STUDY | Spend the week studying Song of Solomon 1:8–2:7. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | God uses dating and relationships to teach me true love.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
TWO SIDES TO LOVE
There are times when loving someone is wonderful. There’s delight and enjoyment of one another. It feels easy and effortless. We get a picture of this side of love in today’s lesson. But there’s another side of love that can be hard. Navigating a relationship between two sinners is often painful. Relationships aren’t easy. They take effort and commitment.
Being in a relationship is great training for how to do love right. God wants to teach us something about love wherever we are, whether we’re dating, married, or single.
Q: What does our culture tell us about finding true love?
Q: Why are relationships great training ground for learning how to do love right?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
A SHARED DELIGHT
We pick up the story with this young couple in love. We see the guy for the first time as he responds to his love. He’s playful. The girl had asked where to find him. He responds, “Just follow your flock. I’m right there.” He’s a shepherd like her. Then he compares her to Pharaoh’s chariots, an image of something highly noble, the best of its kind. The beauty of her face and neck sparkle like fine jewels.
Then she responds to him. Her love for him is fragrant, sweet. Her thoughts of him are treasures she stores in her heart. They go back and forth, speaking to the things in the each other that delight them. They’re spending time together outdoors. When the man considers other women, they are like prickly thorns to him. She is the beautiful lily among them. The girl’s heart bursts with affection for this guy. He’s like an apple tree that brings forth sweetness in its fruit and delight in its shade.
They go to a banquet house and enjoy the feast of their love together. They celebrate their love. Then they embrace. The intimacy between them is deep and abiding.
Read: Read Song of Solomon 1:8–2:7. How would you describe how this couple feels for one another in your own words?
Q: How have you seen others celebrate their love well? What did they do?
DO NOT AWAKEN LOVE
Then the girl appeals to the “daughters of Jerusalem.” She has a message for them. Although her love for this guy is powerful, she warns others not to “stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” This couple is in love, but they won’t allow their love to go out of bounds. They will wait on love to come into full blossom. They will wait to consummate their love in its right context, marriage.
Q: What puts someone in danger of awakening love too early? How can this be avoided?
Q: How would you advise a young person to value waiting until marriage?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
THE ART OF DATING
This couple was crazy about each other. They were in the thralls of love. That much is evident. But a closer look shows us that they were intentional in their relationship. They spent time together. They celebrated their love. But they didn’t allow that love to go out of bounds. They learned to bridle their passions.
Dating is an art form, not a science. You learn to do love right as you get to know the other person, as they reveal more of themselves to you. You learn their needs and how to care for them. How to encourage them. How to speak truth into their life.
Any healthy relationship has a strong foundation of friendship. Beauty fades and, eventually, gravity takes its effect on all of us. Any long-lasting relationship will have friendship at its core. How do you build a strong foundation of friendship? Spend time together. Do things together. Talk. Get to know the other person’s heart. That’s what this couple did. Doing these things isn’t just reserved for dating. If you’re married, you should continue to date. There’s always more to learn and discover about one another.
Q: In what ways are you intentional in relationships?
Q: What qualities to do you value in a true friend? How can you live these out in a dating relationship or marriage?
WHEN REALITY HITS
For a time a couple is “in love.” Every moment is filled with delight and wonder as you get to know one another and share your love. But time changes things. You go from being “in love” to truly loving the other person. Sooner or later you confront the reality that loving this person requires commitment. Maybe you get the wakeup call with your first fight, or the other person hurts you deeply. In those moments it can be hard to love. But true love can absorb the pain and love in response.
Q: How would you describe the difference between being “in love” and loving someone?
Q: Recall a time when loving someone was hard for you.
WHERE TO FIND TRUE LOVE
What does true love look like? We see it at the cross. God loved us in spite of us. He knew the reality of our sin, but that didn’t stop Him from loving us. Jesus absorbed the pain of our sin and loved in response. What He did brought us back into relationship with God and made us His bride. As the church, we are Christ’s bride. He delights in us. He celebrates the love between us.
“Happily ever after” exists, but not in the person you’re dating, married to, or hope to find. Only one Person truly completes what’s missing in us and gives life real meaning, and that is Jesus Christ.
If you’re willing to learn, God can use relationships to reveal what true love lived out looks like. It looks like Jesus, who served and gave His life for His bride. Love like this is potent. It changes you, and it’s a powerful witness to those around you.
Q: Where do you see true love lived out in your group?
Q: What’s one thing you’d like to change about your approach to relationships, whether in dating, marriage, or singleness?
Pray for God to give you wisdom in relationships. Pray for a heart that seeks true love imaged in Jesus. Ask Him to reveal areas where you don’t understand true love. Ask Him to lead you to do love right in dating, marriage or singleness.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8 and reflect on God’s will for your life, including your relationships.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Terms of Endearment
The woman calls the man “my beloved” thirty-one times in the book.
The Banqueting House
Literally, it means “house of wine.” It may refer to a location (e.g., banquet hall, tavern, or shrine) or perhaps the scene of a wedding celebration. Wherever this location is, it’s a metaphorical place where the pleasure of love is intoxicating and its effect creates great yearning for the other person.1
You Never Date (or Marry) the Right Person
Tim Keller writes that the “journey [towards marriage] may eventually take you into a strong, tender, joyful marriage. But it is not because you married the perfectly compatible person. That person doesn’t exist.”2 You should look for compatibility in a partner, but don’t get stuck in the quest for Mr. or Mrs. Right. Everyone has things about them God needs to either draw out (the good) or root out (the bad).
Before You Date
Jaquelle Crowe offers five helpful questions singles should ask themselves before dating:
1. Am I dating to find validation?
2. Am I dating because it’s expected or pressured?
3. Am I dating in community?
4. Am I dating with short-term intentions?
5. Am I dating in submission to God?3
1. C Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 391–392.
2. Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York: Riverhead Books, 2013), 37-39.
3. Jaquelle Crowe, “Five Questions to Ask Before You Start Dating,” Desiring God, September 21, 2016, https://www.desiringgod.org/arti- cles/five-questions-to-ask-before-you-start-dating (accessed April 28, 2018).