"A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed" (Song of Solomon 4:12).
We live in a culture that promotes a "try-before-you-buy" attitude about sexuality. It's increasingly rare for me to do premarital counseling and find that couples have practiced sexual purity before marriage. Young adults want to either sleep together or live together before the honeymoon in order to find out if they are sexually compatible.
But notice that in the Song of Solomon, a book that celebrates intimacy between a man and a woman, the bride is "a spring locked, a fountain sealed." What is that about?
The ESV Study Bible says, "A garden (more like modern parks than flowerbeds) is not only a welcoming place for lovers but is regularly associated with a woman’s sexuality in the ancient Near East. A spring or fountain reflects a similar concept (cf. Prov. 5:15–19). Notice that her garden and spring are locked, indicating that she reserves herself for her lover alone" and that the garden is not to be unlocked until after the wedding.
This is a theme repeated in the Song of Solomon over and over.
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 2:7).
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 3:5).
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 8:4).
Again, the ESV Study notes are helpful here: "The actual marital consummation is reflected in Song of Solomon 8:5. This is supported by the consistent refrain urging restraint—i.e., not to “stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (cf. 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). Thus, immediately following the last occurrence of the refrain (see 8:4), in 8:5 the woman declares, “Under the apple tree I awakened you”—which is the only place where she is said to have (sexually) awakened her lover.
Sexual intimacy is anticipated and even celebrated by God in the Bible. He invented sex and the pleasure that sex brings. So, God is not a "cosmic kill-joy." God says "no" to sex before marriage because He has a better "yes" to sex after marriage. God's "wait" is to preserve a better "go."
Notice how God encourages and celebrates sexual love. "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love" (Proverbs 5:18-19). God is not seeking to keep something from us, but seeks to preserve something for us.
So, I am glad that my wife, Maryanne, and I waited. No one else - no past partner - has entered into our bedroom. The memories of past experiences are not tampering with our trust. No outside virus has invaded our sexual relationship. And that builds greater trust and more freedom for us inside and outside the bedroom.
For teens, young adults, and singles, it's tough to stay locked up sexually in a culture that encourages sexual expression and experimentation. But God's word says that the difference is worth the distance.