His jealousy is as fierce as the grave. He is jealous for His holiness and for His justice, but He was simultaneously jealous for His people. So He went down into the grave, down into Sheol, to the bottom of the sea, and He went down into death for us, and He went down into death to find us, and to find every good thing. It was God’s love that sent Him, and it was God’s love that struck Him. Jealousy is as cruel as the grave, as fierce as Sheol.
Scripture says that God laid on Him the iniquity of us all, but since we were full of iniquity, you might as well just say: He laid us on Him. He nailed us to the cross in Him. When Christ died, we died. But God did not allow His holy one to see corruption. He did not leave His soul in Sheol. When the justice of God was fully satisfied for all our sin, the fire of His love was still burning bright. All the waters of God’s righteous fury could not quench love. And the Song of Solomon actually says why: that vehement flame, that flame that is as strong as death, is literally, the flame of Yahweh, the flame of God, a flame that will burn forever. And it will burn until every tear is wiped off of every face, until everything sad has come untrue, until everything good has come into its best form, until the City that is God’s Bride has come down out Heaven to Earth.
So Danny, my charge to you is to imitate this fierce love of God in your love for Hannah. In particular, I charge you to love Hannah by loving her consistently. This world sends floods and waves, but God’s love is the great sandbar beneath them all. As you rest in Him, you will not be moved, and as you are immoveable in Him, you will be a great source of comfort and security for your wife. The glory of men is their strength, and this means that God has called you to be strong for Him and today, strong for Hannah and the children the Lord gives you. But you cannot be strong on your own. You must be strong in the Lord, and this means that you must cast all your cares on Him. Do not cast all your cares on Hannah. Cast them on the Lord. As you do this, your love for Hannah will be strong and bold. Danny, I do not mind saying that you have chosen very well, and I am very proud of you. And I know your dad is too.
Hannah, my charge to you is actually the same: to imitate this fierce love of God, but because you are a woman, when you do this, it will necessarily look somewhat different. The Bible teaches consistently that what a woman needs to particularly practice in her interactions with her husband is respect. While love and respect are distinct actions for us, remember that all of the virtues are one in God, and so there is a sense in which when a wife is full of the love of God it enables her to respect her husband. The glory of a woman is beauty – the way she cultivates and glorifies life inside of her and all around her. Hannah, you are truly lovely today, and as you take up this calling to respect Danny, look up to him, follow him, help him, you will be his glory and his crown.