Text: Songs 8: 6-7
6 Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. 7 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. KJV
Today has been set aside globally as a day to celebrate love. Just like there are other days set aside to celebrate other aspect of life as peace, women, men, fathers, mothers, children, etc..
People are celebrating love everywhere, which is a good thing as long as the love is not twisted, ungodly and sinful. We know what we are celebrating. We are celebrating God in our lives and in the lives of others; for God is Love. That Love can keep us together; and that Love can make the world a better place for all of us.
When the bible says, ‘many waters/floods cannot quench love’, it is particularly important to first know what kind of love the bible is talking about.
Then we can consider what can be classified as waters/floods; and then what is meant by quench. Finally, we need to find out why the bible made such a bold claim and strong words.
What is love?
Probably no other dimension of human experience has been pondered, discussed, debated, analyzed, and dreamed about more than the nature of true love.
The longing for love is everywhere—in our songs and in our books, on our televisions and on our movie screens. The talk of love is always on the tips of our tongues, never far from our thoughts or in our conversations.
Yet, for all our thinking and talking of love, for all our discussing and debating on it, how many people truly understand love? Do we really know what true love is?
Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, a 17th-century French author and moralist, made a clever observation when he wrote, “True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.” No wonder a popular singer in my childhood years was asking himself a question in a song “Is this love, is this love that I am feeling…?”. There are many things that look like love and are not; one will need to ascertain properly before falling for an error in the name of love.
Especially, singles must know that there is Lust; there is Infatuation and there is Love. They are all different, though they may seem alike. You will need to ascertain which one is at play, before you say ‘Yes, I will’ and eventually ‘Yes I do’.
The ancient Greeks used four different words to differentiate love—Eros (sexual attraction), Phileo (friendship – including that between a bachelor and a spinster engaged to marry), Storge (family ties), and Agape (Divine love) — with each word identifying a separate and distinct type or degree of love.
Eros centers on the physical stimulation of the five senses—sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch— and the desires and cravings aroused by those senses.
Phileo refers to the love that one has for a friend or acquaintance. Love on the level of casual friendship, the affection we have for someone we are familiar with.
Storge refers to love that we have for family members as an obligation. This can be to parents, children, and other extended family members.
The fourth type of love is Agape.
The first books of the bible were written in the Hebrew language and the first compilation of the bible was first in Greek language. The word love scripturally is translated ‘Agape’. Agape refers to divine love, the love God has for His people, as well as the love His people ought to give back to Him. It is also the kind of love that the people of God are supposed to have toward one another.
Unlike Phileo and Storge, Agape goes beyond obligation (let me just do it because…); it holds no expectations (isn’t it that you are my …); and lays down no conditions. Agape is unconditional love.
Rom. 5: 8 – But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So, unlike Eros, which is the epitome of selfishness, Agape acts first and foremost for the good and welfare of another. Rather than self-serving, Agape is self-giving, a sacrificial love that pours itself out for the sake of someone else.
John 3: 16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Therefore, God is the source of agape. In biblical marriage, which must be between a man and a woman, the four kinds of love must be complete (i.e., Eros, Phileo, Storge and Agape).
According to the bible, Eros is solely reserved for marriage relationships. While Agape must necessarily be found in Friend & Family relationships.
When we hear the shout of fire, the first thing that comes to our mind is water. When the Fire Brigade is called to extinguish fire, they too must make sure there is water in their fire engine. In shops, offices and school buildings, fire extinguishers must be put at strategic places and for easy access in case of fire. Majority of those fire extinguishers contain water or foam for general fire outbreaks. Water, therefore, is the quickest known antidote for fire.
What does quench mean in this instance?
- To bring (something immaterial) to an end typically by satisfying, damping, cooling, or decreasing; or to relieve or satisfy with liquid. e.g., satisfy thirst with drinking of water.
- To use waterto put out a fire; to put out the light or fire of; to cool (something, such as heated metal) suddenly by immersion (as in oil or water); to cause to lose heat or warmth; to terminate by or as if by destroying, etc
Applying these 2 definitions to ‘Many waters cannot quench love’ come up with 2 premises:
- We cannot get to a point where we have given all the love we can give. There will always still be room to give more. No one can also be in a state where they can say, ‘I don’t need any more love now. I am satisfied’.
- Where true love exists, circumstances and situations cannot put an end to it, nor put it out. It cannot be extinguished nor cause to lose its fire.
According to the bible, there is however a kind of ‘fire’ that cannot be quench by any ‘water’. That fire is that of Love that burns genuinely in the hearts of those involved. What then can constitute ‘waters’ and ‘flood’ that do seek to quench this fire of love?
Potential threats to love i.e., certain waters/floods.
- Loving God.
Apostle Paul mentioned some of these in his letter to the churches in Rome.
Rom. 8: 33-33 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Another biblical example is Job. He went through a lot that can quench his love for God; yet he was steadfast. Apostle James used him as a good example for us to emulate.
James 5: 10-11 – Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Can you examine your personal love for God? Is any of the above-mentioned threats or any other thing trying to quench the love you have for Him? Apostle Paul said he was persuaded that nothing like that will ever happen. Job demonstrated to us that it did not happen. Or could it be that your own threat is greater than that of Paul and Job? What will be your own testimony? Will you also uphold that standard of love for God, or will you fail Him?
- Loving others: whether it is Marital; Friends – including those affianced. Family; or Brethren. There is an admonition from Apostle Paul to us in Romans 12: 9
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. KJV
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. NLT
Common threats i.e., certain waters/floods aiming to quench our love for others. This is for us to identify them and guide against their negative influence in any of our relationships:
- Objections to inclination/External influence (right at times, eyes clouded courting).
- Giving attention to Gossips/Rumours
- Suffering from Abuse
- Lack of attention/Appreciation
- Pressures of life
- Feeling of insecurity
- Stinginess/Wasteful spending
- Spirit of Competition/Jealousy/Envy
- Constant arguments/Disagreements
- Religious/Cultural differences
- Sickness/Illness (Physical or Mental)
- Delay in childbearing – among couples
- Wrong handling of children – among couples
Biblical instances where ‘waters’ and ‘flood’ could not quench love: either to God or to man. This is for us to emulate them:
Elkanah loved Hannah – even though they had delay in childbirth. He was always giving her double instead of single portion. God later blessed them with 6 children. The first becoming the High Priest in Israel (I Sam. 1: 1-28; 2: 21; 3: 1-21).
Delay, is not denial. Wait for it. It will happen for you in Jesus name.
Isaac still loved Rebekah, as they had delay in childbirth for 20 years. He did not marry a second wife. He sought the face of God regarding his wife inability and God answered and bless them with the first known multiple birth (Gen. 25: 20-26). One child for each 10yrs they have waited! Both boys became mighty. Jacob continuing the special Jewish race.
– Are you having a delay in childbirth? May God make you fruitful and even surprise you in this season Jesus name.
Jacob still held unto God as touching his life partner even though his twin brother had married wives and had several children (Gen. 28: 1-9). Historians put him about 80yrs before marriage. He was still blessed with 12 sons and daughters. Founder of the 12 tribes of Israel.
– Have you been waiting and waiting regarding something just to do the will of God? You will not be disappointed in Jesus name.
Also, in Gen. 24: 62-67, we see that Isaac loved God as he waited patiently for a life partner to show up. He was 40 years old already. He was not in a rush as Ishmael his half-brother. He was seeking the face of God when his bride suddenly showed up.
There is someone listening now; you are believing God for a life partner. God is working something great for you. May God open your eyes when your choice approaches from afar in Jesus name.
Prophet Hosea still loved his wife Gomer despite her past life, her deliberate and recurring offences. It was tough enough for a man of God to marry such an individual; but even tougher to be accepting her back after her naughty escapades (Hosea 1: 2-9; 3:1).
Then the LORD said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”
Abigail still loved her husband Nabal despite his rash temperament. She lived with her husband with great wisdom, without suffering any harm from his irrational behaviours till he died; she then married the next king of the land – David (I Sam. 25: 2-42).
– Do you feel your that spouse or the other person is hard to love? Do they possess hard, forceful and controlling temperament? Pray to God for wisdom to live with them. God specializes in answering such prayers (James 1: 3-8).
In Lk 15: 11-32, we see that the father still loved the prodigal son even though he had gone to squander his father’s sweat on riotous living; damaged his name and came back with nothing.
– Has your ‘child’ or your ‘children’ hurt you badly? Forgive and still have your hands open. That child’s soul is by far more important than what they have done.
In Gen. 9: 20-27, we read that Japhet and Shem still loved their father – Noah, despite his mischief and the disgrace he gave them before their wives and children. Ham, the third son however scorned their father and disrespected him. He was to later pay, and he is still paying for it, as Noah cursed Canaan Ham’s son.
– Has any or both of your ‘parents’ act badly in anyway? In forgiving them, your blessing lies. May God grant you the grace to do so in Jesus name.
Joseph loved his 10 brothers still, even though they tried to kill him and sold him into slavery. They were always afraid he would revenge. But he did not till they all died of natural causes (Gen. 50: 15-19).
– Do you have siblings or family members who hate you? Those who have sought to harm you. Do not revenge. Still do whatever is still in your power for them. God will shield you from their plot. They will bow before you in Jesus name.
In Acts 15: 36-41, the bible tells us that Paul was disappointed that John Mark deserted him and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. So, when they were planning their second trip; Paul refused for John to come along. But Barnabas insisted that they take John as they are blood relations. That led to disagreement between the three friends; such that Paul eventually went with Silas and Barnabas went with John Mark.
For the love of Christ though, Paul resolved their differences and John was still influential to Paul’s ministry later (Col. 4: 10; 2 Tim. 4:11).
– Have friends done you wrong? Have supposed allies deserted you at the time of need? Maybe they have even gone ahead to speak evil of you, or rally support against you. Forgive in the name of love. God knows how to reward everyone.
As a leader, especially in a church setting, where one would think that people should better understand love, honour and obedience. It is still possible that certain brethren might throw all caution to the wind; disobey you, dishonour you and not appreciate anything you do.
The love of God still compels us to love, care and nurture such folks. Apostle Paul was not treated well by the Corinthians church, even though it was one of the churches he started and made most sacrifice (2 Cor. 12: 11-19). He could see his crowns even ahead of death!
– God indeed is the only One that can reward and deeply appreciate us for what we do as leaders and workers in God’s vineyard. No need to get offended and lose out on God’s blessings.
As I was preparing this sermon, I wanted to put the title as ‘Many waters should not/ought not to quench love’, because I thought to myself, there are instances in the bible where it seemed as if love was quenched due to one thing or the other. More so, I have also seen in my lifetime in people’s lives, where this seemed to be the case.
But having pondered on the bible text, again and again, I decided against the phrase ‘should not/ought not’ and upheld the biblical phrase ‘cannot’, as otherwise will make the bible a liar; and we know from the scriptures that even if all become liars, God’s words will still be true.
Rom 3: 3-4: For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
So, I have resolved to accept the biblical narrative that ‘many waters cannot quench love’; and whenever it seemed that love was quenched by ‘waters’; what must have happened would either be that there was no love in the first place; or there was love, but the parties involved later misbehaved. Such that the problem was not with love, but the parties involved.
Instances where ‘waters’ and ‘floods’ seemed to have quenched love and why it did
- Samson and Delilah (Judg. 16: 1-21) – Greed/Racism.
- King Ahasuerus and Queen Vashti (Esth.1: 1-22) – Disrespect/Ego/Third party.
- Herod Phillip/Herodias to Herod Antipas (Mt. 14: 3-12) – Selfish ambition/Power.
- Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam. 13: 1-21) – Lust/Obsession – under control forces.
How to keep the fire of your love burning (Applicable to: Marital, family, friend, brethren, etc).
- Know that it is impossible for an offence to happen (Lk. 17: 1).
- Understand the importance of forbearance (Col. 3: 13; Eph. 4: 2).
- Practise open forgiveness when the other person refuses to accept their fault (Mt. 5: 38-42 – not an eye for an eye).
- Be matured enough to acknowledge your mistake when wrong (Prov. 15: 1-2- soft).
- Let yesterday’s offence remain in yesterday. Stop making referrals to past forgiven offences (Is. 43:25 – God did for His own sake).
- Only do to the other person what you will like them to do to you (Mt. 7: 12).
- Keep your own commandment. Stop marking another’s scorecard (Eph. 5: 23-29; Col. 3: 18-25; Mt. 7:1-5)
- Ask God for the grace and help to continue loving at times of need (Heb. 4: 16).
Exception to the rule of holding unto love at all cost, says I, not necessarily of the Lord.
Where there is a physical threat to one’s life. When love seemed evasive, let life continue. Efforts then can later be geared towards reconciliation and restoration if the parties involved agree.
- Jacob ran away from his family love because Esau wanted to kill him ( 27: 41-46; 33: 1-20). He later returned home.
- Jacob again ran away from Laban when his sons were planning evil for him ( 31: 1-17). They made a league between their families.
- Angel told Joseph to flee with Mary and Jesus ( 2: 13-23) – though came to save His own. He later returned.
- Apostles were told to shake off the dust of their feet against resistance to love ( 6: 11. In Acts 13: 51 – by Paul/Barnabas; Acts 18: 6 – by Paul/Silas/Timothy).
In conclusion, can I ask if the fire of your love life still burning brightly? If your answer is yes, glory to God! Please, shield it from these threats. Continue to do all you can to still fan the flame of your love. May God continue to let it glow brighter in Jesus name.
If a fire is dying out, there is a way our parents taught us how to ignite it again. They shed off the dying coals at the end of the woods; arrange the woods closely together; use something like a plate or even wind from their mouth to fan the gathered woods; fire will burst out again.
You are listening to this and the fire of your love life is dying out (whether it is marital, family, friendship, brethren, etc); you will need to remove the impurities disturbing your love flame; galvanise your remaining strength together; work hard at blowing on your love for the other person again; then watch how the fire of your love life will spark off again.
Someone listening now is saying to themselves, ‘Pastor, you don’t know my situation, my own love life has reached rock-bottom, it is not redeemable’. Can I assure you that God can still help you. The bible says, ‘But with God, nothing is impossible’. If you are willing and…
It may seem as if your ‘woods’ are too wet; they can no longer catch fire. God can help you dry out your ‘woods’. Be determined to shed off the unwanted parts of your life; make new efforts to fan your love flame anew. God will ignite your love fire again in Jesus name.
Mt. 22: 34-39 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Father, help me to love You with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind.
Father, help me to love my neighbours as myself.
Father, help me to love … as I should.
Sermon delivered on February 14, 2021.