by Pastor Matthew Black, 7/6/2015, 11:16pm
Why should I be like one who veils herself [as a prostitute] beside the flocks of your companions? Song 1:7
When are you ready to marry? What age should a young person marry? How do I know I am ready? Is there a certain time frame I should be following? More important than time frame, the one considering marriage should be a person of godly character. You are ready to marry when you are the kind of person that you ought to be. You need to come into marriage with godly character, ready to work hard. Marriage exists for the glory of God and not for our mere happiness. Joy and happiness come when you are submitted to God whether you are married or single. If you cannot be happy and content in Christ as a single person, then no human being will ever make you content.
So many people rush into marriage thinking it will make them happy and solve all their problems. That is a recipe for disaster. To be married takes tremendous work and sacrifice on the parts of both spouses.
When You Know What is Most Important
You are ready to be married when you are concerned about what is most important.
Inner beauty matters
You are ready for Christian marriage when you are not beguiled by superficial and shallow attractiveness. This Shulamite is no princess. We find out that she’s grown up on a farm. She’s not so concerned about superficial beauty.
She ponders true beauty: “I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!” (1:5-6).
Poor Jewish Girl
She was not socially attractive. She’s from a broken and poor family. We first notice she addresses the “daughters of Jerusalem”–the single, eligible ladies in Solomon’s royal court. She was not from the royal city. The Shulamite is from the tribe of Dan in Lower Galilee—she’s from the wrong side of the tracks! There is always that desire to compare. But she does not gain her value from her family or hometown.
Her father is not named, but her brothers have put her to work. Many commentators believe the father has either left the family or has died. What hope does this girl have of marrying?
The godly Shulamite girl is from a poor Jewish family in the tribe of Dan and does not have the pampered beauty of the urban women of the upper class. She is a working-class peasant girl. She is not a princess. Her skin is dark not only because of natural beauty but also because of the sun-tan that comes from working so many grueling hours in the fields.
She says, “I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon” (1:5).
She was dark and radiantly beautiful, but she was also “weathered.” She was sun-tanned. Though she was beautiful, she had a very low standing on the social totem pole.
The Shulamite girl in our passage is looked down upon not because of her skin but because of her low social standing. Her face was dark and sun-tanned, and she had blisters on her hands. Everybody knows farm girls don’t marry kings!
Some Jewish people have darker skin. They are not European but Semitic. Most of the royalty in the world at this time in history were brown skinned people. In fact, many Africans in this girl’s day were royal and dignified and respected. We think of the famous Queen of Sheba.
The social standing of the Shulamite may have been a turn off, but she is a brown-skinned and beautiful woman, and more than that, we find out she is she is spiritually attractive! Inner beauty mattered to this farm girl.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): “The church is sometimes dark with persecution, but lovely in patience, constancy, and comfort, and never the less attractive in the eyes of Christ, dark in the account of men, but lovely in God’s esteem, dark in some that are a scandal to her, but lovely in others that are sincere and are an honor to her. True believers are dark in themselves, but lovely in Christ, with the comeliness that he puts upon them, dark outwardly, for the world knows them not, but all glorious within, Ps. 45:13.”
AMBROSE (333-397): “‘I am dark and lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem.’ Dark through sin, lovely through grace; dark by natural condition, lovely through redemption, or certainly, dark with the dust of her labors. So it is dark while fighting but lovely when it is crowned with the ornaments of victory.”
A Picture of the Christ Pursuing His Bride
You may not realize it, but Solomon’s pursuit is really telling a wonderful part of God’s love story for us. The Bible says no one comes to God unless they are “drawn” and pursued by God the Father.
The peasant princess is an ancient picture of the church being pursued by her Groomsman, our Lord Jesus Christ. There was a day when Solomon met the peasant girl, and he deemed her a very special young lady. He began to show his love to her, and he began to pursue her.
The King and the farm girl have a love story that points to Christ’s love for His bride. God is pursing poor sinners to be in His kingdom. He wants us to surrender to Him. He’s done everything for us to come to Him. He’s given us great gifts as a Bridegroom pursuing His bride. He’s given us life, a body, the sunshine and rain, our family and friends. But most of all, God has given us His own Son. He has pursued His people. He wants each of us to be part of the people that make up the Bride for His Son. Solomon’s pursuit of the farm girl, while impressive, is nothing compared to God’s pursuit of each one of us.
The Tents of Kedar
“I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon” (1:5).
The material that makes up the Bedouin tent is the same as the sackcloth of Bible days. It must be remembered that this oriental sackcloth is a material made of prickly, coarse goat’s hair which could protect the one sheltered from the fiercest onslaught of the elements and also provided a place of great privacy and discretion.
The Shulamite was a woman who protected that which was on the inside. She guarded her character and her purity. She was like the tents of Kedar – beautifully fashioned yet not flashy. She was instead practical. The tents of the Bedouin shepherds of Kedar are blackened by exposure to the elements and are strong enough to endure the desert climate. So the Shulamite shepherd girl is not dainty and fragile like the ladies at Solomon’s royal court. Instead we see her modesty and discretion woven with her dark features as “lovely” like the famous tents of the Bedouin shepherds of Kedar.
The tents of Kedar were designed more for protection than presentation. Our peasant princess is good looking but not at all pampered or in with all the fads of the day. She’s out of touch with what’s “in” because she’s been working in the field. The tents of Kedar were beautiful sprawling cloth gazebos that functioned as a shelter of protection for the Bedouin shepherds and their family. The tents of Kedar were places of security and covering—they took the wear and tear to protect what was in the inside.
The Shulamite was willing to take the wear and tear on the outside to protect that which was most important on the inside. These tents soaked up the heat and provided cover for the family and the belongings. It was a place of comfort and rest.
The Curtains of Solomon
Like Solomon’s curtains, this farm girl was a woman who was also mysterious and modest, “like the curtains of Solomon” (vs. 5c).
The curtains of Solomon were dark, but you never knew what was happening on the inside. There was mystery and modesty. You are ready to be married when you know not to blab all your problems to the world. When you can be quiet and take your problems to the Lord.
A lady is ready to be married when she can be like the curtains of Solomon and have some shamefacedness and modesty and mystery about her.
There is something attractive about a girl who is content with herself. She is not chasing after the guys. She is secure and spiritual and happy, wanting to reflect the character of her just and merciful God.
Some ladies are tempted to chase after superficial fads so that they can get noticed. That is a dangerous road to follow. Even if it worked, what kind of guy would she get? It would be a guy that’s going to be superficial spiritually, who will break her heart in the end! If the totality of a woman is merely make up, cool clothes, and a good hair style, then she is not ready for marriage. If she has to flirt with a guy to get him to notice her, she is not ready for marriage.
What are you on the inside? Are you godly? When’s the last time you prayed for an hour? When’s the last time you read the Bible from cover to cover? When was the last time you had answered prayer? You are not ready to marry if your standard for living comes from your peers. You have to be able to stand on your own on the Lord’s side.
We don’t know what the woman of Proverbs 31 looked like, but we read: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (vs. 30). True beauty is far more than skin deep. A woman’s beauty comes from her modesty and mystery as she fears the Lord.
When You are Careful to Serve God
You are ready to be married when you are careful to serve God where you are (1:6). So many people serve themselves and put on rose colored glasses thinking that Mr. Right or Miss Perfect is going to make them happy. If you are looking for someone to make you happy, you are not ready to marry! The Shulamite farm girl had a tough life, but she was faithfully serving God where she was.
“Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!” (1:6).
What the Shulamite is saying here is that she does not have the time to “tend to her own attractiveness.” Unlike Queen Esther, she hasn’t been getting her twelve-month beauty treatments—her skin softened with oil of myrrh for six months, and then spices and ointments for another six months (Esther 2:12). She has a working-class complexion, and her hair is undone, and her attire is unattractive. She has been on her feet all day pruning vines or picking grapes, shooing away sneaky foxes. And when she gets off her shift, she calls it a day. No time for a manicure and pedicure, and certainly no time to powder her sunburnt cheeks.
On the surface, we would all say, she does not compare to the women of the royal court. She’s only a farm girl! She’s a peasant, not a princess! But this girl was content to be single. She wasn’t looking to marry Solomon. Though her life was rough, she was faithfully serving God where she was.
The Shulamite’s brothers might have been angry and mean to her, but God used that situation in her life to make her a hardworking young lady learning to submit to God even in a difficult and perhaps tragic situation.
This farm girl was not looking to be married. It seems she didn’t have time to even think about those things. She was faithful to God. At first glance, it seems serving God did not help her cause. Her faithfulness to her Lord on the farm did not make her more eligible, but instead she was less marryable.
She was submissive to authority, even in times of great stress. She did what she was told to the neglect of her own eligibility for marriage.
She did not have an ideal family situation. When she speaks of her “mother’s sons” (1:6), she’s talking about her step brothers. We don’t know why they were angry with her. Nothing is indicated that she did anything wrong. This is just her lot in life. She has no idea that one day she is going to be a princess. She just kept her eyes on God and trusted God. That’s what we all need to do. She’s looking back and saying, “I wasn’t fretting about being single. I’m content to serve God right where I am.”
You may not have an ideal family situation. Understand that God is not hindered by these things. God is in charge of finding you a mate. God sent Solomon one day to look out at his fields, and he noticed a humble lady that was different from the women of his royal court. As he got to know her, he put aside all the superficial stuff, and saw a girl who wanted to serve God. A man is attracted to a woman who is not afraid to work.
Do you have a servant’s heart? Until your highest goal in life is to please God and serve Him with all your heart, you are not ready to be married.
The Shulamite girl didn’t have the money or the time to be worldly wise with fashion. She says of her brothers, “they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept” (1:6). She was willing to put off marriage for the livelihood of her family. They needed to eat. She gave of herself. If you think worldly fashion is the road to a good marriage, you are not ready to get married. You need to adorn yourself with a humble servant’s heart. That’s what makes for a lasting marriage.
Single men, if all you are attracted to is the outside, you are in for a very rocky marriage. Single ladies, are you willing to trust God to send the right man along if that is God’s will for you? Do you see that God wants to make you the woman that you ought to be so that if you get married, you’ll have the marriage God wants you to have?
When You are Cautious About the Sanctity of Marriage
You are ready to be married when you are cautious about the sanctity of marriage (1:7). You don’t have to give away your purity in order to get a potential mate.
The Shulamite looks back to her first conversation with King Solomon when she said: “Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?”
In Solomon’s day, a veiled woman who would appear in midday was a prostitute. The Shulamite says, “I will not practice the immorality of a prostitute to get a man.” Single ladies should have the same attitude: “I will not sacrifice my chastity and my purity for a man.” The Shulamite girl had convictions.
She’s willing to wait. She wants to spend time with him, but she wants to go about it in a legitimate way. We are to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).
If at any time you feel like you must set aside your biblical godly convictions to win the attention of someone, then you need to put on the brakes. The right person for you if you are a Christian, is someone who is going to push you toward God, not away from Him. You should aspire to marry someone who is going to challenge you spiritually, and is willing to tell you goodbye if you go the wrong way.
What You Wear Matters
Purity extends from the heart to every part of us, including what we wear. What you wear matters. Paul tells us that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (1 Tim. 2:9-10).
The Shulamite said, “Why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?” (1:7b). If you are a lady, I ask you: are you concerned that your apparel communicate the modesty and respectability of godliness and not the questionable morals of the world? It is quite difficult to buy clothes as a Christian woman these days because so much of what the world pushes is meant to accentuate your form.
A single Christian lady should want to wear clothing that accentuates her face, not her body. She should want the man she marries to love her for a beauty that is more than skin deep.
When You are Content To be Single
“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7; cf. Song of Songs 3:5).
The daughters of Jerusalem are the elite class of women in the royal court. The Shulamite girl never was jealous of her peers who had money and popularity in the royal court. She was content being single. She wasn’t looking for Solomon. You might ask, if she doesn’t have the money or the friends of the ladies of the royal court, then how can she compete? She wasn’t competing. She was content to be single. She had desire. But she was careful not to awaken that desire.
The Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot
I think of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Both loved each other. Both desired marriage. Both gave up marriage for missionary work. They met near a cemetery. As they told each other of their love, and that they would sacrifice that love for the cause of Christ, the shadow of a cross from one of the grave stones came between them. Elisabeth Elliot describes the scene in her book Passion and Purity:
“Jim and I walked to a cemetery and sat down on a stone slab. He spoke of a story he had read in his Bible study that morning–the story of Abraham’s offering up Isaac. ‘So I put you on the altar,’ he said.
Slowly we became aware that the moon, which had risen behind us, was casting the shadow of a stone cross on the slab between us. We were silent for a very long time, pondering this undeniable sign.”
Not did Jim and Elisabeth Elliot put the Lord first, they actually put off getting married for quite a while for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in Ecuador where they would one day get married.
You are not married until you are married. You may have whims of love as a single person, but you cannot awaken it until you say “I do.” This is the art of contentment in singleness. Like Adam, when God formed a woman out of his side, you must be “asleep in the will of God” and content serving God in your singleness. You cannot put your mind on the physical desires marriage until the right time.
What kind of foundation do you want for your marriage? Have you ever gone camping? Have you ever started a fire with twigs and lighter fluid that burned brightly and then quickly burned out? You know that in order to have a fire that lasts, you have to have some good strong mature lumber. In the same way, unless you are spiritually mature, you are headed for disaster. Unless the person you are interested is spiritually mature, you are looking at starting a long term relationship with lighter fluid. If you are looking at a potential mate, you need to have someone with strong, godly character who loves and walks with the Lord.
The person you desire in a mate says so much about you. May God give grace to single Christians to make the right choices, and to Christian parents to teach and guide their children in making these choices.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1058). Peabody: Hendrickson.
 St. Ambrose. On the Holy Spirit 2.10.112 in P. Schaff et al., eds. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. 2 series (14 vols. each). Buffalo, N.Y.: Christian Literature, 1887–1894; Reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1952–1956; Reprint, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994.
 John 6:44
 John D. Whiting, “Bedouin Life in Bible Lands,” The National Geographic Magazine, January, 1937, pp. 64, 65. See also pp. 68-69 for photographs of goat’s hair tents.
Garrett, D. A. (2001, c1993). Vol. 14: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (386). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 O’Donnell, D. S. (2012). The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (pp. 43–44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
 Elisabeth Elliot. Passion and Purity, 2nd edition (Downers Grove, IL: Revell, 2013) 61.