The wife of your youth

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything about my word study on “joy,” but today, as I finally moved out of the book of Psalms and into Proverbs, I ran headlong into one of my favorite – and most challenging – passages in all of Scripture: Proverbs 5:15-23. It is a striking passage of Scripture given what we know about the man who in all likelihood wrote it. You see, the book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, the same man who very nearly lost the throne to his brother, the same man who prayed that God would grant him wisdom more than anything else, and the same man who took for himself 700 wives and 300 concubines.

For all practical purposes, that’s 1,000 wives, and one may be tempted to wonder if he really was, as we’re told in Scripture, the wisest man on earth! But as I consider the handful of verses before me today, as I have on a number of other occasions, I am compelled to ask myself why a man with 1,000 wives would write something like we have here:

Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well. Should your springs flow in the streets, streams of water in the public squares? They should be for you alone and not for you to share with strangers. Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful fawn – let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. (Proverbs 5:15-19 HCSB)

Did you catch that? In a letter chock full of advise to his son and heir, the man who was husband to 1,000 women bid his beloved child to “take pleasure in” – or “rejoice in” (NASB, ESV, NIV1984, AMP, NLT) – one wife. His first wife.

I truly believe that this statement is absolutely profound on so very many levels. For instance, the guy with literally a thousand women knew that that life was empty and joyless. The man who epitomized the ideal to which our culture so often aspires said it wasn’t worth it! And instead of following in his own footsteps, he told his son to do better.

Here’s the thing. So often in this day and age, we consider marriage a disposable thing. In fact, surveys have indicated that a majority of kids actually expect that they will one day be divorced. It’s just something that happens. An inevitability. But Solomon didn’t think it had to be that way. And more, he didn’t think it should be that way.

His plea to his son was that the boy would find one woman and take joy in her – her body, her personality, her love, her family, her – all the days of his life.

Now, Solomon, of all people, knew that women were not perfect. He knew that no one woman could satisfy him completely. He had the advantage that when they became hormonal, he could send them back to the harem and bring in another, but he also knew that this meant he was utterly unable to have the intimate relationship that he was supposed to have. His marriages were empty. And he longed for the simplicity, the sanity, the satisfaction of one wife and one wife only.

Maybe it was the woman from Song of Songs. Maybe it was the one woman that got away from him. I like to think it was his first wife, the one he first looked upon and felt the same reaction as Adam in Genesis 2, where his jaw dropped and he gasped in awe. At any rate, whoever she was, Solomon wanted his son to find her equivalent for himself and treasure her for the rest of his life.

Could it be that our spouse could be a source of great joy? You know, the one that our culture calls the “ball and chain,” “old lady,” “old man,” and much, much worse? And if so, what would it take for that to be possible?

Could the key be right here, flowing from the pen of a man who knew all about the proverbial grass on the other side of the fence and how green it really wasn’t?

And could it be that the key is a simple decision that I will be absolutely faithful to my wife? That I will find joy in her, knowing that she is the perfect solution to my alone-ness? That I will see her as the most lovely, graceful creature on the fact of the planet? That I will lose myself in her love  – in her – so that I am no longer complete without her?

It’s a radical proposition compared to what so many people consider marriage these days.

Considering our track record with marriage, though, maybe.

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