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The unsatisfied life and its remedy
(Chapters 1:2-17; 2:1-7) Chapter 1 The Bride is the speaker in verses 2-7. The words could never have been uttered by one who was dead in trespasses and sins, to whom the Lord was but a root out of dry ground, without form or comeliness (Isa.53:2). The Bride has had her eyes opened; she has beheld His beauty, and longs for a deeper enjoyment of His love. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for thy love is better than wine” (S.S.1:2) The expression of this desire on the part of the Bride marks a definite stage in her experience of the work of grace in her soul. Her progress to this point gives, as it were, a divine warrant for her yearning for sensible manifestations of His presence, for real experiences of His communications of love. It was not so always with her. Once, she was content with other company and with other occupations. But these things have lost their appeal; the betrothed Bride has learned to love her Lord, and no company other than His can satisfy her. There is no contentment in His absence. Now all her joy is in Him, and life has become a heaven below. She longs continually for His presence. True love cannot be static- it must either decline or grow. Mercifully, despite our fears, divine love is certain to conquer in the end. “Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee” (S.S.1:3). There was no ointment such as that with which the High Priest was anointed. Our Bridegroom is a Priest as well as a King. The Bride’s first discovery was the sweetness of His love, and now she has discovered the sweetness of His Name. Ointment poured forth gives a sweet fragrance. This is why the virgins love Him. The sweetness of His divine nature is attractive only to a pure, chaste virgin. Only she will love and appreciate His divine nature, His humility, His meekness, and also His divine power. These are the qualities of Christ which are compared to “ointment poured forth”, and its fragrance is a sheer delight to His Bride, filling her with longing for Him. She ardently desires these ointments. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov.18:10). His name is a strong tower to His Bride. She loves His Name. “The desire of our souls is to thy name” (Isa.26:8). There is healing in His Name: “His name through faith in his name hath made this man strong” (Acts 3:16). His Name is “... a name which is above every name... ... at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow” (Phil.2:9,10). For the trembling Bride, the Name of Jesus soothes her sorrows and heals her wounds. She cannot wholly dismiss her fears; but the unrest and longing become unbearable, and she determines to surrender her all, come what may, into His loving hands, and to follow Him wholeheartedly, at all times. She will yield her very self to Him - heart and soul, influence and possessions. Nothing is so insupportable as His absence. If He leads to another Moriah, or even to a Calvary, she will follow Him. “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (S.S.1:4). “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers” (S.S.1:4): But what follows? A wonderful, joyful surprise: no Moriah, no Calvary: on the contrary, a King’s invitation into His chamber, when the heart submits, then Jesus reigns (Rom.5:17). When Jesus reigns, there is rest.
It is not by our wisdom that we draw near to Him; on the contrary, He draws us. When the Bride is drawn to her Lord, she runs after Him. Where does He lead His Bride? Not, first of all, to the banqueting house — that will follow in due course — but to His chambers, to the place of privacy, in order to be alone with her. How natural! How perfect! Could we be content to meet with a beloved one only in public? No, we want to take such a one aside, to have Him all to ourselves; and so it is with our Master. And so the King has taken His fully consecrated Bride aside, to taste and enjoy the sacred intimacies of His wondrous love. The Bridegroom’s longing for communion with His Bride (the Church) far and away exceeds her longing for fellowship with Him. By our secret communion with Him, we give Him joy. He rejoices when we are alone with Him. It is then that He reveals Himself to us. Our weaknesses and failures are revealed to us when we kneel alone with Him, in His presence; this is when we become cleansed and purified. There is no time so profitably spent as the early hour given to Jesus only. Do we give sufficient attention to this hour? When we bring problems to God, we must not leave the “secret place” without waiting for the answers. Waiting in silence before God will save us from many a mistake and many a sorrow. And so the Bride rejoices to have found, not a cross, as she expected, but a King, her King. “We will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (S.S. 1:4). When the Bride lives in the presence of the Bridegroom, she begins to rejoice in Him. In the previous verse, we saw that she found His love to be better than wine, that His Name was as ointment poured forth; she discovered the sweetness of His love and the power in His Name. Now she begins to rejoice in Him. She loves His Name more than wine, more than the pleasures of this world. His name means more to her than the perishing things of clay. She has found out why the upright love Him so. THE TENTS OF KEDAR: Kedar is one among the sons of Ishmael born to Abraham and Hagar. His descendents migrated and settled in the desert between Arabia and Babylon. The tent mentioned here is a hut or dwelling place. The term ‘Kedar’signifies the skin of an animal or ram. Therefore, OHEL a Hebrew name referring to a male literally signifies a tent made of black goats hair where specifically tent-dwellers (Gen.4:20; 13:5; 18:6; 25:27), shepherds (Jer.6:3), women (Gen.31:33; Jud. 4:17), soldiers (ISam.17:53) and cattle (IIChro.14:14,15) dwells. Spiritually this tent signifies a group that hates peace, even as the psalmist states, “Woe is me that I... dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace” (Psa.120:5,6). THE CURTAINS OF SOLOMON: Such curtains are not mentioned of either in the palace built for Him in Jerusalem or in the temple he built for God. Hence, these curtains may be the ones in Solomon’s palace in the forest of Lebanon. The Hebrews term YERIYAH mentioned here holds the meaning, ‘curtains that sway to and fro’. “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon” (S.S.1:5). “I am black, but comely” (S.S.1:5): Now the Bride makes another, no less important discovery. She has seen the face of the King: and, as the rising sun reveals that which is hidden in darkness, so the light from the face of Jesus reveals her blackness to her. Hence her cry: “I am black!” Nothing humbles the soul like sacred and intimate communion with the Lord; yet there is a sweet joy in feeling that He knows all, and nevertheless, loves us still. Things once called ‘little negligences’ are now seen with new eyes in the secret place of His presence. “Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard I have not kept” (S.S.1:6). The Bride now confesses her own unworthiness, her blackness, revealed to her when the
Sun of righteousness looked upon her. Here, our attention is drawn to one of the pre-eminent dangers of our day. The frantic pace of our times, plus the zeal with which we seek to serve the Lord, can lead to the neglect of communion with God. Such neglect will not only lessen the value of our service, but will deprive us of power for higher service. If we are watchful over the souls of others, and neglect our own, if we are seeking to remove motes from our brother’s eye, unmindful of the beam in our own, we shall often be disappointed with our powerlessness to help our brethren; at the same time, inevitably, our Master will be disappointed in us. Let us not forget that the fruit which we bear, when not abiding in Christ, will be fruit of the flesh and not of the Spirit. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15:5). The fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in us when we abide in Him. Here, the Bride repents for not keeping her own vineyard. The sin of neglected communion may be forgiven, but the effect is never erased, since wounds often leave a scar behind. “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” (S.S.1:7) We come to a very real evidence of the sweetness of the heart union of the Bride with her Lord. She is one with the Good Shepherd; her heart instinctively goes forth to the feeding of the flock; but she would tread in the footsteps of Him Whom her soul loves and would neither labour alone nor in the companionship of others. When she begins to keep her own vineyard, then she begins to care for the flock. She desires to show her love to her Lord by feeding His sheep and by caring for His lambs (Jn.21:15-17), and she no longer needs to fear separation from Him. No, she does not want to be “as one that is veiled”, that is, as one that is separated. She desires to have fellowship with the other fellow-servants. Here she comes into union with the other shepherds. Though in fellowship with the other shepherds, she will not mistake the company of His servants for that of their Master. “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids besides the shepherds’ tents” (S.S.1:8). They style her “the fairest among women”. They have seen the beauty of the Lord in her. Now she bears the shining image of her Master. They love her because the Lord has made her “the fairest among women”. Now she follows in the footsteps of the flock. She follows the Lord in fellowship with the other children of God. The Bride is to “(continue) stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). Once she had fellowship with darkness, but now she walks in the light. John the apostle says: “... if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (IJn.1:7). When they see the grace that has been given to her, they give her “the right hands of fellowship” (Gal.2:9). “Feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents” (S.S.1:8): We must feed new souls with the apostles’ doctrines. They must be “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine” (ITim.4:6). They must be so taught that they “may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Tit.2:10). Young believers are exhorted to feed on the “milk of the word”, so that they may grow thereby (IPet.2:2). Whilst sharing with other shepherds the task of caring for the flock, she will find the CHIEF SHEPHERD at her side and enjoy the tokens of His approval. It will be service with Jesus as well as service for Jesus. For our love for our Lord will show itself not only in feeding His sheep, but also in caring for them, as unto the Lord: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt.25:40). “I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots” (S.S.1:9). Now the Bride hears the sweetest voice of all, that of her beloved Bridegroom. It is the living fruit of her heart-oneness with Him that makes His love break forth in the joyful utterance of verses 9-11. The commendation of the Bride in verse 9 is one of striking beauty. It will be
remembered that horses originally came from Egypt, and that the pure breed still found in Arabia was brought there during Solomon’s reign by his merchants from the kings of the East. Those selected for Pharoah’s own chariot would be those which not only were of the purest blood and the most perfect proportions, but which were also capable of being trained to the highest standard of obedience. They knew no other will but that of the charioteer, and their sole purpose was to carry the king wherever he wanted to go. So should it be with the CHURCH OF CHRIST, which is one Body with many members, indwelt and guided by one Spirit (ICor.12:13), holding the Head (Col.1:18) and doing no other will but His. She is compared to a horse: she is to be as swift as a horse in carrying the gospel to the four corners of the world. She is never lazy, nor is her conversation ever idle, but always regulated with the utmost care. “We put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us” (Jam.3:3). She is always obedient to her Master. She is trained to know the will of God, and she walks at all times according to His will. Another quality of the horse is that he is capable of great courage in the face of danger. “He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword” (Job 39:22). So for the Bride of Christ; she knows no fear, and is not afraid of the enemy. Her single-minded purpose is the swift dissemination of the gospel of the kingdom of God throughout the world. She is not like a horse that is wild or untrained. Today, the Church of God is more like a pack of wild horses than a company of horses employed in drawing Pharaoh’s chariot. Whilst self-will and disunity are rampant in the Church, can we wonder that the world still lies in the hands of the wicked one, and that heathen nations are barely touched? “Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver” (S.S.1:10,11). Now the Bridegroom changes His imagery: He sees the Bride as not only beautiful, but also useful; He sees her as adorned with His gifts, which have a permanence unknown to the fair, but fragile blossoms of nature. The finest gold, the purest silver and the most precious and enduring jewels are the gift of the royal Bridegroom to His Bride, and the fact that these adornments are plaited in amongst her own tresses, greatly increases His pleasure in the fact that it was He Himself Who bestowed them upon her. The happy blend of these gifts with the Bride’s own sanctified nature brings boundless joy to the Bridegroom. “While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof” (S.S.1:12). The Bride responds. She is happy that the perfume of her spikenard is reaching the King; spikenard is noted for its strong, spicy fragrance, and also for its oil. It is in His presence that we acquire a sweet-smelling aroma, which reaches others (IICor.2:15,16). All the divine qualities are seen in our lives when we dwell in the presence of God; they are generated when Christ reigns supreme in our hearts, and we are devoted to Him and to Him alone. When the highest place in our heart is given to Christ, we become “the salt of the earth” (Matt.5:13), giving an aroma to others. We are to eschew all “corrupt communication”, and utter only “that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers” (Eph.4:29). By our sanctified behaviour, others must come to know Christ. “A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi” (S.S.1:13,14). When our eyes are filled with His beauty, and our hearts are occupied with Him, then He becomes our beauty. Myrrh gives a pleasant smell, but is bitter. It points to Christ’s life of prayer. All night, He is the Bride’s only thought. She has learnt the prayer life of Christ. Again, myrrh shows His sufferings, of which the Bride now receives a fresh vision. Myrrh is evergreen; though He went through suffering, He was always evergreen (fresh) to His Bride. He was never dry (discouraged), but always gave life to others and was ever ready to help and comfort His children.
“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast dove’s eyes” (S.S.1:15) Here the Bridegroom speaks. We wonder how He can truthfully use such words of one who recognizes herself as being “black as the tents of Kedar”. However, we may recall that Moses, when lost in contemplation of divine glory, became so transformed by the glory of God which shone from him, that the Israelites were not able to look upon his face. The Lord has reserved for us an even greater glory: “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory (the brightness of His glory rests upon us, transforming us into His own glorious image) even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (IICor.3:18). Every mirror has two sides; one side is dull and non-reflective, and the other side has the usual reflective properties, by means of which we can see our own faces. The “glass” (the mirror) represents the Word of God (Jam.1:23-25). The Bride sees in the Word of God the glorious, spotless image of Christ, the Bridegroom, and it is as she spends time contemplating the beauties of His character, as revealed in the Word of God, that she herself acquires His loveliness. It is His own fairness that the Bridegroom sees and delights in, in the face of the Bride. It is His presence that has caused her beauty to become perfect. He sees nothing unclean or defiling in her, for she has grown in His love and His holiness (S.S.4:10). “Thou hast dove’s eyes” (S.S.1:16): This is the comment of the Bridegroom as He looks into the eyes of His Bride. The bird to which He likens her is well-chosen. Not that this is the only bird with beautiful eyes; the hawk also has an attractive appearance, and lovely eyes with a quick, penetrating gaze; but the Bridegroom desires no hawk’s eyes in His Bride. He desires that she should have the guileless look of the dove, and be harmless and pure, like Himself. It is to God that the prophet speaks when he says: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity” (Hab.1:13). Furthermore, the dove’s eyes are always filled with tears. We must shed tears for the perishing souls in the world, and for the Church. Jeremiah desired to have “...eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep for my people” (Jer.9:1), and so must we. It was in the form of a dove that the Holy Spirit came upon Christ at His baptism, and dove-like characteristics are what He looks for in each of His people. “Behold, thou are fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir” (S.S.1:16,17). Now the Bride replies, and wisely and well does she reply. She has discovered the beauty of her Lord, and tells Him: “Thou art fair, yea, pleasant (delightful)”. As a baby is a delight to his mother, and a husband is a delight to his wife, so the Lord, and the Lord alone, is a delight to the Bride. “Also our bed is green” : (S.S.1:16) A bed signifies a place or rest, a place of mutual joy; a place where the Bride meets her Lord alone and receives refreshment. In the course of her arduous labour, she can draw aside, and rest in her Lord. Green is the colour of growing plants: the Bride is growing in the Lord daily. “The beams of our house are cedar” (S.S.1:17): The house points to our abiding in Christ, whilst cedar is an evergreen tree: we should always be fresh, and growing daily as we abide in Him. The cedar is a beautiful tree, a symbol of grandeur and truly the glory of the forest in Palestine, where it grows. The life of abiding in Christ is a glorious experience, full of power and might. In a believer, the life of abiding in Christ should show daily progress. Cedar wood is singularly resistant to disease and to destruction by insects. Similarly, when we abide in Christ, our spiritual life is protected against erroneous doctrines and every other kind of evil. “our rafters are of fir” (S.S.1:17) : the wood of the fir tree was used to make musical instruments (IISam.6:5), and in Isaiah we read: “Fir trees rejoice at thee” (Isa.14:8). This wood therefore denotes a life of triumph and rejoicing in the Lord under all circumstances, even in trials and tribulations (Rom.5:3; IPet.1:6,7).
********* CHAPTER 2
The unsatisfied life and its remedy
(Chapters 1:2-17; 2:1-7) “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” (S.S.2:1) These words are often attributed to the Bridegroom, but in fact it is the Bride who utters these words. In other words, she says: “Thou callest me fair; but Thou art fairer and more pleasant than I. I am but a flower, a lovely rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys”. “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters” (S.S.2:2) The Bridegroom responds: “Thou art indeed a wild flower, yet as a lily among thorns, for so is my love among the daughters”. The “lily among thorns” refers to the Bride of Christ. The “thorns” referred to here are the unsanctified children of God; other “thorns” are the unconverted. These afflict and denigrate the Bride, and yet she remains sweet and lovely in the face of their persecution. “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (S.S.2:3) Here the Bride compares the Bridegroom to an apple tree. The fragrant, yellow fruit of this tree is described as sweet, and the tree itself is large and dense, affording welcome shade. Whilst the Bride sees herself simply as a humble wild flower, she sees her Bridegroom as a noble tree, fragrant, beautiful and fruitful. She finds in Him shelter from the burning sun and a place of refreshing rest. Now she can sit under His shadow with great delight and without any fear. He knows very well the cause of her former fears: her distrust sprang from her ignorance of His love. So He has taken her aside to reveal His love, and in the sweet intimacies of their mutual affection, her fears and distrust have vanished. Only those who nourish themselves in the Word of God can bring forth fruit that will refresh others and give them life. “Apples”, as used in the Bible, represent the Word of God. The gracious words which proceed out of the mouth of the Bridegroom refresh her (Lk.4:2). She begins to taste the sweetness of His divine nature. Now that she has learnt to know Him, she is discovering what it is to experience His love. He, for His part, is not ashamed to acknowledge her publicly. “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (S.S.2:4) The “banqueting house” or the “house of wine” is an apt name for the King’s chambers. This house can be compared to a place of public worship where we can freely enjoy the love of the Bridegroom. Whilst tarrying in the upper room for the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Christ were baptized with the Holy Spirit and filled with the love of God. They were like those who were full of new wine (Acts 2:13). Before receiving the Holy Spirit, one cannot understand the fulness of this love and joy. It is by this experience that one is sealed by the Holy Spirit to be the Bride of Christ (Eph.1:12-14). Fearlessly, and without any shame, we enjoy His presence and become His witnesses (Acts 1:8). “And his banner over me was love” (S.S.2:4).: A banner is a sign of victory, and here the joyful Bride is flooded, intoxicated with the love of God (Rom.5:5). “Stay me with flagons. Comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love” (S.S.2:5) “Stay me with flagons” (S.S.2:5) : Overwhelmed with His love, she exclaims: “Stay (sustain) me with flagons” “Flagons” are cakes of raisins which remain fresh for long periods. They have a stimulating effect upon the eater. The desire of the Bride is always to be fervent in her zeal for God and for the truth.
“Comfort me with apples” (S.S.2:5): Apples represent the Word of God, which brings to His children comfort and spiritual prosperity. It gives us wisdom: David says: “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser that mine enemies ... I have more understanding that all my teachers ... I understand more than the ancients” (Psa.119:98-100). “I am sick of (with) love” (S.S.2:5) : This is the highest state of love, when the Bride languishes in love, yearning for her Bridegroom, craving more of Jesus, and longing to be released from the body in order to be in the presence of the Lord (II Cor.5:2-8). “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me” (S.S.2:6). Now the Bride finds the blessedness of being kept by God. She is no longer her own, but His. She belongs entirely to Him. There is protection in His love. Her whole being, and especially her head and her heart are protected and guarded by Him. “His left hand is under my head” speaks of His care for our victory over our thought realm (IICor.10:4-6) and “His right hand doth embrace me” points to His constraining love (IICor.5:14; Rom.5:5). The devil has two cunning devices. Firstly, he brings wrong doctrines to the head (mind):II Corinthians 2:11 has been well paraphrased: “Our desire is that the enemy (should) not get a grip on us by twisting our thoughts: for we are not unaware of his mind-oriented strategy”. Secondly, he destroys the love of God in our heart. We should not be moved by erroneous doctrines which may appeal to our mind. We must be rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith (Col.2:7). Faith and love must be protected. That should be the desire of the Bride. We have to be careful not to mix with people who try to spoil our understanding of the Bible by introducing to us corrupt doctrines. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till she please” (S.S.2:7) “Stir not up, nor awake my love, till she please” (S.S.2:7): the Hebrew literally reads “till IT please”. This phrase could be rendered either “till HE please” or “till SHE please”. The K.J.V. reads “till HE please”. But in fact it is the Bridegroom who is speaking, and not the Bride; He is charging the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb His love. The love between the Bridegroom and the Bride is unfathomably deep. The lesson for us is that the daughters of Jerusalem (those in the Church who have not received the vision of being a part of the Bride of Christ) must not be allowed to disturb those who really love Christ and who are preparing themselves for His coming. “By the roes, and by the hinds of the field” (S.S.2:7) : The roe is a small species of deer and the hind is a female deer. Both are noted for their beauty, swiftness, gentleness and affection. The Bridegroom is drawing a parallel between these graceful creatures and His Bride, for their nature and beauty, in a measure, reflect her own. He does not want His Bride awakened by those who do not fully comprehend who she is. It is never His desire that our rest in Him be disturbed. His love never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He promises: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”, and His earnest exhortation is that we, for our part, should abide in Him, as He abides in us (Heb.13:5; Jn.15:5). At the close of the first section, we left the Bride contentedly resting in the arms of her Beloved. He, for His part, has exhorted the daughters of Jerusalem not to arouse His love until she wished to rise. We may well suppose that a union so complete would never be interrupted by any failure on the part of the Bride. But alas, the experience of many of us is that communion with Christ may so easily be broken; we come to see how needful are the injunctions of our Lord to those who are indeed the branches of the vine, cleansed by the Word which He has spoken, to abide in Him. The failure is never on His side. But we see in this section how the Bride has drifted back from a position of blessing into a state of worldliness. Perhaps the very restfulness of her new-found joy has made her feel secure. Perhaps she thought that she had been so thoroughly cleansed of all love of the world that she could now safely go back to it, and by a
little compromise on her part, win her friends for Christ also. Whilst she rejoiced that she was saved and free, she forgot that the whole course of this world was against her; and so, imperceptibly, she drifted back to the old life out of which she was called. She was totally unaware of the insidious process of her backsliding. It is not necessary, when the current is against us, to turn the head of the boat downstream in order to drift. How often the enemy succeeds, by one device or another, in tempting the believer away from that position of total consecration to Christ, in which alone the fulness of His love can be experienced. The poor Bride had no idea that she had disappointed her Lord, or that there had now grown up between them a wall of separation. To her, worldliness seemed but a little thing; she failed to realize the solemn truth of the many passages in the Word of God which speak of the dangers of friendship with the world; she scarcely saw it as sin. She had not yet grasped the fact that we cannot enjoy the world and Christ, and foolishly imagined that there was no harm in attempting to do so. SECTION II COMMUNION BROKEN ; RESTORATION “The voice of my beloved! behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice” (S.S.2:8,9). “The voice of my beloved” (S.S.2:8): The heart of the Bride leaps on hearing the voice of her Beloved, as He comes in search of her. She knows His voice; there is no mistaking it (Jn. 10:27). He has crossed over mountains and hills; He draws near to her. What are these mountains and hills? Before a child of God receives the Holy Spirit, he finds it difficult to obtain answers to his prayers, but when he receives the Holy Spirit, he is full of that first love and Christ comes leaping over the mountains of his difficulties, and answers his prayers. The Bride at one time saw high mountains, but now they have become to her no more than hills, for Christ leaps to her aid, and comes “skipping upon the hills”. “My beloved is like a roe” (S.S.2:9): A roe runs very fast (IISam.2:18), and Jesus is as swift as a roe upon the mountains. The Bride knows that the Bridegroom is never lazy, but responds with alacrity. The “young hart” stands for beauty. Her Bridegroom is swift in bestowing His care and compassion, and He is beautiful in grace and holiness. He stands behind the wall; He even looks in through the windows, but He is separated from us by the walls behind which He stands: the wall of carnal relationships and family ties, with father, mother, brothers, sisters and so on. Carnal barriers have separated the Bride from her Bridegroom. The Bridegroom is not able to come inside her house, so he looks in through the windows. He tries to attract her attention once again. She sees Him, but does not come out. With tender, beguiling words, He endeavours to woo her afresh. He utters no reproach, and His loving entreaties make a deep impression upon her mind. “My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (S.S.2:10-13). Here He calls His Bride to rise up and come away with Him. He employs every loving entreaty. She has experienced the love and seen the beauty of her Bridegroom, so He wants her to leave her mother’s house and come away. “The winter is past” (S.S.2:11): The winter speaks of our sinful, shameful former life when everything looked dark, truly a life without hope (Eph.2:12). Just after the winter is the time of
spring, which brings rain and a new life. If the trees are to blossom, there must be plenty of rain (Isa.55:10,11). Before revival comes, the Word of God must be sown everywhere and the people must have a desire to hear it. Then there descends the rain of the Holy Spirit, with showers of the former and the latter rain. “Flowers appear on the earth” (S.S.2:12): In spring, there appear the flowers of the new season, with a multitude of different colours and scents. Similarly, in a revival, all sorts of people are converted - drunkards, liars, blasphemers and adulterers. The flowers of the spring are beautiful, and new born souls are compared to flowers in I Peter 1:23,24. They testify to the beauty of the life in Jesus. In each flower, there is a deposit of nectar, and bees come along to extract it from the depths of each blossom. Then they take it away to their hives, where it is converted into honey. Honey is life-giving. Similarly, each child of God has spiritual honey, so that each has a message of God for others. It is after conversion that a believer begins to manifest and share this sweetness (II Cor. 2:14,15). “The time of the singing of birds is come” (S.S. 2:12): During the spring, birds begin to return, and to start singing. These new songs are a delight to the ear. What do they mean? They signify the time of rejoicing in God. God gives the gift of singing to many of His children and their songs constitute a powerful weapon in the hands of God (Psa. 149, Psa.150). David composed these songs by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “The voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (S.S. 2:12). The voice of the turtle-dove produces a wail, a pathetic cry, a cry of woe, as of loud weeping. God raises up saints to cry and groan for sinners (Rom. 8:26,27). We need to have a burden for souls, and to groan for them in prayer. We must mean business, and pray with determination, in order to obtain the things we ask for. The turtle-dove, with its desolate cry, is a bird that comes from another country. The Bridegroom, burdened by the love of the Spirit, wept over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). “The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell, Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (S.S. 2:13) “The fig tree putteth forth her green figs” (S.S. 2:13): Fig trees put forth tender fruits in summer (Matt. 24:32). The tender “green figs” represent new souls who have just started to grow towards perfection. They are called the “first fruits” (Jam. 1:18). “I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the FIG TREE at her first time” (Hos. 9:10). True, sincere converts trust in Christ with all their hearts. They are those “who first trusted in Christ” (Eph 1:12). They grow and become firstfruits. God gives them wonderful revelations. During revival meetings, God uses them wonderfully. They become teachers and revival preachers. They bear marvellous testimonies. Others are inspired to sing in the Spirit. Yet others groan in prayer. They keep the fires of revival burning. “The vines with tender grapes give a good smell” (S.S. 2:13): Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (Jn. 15:1); He went on to say: “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (Jn. 15:4). Therefore “the vines with tender grape” speak of young saints, who abide in Jesus, and who are therefore able to bring forth the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22,23). Such a life manifests “a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (II Cor. 2:15). Birds and plants respond to the return of summer. It is summer-time also for the Bride, and so she too responds to His love. “Arise my love, my fair one and come away”. Who could resist such an appeal? In this way, the Bridegroom persuades her to “come away”. “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely”
(S.S. 2:14). “O my dove that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs ...” (S.S. 2:14): It is a wonderful thought that Christ should desire fellowship with us, for in spite of His love for us, we have wounded Him deeply, making Him “a Man of sorrows”. Nevertheless, He continues to seek our love, so that we may, by our sincere devotion and loving fellowship, make Him “a Man of joy”. Here the Bridegroom addresses her as “my dove”. The dove has five salient characteristics: (i) She has two strong wings (Psa. 55:6). These wings represent prayer and praise. The Bride of Christ builds and maintains the wings of prayer and praise, so that she can fly swiftly into the presence of Jesus and have communion with Him. She can fly very fast and very far. In Psalm 55:6 David says: “O that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away”. The desire of the Bride of Christ is to fly into the presence of her Bridegroom, away from the world. She has determined that she will “run with patience the race that is set before (her), looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of (her) faith” (Heb. 12:1,2). (2) She coos mournfully; in Isaiah 59:11, we read of “(mourning) sore like doves”. Again, Isaiah says: “I did mourn as a dove” (38:14). The Spirit-filled servant of God mourns (weeps) in prayer continually for the perfection of the saints and for the salvation of souls. This weeping is the deep groaning of a child of God. In Revelation 12:2, we see a woman travailing in pain. This is the travail of the Church. St. Paul says: “ I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). We have to travail for saints, sinners and backsliders. We need to remember that if we harbour any bitterness, we shall lose this spirit of prayer. (3) She has no gallbladder. The gall-bladder produces bile which typifies bitterness. Those who desire a life of prayer should put away all bitterness (Eph. 4:31). Bitterness destroys the sweetness of a child of God (Heb. 12:15). (4) She has far-seeing eyes. True saints have eyes of compassion, looking far and wide for perishing souls. One defect of the dove is that she is not very wise (Hos. 7:11), and this we must guard against. The Lord advises us to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16), and this is how we should aim to be. (5) It is said that the dove makes her nest in “the clefts of the rock”, so that she may be safe and secure from all danger (Jer. 48:28). Our rock is Jesus, our life is hid in Christ. He is our dwelling place; He is our foundation; it is in Him that we desire to spend our life, in prayer and communication with our Lord. The dove finds safety and a hiding place in the holes of the rocks. This speaks also of the life of the Bride, abiding in Christ. Jesus, after His baptism went into the wilderness, and there He remained for forty days and forty nights. There is a “secret place” appointed for each child of God. We weep in these secret places for others (Jer. 13:17). “ Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely” (S.S. 2:14): The voice of the Bride has become sweet as a result of the passionate burden of her prayer life. The Bridegroom wants her to come out of her hiding place. He wants to see her face and to hear her sweet voice — and hear her He does, as she continually waits upon the Lord in prayer. Because she does this, the glory of God is reflected in her face (II Cor. 4:6). Jesus revealed His glory through His prayer life. “And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering” (Lk. 9:29). “ Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (S.S. 2:15). Foxes and little foxes represent the spiritual enemies within our own lives. They may be small, but they are capable of great mischief. How numerous are the little foxes! They are seen in our own lives in little compromises with the world; in disobedience to the still, small voice of God in little things; in little indulgences of the flesh to the neglect of duty, and so on. These
shortcomings destroy the beauty of holiness and the faithfulness of our spiritual life. We must guard against these little sins that threaten to assume dominion over our lives. “My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies”(S.S.2:16). “My beloved is mine and I am his” (S.S.2:16): Instead of bounding forth to meet Him, she settles down in comfortable remembrance of His faithfulness and of her union with Him. She assures herself that her position is one of safety and that she has no need to be troubled about anything. She is sure that nothing can change her sweet fellowship with Him and that she can find Him at any time. She thinks that whilst the sun of prosperity shines upon her, she may enjoy herself without Him. She is confident that if trials and difficulties arise, He will be there to deliver her. How sad, how dangerous is this complacency! “He feedeth among the lilies” (S.S. 2:16): Lilies grow in the valley. This speaks of our walk with God in the valley of humility. It is there that we find our Good Shepherd leading us to green pastures to feed us and to cause us to rest (Psa. 23:2). The Bride thinks that she is safe, and that she is far more spiritual than the rest of the flock who are in the valley. She is satisfied that the flock is well nourished and well cared for by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. How often are we satisfied with sound doctrines, thrilling revelations, a good harvest of souls, the blessings of deliverance and healing, and yet at the same time neglect our own spiritual life and our humble walk with God. “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether” (S.S. 2:17). “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn my beloved” (S.S. 2:17): Unconcerned about His love and His care, she thus lightly dismisses Him with the words: “Turn away; leave me just for the present. A little later on, I will enjoy Thy love”. And so the grieved Bridegroom departs. Poor, foolish Bride! She will soon find that the things which once satisfied her satisfy her no longer; she has turned a deaf ear to His tender call, unaware that by so doing, she has put herself in danger of losing His presence altogether. “And be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether” (S.S. 2:17): The roe represents swiftness, whilst a young hart speaks of beauty. “Bether” means “deep separation”. The work of the Bridegroom is to separate His chosen ones by revealing His beauty to them, and to take them to the mountains of glorious experience. To climb mountains and to dwell there are spiritual undertakings of considerable difficulty. The Lord wants His Bride to become accustomed to such experiences. But she, for her part, wants at this stage to be satisfied with shallow revivals, and eschews the deeper life. She has lost her desire for a humble walk in close relationship with her Lord and Bridegroom. Then, in the deep of night, she discovers her mistake. It is dark, and she is alone. It is a time of trial, and she is without Christ to help her. Retiring to rest, she still hopes for His return, but He does not appear. Worldliness, self-centredness and a shallow spiritual life based on selfjustification, are real barriers to full fellowship with our Bridegroom. If we are determined to meet Him when He comes, we need to learn to “abide in him” (Jn. 15:4,5); we need to become “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). Let us grow in Him, because “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:9). ******** “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir
not up, nor awake my love, till he please” (S.S.3:1-5). “By night on my bed I sought him” (S.S.3:1): Night refers to a time of trial. A bed speaks of comfort. She has no fear still, but feels comfortable and safe, even though the Bridegroom is not with her. But as the darkness deepens, fear and loneliness begin to overtake her. It is then that she feels the absence of her Lover and Bridegroom. She begins to search for Him with all her heart, but alas! He is not to be found. There is no answer from her Lord. She waits and grows weary. His absence becomes unbearable, and there steals over the Bride a sense of utter disappointment and frustration. We too experience this desolation of spirit if we try to live in these last days without His fellowship and presence. “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not” (S.S.3:2): Unable to remain any longer without Him, she rises up from her uncomfortable position. How different is her position now from what it was before. Had she obeyed Him at the right time, she would not now be desolate, and seeking Him alone in the dark. Before darkness fell, she heard the voice of her Bridegroom saying: “Arise my love, my fair one, and come away” (S.S.2:13). But she would not obey; and now, indifferent to any reproach, she is seeking Him in the dark. She seeks Him in the city, in the streets and in the broad ways. “The city” points to a mixed multitude of both believers and unbelievers. She seeks her Lord among those children of God who have no vision of a life separated from unbelievers. “Streets and broadways” refer to the way of life in the world; Paul, writing to the Ephesian believers, reminds them that “... in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph.2:2,3). In vain does she seek Him among the unconverted and the backslidden: she cannot find her Lord. The world is no place for the Bride of Christ, though some Christians find it convenient to dwell there. The Bride of Christ is to have a steady life of abiding in Him, and this life she must maintain, so that she may grow in His likeness and bring forth fruit (Jn. 15 :5). She is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt.5:13,14). As such, she must be separated from the world and at the same time lead the world to Christ, by her life and character. In the last days, says Paul “... some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (ITim.4;1). May the dear Lord maintain sincere saints in the truth of sanctification, enabling them to lead a victorious life. This will not be possible unless we live in the fellowship of His Son by means of consecration and a steady life of prayer. Fellowship with the saints is equally necessary. “The watchmen that go about the city found me; to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?“ (S.S.3:3): “The watchmen that go about the city” refers to the servants of God who carefully watch over the souls of believers who have to live in the midst of the unbelievers. They teach believers the need for a separated life. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:1418). Servants of God who watch and pray with a burden for the Church are called WATCHMEN. “...I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel...” (Ezek.3:17). If the watchmen are not faithful, God will want to know why. “...Watchman, what of the night...?” (Isa.21:11). We must
always be vigilant. These watchmen find the Bride, discouraged and weary. True watchmen will seek out discouraged, weary souls who are earnestly seeking the Lord once again. In her troubled state, she asks the watchmen whether they have seen her Lord. If you are in that state, go to the servants of God and get them to help you to come back to your first love and your first works. “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth” (S.S.3:4): The watchmen show the backslidden Bride the way to find her Lord again. This is the function of true watchmen. They are capable of showing the Bride her faults, and of leading her back to her Bridegroom. After being advised and directed by the watchmen, she has to go on, on her own, for a short distance (“It was but a little that I passed from them”); that is faced with a decision which only she can make; she has to decide to repent, to set her life right and renew her consecration, before she can find her Lord for whom she is longing. “I held him and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me” (S.S.3:4): When she finds Him, and holds Him fast, she would not let him go. Those who really know the sweetness of the fellowship of Jesus will never permit Him to be absent for one minute from their life and ministry. They know that without Him they can do nothing. They look at His face continuously, so that their hearts may be filled with “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (which shines) in the face of Jesus Christ” (IICor.4:6). As the Bride of Christ, they realize that they have to maintain unbroken fellowship with Christ, in order to be found blameless when He comes, for it is He who “shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”. For, as we go on to read, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”. (ICor.1:8,9). Paul was willing to count all his gains as loss, even as dung, “for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ”, so that he might win Him as his Lord and his Bridegroom (Phil.3:7-9). The moment she finds Him, she brings Him to her mother’s house and into her mother’s room. The “mother’s house” speaks of the assembly where God has placed us. It is there that she is cherished and nourished by His Word. The mother’s room is a place of delightful intimacy, comfort, joy and counsel, which she finds in communion with Him in prayer. She will not let Him go until she has brought Him once again to the inner room, the place of fellowship and prayer. Saints who help us in our spiritual life are our spiritual fathers and mothers. Paul says “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse (mother) cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (IThess.2:6-8). Further, writing to the Corinthians he says: “... I have begotten you through the gospel” (ICor.4:15). When a child of God backslides, he drifts away from the fellowship of the older saints who are there to warn, exhort, teach and care for him. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love till (she) please” (S.S.3:5): He is charging the daughters of Jerusalem, by all that is loving and beautiful, not to awake His Bride, nor disturb her rest. SECTION III THE JOY OF UNBROKEN COMMUNION (Chapters 3:6-11; 4:1-16; 5:1) “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?“ (S.S.3:6).
“Pillars of smoke” (S.S.3:6): speak of guidance. When the Israelites were going through the wilderness, they were led by “a pillar of cloud” during the day, and by a “a pillar of fire” by night (Exo.3:21,22). When we walk through the wilderness of this world (which is in darkness), He leads us along the right path, if we have chosen to do His perfect will. Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (S.S.3:6): Myrrh has a strong perfume. This points to our prayer life which is like perfume before God. John, the apostle saw “...golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Rev.5:8). Myrrh is a bitter substance. Sometimes prayers become hard and bitter when we face the forces of darkness which come to hinder our prayers. We are commanded to “wrestle against” them and “resist (them) steadfast in the faith” and overcome them (Eph.6:12; IPet.5:9). Hannah’s heart was filled with sorrow and grief because of the affliction heaped upon her by her adversary, Peninnah. Peninnah “...provoked her sore, for to make her fret...” (ISam.1:6). Hannah went into the temple “in the bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord and wept sore” and “poured out (her) soul before the Lord” (ISam.1:10-15). Her prayer ascended before the Lord as a sweet incense. The Lord touched her heart and her spirit and healed her sorrow; He removed her affliction and answered her prayer; as a result, “her countenance was no more sad” (ISam.1:18). “Frankincense” signifies praise, which should follow every prayer. Paul says: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil.4:6). In addition, we are called to live “worthy of His love” and to manifest “the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph.1:6-12). It was His life of prayer and praise which preserved Jesus’ fellowship with His Father, and caused His glory to be manifested. We, who are to be His Bride, should similarly cultivate a life of prayer and praise, as long as we live in the wilderness of this world. “With all powders of the merchant” (S.S.3:6) : Powders are used to beautify and soothe the body. They are used to refresh the body after washing. When we consecrate ourselves to do the will of God, all our unclean and unsanctified charateristics leave us, and we become “a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish...” (IICor.2:15). When Jesus reigns in our life, our will will be completely broken and we shall delight in His will, as He delighted to do His Father’s will. That is why Jesus said “... on whomsoever it (Jesus, the Rock) shall fall, it will grind him to powder”. That is how Saul, the enemy of Jesus, became Paul, the prisoner of Christ, and manifested the sweet savour (aroma, fragrance) of Christ (Eph.4:1; IICor.2:15). Jesus came down to the world like “a merchant man seeking goodly pearls”, and He found “one pearl of great price”. He paid the terrible price of His own precious blood, not only to save sinners, but also to find a Bride (a pearl of great price) for Himself. “Christ ... loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph.5:25). Similarly, we who are to be His Bride, should treat all our apparent assets as loss, so that we may win Christ: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung, that I may win Christ...” (Phil.3:7,8). “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; three score valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war; every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night” (S.S.3:7,8). “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s” (S.S.3:7): A “bed” speaks of rest. “Solomon” means “peace”, and he represents Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who came to offer rest to those who were bound by sin and by Satan. We, who are “delivered from the power of darkness” and “translated ... into the kingdom of His dear Son (Jesus)” can enjoy continual rest, if we learn to abide in Him.
“Three score valiant men are about it” (S.S.3:7): “Three score valiant men” refers to a representative number of saints from the Dispensation of Conscience and from the period of the Old Testament. These are the “friends” of the Bridegroom. The “bed” belongs exclusively to the king and his queen, that is to the Bridegroom and the Bride. Jesus, the righteous Judge, affirmed: “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women (from Abel to John the Baptist) there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven (The Body of Spirit-baptized Christians in the Dispensation of the Church) is greater than he” (Matt.11:11). This is true both status-wise and morally, because of the work of sanctification wrought in the New Testament saints by the blood, the Word and the Holy Spirit (IJn. 5:7). John the Baptist himself confessed that he was not the “Bride” but only the “friend of the Bridegroom”: “He that hath the bride (the sanctified Church), is the bridegroom (Jesus Christ): but the friend of the bridegroom (saints from the Dispensation of conscience and from the Old Testament), which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice (John is referring to the revelation of Christ given to the Old Testament saints, which was limited): this my Joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29). In a different sense, the servants of God of the New Testament are also called “friends”. Jesus said to His apostles: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn.15:14). We should not, however, equate the apostles of Christ (His consecrated ministers) with the saints from the Old Testament, simply because Jesus described them both as His “friends”. He gives the reason why He calls the apostles “friends”: “...FOR ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE HEARD OF MY FATHER I HAVE MADE KNOWN UNTO YOU” (John 15:15). All the hidden mysteries (the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven and the mystery of Christ) “... (are) now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph.3:4,5; Matt.13:11,17). True servants of God, who preserve the truth and live by it, are also “friends” of Christ, at a higher level. Satan’s aim and purpose is to destroy the truth revealed to the Church (Gal.1:18; 3:1). We are called to contend as well as to suffer for “the defence and the confirmation of the gospel” (Phil.1:7). The Christian soldier is attacked on two fronts: from without, and from within. On the one hand, there is the constant warfare waged by the world against the truth, and on the other, he sometimes finds warfare going on within himself: “... the flesh lusteth (wars) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh...” (Gal.5:17). James asks: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1). Those who are carnally minded cannot accept deeper truths, nor can they understand the work of sanctification. That is why Peter says: “Wherefore LAYING ASIDE all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking. As newborn babes, desire the SINCERE MILK OF THE WORD, that ye may GROW THEREBY” (IPet.2:1,2). “They all hold swords... every man hath his sword upon his thigh” (S.S.3:8): The Word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph.6:17). It is by the Word of God that Jesus overcame Satan in the wilderness (Matt.4:1-11). It is by the Word that the Church also will overcome the devil (Rev.12:11). Paul describes the Word of God being “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12). In other words, the Word of God is so sharp and powerful that it can cut through to any part of us, in order to remove that which is carnal or sinful in our body, soul and spirit, bringing us to a state of total sanctification. Jesus said: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (Jn. 15:3). His Word is called a “two-edged sword” because it convicts, judges and purifies both the preacher and his congregation. These men, the “valiant of Israel”, were “expert in war” and had their swords upon their thighs. Every servant of God and every overcomer must know how to use the Word of God with understanding. Paul advises Timothy to be a “...workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the Word of truth” (IITim.2:15). Again, writing to the Hebrews, Paul says that babe-like Christians who do not study the Word are “unskilful in the word of righteousness”, but that those who are skilful in His Word are those who are “of full age (perfect)” and “have their (spiritual) senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb.5:13,14). “Upon his thigh” (S.S.3:8): The thigh denotes the strength of the inner man. When Jacob (the supplanter) used his physical strength to accomplish his own will and also to obtain spiritual blessings, God touched “the hollow of his thigh” (Gen.32:25), so that he might learn to depend only on the power of God. Thereafter, he was called “Israel”, which means: “as a prince hast thou power with God” (Gen.32:28). We need to be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph.6:10), in order that we may use the Word of God with skill, wisdom and strength against the powers of Satan. Because of fear in the night (S.S.3:8): Night and darkness go together. They denote times of trial, temptation and difficulty. Satan works hard on these occasions to destroy our faith, and our confidence in God’s Word and in His power. Some will be tempted to abandon hope and fall away from their first love and first works. Others may backslide and become ensnared by the devices of Satan. We are therefore called to be watchful, and to “walk as children of light”, having no fellowship with “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph.5:8-11). “King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem. Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart” (S.S. 3:9-11). “King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon” (S.S.3:9): King Solomon made himself a chariot, or a state-carriage, to which no one had access but himself and his bride, the Shulamite. The Hebrew word for “chariot” is translated “throne” in some versions. Whether the correct translation is “chariot” or “throne”, the idea conveyed is this: the one who shares the king’s seat has access to all he possesses. This privilege is reserved exclusively for the Bride. Only the Bride of Christ has access to His throne, His chariot. A “chariot” speaks of His glory, and a “throne” points to His power and authority. The Bride of Christ will share His glory and His power at His coming. Paul says: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col.3:4). Also in Romans we read: “If ... we suffer with him... we shall may also be glorified together (with him)” (Rom.8:17). We are called “sons (brought) unto glory” (Heb.2:10). It is the Bride who has access to His throne: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev.3:21). This chariot was made “of the wood of Lebanon”. “Wood” points to human nature. Humans as we were, stained by sin, had no access to the throne of Christ, nor even to the kingdom of God, for, as it is written, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (ICor.15:50). As we were “of flesh and blood” (Heb.2:14), God “sent forth his Son, made of a woman” that we might become “partakers of Christ”, of His holiness and of His divine nature (Gal.4:4; Heb.3:14; 12:10; IIPet.1:4). “He made the pillars thereof of silver” (S.S.3:10): A “pillar” speaks of strength and stability. James, Peter and John, the mighty apostles of Christ, are known as the “pillars” of the Church (Gal.2:9). The overcomer is promised the distinction of being “a pillar in the temple” in New Jerusalem (Rev.3:12). “Silver” refers to the ongoing work of redemption in our spiritual life. In the Old Testament, everyone “from a month old” was redeemed by five shekels of silver (Num.18:16). But we are not redeemed by “corruptible things, as silver and gold... But with the precious blood of Christ (IPet.1:18). By His blood, we are not only saved, but also sanctified and perfected
(Heb.10:10,14). “The bottom thereof of gold” (S.S.3:10): Whether the object is a chariot or a throne, the bottom (base) must be strong, for that is where the weight rests. God wants His saints to be strong in the Lord, so that they may be able to endure all things. When trials and persecution come their way, they must be able to make God their strength. The children of Israel were brought out of Egypt by the strength of the Lord: “... by strength of hand the Lord brought you out ...” (Exo.13:3). The Lord strengthened them in the wilderness when they willingly went through trials. God brought them out of Egypt; Balaam, speaking in prophesy about the mighty power of God’s arm in doing this, said of Him: “He hath... the strength of an unicorn” (Num.23:22). God became their strength. One of His names is “the Strength of Israel” (ISam.15:29). David says: “It is God that girdeth me with strength and maketh my way perfect” (Psa.18:32). David also says: “... the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psa.27:1). Similarly, Jesus said to Paul, when he was weak and feeble: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness...” (IICor.12:9). Thus encouraged, he gives a joyful shout: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil.4:13). “Gold” speaks of the tried faith of the saints who receive “praise and honour and glory” at the end of their trials. They not only become strong in the Lord during times of trial, but also become partakers of His glorious divine nature. Job, a great saint, confidently confessed his faith when he said: “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10). The faithful, “precious sons of Zion”, were compared to “most fine gold” (Lam.4:1,2). God counselled the Laodicean church, which had amassed earthly riches and were “increased with goods” to buy from Him, “gold tried in the fire”, that they might be rich in the sight of God. Overcomers are those who are strong in the Lord, and who are therefore able to endure all things. The reward for their endurance is the possession of His glorious divine nature, which is formed in them as they bear their many trials with fortitude. They are in the sight of God as precious as pure gold, tried in the furnance. “The covering of it of purple” (S.S.3:10): “Purple” points to royalty. In ancient times, kings were clothed in purple. We read of the “purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian” (Jud.8:26). When Mordecai was honoured by the king Ahasuerus, he was arrayed in “a garment of fine linen and purple” (Esther 8:15). Jesus spoke of “a rich man which was clothed in purple and in fine linen” (Lk.16:19). Just before the crucifixion, the Roman soldiers scorged Jesus; then they plaited a crown of thorns and put it on His head; they arrayed Him in a purple robe, and said: “Hail, king of the Jews!” (Jn.19:1-3). Their eyes were blind. They had no idea that they were mocking the “only Potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords”. Today, the Bride of Christ is similarly reproached; but she is called to reign with Christ, and will be glorified when Christ comes. She will possess His overcoming power, which will make her still more glorious in the sight of God. “The midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem” (S.S.3:10): The “daughters of Jerusalem” are those who do not have sufficient growth to catch the vision that God intends them to be a part of the Bride of Christ. Only love can draw them, so that they come to admire the beauty of Christ; only love can help them to understand and embrace the deeper truths of sanctification, the overcoming life and our eternal inheritance. Sanctified saints should manifest the divine nature of Christ to those who are in their spiritual infancy, for we are called to bear “the infirmities of the weak” (Rom.15:1) and to lead them patiently on into deeper experiences. “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon” (S.S.3:11): The “daughters of Zion” are the consecrated servants of God who have forsaken everything in this world in order to spend their lives in loving fellowship with Him, and to follow Him closely, “whithersoever he goeth” (Rev.14:4). Their main preoccupation should be to be ready to “go forth... and behold”
the glorious face of Jesus, to love Him, and to maintain a continual fellowship with Him Who is “greater than Solomon” and therefore, infinitely more precious (Matt.12:42). “The crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of gladness of his heart” (S.S.3:11): “The crown”: When Jesus ascended far above all heavens, having conquered sin, Satan and hell, the Father “crowned (Him) with glory and honour” (Heb.2:9) and gave Him “a name which is above every name” (Phil.2:9). However, the real “gladness of his heart” and “the joy that was set before him” (Heb.12:2), came from the fact that one day He would achieve eternal union with His spotless Bride (the blameless, sanctified Church). “The day of his espousals”(S.S.3:11): The Jewish custom was that on the day of engagement, the bridegroom wore a floral crown. When did Christ espouse His Bride? It was when He “gave himself for it” (the Church) on Calvary (Eph.5:25), and wore the crown of thorns. The espousal was ratified when the Church was sealed by the Holy Spirit as the betrothed of Christ on the day of Pentecost (Eph.1:13,14; 4:30). But the day of His marriage will not be until the day of His coming for His Bride. Until then, she must live worthy of His great love and prepare herself (IICor.11:2,3; Rev.19:8). Then it will be the Bride herself who becomes His crown of joy and rejoicing, for as it is written, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband” (Prov.12:4). ————— “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof everyone bear twins, and none is barren among them” (S.S.4:1,2). “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold thou art fair” (S.S.4:1): There are certain charateristics which give to the Bride of Christ a particular kind of beauty; this is in spite of the fact that her external appearance may not be attractive, but “black”, and far from comely (S.S.1:6). It is her love, which is “better than wine”, which gives her this beauty (S.S.4:10). The Bride of Christ is described as “fair as the moon” (S.S.6:10). The moon is referred to as “a faithful witness” (Psa.89:37), and so it is the Bride’s testimony which makes her look “fair”. The moon also denotes grace: the woman of Revelation 12:1, who has “the moon under her feet”, stands, according to Romans 5:2, on the grace of God. Also, when the Bride of Christ forgets her “own people” and her “father’s house”, and enters into a life of deeper consecration, the king of heaven will “greatly desire” her beauty (Psa.45:10, 11). We also see that the “beauty of holiness” gives loveliness to the Bride in the sight of God (Psa.29:2). Thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks” (S.S.4:1): The dove is a harmless bird, and God’s children are exhorted to be “harmless as doves” (Matt.10:16). We are exhorted to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God (Phil.2:15). The dove is in “the clefts of the rocks” (S.S.2:14). This signifies the hidden nature of the life of the Bride, as she abides in Christ. A major part of her life is her prayer life. The dove is a gentle bird, whose note is always mournful. Isaiah says: “I did mourn as a dove” (Isa.38:14); elsewhere he says that God’s people “mourn sore like doves” (Isa.38:14; 59:11). And so “doves’ eyes” indicate eyes filled with tears; they are the eyes of one who weeps continually before the Lord with a broken heart, imploring Him to look mercifully upon a sinful world and upon a church that is not yet perfect, and when stands in constant need of His mercy, grace and power. “Doves’ eyes within thy locks” has an even deeper meaning. It signifies the ability to see clearly those things which are afar off, and refers to “heavenly places” (Eph.1:19,20). It also signifies the insight which saints should have, to discern the things of the Spirit, so that they may grow in love and in the knowledge of God (Phil.1:9,10). “The eyes within thy locks”: Our hair is given to us as a covering: perhaps the thought here is that locks of the bride’s hair fall over her eyes as she bows her head, averting her gaze from
that which is not appropriate for her to look upon. In addition, we are given eyelids, which make good ‘shutters’ to screen out that which is not desirable for us to see. We need to discern what is, and what is not, seemly for us to look upon, and to close our eyes when necessary. It is with this thought in mind that Isaiah asks: “Who is blind but my servant?” (42:19,20). Acting upon this discernment helps a child of God to be righteous in His sight, and to see “eye to eye” with God (Isa.52:8). “Thy hair is a flock of goats that appear from mount Gilead” (S.S.4:1): Long hair is referred to by God as a woman’s “glory”. It also indicates submission to her husband (ICor.11:5,15). The Bride’s consecration to submit to Christ in love is her glory. In the Old Testament, we read of the Nazarites, who were similarly given wholly to God. They were commanded to grow their hair long also, and no razor was to come near their heads (Num.6:5). The consecration of the Nazarites to keep their hair long was the secret of the power of their life and ministry. When Delilah caused the seven locks of Samson (who was a Nazarite unto God) to be shaved off, his strength departed from him (Judg.16:19). We who are called to be the Bride of Christ should ever be vigilant, lest we slacken in our consecration. The “goats” that were fed on Mount Gilead, which was covered with rich pasture, were fat and had white wool. God wants to nourish His Bride with “strong meat” (solid food), because of her single-minded consecration (Heb.5:14). “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn” (S.S.4:1): Here is a picture of a different flock: this time of sheep. These sheep are not woolly, but “shorn”. “wool” here refers to the comfort of a self-centered, carnal, pleasure-filled life (Ezek.34:3). Why are the Bride’s teeth likened to a flock of a shorn sheep? The reason is that when a sheep is shorn, it is exposed to the cold. It must eat more, and feed on the right type of grass in order to maintain its physical strength. It must have strong teeth, in order to chew its food well. When we are shorn of comfort and worldly pleasures, we obtain the grace to feed on the Word of God, to delight in nourishing ourselves on it (Psa.119:103) and to assimilate deeper truths. “Which came up from the washing....”(S.S.4:2): After the sheering, the sheep are washed. There is a purification which comes with separation and consecration. We are exhorted to separate ourselves from sinners, and warned not to touch any unclean thing, so that God may receive us (IICor.6:17,18). By the life of separation, we become sanctified, and learn to purify ourselves “even as he is pure” (IJn.3:2,3). In short, we begin to live as Christ lived, when He was in the world (IJn.4:17). “Whereof every one bear twins...” (S.S.4:2): “Twins” signifies two experiences: sanctification and victorious life. God has called us to total sanctification of spirit, soul and body (IThess.5:23). But some are content merely to be sanctified. They elect to ignore the fact that sanctification is intended to lead on to a life of victory. Those who achieve this are the overcomers of Rev.3:21, and it is for these souls that Jesus is coming on the day of Rapture. A soldier may look clean and smart, but in order to become a victorious soldier, he must prove himself on the battlefield by facing and vanquishing his enemies. So for us: if we are to be seated together with Christ as His Bride, we have to face our spiritual enemies, and overcome them. We need not fear our enemies, for, as St. Paul tells us, no tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword can ever separate us from the love of Christ (Rom.8:35). So the secret is to abide in the love of Christ, and then we shall find ourselves “more than conquerors” in the midst of our trials. Another aspect of the Christian Soldier’s life is learning to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph.6:11). We need to be able to fight “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph.6:12); for this, we must at all times be clad in “the whole armour of God”; we must be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (Eph.6:10,11). As Paul admonished Timothy, we have to learn to
“endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”; this will help us to avoid becoming entangled in “the affairs of this life” and so “please him who hath chosen (us) to be a soldier“ (IITim.2:3,4). “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks. Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men:” (S.S.4:3,4). Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet” (S.S.4:3): Lips are vehicles of communication. The lips of the righteous feed many (Prov.10:21); righteous lips are the delight of kings (Prov.16:13). “A divine sentence is in the lips of the king” (Prov.16:10). The words of the righteous are sweet, and they increase learning (promote understanding) (Prov.16:21-23); they impart knowledge (Prov.20:5). The righteous offer through their lips praises, which are accepted by God as “fruit” (Isa.57:19; Heb.13:15) and as “calves” (Hos.14:2). Their words are full of grace (Prov.22:11) and joy (Psa.71:23). The lips of the unrighteous (the wicked) on the other hand, are “uncircumcised”, that is, unsanctified (Exo.6:12), filled with flattery (Psa.12:2), lies (Psa.31:18), abomination (Prov.12:22), falsehood (Prov.17:4), uncleanness (S.S 6:5), evil (Prov.15:15), poison (psa.140:3), mischief (Psa.140:9; Prov.24:2) and perversity (Prov.4:24). Hence, the utterances of their lips lead to contention (Prov.18:6), transgression (Prov.12:13), snares (captivity)(Prov.18:7) and hellfire (Prov.16:27). Therefore we, who are waiting to meet Christ, our Bridegroom, need to know how to order our words aright, so that we may minister grace to our hearers (Eph.4:29). The lips of the Bride of Christ are like a “thread of scarlet”, and so her “speech” is comely (S.S.4:3). Scarlet points to two things. Firstly, it shows redemption. Scarlet threads and fabrics were used in the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle, to remaind the people of God that they were a redeemed people. By the same token, Rahab (who was a harlot) was redeemed when she bound the scarlet thread in her window (Josh.2:18). The lips of the Bride have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The other aspect of “scarlet” is that it represents “royal authority”. For example, Jesus was dressed in a scarlet robe, albeit in mockery, and crowned with thorns, and the people derisively hailed Him “King of the Jews” (Matt.27:28,29). The words which proceeded from Christ’s own lips were not only redemptive, but also authoritative. In Matthew 7:28,29, it is recorded that the people were astonished by the authority with which He spoke. That authority He has conferred upon His servants (Lk.9:1). Our words should be like a “thread” in the sense of having continuity; they should at all times be holy, edifying and full of faith, that they may be a blessing to the hearers. Scantified saints should never, therefore, be heard engaging in “filthiness...foolish talking nor jesting”, for these things are not appropriate. On the contrary, their conversation should be full of gratitude to God (Eph.5:4). In his epistle, James tells us the signs of a perfect man (Jam.3:2,13). He is one who knows how to bridle his tongue. Secondly, he avoids being double-tongued; he does not alternatively bless and curse (Jam.3:9-12). “Thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks” (S.S.4:3): The word for “temples” (in the Hebrew “raqqah”) can be rendered “cheeks”. (Note to the editors: The above sentence in the original typescript actually read: “Temples” are translated as “cheeks”, by which I assume Pastor Earnest meant: “The Hebrew word for “temples” can also be translated as “cheeks”. In fact, the French and the Amplified Bibles take the Hebrew word, “raqqah”, as meaning “cheeks”. One can quiet see that the round, rosy pomegranete more closely resembles cheeks than temples, which are only slightly rounded and not rosy at all. However, strong, in his Concordance, gives the meaning to “raqqah” of “thinness”, i.e., the side of the head; temple”. Young, in his Concordance, simply gives “temple”. Jay P. Green, in his Interlinear HebrewEnglish Bible, renders “raqqah” as “temples” in both S.S.4:3 and S.S.6:7. So the weight of
informed opinion seems to come down on the side of “temples” rather than “cheeks”. Perhaps both possibilities could be included here? An additional paragraph, giving the spiritual implications of the interpretation “temples”, is included below.) Cheeks are a feature of facial beauty. The Bridegroom delights in the beauty which he sees in the face of His Bride, and she in turn delights in the beauty which she sees in His face (IICor.4:6). His beauty lies in the glory of His holiness, His grace and His power. It is Jesus’ desire that His beauty should be reflected in the face of the Bride, as the result of her character becoming like His. This is effected by the Holy Spirit, who changes us from glory to glory (IICor.3:18) by means of the glorious gospel (IICor.4:4) and through “the sufferings of this present time” (Rom.8:18). If however, we retain the rendering “temples”, then a different interpretation becomes possible. Between the temples lies the brain, the seat of our thoughts and of our mental activity generally. The pomegranate, with its seeds arranged in neat rows, and covered with sweet, red juice, gives a beautiful picture of our minds as Jesus desires them to be: our thoughts in good order and in perfect peace, beautifully arranged, fully controlled by Jesus, and covered with His blood (IICor.10:5). “A piece of pomegranate within thy locks (S.S.4:3): There is great beauty in the neatly arranged, juicy, scarlet seeds inside the pomegranate, but these cannot be seen until the fruit is cut open. Similarly, the Bride of Christ is sanctified in every part of her being, body, soul and spirit, when she suffers in times of trials. This sanctification is effected by means of Jesus’ blood, Word and Spirit, and it is only then the beauty of Christ is revealed in every part of her being. The true flavour and colour of her life are seen only when she is “cut in pieces”. It is during times of tribulation that the life and charateristics of Christ are manifested in her (IICor.4:8-11). “Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an armoury” (S.S.4:4): In physical terms, the neck is the single, strong member which unites the head with the body. The same is true spiritually, also. The Head is Christ, and the Body is the Church. We must be safely and securely united to Christ, and our connection with Him must be firmly maintained at all times. In the physical body, the neck is the channel for the vital lines of communication between the head and the body. These include arteries for the circulation of the blood, nerves, the windpipe for breathing and the aesophagus for conveying food and drink to the stomach. Any damage to the neck, therefore constitutes a threat to the very life of the body. In our spiritual lives, the neck has very considerable significance: 1. The neck is involved in expression of spiritual love for the brethren; for example, in Acts20:37, we read of the saints falling upon Paul’s NECK as they embraced him immediately before he departed from them. 2. The neck is often literally involved in the laying down of Christian lives, for the sake of their brethren; Paul tells us of the sacrifice made in this way on his behalf by Acquilla and Priscilla: “(They).... have for my life laid down their own NECKS” (Rom.16:3,4). 3. The same thought seems to underlie Romans 8:35-39, where we read of saints who, for the love of God were “accounted (in their trials) as sheep for the slaughter”. 4. The neck is used metaphorically to describe the means whereby God disciplines and strengthens His servants. For example, Hosea speaks of Ephraim as a trained heifer upon whose NECK a yoke has been placed for that purpose (Hos.10:11). 5. The neck is also used metaphorically to describe the willingness to bear His yoke, which Jesus longs to see in each of us (Matt.11:29). The yoke is a place upon the NECK of oxen, so gifts, talents, knowledge or temporal authority; nor should we retaliate by resorting to the corrupt weapons of our former, fallen nature, and use rage, anger, brawling and slander (Eph.4:31); instead, we should depend upon spiritual weapons to pull down the strongholds of Satan. We are exhorted to be strong in the power of HIS might (Eph.6:10) and to “put on the whole armour of God” (Eph.6:13).
The various pieces of armour are as follows: Item Spiritual meaning The girdle of truth The breastplate of righteousness The shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace The shield of faith truth in the inward parts. dependence on God's righteousness. living in peace with God and man.
building up our personal faith so that we can confess that what God has promised, He is able and faithful to perform. The helmet of salvation the hope of salvation; this means that our minds must be filled with the hope of His coming. For this, the mind must be saturated with the Word of God. The sword of the Spirit the Word of God. We are to resist the devil by means of steadfast faith and by quoting the Scriptures to him, just as Jesus did in the wilderness. Above all, we are to “wrestle in prayer”. We are to “(pray) always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph.6:18). “thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense” (S.S.4:5,6). “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies”. (S.S.4:5): For the spiritual significance of “roes” and “lilies”, see the studies on Song of Solomon 2:27 and 2:1,2 respectively. New babies, as soon as they are born, look for their mother’s breasts, in order to feed. Similarly, young Christians, who are newly born into the Kingdom of God, look to the Bride of Christ, who is their spiritual mother, for spiritual food and nursing. God calls Himself as another: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you...” (Isa.66:13). Again, he says: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the fruit of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isa.49:15). Christ’s love for the inhabitants of Jerusalem was like that of a mother hen, who comes to gather together her chickens: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt.23:37). The early apostles loved their believers like mothers, and nourished them with the Word of God. Writing to the Thessalonian believers, Paul says: “... we are gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, were willing to have to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you were dear unto us” (I Thess.2:7,8). And Paul, addressing the Galatians as “my little children”, tells them that his care for them and his labour on their behalf constitutes nothing less that “travailing in birth again until Christ be formed in (them)”. In other words, Paul, who in the first place brought them to the new birth (initial salvation), now (as it were) enters into labour for them once again, that there may be formed in them that perfect, Christ-like character, which will make them eligible for the “great salvation” on the day of the Rapture (Gal.4:19). Similarly, Spirit-baptized, growing Christians must themselves become mothers who can feed and nourish the new souls who have been begotten in the Church. That is why, in one sense, perfected saints, who have finished their course, and have entered into their rest, are called “Jerusalem which is above... which is the mother of us all” (Gal.4:26). If they had not begotten
us by means of the example of their lives on the one hand, and the doctrines of Christ on the other, we should not have come to the knowledge of the truth. Figuratively, Isaiah explains that we who are grown up in Christ, can, by our motherly attitude, dispense to our followers (and this would include young Christians) an “abundance of glory”, extending to them “peace like a river”: “Rejoice ye Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: that ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out (Heb. “drain”; Amp., R.A.V. “drink deeply”), and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. “For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river ... “. (Isa.66:12). “Breasts”, therefore, speak of the ability of the Bride of Christ to ensure growth in newborn Christians by feeding them with “the sincere milk of the word” until they are weaned (IPet.2:2). Before they can be taught the deeper truths of the doctrines of Christ, they must be taught to lay aside “all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings”; this will give them a sound foundation, so that they will be able to absorb “the sincere milk of the word”, and do so with delight. “Two breasts” indicate a balanced supply of faith and love, which will help them to have unfeigned faith in God, and love towards God and man. The Ephesian Christians had “faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all saints” (Eph.1:15). It was then that they had access to deeper truths and revelations (Eph.1:16-23). The Colossians were also commended by Paul for their “faith in Jesus Christ” and for their “love to all the saints” (Col.1:4). The Thessalonian believers were similarly commended (I Thess.1:3). Without unfeigned faith and sincere, pure love, we cannot attain the perfection that is in Christ Jesus. “Two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies” (S.S.4:5): Twins normally live, eat and take their rest together. Similarly, faith and love must be knit together. Faith without love will degenerate into self-confidence and pride. Love without faith will lead to discouragement and frustration. In Galatians 5:6, we read of “faith that worketh by love”. Therefore, if we say that we love God, we must also believe that he is able to perform what He has promised. “Roes” feed among the lilies. These little animals are always in the open fields, amongst thorns and briars, and at the mercy of wild animals. Sometimes they have to endure bad weather. Unless they feed well and become strong, they cannot survive these adverse circumstances, and look after their young ones. Those who want to help younger Christians must feed continually on the Word of God, in order to maintain and increase their own faith and love, for only by so doing will they be able to encourage their followers to stand firm when their faith and love for God are under trial. “Until the day break and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and go to the hill of frankincense” (S.S. 4:6) : The Bridegroom has extolled the beauty of the Bride in verses 1-5, mentioning such features as her eyes, her hair, her teeth, her lips and her neck. He has also complimented her on the loveliness of her speech. Now He draws her attention to “the mountain of myrrh”, and to “the hill of frankincense”. He wants to persuade her to accompany Him to these two delectable, fragrant places. The “mountain” speaks of our prayer life. Jesus took the apostles to the mount of transfiguration where, “as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering” (Lk. 9:29); there they heard the voice of God, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Lk. 9:35). The only way we can have fellowship with the Father is through His Son in prayer. The apostle exhorts us to have fellowship with the Father and the Son. Such fellowship is possible only through a life of submisssion and prayer. Jesus, therefore, wants to attract the Bride (the Church) to a life of prayer. “The mountain of myrrh” (S.S. 4:6): Myrrh has a strong, sweet perfume, but its taste is bitter. “Myrrh” represents prayer. When we go through bitter trials of faith, God makes the bitter
sweet to us through our life of prayer. In this, the Holy Spirit helps us, for “we know not how to pray as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). Although it may involve a life of trial and suffering, praying in the Holy Spirit helps us to be strengthened, with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:11). “The hill of frankincense” (S.S. 4:6): “Frankincense” represents praise and thanksgiving. We have already seen that myrrh represents prayer; both are enjoined by God: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known into God” (Phil. 4:6). We read here of a HILL of frankincense, just as we read of a MOUNTAIN of myrrh. Climbing a hill, climbing a mountain, represents separating ourselves from others, for the sake of praising God in the one case and for the sake of praying of Him in the other. “Until the day break” (S.S. 4:6): The night which precedes the day-break represents the time of trial during our life on this earth, a time when we must maintain our life of faith, and depend entirely upon God for guidance and help. The day-break itself represents the glorious moment of the appearing of our Lord. Until that moment, we must learn to “walk by faith, and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). “The shadows flee away” (S.S. 4:6): When the Lord does appear, every shadow of doubt and fear will flee away. In the mean time, we should renew our fellowship with God every day. The Word of God tells us that His grace is new every morning. As surely as we have days, so those days are followed by nights. At dawn, the sun rises, and as the day goes on, the sahdows become shorter and shorter. This has a spiritual paralles. As we go on in our spiritual lives, so the shadows will become shorter and shorter: by His grace, through faith, we shall learn to overcome our doubts and fears, until we come to the place where we are ready to meet the Lord in the air; at that stage, we shall be on our way to New Jerusalem, of which we read: “... there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards” (S.S. 4:7,8). “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (S.S. 4:7): In Song of Solomon 1:15, the Bridegroom could say to the Bride: “Thou art fair”. Since that time, He has seen her grow in her spiritual life, and so now He is able to say: “Thou art ALL fair; there is no spot in thee”. Jesus, the Bridegroom, gave His life in order to find for Himself a Bride who had “no spot or wrinkle or any such thing”; He sought a Bride who was holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27). Such spotless perfection is possible only if we are bound to Him by a covenant of love, which commits us to obeying him, knowing His will and purifying ourselves even as He is pure (I John 3:2,3). She is “all fair because she worships Him in the beauty of holiness (Psa. 29:2). She is holy in every part of her life: “holy in all manner of conversation (conduct)” (I Pet. 1:15). Secondly, she is “all fair” because of her consecration. The Psalmist says: “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty” (Psa. 45:10,11). The love, admiration and loyalty which she has for her Bridegroom greatly exceeds that which she has for her own family. And so we see how both the Bride and the Bridegroom gladly made tremendous sacrifices, in order to win the other. Jesus, for His part, was equal with God Himself, but for the sake of His Bride. He gladly sacrificed everything which He had enjoyed, before coming to this earth: His glory, His majesty, and even His reputation. “Come with me from Lebanon ... look from the top; of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon” (S.S. 4:8): Many translations read: “Come with me and look from Lebanon”; this would be in line with what follows: “... look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir ...”.
All these places represent higher spiritual experiences. We are called to set (our) affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). When the angel wished to give the apostle John a clearer vision of “that great city, the holy Jerusalem”, which was to be the home of the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, in eternity, he transported the apostle to “a great and high mountain” (Rev. 21:9,10). If we elect to live out our lives at an earthly level, we cannot comprehend the love or the beauty of Jesus. We need the vision which comes only to those who spend much time on the mountain heights of prayer and praise. Only in this way shall we be able to grow IN CHRIST in all things; only by this means shall we be able to “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth”. This is why the Bridegroom pleads with the Bride: “Come with me to the top of these various mountains”. We saw how the spiritual growth of the Bride fluctuated at first. She loved Him in a measure, and was satisfied with certain blessings. The pleasure which she had in His fellowship was similar to that afforded her by an orchard of apples, or of fig trees, or by a vineyard full of tender grapes. She was satisfied with “the voice of the turtle (dove)” and with “the singing of birds” (S.S. 2:3,12,13). At times she was filled with His love and joy, as when He brought her into His “banqueting house” (S.S. 2:4), but she could not consecrate her “father’s house”. She maintained a divided love. Often, the Bridegroom looked in through the windows, hoping that she would see Him. He pleaded with her: “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away” (S.S. 2:9,10), but she would not do so. He advised her to fly away like a dove to “clefts of the rock” (S.S. 2:14); this was to bring her into a higher life of being hidden in Him, and into a life of prayer praise, so that He might see her countenance and hear her voice. But she would not do so. So He left her alone and passed on. Then she sought Him, but she could not find Him (S.S. 3:1). She left her home and began to seek Him, and presently she found Him (S.S. 3:4). This is the point she has reached in the verse now under consideration. Now His desire is to take her to the mountains. What are these mountains to which He desires to lead her? ‘Lebanon’: Lebanon means, ‘a white mountain’, and points to holiness or righteousness. The Lord calls her to a deeper life of purity and chastity. The Bridegroom compares the smell of her garments to the smell of Lebanon (S.S. 4:11). Lebanon gets its fragrance from the cedar, a tall, a beautiful, scented tree. It was out of this tree that the chariot of Solomon was made. As she sat side by side with her Bridegroom in His chariot, her garments acquired the scent of cedar. This represents the imbibing of His very nature, the result of the life of prayer and praise. Now He wants her to go with Him to the very summit of the mountain of cedar, in order to enter with Him into an eternal fellowship of love and holiness. “Look from the top of Amana” (S.S. 4:8): It is understood that this is the root word from which we get the word ‘AMEN’, meaning ‘so be it’. It denotes total submission to God’s will and to His Word. The Bride of Christ is not only holy and unblameable in love; she is, like her Bridegroom, “obedient unto death”. She is called to say ‘AMEN’ to the whole will of God (Col. 4:12). She has learnt “to do all things without murmurings and disputings” (complaining and arguing), so that she may be found “blameless and harmless ... without rebuke” (Phil. 2:14,15). She does not stop there. She realizes that she is called to suffer with him in “bonds” and “in the defence and confirmation of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7). Yes, you and I have to reach the top of Amana, so that we may share His vision of His vision of His will for us. “The top of Shenir” (S.S. 4:8): Shenir is the name of one of the highest peaks in the mountain range of Lebanon. Hence it points to the absolute acme of holiness (II Cor. 7:1) and love (I Jn. 4:17). God Himself is perfect in holiness and perfect in love, and He has chosen us in Him “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (as He is) and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). God wants these two qualities in our spiritual lives to be balanced, since a deficiency of either will have a detrimental effect upon our spiritual lives. “Hermon” (S.S. 4:8) : Psalm 133:3 shows us that the mountain of Hermon was a delightful place. It was an area which received a plentiful supply of dew, which flowed down from Hermon
to other, smaller mountains. The Psalmist says that the Bride of Christ, which is a body of brethren dwellings together in unity, can receive a continual anointing from the Lord, and be a blessing to those who have not matured spiritually. “From the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards” (S.S. 4:8) : Whilst scaling the heights of Lebanon, Amana, Shenir and Hermon, the climber would inevitably encounter lions and leopards, which would attack and devour him. But for us, there is the companionship and protection of the Bridegroom. He is the Lion of Judah, and He goes before us, conquering all our foes. He has already destroyed the power of Satan, for we read of His having “spoiled principalities and powers ... triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). Let us therefore, stay close to Jesus, following Him at all times from victory to victory, in order that we may inherit the blessings reserved for us. “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!” (S.S.4:9,10). “Thou hast ravished my heart” (S.S.4:9): The margin reading is as follows: “Thou hast taken away my heart”. What a wonderful declaration for the Bridegroom to make to His Bride, whose love in the past has been divided between her Beloved and her parents. But she has now decided to love Him, and Him alone, with a pure, wholesome, undivided love. As a result, the Bridegroom is now able to enter into a much closer intimacy with His Bride, and the deepest longings of His heart are satisfied; hence His words: “Thou hast ravished my heart”. The pure, sacrificial love of His Bride, for whom He Himself has laid down His life, fills Him with joy. When Jesus decided to do the Father’s whole will, this pleased the Father so much that He declared: “...Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:11). Because it was love which motivated Jesus in doing His Father’s will, He earned the privilege of being called God’s beloved Son. Samuel was another, whose faithfulness as a priest gladdened the heart and mind of God (I Sam. 2:35). Implicit obedience, pure love and the fear of God characterize those who please Him. Paul was similarly constrained by the love of God; his goal was not only to enter into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, but also to win Christ, and to be “found in him” (Phil. 3:8-10). It was this kind of love that Jesus was looking for in Peter, when He asked him: “... lovest thou me more than these?” (Jn.21:15). It is this same kind of love that Jesus seeks in His Bride, and when He finds it, His heart is “ravished”. “My sister, my spouse” (S.S. 4:9): This is the first time the Bridegroom addresses His Bride as “my sister”, and it shows that His love for her is a kindred love, a love that has been purified by the work of sanctification. The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice at Calavary was to win for Himself a spotless, holy Bride (Eph. 5:27); this Bride is the true Church, and Jesus loves her as a husband loves his wife. At the same time, He addresses the Church as “my sister”. So His love for the Bride is a brotherly love. This love can be understood only by sanctified saints. When Jesus was told that His mother and His brothers were standing outside, wanting to see Him, He pointed to His disciples and said: “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:49,50). He bestows these titles upon His true followers because, as a result of their becoming sanctified, He and they have become ONE (Heb. 2:11) in the pure, unsullied love which characterises the relationship between brothers and sisters. “Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes” (S.S. 4:9): The phrase “one of thine eyes” is used to convey the idea of clarity of vision, of the single-minded devotion which the Bride needs to have with regard to her Bridegroom, Jesus (Matt. 6:22). She will, of course, have visions of other blessings, such as “the hope of his calling”, “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints”, “the exceeding greatness of his power” towards all true believers (Eph.
1:18,19), and so on. But first and foremost, she must focus her vision upon Jesus Christ as her heavenly Bridegroom. Only in this way can she love and serve Him all her days as “a chaste virgin” (II Cor. 11:2). Other versions translate the phrase “one of thine eyes” as “with a single glance”, and this rendering has much to commend it, since it conveys the eagerness with which Jesus responds to the least attention of His cherished Bride. “with one chain of thy neck” (S.S. 4:9) : The neck connects the body to the head, uniting them as one complete person, and here speaks of the perfect fellowship of the Church (the Body) with Christ (the Head) (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1:18). A chain beautifies the neck. The preacher says : “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about the neck” (Prov. 1:8,9). Similarly, the doctrines of Christ form the “one chain” around the neck of His Bride. When the Bride honours the doctrines of Christ in love, this makes the chain all the more beautiful. It ravishes the heart of Christ. Jesus said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments (honour my doctrines)” (Jn.14:15).”If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love...” (Jn.15:10). Love is to be both the motivation and the reward. From a heart of deep love springs the desire to obey the commandments of Jesus. Thus we shall ravish the heart of our Bridegroom, and He will do anything for us. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (Jn. 15:7). “How fair is thy love” (S.S. 4:10): In this chapter, the Bridegroom has been admiring the Bride’s hair (4:1), her teeth (4:2), her lips, her speech and also her temples (4:3), her neck (4:4), and more besides. But the physical beauty of the Bride would have held no attraction for the Bridegroom, had not her love been real, pure, and lasting. The salient feature of her beauty in His eyes is her surpassing love for Himself. We may have many traits in our character of a pleasing nature and, in addition, we may be renowned for the gifts and talents which are manifested in us, and they may bring us due honour and glory; but Jesus wants to know how fair is our love for Him. He asks of us the same question as He asked Peter: “ Lovest thou me more than these?” (Jn. 21:15). The love which Jesus desires to see in us is a CONSTRAINING love, which will help us to suffer for Him (II Cor. 5:14,15); it is an overcoming love, which overcomes all evil (Rom. 5:35, 39). It is the first love, which enables us to toil untiringly for Him, and to continue doing the first works (Rev.2:4,5). May the dear Lord see our Love, and say: “How fair is thy love”. “How much better is thy love than wine” (S.S.4:10): Wine “(makes) glad the heart of man” (Psa.104:15). Wine helps a man to forget his poverty and remember his misery no more” (Prov.31:7). On the day of Pentecost, when God’s love was shed abroad in the hearts of the apostles and other disciples, they seemed to be “men... full of new wine” (Acts2:13). Those hearts were transformed. Filled with the joy and power of the Holy Spirit, they forgot their misery. Fear, discouragement and doubt vanished away, their faith rose to new heights, and their lives were filled with zeal and power. Very often we pray: ‘Lord, fill us again with a love like that, so that we may once again be intoxicated with thy love’. But we forget that love is reciprocal. He wants us to tell Him as often as possible: ‘Lord, I truly love thee: I want to ravish Thy heart with my love’ When He hears this, He feels that our love is better than wine. “How much better is the smell of thine ointments than all spices” (S.S.4:10): Ointments and spices may both have wonderful perfumes, but there are crucial differences between these two kinds of preparation. Spices may produce a good aroma and have a delicious flavour, but they may totally lack the healing properties of ointments. The Bridegroom much prefers the smell of ointments to that of spices. Spices speak of our life of prayer and praise (Psa.141:2).
Whilst we should be careful to maintain our personal communion with God in both prayer and praise, we must not forget that our life is to become an “ointment” to heal the broken-hearted (Lk.4:18). Our life should be fragrant, so that it draws many to Christ, and it should also have the power to bring healing to those who need it. Paul says that we are called “...that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (IICor.1:4,5). “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon” (S.S.4:11). “Thy lips, O my spouse drop (drip) as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue” (S.S.4:11): The lips of the Bride of Christ are compared to the honeycomb when it is filled and overflowing with honey. A honeycomb is not made in a day, and neither is the honey. It takes many days of hard work on the part of the bees to make the honeycomb; thereafter, they must be equally diligent in going far a field in search of gardens and woods, where they will find flowers of the right kind. From these they gather nectar, which they then take back to the hive in order to fill the honeycomb to the brim. This goes on, day after day, until the honeycomb overflows with sweet honey. In the same way, the lips of the Bride of Christ should overflow with sweetness. The lips of the righteous praise God (Psa.63:3), and greatly rejoice in the Redeemer; they delight in offering to Him, adoration and praise as “the fruit of the lips” (Mal.2:6). Furthermore, as bees go about in search of sweetly-scented flowers, rich in nectar, shunning those whose substance would be harmful to life and bitter to the taste, so the Bride of Christ shuns, “profane and vain babblings” which will “increase unto more ungodliness” (IITim.2:16); instead, she follows “...righteousness, faith, charity (love), peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (IITim.2:22). Those who are part of the Bride take care that every word they utter is like a drop of honey from the honeycomb. Their lips “feed many” with righteousness (Prov.10:21); they “(use) knowledge aright” (Prov.15:2). They are filled with grace (Psa.45:2). The Bride delights to follow her Bridegroom closely, for His words are gracious: “And all ... wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Lk.4:22). “HONEY” speaks of enlightment also. When Jonathan was weary and weak after his warfare with the Philistines, he saw a honeycomb dripping with honey. And so he reached forward with the rod that was in his hand, and dipped the end of it in the honeycomb, and tasted the honey; as a result, “his eyes were enlightened” (ISam.14:27). As we delight in His Word day after day, and meditate upon it, it will not only be sweeter than honey (Psa.119:103); it will also open the eyes of our understanding so that we can see “the things of God”. Paul exhorts us; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom...” (Col.3:16); this is so that our words may be “as the oracles of God”, full of grace, sweet as honey, rich with the love of Christ. In Proverbs, we read that “pleasant word are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Prov.16:24). Further more, they promote understanding: “The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” (Prov.16:21). “Honey and milk are under thy tongues” (S.S.4:11): Canaan is spoken of as a land flowing with milk and honey (Exo.3:8; 13:3-5; Num.13:27;14:8;Deut.6:3;8:8). “Milk” and “honey” show the abundance of God’s blessings reserved for His children. Most people enjoy drinking MILK because of its pleasing taste, but it is regarded primarily as food appropriate for children, because it nourishes and builds them up. By the same token, the Bride of Christ must exercise discretion in her choice of words, so that she may edify both young Christians and those who are more mature in the Lord. She must give out “the sincere milk of the word” to those who are but “babes in Christ”, and honey to mature saints, so that all may be built up spiritually by her conversation and behaviour. The tongue: Saints who are enriched by the Word of God, and disciplined thereby, should also learn how to bridle their tongues, and use them correctly, so that they offend no one by what
they say. This achievement brings with it a marvellous bonus: perfect self-control: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a PERFECT MAN, and able to bridle the whole body” (Jas.3;2). James urges us not to let blessing and cursing comeforth from the same mouth, adding: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (Jas.3:11). David rightly prayed: “Let my sentence come forth from thy presence...” (Psa.17:2), and also : “...I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (Psa.39:1). May the dear Lord help us to bridle our tongues, and give us words which come forth from His presence, so that they may be as milk and honey to our hearers. “And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon” (S.S.4:11): The garments of the Bride of Christ are many, and are “beautiful” (Isa.52:1). They include (1) “the garments of salvation” (Isa.61:10); (2) “fine linen, clean and white”; this is also known as the garment of righteousness. The latter is the wedding garment of the Bride (Rev.19:8); (3) the “raiment of needlework”, which will display the suffering which she had patiently endured for the sake of her Bridegroom (Psa.45:14); (4) “the garment of praise” (Isa.61:3), a reward for praising God, instead of engaging in human reasoning, or complaining when she was downcast and heavy in spirit because of various trials; (5) the garment of humility, which she wears at all times, lest pride should disrobe her, and cause her to stand naked before God (IPet.5:5). “Lebanon”: ‘Lebanon’ means ‘ a white mountain’, and points to holiness or righteousness. (Please refer to the study on Lebanon in Song of Solomon 4:8). Jesus wants His Bride to have His holiness and righteousness. By means of our intimate fellowship with Christ, we not only share His nature, but also manifest the fragrance of our knowledge of Him in every place: “For we are unto God a sweet savour (fragrance) of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (IICor.2:15). “A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed” (S.S.4:12). “A garden inclosed” (the margin reading is “barred”) (S.S.4:12): The phrase “a garden enclosed” (the margin reading is “barred”) refers to Church. A fruit-bearing Church is compared in the Word of God to a garden, a vineyard or a field (Gen.2:15; Joel1:11; Lk.13:6-9; Matt.13:23; 21:33-43). The safety of a garden depends on the strength of the fence or wall which protects it from thieves and wild animals. Salvation is symbolized by the “walls and bulwarks” of the Church (Isa.26:1). Because of the walls of salvation, we can expect to find that “violence shall no more be heard in (our) land, wasting nor destruction within (our) borders” (Isa.60:18). Jesus is our Saviour, and also our keeper. He preserves us from all harm and danger, provided we abide in Him, sheltered under His wings. He wept over Jerusalem, saying “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt.23:37). Our safety is in Christ, and “(our) life is hid with Christ in God” (Col.3:3). He is like “a wall of fire round about (us)” (Zech.2:5). Satan could not touch Job, because God had made “a hedge about him and about his house and about all he (had) on every side” (1:10). Let us, therefore, learn to live in His presence, completely hidden in Him. “A spring shut up” (S.S.4:12): When the psalmist realized that God had exalted Zion above Rahab (Egypt), Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia, and how the full blessing of God flowed from Zion upon the people (Psa.135:21), he expressed his gratitude from the depths of his heart in the beautiful words: “All my springs are in thee” (Psa.87:7). The Church is called “his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph.1:23). All that is in Christ flows into us, making us rich in His divine nature and power. We were once like the Samaritan woman who tried to satisfy herself by drinking from the world’s springs of corruption and lust; of these springs Jesus said: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (Jn.4:13). This well of water overflows its walls and becomes rivers of living water, when we receive the fulness of the Holy Spirit (Jn.7:3,39). We begin to receive His love, His comfort,
His compassion, and to share them with those who need these things, and thus we become a blessing to thirsty, weary souls. But let us take care that we remain as “a spring shut up”, eschewing the polluted streams of this world, lest we become defiled and corrupted. We are exhorted to separate ourselves from the filth of the world, and to seek holiness: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (IICor.6:17,18). “A fountain sealed” (S.S.4:12): When we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit”, we then belong exclusively to Christ (Eph.4:30). We do not even belong to ourselves. We have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, that we may become temples of the Holy Spirit: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (ICor.6:19,20). We are to be available for the use of the Master alone. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph.2:10). Further, we are sealed for another purpose; that is, “sealed unto the day of redemption” —the day when He comes to gather to Himself His Bride, the elect of God, the sanctified, the victorious Church. “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire with spikenard, Spikenard with saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices” (S.S.4:13,14). “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasent fruits” (S.S.4:13): Just as trees which bear delicious fruits make a pleasant orchard, so faithful believers who bear “the fruit of the Spirit”, and who, therefore have a pleasing character, form the Church of Christ. This fruit of the Spirit includes “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance”. These spiritual qualities of the Bride of Christ are not for her own glory, but for the glory of Christ. Paul says: “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (IICor.4:5). His only desire was that “Christ be magnified in (his) body, whether it (were) by life or by death” (Phil.1:20). The Bride of Christ, therefore, should magnify Christ in her life, both in word and deed. “Pomegranates”: (Please see the study on S.S.4:3). The pomegranate is mentioned in several places in the Bible, and represents various characteristics of the Bride of Christ. As already mentioned in the study on S.S.4:3, it points particularly to the fact that the sanctified life of the Bride is hidden life. The pomegranate is in itself a complete fruit, but within it are many individual cells and seeds. Only when the pomegranate is cut open, can one see the beautiful rows of neatly arranged, juicy, crimson seeds, covered with crimson juice, In the same way, the beauty of the Bride of Christ is manifested during the times of affliction. Every seed is complete in itself, full of juice; similarly, every part of the Bride of Christ is perfect, enriched with the fulness of the life of Christ. The blood of Christ is symbolized by the crimson juice with which the seeds are covered. By the same token, the Bride must be covered with His blood at all times. Another aspect of the neatly arranged rows of seeds in the pomegranate is that this arrangement speaks of the unity of the individual saints who are living sanctified lives. Only the snactified can live together in mutual service, “Fitly joined together and compacted” (Eph.4:16). Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers with the words: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (ICor.1:10). Each one of us must learn to be where God has placed us and to serve one another in humility.
Pomegranates were a feature of the dress of the high priest. We read that along the hem of the blue robe of the ephod of the high priest was a row of pomegranates alternating with golden bells (Exo.28:33,34). The high priest wore this garment when he served the Lord in the holy place. The bells were put there in order to signify the ring of joy, and the pomegranates were there to signify purity of thought. The thoughts of the Bride of Christ must have the purity which comes from being “renewed in the spirit of (her) mind” (Eph.4:23). She must always be ready to serve the Lord joyfully. Paul’s great desire was to “finish (his) course with joy, and the ministry which (he had) received of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24). Pomegranates were found in Canaan in abundance. Canaan is described as “a land where thou shalt not lack anything” (Deut.8:9). Pomegranates show God’s abundance; He is abundant in goodness and truth (Exo.34:6), and Paul says that “the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love” in his life and ministry (ITim.1:14). The Bride of Christ has available to her from her Bridegroom the “exceeding riches of His grace”, upon which she can freely draw; this grace she then manifests in her life to those who do not know Christ. “The chief spices” (S.S.4:14): Alongside the trees which bore delicious fruits were those borne what are termed, “the chief spices”. Some of these spices featured in the preparation of “the holy anointing oil”, used to anoint the priest (Exo.30:22-25); they were also included amongst the constituents of the “pure incense”, which was burned upon the altar in the tabernacle (Exo. 37:29; 30:7,34-38). The holy anointing oil speaks of the Holy Spirit-anointed life (Acts 10:38; IICor.1:21), and the “sweet incense” points to a life of prayer and praise. The psalmist says: “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense...” (141:2). The characteristics of the Bride of Christ are likened not only to delicious fruits, but also to fragrant spices, and so she also manifest “a sweet savour (fragrance) of Christ”, through prayer and praise and the example of her Spirit-anointed life. What is the significance of these spices? Let us consider some of their properties. “Camphire” (S.S.4:13): This comes from a plant identified by botanists as HENNA. The flowers of this plant are used for two purposes. First, they are used as a means of adornment by women. However, as Paul tells us, we who have been baptized into Christ “have put on Christ” (Gal.3:27), and we are therefore called upon to manifest the beauty of Christ. On another occasion, Paul tells us: “...for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (ITim.1:16). Camphire is also used as a preservative to protect clothes from insects. Similarly, God has promised to preserve us: “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul... (He) shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in ...” (Psa.121:7,8). He is able also to sanctify our spirit, soul and body and to preserve them “blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (IThess.5:23). But the Bride of Christ needs to know how to preserve herself by consecrating herself to Christ, the Bridegroom, and by abiding in His Word. “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (Jn.15:5). Again, “... he that is begotten of God KEEPETH HIMSELF, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (IJn.5:18). “Spikenard” (S.S.4:14) is a spicy, oil-bearing plant. The roots and the lower parts of the stem have a wonderful fragrance. In ancient times, perfumed ointment, made from the oil which had been extracted from the plant, was kept in sealed jars, which could be opened only by breaking the neck. Similarly, the Lord wants us to love Him from the depths of our hearts, and to manifest our love and loyalty to Him under all circumstances. In Mark.14:3, we read of a woman who broke “an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious”, and poured it upon the head of Jesus. In this way, she manifested her love and gratitude for Him, through her action was misunderstood by others. However, Jesus Himself justified her action, and said to those who protested: “Let her
alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a great work on me... She hath done what she could...” (Mk.14:6-8). In season or out of season, at all times and in all places, let us be a witness for Jesus, whether among friends or foes, and let us glorify our beloved Bridegroom. “Saffron” (S.S.4:14) is mentioned only once in the Bible. It is extracted from the orangecoloured stigmas of the autumn crocus. It is used for colouring and flavouring confectionery. This may signify the manner in which we are to order our language and our conversation when speaking to those who do not know Christ. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer everyman” (Col.4:6). Concerning Jesus, it is said: “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth...” (Lk.4:22). “Calamus, myrrh, cinnamon” (S.S.4:14) “These three spices were used in the making of the anointing oil, with which the tabernacle of the congregation, along with all its furniture, was anointed. Aaron and his sons were also anointed with it and thereby sanctified. It was known as the “holy anointing oil” (Exo.30:22-32). These three spices represent various aspects of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “Calamus” is a sweet cane with a pleasant smell, and speaks of joy and peace brought about in our lives by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Rom.14:17). “Myrrh” is a dark red gum with a powerful aroma and a bitter taste; it points to the life of suffering, with hard trials and bitter experiences, which we have to expect as part of our Christian life. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the “bitter” can become “sweet”. Very often, saints pass through the “valley of Baca” (weeping), and make it “a well” (of blessing) (Psa.84:6). At such times, the Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens them. This is why He is called “the Comforter” (Jn.14:16). Saints who are strengthened by the Holy Spirit “go from strength to strength” (Psa.84:7). Please see other references to myrrh in the studies on S.S.1:13, 3:6,4:6. “Cinnamon” is a plant whose inner bark is used to flavour confectionery and other food. The flavour permeates whatever it is added to. This speaks of another aspect of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If our inner life is changed by the Spirit of God, we become a “sweet savour (fragrance) of Christ” to all, wherever we go. “Frankincense” (S.S.4:14) is an aromatic gum obtained from certain species of trees of the genus Boswellia, and is used as a fourth part of the incense which is burned in the Jewish sanctuary (Exo.30:34;30:7). God commanded Moses to put frankincense upon the shewbread for a memorial (Lev.24:7). When the “wise men from the east” came to worship Jesus as a young child, frankincense was one of the gifts which they offered Him. (Matt.2:11). In all these cases, frankincense symbolizes the praise which should follow every prayer. Paul says: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil.4:6). Apart from this, we are called to live worthy of His love and to manifest “the praises of the glory of his grace” (Eph.1:6,12). For other references to frankincense, please see the studies S.S.3:6,4:6. “Aloes” (S.S.4:14): This is described as “a genus of plants with erect spikes of flowers and bitter juice” (Oxfrod Dictionary). It is a medicinal plant which is used as a purgative drug. It also gives off a very pleasant fragrance. In Psalm 45:8 we read of the garments of the king’s daughter: “All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes”. Just as aloes can be used both as a purgative drug and also as a perfume for personal use, so the work of sanctification produces two results: purity in our hearts, and purity in our lives. Paul says: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil.2:13). When He performs His work in us, we are purged by the sacrifice of Jesus, “...who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, (to) purge (our) conscience from dead works...” (Heb.9:14). Furthermore, we are “changed into the same image (the character image of Christ)” from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor.3:18). This change, this inner transformation, gradually begins to be manifested in our daily life. The world is able to sense the fragrance of the new life in us,
because they see that we “Do all things without murmurings and disputings”; they also see our “blameless and harmless” life as the “sons of God... in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom (we) shine as lights in the world” (Phil.2:14,15). “A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits” (S.S.4:15,16). “A fountain of gardens” (S.S.4:15): The Bride of Christ is like a fountain, supplying a steady flow of water to many gardens. She is also called “a garden inclosed” (not “gardens”) in verse 12. Here she is called a “fountain”, and this fountain supplies “living waters” to other gardens or assemblies of the children of God who need to experience her fellowship and to partake of her spiritual life. She is able to encourage them both by example and exhortation. However, she is still “a fountain sealed” (v.12) in that her life is preserved, shut off from pollution and corruption. Hence, her life is a spring of “living waters” which refreshes and strengthens weak and weary Christians. “A well of living waters” (S.S.4:15): When the Samaritan woman, unsatisfied by the pleasures of sin, surrendered her life to Jesus, He gave her everlasting life, and also His joy and His peace. She was then more that satisfied, and at once became a witness for Jesus. It was as though there gushed up within her “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn.4:14). This is however, only the initial experience of the new Christian. “Streams from Lebanon” (S.S.4:15): When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we cease to have a fixed location (like a well), and we become instead “streams” or “rivers of living waters” (Jn.7:38,39), which flow out to others. The blessings stored up in us begin to overflow, refreshing our own lives and those of others. As she herself receives, so the Bride of Christ becomes a channel of blessing to others. All God requires to meet the varying needs of all whom we meet, is a vessel wholly yielded and fully available to Him. “Lebanon”: Neither the fountain nor the streams originate from the garden itself, but from the heights of Lebanon. Lebanon was the source of the river Jordan, which at times overflowed its banks, so abundant was its supply of water. The spiritual refreshment which flows into our lives is a result of the operation of the Holy Spirit, and this comes to us and is experienced during our times of private prayer, when we approach the throne of grace, the very source of living water. John says that he saw “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev.22:1). Concerning this river the Psalmist says, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God (New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ), the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High” (Psa.46:4). The testimony of others may impress the Bride of Christ, but nothing changes her life as effectively as a direct relationship with Christ, which is experienced in times of personal prayer. This is when she enjoys those “times of refreshing... from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). As she permits the Holy Spirit to flow in and through her life, she is never stagnant. There is no room in her heart for sin and corruption. She is refreshed and cleansed by the Holy Spirit. “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits” (S.S.4:15). “Awake, O north wind, and come thou south” (S.S.4:16): The “wind” always speaks of the operation of the Holy Spirit. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit (Jn.3:8). The Holy Spirit operates in our own lives as the “north wind” and as the “south wind”, leading us into deeper experiences. “The north wind bringeth rain” (S.S.4:16). Please see also Prov.25:23 (A.S.V.) In the Holy Land, where Solomon lived, the north wind was cool and refreshing. In the initial stage of our
spiritual lives, the Holy Spirit blows like the north wind, with continual showers of blessing. It is one steady flow of love, joy and peace, with manifestations of the gifts of healings, miracles and deliverances. Afterwards, however, the Holy Spirit begins to blow as the “south wind” in that area, which brings heat and warmth, whereby the fruits are ripened. As we grow spiritually, we have to pass through trying times and experiences of dryness. There comes a time of hard trial and testing, when the inner man feels the need of sanctification, of a closer walk with God and a life in which is manifested the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance: (Gal.5:22,23). “Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out” (S.S.4:16) : The winds may seem to be chilly and unwelcome, or warm and pleasant, but the Bride of Christ must learn to stand firm and steadfast in His grace. She must be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph.3:17); She must be “built up in him and stablished in the faith” (Col.2:7); her confidence must be that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Rom.8:28). Paul was no stranger to either the pleasant or the unpleasant experiences of this life, and it was through them that he became an overcomer. He says that he became an able minister “By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well-known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (II Cor.6:8:10). The Bride of Christ must delight in these “winds”, which are sent by God in order that the fragrance of the spices in her garden may flow out. It is by undergoing these various experiences that we come to the place where we manifest the divine nature of Christ, formed in us by the working of His mighty power. “Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits” (S.S.4:16) : Once it was “her garden”, but now it has become “His garden: — the garden of the Beloved. The Bridegroom has at all times unhindered access to this garden. The Old Testament Church did not bear fruit unto God, as the parable, from which the following is an extract, sadly testifies: “And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, this is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons” (Matt.21:34:-41). Today, we who are the Bride of Christ are waiting for the “coming of the Lord”, our Bridegroom. He is coming for “the precious fruit” (Jam.5:7,8). Let us become His garden. Let us cease to live as “lords over God’s heritage” (I Pet.5:3); let us instead, allow our Bridegroom to have unhindered access and absolute freedom in our Church; let our Church truly be the garden of the Lord, and let us give full liberty to the Holy Spirit, that Jesus may “eat his pleasant fruits” — the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22,23). Let Him see in us the love, the joy and the peace of His own divine nature. Let us delight in His presence. ------------“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of
my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (S.S. 5:1,2). As we studied chapter 4, we noticed in verses 11-15 that the Bridegroom greatly admired the different virtues and characteristics of the Bride. He likened her to “a garden inclosed”, “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed”, “an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard ... myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices ...” The Bride responded by calling upon the north wind and the south wind to blow upon her garden “that the spices thereof (might) flow out”. We who are the Bride of Christ are called to live out the life of Christ, that He may be magnified in our life “whether it be by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20; II Cor. 4:10,11). The work of purification and transformation in our lives brought about by the Triune God is not for our own glory or gratification. It is for “the praise of the glory of his grace”, so that God may be glorified in all things (Eph. 1:6; I Cor. 1:31). In chapter 4:16, we noticed that her garden became “His garden”. The Bride herself is no longer “hers”, but “His”. She lives in total dedication and submission to Christ, because she desires in all things to please Him. Paul tells us why we should give our lives completely to God: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then where all dead: And that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (II Cor. 5:14-16). If He loved us so much that He gave Himself for us, His love constrains us that we who live “should not henceforth live unto (ourselves) but unto him which died for (us) and rose again” (II Cor. 5:15). Until we open wide the gate of the garden of our life to Jesus, and tell Him: “Let my Beloved come into HIS garden and eat HIS pleasant fruits”, He cannot freely come in, nor can we freely enjoy blessed communion with Him. He says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). “I am come into my garden ... I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk” (S.S. 5:1): Notice here that the Bridegroom says: “I am come into my garden (to gather) my myrrh, my spice” The contents of the garden are no longer hers, but His. When we freely turn over our whole life to Jesus, He begins to take delilght in every aspect of it, and we in turn begin to delight in Him more and more. When He says: “How fair is thy love, my sister”, we shall say in return: “Thy love is better than wine” (S.S. 1:2). When we tell Him that He is “the chiefest among ten thousand” (S.S. 5:10), He will reply: “Thou (art) fairest among women” (S.S. 1:8). In such natural communion, full and free, we bring forth “much fruit” (Jn. 15:5). We do not become barren, neither does our spiritual life wither away (Jn. 15:6); instead, God is glorified in our lives (Jn. 15:8). His life becomes in us “a well of water springing up in us into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14). As we are endued with the power of the Holy Spirit, out of our belly (or heart) will flow “rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:38). We shall be able to minister to others the Word of life, and to pray with them that they may receive salvation, eternal life and the fulness of the Holy Spirit; after this, we should share our blessings with them in rich and blessed communion. “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (S.S. 5:11): Some think that it is sufficient to have fellowship with Jesus, and to keep to themselves the blessings which they receive from Him in this way. They do not realize that it is their duty to share their lives and experiences with their neighbours, and to win them to Christ. When Andrew discovered in Jesus the Messiah for whom the Jews were waiting, he did not keep this precious news to himself, but hastened to tell his brother Simon about it: “We have found the Messiah” (Jn. 1:41). Similarly Philip, when called by Jesus, went and found Nathanael, to tell him: “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the
son of Joseph” (Jn. 1:45). Again, of the Philippians it is written that many of the brethren in the Lord, becoming confident by the chains of Paul, began to “speak the word (of the Lord) without fear” (Phil.1:14). The Thessalonian believers not only “received the word in much affliction”, but also became examples “to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia”, and “sounded out the word of the Lord”, not only in those places, but also in every place to which they could possibly gain access (IThes.1:6-8). A genuine Christian life, filled with the sweetness of the divine nature of Christ, cannot be hidden away. The Bride will extend to all within her reach the invitation: “Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly of the love, righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit”. “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (S.S.5:2) : After this wonderful moment of intimate communion with her Bridegroom, the Bride leaves her lover all alone in the garden as the sun begins to set, and comes away to take a little rest in her private chamber; the inevitable result, of course, is that she falls asleep. The reason she has left the garden is perhaps that she thinks her Beloved will be so enraptured by the delights of the garden itself (with its spices, fruits, fountain and streams (S.S.4:!3-15)) that He will not miss her sctual self. She has failed to realize that her Bridegroom is far and away more interested in her person than in her garden, for all its enchanting fruits and spices. And so she has allowed herself a moment of careless sleep. Suddenly, she finds herself completely separated from her Bridegroom. The sweet communion with Him is gone. The neglected Bridegroom is meantime left outside, in the dark and cold of the might, until His head is “filled with dew and (His) locks with the drops of the night”. He is grieved and disappointed by her indifference and selfishness; nevertheless, He does not abandon His love, but searches until He finds where she is sleeping. Gently knocking at the door, He whispers: “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled”, for he desires to make her realize the distress and suffering which her rude and thoughtless behaviour has caused Him as He stood, rejected, and exposed to the chilling showers of the night. He longs for her to realize how precious she is to Him — far more precious than anything her garden could ever yield. When she left Him alone in the garden, His pleasure in anything which it had to offer, vanished absolutely. He could no longer delight in what He had once referred to as “my myrrh... my spice... my honeycomb ... my honey ...” but began instead to cry from His heart : “Where is my Bride, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled?” Are we not similarly guilty of having left our Lord, our Bridegroom, to endure solitude and anguish of heart? So often He has lavished upon us showers of blessing, strengthening us in the inner man by His mighty power, anointing us with the oil of gladness, filling our hearts with His pure love and flooding our souls with grace and glory. On those glad occasions, we have joyfully sung His praises, thrilled to be in His presence, promising that we would never again forsake Him, even for and instant. But alas! How many times we have slipped away from His presence, satisfied with His blessings, rather than with Him Who is the source of all blessing, the very Prince of Peace, the life and the lover of our souls. Imperceptibly, we have drifted away from Him, until we have found ourselves fully occupied with Christian activities, like the Ephesian Church. At the cost of leaving her first love, first faith, first works, first communion and first prayer life, the Ephesian Church continued to maintain a record of good works and hard labour for her Master, able even to discern evil workers and false apostles. She had no idea that she had forsaken her first love and fellowship with her Bridegroom. She failed to see that her labour on behalf of her Master was now sterile in His eyes, since it lacked the quality which He sought above all else — the freshness of first love. True, her reputation in the Christian world was excellent, for she was renowned as a great apostolic Church, faithfully standing for Jesus, maintaining His holiness and honouring His precious doctrines down to the last detail. But first love was gone; she no longer
abode in Him; time formerly set aside for communion with the Lord was now swallowed up by the ministry, and the heart of Jesus was sorely grieved (Rev.2:2-5). We find a similar situation in the Laodicean Church: The world saw her as “rich and increased with goods, and having need of nothing”; but in His sight she was pitiful, defiled by the world, and totally blind to the fact that her love for her Bridegroom had become “lukewarm Jesus tells her that she is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”; in short, she had ceased to be His holy Bride. For her too, first love, holiness and other attributes of the divine nature had become a thing of the past (Rev.3:14-17). Nevertheless, the neglected Bridegroom still comes, weeping, to her whom He desires, and says to her: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev.3:20). May the dear Lord help us to wake from our slumber and cast off our lethargy, that we may be restored to our first love, first faith and first works. “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (S.S.5:3) “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on ?” (S.S.5:3): When the Shulamite was in her first love, she delightedly confessed: “My beloved is mine and I am his” (S.S.2:6): His intimate presence at all times was her chief desire, whether by day or by night. They had clearly entered into a covenant with one another not to part “until the day (broke), and the shadows (fled) away” (S.S.2:17;4:6). When she was in her first love, she discovered one night, to her great surprise, that her Bridegroom was not with her in bed. In great dismay, she cried out: “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets and in the broadways I will seek him whom my soul loveth” (S.S.3:2). She determined not to give rest to her feet nor sleep to her eyes until she had found Him. Then she tells us: “I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (S.S.3:4). Moved by her very great love for her Bridegroom, she resolved that nothing should ever again interrupt their beautiful communion together. But despite this fervent resolution, as the days passed, her first love began to cool a little, and her communion with him gradually became less rapturous. Finally, she found that she had lost all contact with Him, and that her private chamber was now a place of total solitude. As the night deepened, she was overcome by fatigue and desired to sleep; she therefore put off her coat and her other garments, which had been so great a source of delight to her Bridegroom, and who had expressed His profound admiration for them with the words: “the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon” (S.S.4:11). The garments of the Bride: Have we not at times allowed the night to interrupt our sweet, intimate communion with our beloved Lord and Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us, purely because He loved us with an everlasting love? Do you notice that the Bible does not speak of any night clothes for His saints? This is because they are called “the children of light” and “the children of the day”. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness”. These are the words of our Lord; He then adds: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night” (I Thess.5:5-7). Speaking of the Bride of Christ, God tells us: “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold” (Psa.45:13). She is concerned about the inner beauty which comes to those who cultivate a “meek and quiet spirit”, which is in the sight of God “of great price” (I Pet.3:4). Gold is wrought only in intense heat; it is therefore only through fiery trials that she has been able to procure the “clothing (which) is of wrought gold”. Another beautiful garment which she wears is the “raiment of needlwork” (Psa.45:14). This garment is the result of the many “pricks” and “jabs” which she receives for her devotion to Jesus, primarily from those who are to her the “thorns” of S.S.2:2. It is only by the sovereign grace of God that she is able to endure this “needling” and to rejoice at the privilege of suffering for her Master. Hence the name
given to this garment: “raiment of needlwork”. These garments are described as “beautiful”, and their beauty is the beauty of holiness (Isa.52:1; Psa.96:9). In all her trials, privations and sufferings, she has never murmured or complained, but praised God joyfully, knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God”. There is therefore bestowed upon her another garment: “the garment of praise”. This is given to her in exchange for “the spirit of heaviness” (Isa.61:3). As she delights in the righteousness and the salvation of the Lord, she is clothed with “the garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” (Isa.61:10). Finally, as she becomes pure, chaste and faithful in her marriage-covenant with the Lord, her Lover and Bridegroom, she is given the privilege of wearing “fine linen clean and white (or “bright” margin)” (Rev.19:8). She is expected to take watchful care of these garments, and to preserve them diligently. She is to keep them “clean”, “spotless” and “undefiled” (Jude 23; Rev.3:4). So let us not be among those who foolishly say: “I have put off my coat; how can I put it back on?”. It is never too late to come back to the Lord, and He will always be willing to help us put on our garments once again, if we have been negligent. God says: “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; and put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean” (Isa.52:1). “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (S.S.5:3): When she was in perfect love and communion with her Bridegroom, the Bride was radiantly beautiful and free from all defilement. Her Lord greatly admired her beauty and poured out His feelings, telling her over and over again: “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair” (S.S.4:1); “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (S.S.4:7). “Thou hast ravished my heart ... How fair is thy love ... how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!” (S.S.4:9,10). Thus the Bridegroom praised the Bride, for in His eyes, she was perfection itself, the acme of all that was pure, ravishingly fragrant and unutterably beautiful. She was thoroughly washed, and also anointed. Nothing more in the way of cleansing remained to be done. But when the subtle power of darkness stole upon her, she was tempted and deceived. She withdrew from her lover to her closet, and there she divested herself of all her beautiful garments, and also washed away the perfume of her beautiful garments, and also washed away the perfume of her ointments, which to her Bridegroom had been more attractive than that of any spice. How often are we tempted to throw away the precious blessings, which God in His love and His mercy has abundantly bestowed upon us! How many dear saints have turned away from Jesus after years of faithful service to Him when they have had to go through a period of darkness! How swiftly are the years of intimate fellowship with Him, foolishly cast aside! Let us stand still and see the salvation of the Lord; let us remember that He is the One who says: “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous (Psa.112:4). The Bible says that “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways” (Prov.14:14). Have we gone back to our own way of sin, or of lust or of worldly pleasure? Have we assumed that the path of the Lord was too narrow and rugged, and have we chosen instead the broad way to destruction? Let us return unto the Lord. The feet of the Bride: As long as she was walking in the footsteps of her Bridegroom, her feet were beautiful: “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter” (S.S.7:1). Her feet were clean and beautifully shod by Jesus Himself with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (Eph.6:15); Isa.52:7). Now however, she has become cool; her love for her Lord and her zeal for evangelizing have faded. She has put off her shoes and washed her feet. She has become too tired and weak to walk with Him any more or to suffer with Him “until the day break”. When we first chose to love and serve the Lord, intending to remain faithful to Him as His Bride “until the day break” (until Christ returned for His Bride), He did so much for us: He freely forgave our iniquites, washed away our sins, purified our conscience, reconciled us to the Father, justified us and accepted us as His own, spotless Bride. He clothed us with His holiness, His righteousness
and His glory (I Cor.6:11; Eph.2:14-16; 5:25-27). Justified by grace, we stood complete in Him before the Father. But what is our state today ? Are our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, so that we may be able to communicate the message of peace to lost souls as they grope in darkness, or have we put off our shoes and washed our feet (as Pilate washed his hands) form the responsibility of fulfilling our obligations under God? Have we ceased to care about weary, needy souls? Are we tempted to say: “I have served Him enough: it is time to retire and rest”? How often do we want to wash our feet in self-pity, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and self-justification! When the great prophet Elijah, who had been “very jealous for the Lord” (IKgs.19:10), saw that he was facing death, he cried: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (IKgs.19:4). As long as he had maintained the presence of God in his life, constantly standing before “the Lord of Israel”, he had boldness of faith and courage. But later on, he allowed fear and discouragement to creep into his life and ministry. Let us not permit either death of life to separate us from the love of Christ. May His grace, love and power strengthen our “hands, which hang down, and our feeble knees”,(Heb.12:12) so that we may walk with Him and serve Him “until the day break”. “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock” (S.S.5:4,5). When the Shulamite was in her first love, she ardently desired the embraces of the king. In Song of Solomon 2:5,6 she confesses “I am sick of (with) love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me”. Every one of us knows the sweetness of the constraining love of Jesus, and the power of His hand that saved us. It is the same hand of God of which Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 51:9,10: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days in the generations of old”. “Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea away for the ransomed to pass over?” It is the same Arm of the Lord which led the children of Israel through the wilderness and gave them the land of Canaan for their inheritance. It is the same Arm of the Lord which created all things: “all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers : all things were created by him, and for him” (Col.1:16). It is that Arm of the Lord which came down to the earth to save us, to heal us, and to reconcile us to the Father (Isa.53:1-3). But, sometimes we have ignored Him, and shut Him out of our life. Is there any firmly closed door between Him and us, preventing Him from entering into our life? Jesus is still pleading with you and me saying, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (S.S.5:2). Have not we shown the same indifference as the Shulamite, and turned a deaf ear to His gentle voice? Paul warns us in Hebrews 3:7-12: “Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest... Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”. Let us not therefore, turn our backs on Him. Let us see just what were the shortcomings of the Shulamite. Firstly, she failed to respond to His call and offered no words of welcome. When the Lord through the Holy Spirit corrects or instructs us, or sees to teach us something, what is our attitude? Do we grieve Him by ignoring Him by disobeying Him or by quenching His Spirit? As long as we obey Him trust Him, He will be our Hiding Place. He promises to lead us and protect us. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the
mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near to thee” (Psa.32:8,9). Secondly, it was not until she saw Him putting his hand upon the door-frame, that her heart was touched. But still she did not move to open the door for Him. Many postpone their welcome of the Lord into their lives, until they see visible signs from Him by way of miracles, healings and wonders; or they desire dreams or visions of deep significance, because they feel the need of an emotional thrill before they can offer loving service to Jesus. Thomas would not believe that he stood face to face with Jesus until he felt with his own hand the nail prints in Christ’s hands and also the wound in His side (Jn.20:27,28). let us not be guilty of these things: let us offer to Him true faith and unconditional love; let us endure all things as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb.11:27). Thirdly, our Shulamite was reluctant to leave her bed lest her sweet-smelling myrrh should fall to the floor or be lost upon the handles of the lock. (For the significance of “myrrh”, please refer to the studies on S.S.1:13;3:6; 4:6; 5:1). Furthermore, she was not prepared to leave the house on a rainy night. She perhaps was afraid that He would once again persuade her to “Rise up... and come away”; She feared she might once more hear His words: “The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise my love, my fair one, and come away” (S.S.2:10,13). She thought that she had suffered to the limit with Him in the garden during the day, and that now she must rest during the night. Many are keen to know the deeper truths of the New Testament Church and to come to a full understanding of them. The hidden mysteries of the New Testament Church are like sweet smelling myrrh or other spices to them. But they do not want to live out these doctrines in their lives, because this involves bitter suffering. It is in this sense that they become “enemies of the cross”. They are not enemies of the Cross in the sense that they resent the blessings brought to them by the Cross: salvation, forgiveness of sins, divine healing, miracles, reconciliation with the Father, freedom from the judgment of God; all these things are very welcome to them; it is the suffering which accompanies the cross which arouses their hostility. Of such people, Paul says in Phillipians 3:17-19:”Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom, I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things)”. Paul also writes to Timothy in these terms: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou, therefore, ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (IITim.1:7,8). He goes on in chapter three of the same epistle to say: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (IITim.3:10-12). Those who desire blessings from Jesus without suffering for Him are like the ten rulers of the children of Israel who went as spies into the land of Canaan, and brought back a pessimistic report. True, they also brought back marvellous samples of the produce of that fertile land in the form of enormous bunches of delicious grapes and other excellent fruits; but their testimony was that although the land flowed with milk and honey, and this was the fruit of it, nevertheless the people who dwelt in the land were strong; they were men of great stature; they had seen giants and they themselves were by comparison as grasshoppers. “So”, they concluded, “we shall not be able to go up against these people” (Num.13:27-33). Some Christians are willing to undergo limited suffering for Jesus, and some shun suffering altogether. But the kingdom of God must be possessed not only by faith but by the warfare of faith. We have to rise up and fight the principalities and powers and rulers of darkness, etc. (Eph.6:12), and with much tribulation enter
into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). The Lord wants us to live with Him and abide in Him not only when we are enriched by His presence, and endowed with heavenly blessings and gifts, but also in times of trials, sufferings and persecution. “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave no answer. The watchman that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” (S.S.5:6,7). “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave no answer” (S.S.5:6): The Shulamite admits that her heart was touched when she knew that her Beloved had put His hand upon the door-frame of her room (S.S.5:4), and that her soul failed when he spoke (S.S.5:6). But her desire for comfort and ease, which was responsible for the quenching of her first love and zeal, prevented her from making a spontaneous response to the pleading voice of her Beloved. Her Spirit was indeed willing, but her flesh was weak (Matt.26:41). Though she eventually made an effort to rise and open the door, it was by then too late. Her Beloved had withdrawn Himself, and was gone. She sought Him, but she could hot find Him. She called Him, but in vain: He did not answer. Most of us are aware of such incidents in our spiritual lives. we start out well with Jesus, full of love, joy and peace, and praising Him always; urgent in our prayers, and always ready to testify of His love and grace; happy to abide in His presence, maintaining the fear of God and serving Him joyfully day and night. But gradually, because of some carelessness (spiritual pride perhaps, or self-righteousness, or lack of obedience), we begin to lose our first love and our intimate fellowship with Him. By the time we realize our fault, it is too late. He has already gone. Then we realize that in fact our lives have become lukewarm, wretched, miserable, empty. Along with this, all manner of trials and afflictions begin to torment us. We cry, we fast and pray. We confess our sins, but it takes some time before we find His presence once again in our life. It is then that we confess, like the Psalmist, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have kept thy word... It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statues” (Psa.119:67,71). “The watchman that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me” (S.S.5:7): The Bible speaks of a group of Spirit-baptized Christians who will not be ready when He comes for His sanctified Bride. For example, there were in the Galatian Church a group of carnal Christians, against whom Paul testified that they were quite unfit to enter the kingdom of God. Warning them he writes: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal.5:15-17). Then he gives a list of the sins of carnally-minded people, who cannot be included among sanctified saints: “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal.5:21). So in the Church of Galatia there were people who had some of these carnal charateristics, and who would not, therefore, be fit for the kingdom of God. Similarly, in the Church of Philippi, Paul saw some who were carnal and earthly-minded; he therefore warned sincere Christians to avoid them (Phil.3:17-19). Again, writing to the Thessalonians, he tells them not to have company with some who are walking “disorderly” in the Church (IIThess.3:1114). So it is not correct to say that all members of the Church, sanctified and unsanctified alike, will be caught up when He comes.
Among the children of Israel who left Egypt, there were some who rebelled, murmured, caused divisions, and disobeyed God and the leaders. All these people perished in the wilderness, because God did not want them to enter into Canaan, the holy land of promise, still ensnared by their wicked natures, since they would bring defilement to the land because of their abominations. Paul says that this incident is written in the Word of God for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come, that we may be Spirit-baptized Christians who do not bear the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, will not be found ready for the Rapture, and will therefore be left behind for the Great Tribulation. During the Great Tribulation, there will be no Church, no consecrated servants of God, and no ministry of the Holy Spirit. The anti-Christ will appoint watchmen to torment and persecute the remnant church which has been left behind (Jer.4:16). Today, God has his watchman, whom He has set in the Church to warn us, to teach us and to intercede for us. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isa.62:6,7). But during the Great Tribulation, the watchmen of the anti-Christ and of the False Prophet will torment and murder the remnant of the Christians until all of them are dead: “And he (the anti-Christ) opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his Tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (Rev.13:6,7). “And he (the False Prophet) causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark. or the name of the beast, or the number of his name (Rev.13:16,17). In Song of Solomon 5:7, the Shulamite represents unprepared Christians, who will be left behind to face the great Tribulation. She says: “The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” (S.S.5:7). Her plight is that of unprepared Christians in any age, and God’s final message to such Christians is: “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me” (Prov.1:24-28). But we who are called to be part of the Bride of Christ have no intention of being on the face of the earth at the time of the Great Tribulation. Today is the day of grace. His hand is outstretched to receive us, to heal us and to help us in time of need. “The keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” (S.S.5:7) : The “veil” speaks of submission and chastity. When Rebekah understood that Isaac, who was walking across the field to meet her, was her bridegroom, she immediately “took a veil and covered herself” (Gen.24:65). By the same token, God wants all Christian women to have their heads covered when they pray: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered (French Bible : “non voilee” : “unveiled”) dishonoureth her head (Christ) : for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (I Cor.11:5). Some argue that the “head” mentioned in this verse refers to earthly husbands. But some Christian women have no husband; it is therefore Christ who is the head (the spiritual husband) of every Christian woman, married or unmarried. Earthly husbands, therefore, do not feature in this argument. In any case, no woman prays or prophesies to her earthly husband, or keeps her head covered whenever she is in his presence. They took away the veil from the Shulamite, because she no longer deserved to be called “a chaste bride”. May the dear Lord sanctify us now, during “the day of day of salvation” (II Cor.6:2 and make us ready for His coming.
“I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love. What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” (S.S.5:8,9). “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem ...” (S.S.5:8): King Solomon must have come across many beautiful virgins, who had been born in Jerusalem and Zion. Some would have born in the very palace of the king, and others would have been employed in his palace to minister to him. These virgins were known as “the daughters of Jerusalem” (S.S.3:11), “king’s daughters”, “honourable women” (Psa.45:9), “virgins” (Psa.45:14; S.S.6:8) and “companions” (Psa.45:14). Some of them were “queens” and “concubines” (S.S.6:8). Apart from those who dwelt in Jerusalem and Zion, there were those who came from afar to admire the wisdom and the greatness of King Solomon, and these included the Queen of Sheba (II Chron.9:1) and “the daughter of Tyre” (Psa.45:12). But the Shulamite was set apart in the king’s eyes from all of these; her beauty greatly exceeded that of the women born in Jerusalem and Zion, and also that of beautiful women born elsewhere. Far from being a daughter of Jerusalem of a daughter of Zion, she found such grace in the eyes of the king that he deemed her worthy to become his spouse. His heart was charmed by her spotless beauty and by her pure and undefiled love, so that he could say to her: “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou has ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! How much better is thy love than wine! And the smell of thine ointments than all spices!” (S.S.4:9,10). Speaking of her to others he said: “My dove, my undefiled is but ONE; she is the ONLY ONE of her mother; she is the CHOICE ONE of her that bear her”. Even the daughters (of Jerusalem and Zion), we read, saw her, and blessed her; the queens and the concubines also praised her (S.S.6:9). THE GREATNESS OF THE SHULAMITE : In the eyes of Solomon, the Shulamite was the “fairest among women” (S.S.1:8). The brightness of her beauty was “as the morning”.. She was “fair as the moon, clear as the sun”, and her strength and might was “as an army with banners” (S.S.6:10). She was “all fair” and there was “no spot” in her (S.S.4:7) This is why she won the King’s heart and became his spouse (S.S.4:10). Whilst we mere GENTILES, without Christ, ALIENS from the commonwealth of Israel, and STRANGERS from the covenants of promise, having NO HOPE and WITHOUT GOD in the world (Eph.2:11,12), Jesus loves us with an everlasting love, as a husband would love his wife, and gave Himself for the Church (Eph.5:25). We found grace to become the Bride of Christ, just as the Shulamite found favour in the eyes of King Solomon. Therefore, we are exhorted to love Him as a chaste virgin, preserved from the devil, the impurity of the flesh and the corruption of the world. Let us now consider: who is Christ, and who can truly be called His Bride? CHRIST, THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH Jesus praised the wisdom of Solomon in the presence of the scribes and Pharisees who came to tempt Him, and added: “The queen of the south shall rise up in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here (Matt.12:42). Jesus was, of course, referring to Himself. He is the “blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords”; He alone has immortality, “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto”; no man has seen Him in His present glory, and no man(except the glorious Church, His Bride) can see Him. Upon him devolves honour and everlasting power (ITim.6:15,16); He is the creator of ALL THINGS, including “all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”; He is the “head over all things”. The Father has pre-ordained that this headship, this rule, should be exercised throughout the Church, “which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all”. This is our everlasting Bridegroom: Jesus the head of the Church (Eph.1:21-23; Col.1:18).
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST How may we become a part of the Bride of Christ? There are a number of steps to be taken. A man (or woman) must first of all be “born again” (Jn.3:3), that is “born of God” (Jn.1:13); he must then be “born of water” (baptized by immersion in water) and finally “born of the Spirit” (baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of “speaking in tongues” (Jn.3:5; Acts2:4). When these three steps have been taken, a man is born into the kingdom of God, that is, he is born either into the “heavenly Jerusalem” or into “Zion”; which this is, will be determined according to his calling and grace. All who take these steps become children of God. At the same time, they become “the daughters of (the New) Jerusalem” or “the daughters of Zion” (again, according to their election and grace) (Gal.4:26). All these are now qualified to grow up into spiritual maturity and become part of the Bride of Christ. However, some do not wish to achieve this spiritual maturity and so they fall short of God’s standard for the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ will be a “glorious church” without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish, as she awaits her Bridegroom and His return on the day of the Rapture (Eph.5:27). Those who are reluctant to grow spiritually remain forever “babes in Christ”, satisfied with “the sincere milk of the Word” and having no desire to be nourished on “strong meat” (solid food) (Heb.5:14). In the daily walk of their lives, they will manifest carnal characteristics, such as “envying, and strife and divisions” (ICor.3:13). Some fail to “set (their) affection on things above”, but embrace “things on the earth” (Col.3:2). There are still others who shun suffering for Christ and for His kingdom; these are “the enemies of the cross of Christ” and their end is destruction; for their God is the belly, their glory is their shame, and they mind earthly things (Phil.3:18,19). Such children of God will fall short of the standard required for the Bride of Christ. They will not be reckoned as part of the “chaste virgin” for whom Jesus will appear “in the air” (IICor.11:1,2; IThess.4:17). Christ, our Bridegroom, rejoices greatly in the members of the Church who have reached the standard required for “King’s daughters”, virgins”, “companions” and “queens” in the Church, but more that this, He desires that we should be “no more ....children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine”, but that we “grow up into him in all things”, because He is Christ, the HEAD (Eph.4:14,15). Then, when He appears in the air on the day of the Rapture, He will know even greater joy, because we shall have become like Him (IJn.3:2). This is the goal of the Bride of Christ. “If ye find my beloved ... tell him that I am sick of (sick with) love” (S.S.5:8): The Shulamite has now totally lost the intimate communion which she once enjoyed with her Beloved, and has suffered cruel persecution at the hands of the watchman of the city; now there dawns on her the full realization of her shortcomings, and the breach of her trust. She implores the daughters of Jerusalem to speak on her behalf to her Bridegroom: “If ye find my beloved ... tell him that I am sick of (with) love”. The Shulamite has now become sadly backslidden. There are many levels of backsliding in a Christian’s life. Some live like the virgins, wise and foolish alike, who “slumbered and slept”, even though they knew for certain that the Bridegroom would come at any moment (Matt.25:5). Some are like those in the Ephesian Church, of whom the Lord said that they had “left (their) first love” (Rev.2:4). Others are like those in the Laodicean Church, who had become “lukewarm”, ready to be spued out of the mouth of God (Rev.3:16). Still others backslide to such an extent that “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb.6:6). There are others again who find pleasure in this “present evil world”. James denounces them as “adulterers and adulteresses” (Jam.4:4). Worse still, even servants of God, who have laboured for Him for years with zeal, forsake Him like Demas, who was one of those who fell victim to the attraction of this world (IITim.4:10). The Bible says that “she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (ITim.5:6). It is time for us to learn to live a life of watchfulness, soberity and vigilance, that we may
escape the wiles of Satan, and be found ready at the coming of the Lord, fully sanctified and filled with the love of God. It is not enough simply to request people to pray for us that we may come back to our first love for Jesus, or to advertise that we are sick with love for Him. We should seek Him with all our heart if we relly desire to have restored to us our former fellowship with Him. David says: “When thou saidst, seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord will I seek” (Psa.27:8). The promise is: “Ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer.29:13). Let us therefore do this, that we may be at all times in a state of readiness for His return (Phil.3:9). “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us” (S.S.5:9): As we have seen, the “daughters of Jerusalem”, and other women in Jerusalem, had no great intimacy with the Beloved of the Shulamite. Their affection was centered on other things. Therefore, when the Shulamite told them that she was “sick (with) love” for her Beloved, they immediately enquired: “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” IN other words: “What makes your Beloved so much more special than those who are beloved to us?” They had failed to notice two important facts: (i) that the Shulamite was indubitably the “fairest among women”, and that she had nothing to do with any other “beloved”. When we love the Lord with all our heart, worshipping Him in the beauty of holiness, the world will know that we are the true Bride of Christ, and that we have no attachment to any other person in this world. It is with this thought in mind that Paul says: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I wil dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (IICor.6:14-18). Even within the Church, the Bride of Christ must live a life separated from those who are unsanctified and worldly, for two reasons. Firstly, to be an example to those who follow in our footsteps. Secondly, to keep ourselves from being defiled. And so Paul says: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Tim.2:20,21). Let us therefore shine as children of light in the world, and as the Bride of Christ in the Church. “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven” (S.S.5:10,11). In answer to the eager enquiry made by the “daughters of Jerusalem”: “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?”, the Shulamite describes in graphic detail the beauty of her beloved. She concludes by saying: “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (V.16). Similarly, we who call ourselves “the Bride of Christ” or “the chaste virgin”, should always be ready to give an answer to anyone who ask us about the hope that we cherish, with “meekness and fear” (IPet.3:15). Paul had nothing to boast about but Christ. He was proud of his “bonds in Christ” (Phil.1:13). He desired that “Christ (should) be magnified in (his) body, whether it (were) by life, or by death” (Phil.1:20). “To me”, says Paul, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. The purpose of his entire life and ministry was to preach Christ (ICor.1:23), to seek “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus...” to win Him, and to know “the power of his resurrection” and “the fellowship of his sufferings”. He longed to be made “conformable unto his death” (Phil.3:8-10),
so that “Jesus Christ might shew forth (through his life and ministry) all longsufferings”. His aim was to provide a pattern for future generations of believers (I Tim.1:16). Let us reflect upon what Christ means to us in the light of what the Shulamite has to say about her Bridegroom. “My beloved is white and ruddy” (S.S.5:10) : It is of Jesus Himself that Isaiah speaks when he says: “... he hath no form nor comeliness ... there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa.53:2). Nevertheless, according to the Shulamite, He is “white and ruddy”. Surely, one might reasonably think, this is a description of physical beauty. But no: “white: points to His righteousness. The Bride’s garment is similarly described as “clean and WHITE”, and in her case also this speaks of righteousness — the righteousness of the saints *Rev.19:8). This righteousness comes through the faith of Jesus (Phil.3:9). Jesus also appeared in white, glistening raiment, and this was on the occasion when he prayed with His three disciples on the mountain; we read that, as He prayed, “the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was WHITE and glistering” (Lk.9:29). So, although Christ had “no form or comeliness” outwardly, He had that inner beauty of righteousness and holiness, and this shone forth from His face as he prayed. “Ruddy” (S.S.5:10 means red, and the allusion is to the life of suffering which Christ endured from His cradle right through to Calvary. He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world on a Cross, which was stained red with His blood. Jesus was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” to be slain “as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet.1:19,20). Let us praise Him for His spotless life and selfless sacrifice. “The chiefest among ten thousand” (S.S.5:10) : The words “the chiefest” point to Christ’s supreme power, unrivalled throughout the entire universe. He is also the One who bears unchallenged, supreme authority; His wisdom is unassailable. His glory, honour and majesty are unrivalled. He is the “heir of all things” (Heb.1:2) He is now seated at the right hand of God; and to Him, angels and authorities and powers have all been made subject (I Pet.3:22). His Name excels all other names, both in heaven and in earth, to the extent that “at the name of Jesus, every knee (shall) bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and ... every tongue (shall) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father” (Phil.2:9-11). John, the apostle, heard innumerable angels in heaven shouting for joy as they proclaimed : “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing!” (Rev.5:12). Let the Bride of Christ fall on her knees, in praise and adoration; let her proclaim that Jesus Christ is indeed the “chiefest” in her life and ministry, because He has conferred upon her this privilege, that in His own Name she may preach to the Gentiles, lead sinners to salvation, heat the sick and cast out devils; He has given her power to bind and to loose, and to set captives free. Above all, He has opened the way for her to go to the Father and to have fellowship with Him. Praise His wonderful, glorious, beautiful, holy name! “His head is as the most fine Gold...” (S.S.5:11): The term “head” speaks of Christ’s supremacy and dominion over all things. He is the Head over all things as the Creator God: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (are sustained)” (Col.1:16,17). Secondly, He is the Lord and Head of the Church, of which He is also the Saviour and Redeemer, and for which He laid down His life (COl.1:18; Eph.1:22). In Christ dwells all the fulness of God; in Him are to be found the Father’s life, godliness, holiness, grace, glory, power and authority. He is the Head of the Church, and we are “complete in him” (Col.2:10). It is therefore from Him, our Head, that we are exhorted to draw all our needs, for he is the One whom “all the body by joints and bands (have)
nourishment ministered, and (are) knit together, (increasing) with the increase of God” (Col.2:19). To grow spiritually, two important things are needed. Firstly, we must abide in Christ (Jn.15:4,5) and “grow up into him (the Head) in ALL things” (Eph.4:15) , so that we acquire His divine nature and His supernatural power. Secondly, as the members of the Body of Christ, we should be united in love, ministering to one another by the effective working of the Holy Spirit “in the measure of every part (by which every part does its share)” (Eph.4:16), thus growing “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph.4:13). Christ has appointed His fully consecrated (dedicated) servants to preach, warn and teach everyone in all wisdom, in order to “present everyman perfect in Christ Jesus” (Eph.4:3; Col.1:28). “The most fine gold” (S.S.5:11): A spiritual man is actually able, after enduring trials of faith and the work of sanctification, to attain a standard of righteousness which can truly be compared to tried (tested) gold (IPet.1:7). Job says: “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job.23:10). But the standard of Christ’s righteousness is infinitely higher. It is like the MOST FINE GOLD. His righteousness is impeccable — because He is God. He had no need to be tested at all. Nevertheless, He submitted to being tested in every way, just as we are; yet He was “without sin” (Heb.4:15); this was so that He might be “a merciful and faithful high priest”, able to succour those who are now undergoing similar trials. In the days of His ministry on the earth, He was tempted by both Satan and man. FInally at Calvary, “it pleased the Lord to bruise him” for our iniquities (Isa.53:5,10). Most joyfully He gave Himself as “an offering for sin” and bore our iniquities. From birth to death, no matter how trying the circumstances, Jesus preserved His unsullied righteousness it shows like fine gold; this was a supernatural righteousness, of unrivalles excellence; human righteousness cannot approach it. Now it is this same righteousness which we are called to share with Him as we daily grow in His likeness. Paul “counted... all things... but dung .. (to be) found in him, not having (his) own righteousness... but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness, which is of God by faith...” (Phil.3:7-9). Again, Paul says: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, and RIGHTEOUSNESS, and sanctification, and redemption” (ICor.1:30). “His locks are bushy (curly) and black as a raven” (S.S.5:11): “Bushy” (curly) hair speaks of beauty, whilst hair that is a “black as a raven” points to the youthfulness of Christ’s physical appearance. As the Son of man, He had no form nor comeliness (Isa.53:2). But as the Son of God, He is altogether lovely, reflecting the beauty of the Father’s character. Every part of His life displays God’s glory and the beauty of holiness. The “locks” of Christ’s hair, therefore, reveal His beauty of wisdom. He is ever young and nothing becomes old in Him. When He was twelve years of age, He displayed such wisdom and such knowledge of the Word of God, that the doctors (teachers of the law) an “all that heard him” were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Lk.2:47). Daniel saw God the Father as “the Ancient of days”. for the hair if his head was “like the pure wool”, i.e. white (Dan.7:9). On the other hand, when John the apostle saw the risen Christ, He also appeared to be as “ancient” as the Father. John says: “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow” (Rev.1:14). White hair “like the pure wool” and “as white as snow” shows God’s infinite “wisdom and prudence” and “the counsel of his own will” (Eph.1:8,11) which He possessed before anything was created. Before time began, in His mind were hidden all the mysteries and the whole plan in every detail, for the glorious Church of the New Testament, These plans, these mysteries, were not in earlier ages “made known unto the sons of men”, i.e. to men of Old Testament: Noah, Abraham, Abraham’s sons, the patriarchs, Moses, David, Solomon, the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,, Daniel), the minor prophets, and John the Baptist. Later on, however, these plans and mysteries were revealed to the apostles and
prophets “by the Spirit” (Eph.3:3-5). When Paul came by revelation to an understanding of part of God’s plan for the Church and caught a glimpse of His eternal wisdom, he was filled with astonishment and admiration. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” he cried. “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom.11:33). For all that He remains forever young, Jesus Himself possesses the eternal wisdom of the Father, and has access to the Father’s predestinated plans and purposes: “In (him) (Christ) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). Both the Father and the Son desire that we too should share their heavenly wisdom, and grow in it. Paul tells us that the principalities and powers in heavenly places (the angels) are at this very moment learning of “the manifold wisdom of God” through the sanctified Church (Eph.3:10). In eternity, the saints who inherit the new earth and the new heaven will, through the glorious church, come to an understanding of God’s beautiful purposes concerning themselves. May the dear Lord enable us from this time on to love Him in greater measure, to obey Him fully and to begin to share the infinite wisdom of God so that we may “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col.1:9). “His eyes are as the eyes of a dove by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set: His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh” (S.S.5:12,13). “His eyes are as the eyes of doves” (S.S.5:12) : The eyes of the Bridegroom are compared to doves’ eyes. Doves are gentle, mild, guileless, harmless birds. Jesus exhorted His disciples to be “harmless as doves” (Matt.10:16). They are also considered to be clean birds; therefore, they were the only birds accepted in sacrifices (Lev.1:14; 5:7). This gentle, harmless nature of doves is expressed in their eyes. In like manner, the eyes of Jesus expressed His inner nature, and souls whom He met saw in His eyes His love, His compassion, His mercy, His grace. We read that “... when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with COMPASSION on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt.9:36). Again, when He saw Mary weeping, He also groaned in the spirit and wept (Jn.11:33-35). When He prayed, He “offered prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears ...” (Heb.5:7). Such was His burden for souls, such was His prayer life. The tender expression in His eyes showed His compassion; all were aware of His love when He ministered to them. He still loves us, and feels for us. His eyes are still full of compassion and mercy, and so He sees our needs and understands our trials. As our faithful High Priest, he “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb.7:25). “By the rivers of waters” S.S.5:12) : “Rivers of waters” show freshness and abundance of life. The righteous man, who delights in the law day and night, is “like a tree planted by the RIVERS OF WATER, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psa.1:2,3). The very gaze of Jesus revived the faith of many upon whom He looked, and brought to them an abundance of life, healing and good health in general. When He saw a dead man carried out of the house, the only son of his mother, he looked at her and “head compassion on her, and said unto her: “Weep not”. His gaze and His tender words refreshed her spirit; the young man was miraculously given back his life and the mother was filled with joy (Lk.7:11-15). Wherever He went, He brought light where formerly darkness had prevailed, and life, where formerly death had reigned. “the people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matt.4:16). Once and for all, He abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (II Tim1:10). “Washed with milk” (S.S.5:12): “Milk” signifies different things in God’s word. First, it is a prime source of nourishment. “Milk of sheep” is listed in Deuteronomy 32:14 along with other nourishing foods: “butter of
kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat and ... the pure blood of the grape”; all these were foods provided by God Himself for the children of Israel when they were in the wilderness. Secondly, milk points to an abundance of food: we read that during the Millennium, “It shall come to pass for the ABUNDANCE OF MILK that they shall give he shall eat BUTTER: for butter and honey shall everyone eat that is left in the land” (Isa.7:22). God promised to give the children of Israel for their inheritance Canaan - “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exo.3:8), that is, a land abundant in nourishing food. Thirdly, “milk” refers to the basic Word of God as ministered to “babes in Christ”, who are unable to understand anything more than the most elementary truths of the gospel. They are not as yet able to grasp the deeper doctrines which serve as strong meat (solid food) for mature saints. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul says: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto BABES IN CHRIST. I have fed you with MILK, and not with meat (solid food): for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (ICor.3:1,2). He writes in similar vein to the Hebrews: “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb.5:13,14). But when the Shulamite described the beauty of the eyes of her Bridegroom as being “washed with milk”, she was referring to the purity and the whiteness of his eyes. Commenting upon the purity of the nazarites, Jeremiah tells us that “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were WHITER THAN MILK...” (Lam.4:7). The eyes of Jesus are not only compassionate; they are also pure. He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and (cannot) look on iniquity” (Hab.1:13). When John, the apostle, saw the vision of the risen Lord, the Lord’s eyes appeared to be “as a flame of fire” (Rev.1:14). There is nothing that we can hide from His presence. He sees all things clearly and distinctly. The preacher says: “the eyes of the Lord are in EVERY PLACE, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov.15:3). Again we read “.. the ways of man are before the EYES of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings” (Prov.5:21). Jesus loves sinners, but He does not wink at sin. When He comes to judge the nations of the world, just before His Millennial reign, none will escape His searching eyes, nor will they any longer be able to cover their sins and wickedness. John the apostle saw their state in a vision thus: And the kings of the earth, and the great man, and the rich man, and the Chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? “ (Rev.6:15-17). “His eyes are ... fitly set” (S.S.5:12): The eyes of the Bridegroom are FITLY SET as a precious stone is fitly set into a ring. This statement speaks of the beauty and the clarity of his eyes. No hint of physical defect mars the absolute perfection of these eyes; their vision is straight: both eyes are beautifully aligned, so that they function perfectly on behalf of those who depend upon Him. King David was conscious that the eyes of God were upon him, from the very time when he was conceived in his mother’s womb. He gratefully acknowledged the love of God in these words: “... thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect... How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!” (Psa.139:16,17). Hanani, the seer, says: “... the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him...” (II Chro.16:9). The Psalmist writes: “Behold, the eyes of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psa.33:18). Elsewhere: “... the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psa.34:15). Such a thought revives our faith and our love and renews our desire to serve Him faithfully.
“His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers” (S.S.5:13): The “CHEEKS” are an important feature from the point of view of human beauty, for they give colour and shape to the face. Those who desire to enhance their appearance apply various shades of colour to their cheeks. But our Lord, in His heavenly, eternal wisdom, beautified His cheeks in an unheard of way, by turning them to His enemies when they smote Him. Of Him Isaiah prophesied, “I gave my back to the smiters, and MY CHEEKS to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isa.50:6). This prophecy was literally fulfilled just before He was crucified: “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hand” (Matt.26:67). Luke tells us: “... when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Lk.22:64). Jesus taught His disciples and followers to emulate His example. He exhorts them not to resist evil, but recommended: “... Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt.5:39). “A bed of spices” (S.S.5:13) The suffering, which accompanies grave insult and mockery, is followed by rich blessing and heavenly glory, and these are compared to “A BED OF SPICES, as sweet flowers” (the margin reading for “sweet flowers” is “towers of perfumes”; the R.A.V. gives “banks of scented herbs”). “Principle spices” were used to make the “holy anointing oil”, which was used to anoint the priests and to sanctify them (Exo.30:20-29; Lev. 8:10-12). When we patiently bear these things, without bitterness or resentment against those who persecute us, the very suffering becomes a blessing to us, for it brings about our sanctification and causes glory to accrue to us. Peter was entitled to speak of this, for he knew from personal experience the glorious blessings which come out of suffering for Christ, and so he says: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (IPet.4:12-14). This is indeed the case; when we suffer for Christ, even at the very moment of suffering, “the spirit of glory and of God” rests upon us, intangible, invisible, but indisputably there. When we accept our sufferings joyfully, as permitted of God, He is glorified, and we are sanctified and anointed afresh in the inner man. Spices have another significance. They point to a life of intercessory prayer. “Sweet spices with pure frankincense” were used to make the incense, which was referred to as “sweet incense”, and was to be offered perpetually before the Lord (Exo.30:7,8,34). This incense represents intercessory prayer for our enemies, that God may forgive them. Jesus gives us a wonderful example of this. His enemies mocked Him on the face (Lk.22:63); they blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face (Lk.22:64) and they spat on His face (Matt.26:67). Then the soldiers took Him, stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe (Matt.27:28). Then they plaited a crown of thorns, and put it upon His head; they placed a reed in His right hand; and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying: “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt.27:30). Then they took the reed from Him, and struck Him on the Head (Matt.27:29). Finally, they crucified Him on the hill of Calvary. No word of protest ever escaped His sweet lips, even in the face of this unspeakable insult and torment. Instead, He prayed for His enemies; how amazed they must have been to hear Him say: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do ...” (Lk. 23:24). It was as “sweet incense” that His prayer ascended to the Father. Now His desire for us is that we should learn to pray as He did. And so He says: “... I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for the, that despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and to him that taketh away thy
cloak forbid it not to take thy coat also” (Lk.6:27-29). “His lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh” (S.S.5:13) : Lilies were considered in Bible times to be very ordinary flowers, and were referred to as “the lilies of the field” (Matt.6:28), “the lily of the valleys” (S.S.2:1), “a lily among thorns” (S.S.2:2). They are used in Scripture, however, to illustrate the deeply important spiritual characterstics of humility, love, grace, a willingness to rejoice in suffering, and more besides. (For further details regarding the spiritual significance of lilies, please see the study on S.S.2:2). Lips are an important vehicle of speech. The mind initiates the utterance of words, but clear pronunciation depends upon the use of the tongue, and particularly of the lips. We should seek at all times to have the lips of the righteous. (Concerning the lips of the righteous and of the unrighteous, please refer to the study on S.S.4:3; regarding the lips of the Bride, please refer to the study on S.S.4:11). Jesus had the “the lips of the righteous”, and despite life-long suffering and rejection, the words which flowed from His precious lips were like “lilies”, for they showed His humility, love, grace and willingness to rejoice in suffering. He was “full of grace and truth” (Jn.1:1,4). His listeners “all bare him witness, and wondered at the GRACIOUS words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Lk.4:22). He never lifted his voice, nor did He “cause his voice to be heard in the street” in order to magnify Himself or to attract a crowd (Isa.42:2). Very often, He slipped away from the multitudes, and even from His own disciples, to be alone with the Father. What an example He leaves us! May our lips reflect the grace of God and the humility of Christ, and may they always be ready to utter words of comfort and love, as His did. May our speech be such that our hearers receive His life in abundant measure, and be healed in their spirits and their minds. “Dropping sweet-smelling myrrh”: MYRRH has a bitter taste, but is sweetly perfumed. In general, myrrh signifies a life of prayer, where God changes all the bitter parts of our lives into sweet experience. (For further information regarding the spiritual significance of myrrh, please refer to the study on S.S.3:6; 4:6,14). Here the words of the Bridegroom are compared to sweet-scented myrrh. Sometimes the words of Jesus sounded hard and harsh, but there is love beside them. For example, Peter did his best, out of pure love for Jesus, to persuade Him not to go up to Jerusalem, so that He might avoid the cross; he must have been astonished and horrified to hear Jesus’ stinging rebuke: “Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offence unto me” (Matt.16:23). Peter must have felt the lash of these harsh words keenly; they must have seemed as bitter as myrrh, but there was sweetness behind them: Jesus was making it clear to Peter that his conception of a Christian life and ministry without the cross was a revelation from Satan, and that the cross was essential for the consummation of God’s purposes and for the full manifestation of His glory and His power. The realization of the joy that was set before Christ had necessarily to be preceded by suffering. “His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (S.S. 5:14,15,16). “His hands are as gold rings” (S.S. 5:14) : Rings are used to beautify the hands; but here, it is the Bridegroom’s very hands which are said to be like rings. This speaks of the beauty of His hands. In the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus is depicted as “the arm of the Lord”. Isaiah asks: “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isa. 53:1). It was this arm which “made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground ...” (Jer. 27:5). This was the arm which was stretched out to perform mighty wonders in the land of Egypt, and to bring about a mighty deliverance for the people of God (Deut. 5:15). It was the same glorious arm that divided the waters of the Red Sea before them, and brought judgment upon the Egyptians (Isa. 63:12). This was the arm in which His people trusted; these were the everlasting arms that upheld them, and the arm that gathered the lambs and
carried them in His bosom (Isa. 40:11; Deut. 33:27). While on earth, Jesus took young children up in His arms, and laid His hands upon them, and blessed them. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and saw “the wind boisterous”, he was afraid; he began to sink and cried out in dismay: “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him (Matt. 14:30,31). Whether it was a blind man or a devil possessed person, a woman with fever, or even a leper, Jesus never hesitated, but in compassion stretched out His hand of mercy, and healed them. He touched them and made them whole (Matt. 9:29; Mark 9:26,27; Matt. 8:15,3). This is the beauty of the hands of our Bridegroom. The same beautiful hands reach out to us even today to bless us, to lift us up out of the tossing waves of a stormy trial and to make us stand victorious upon those turbulent waters. The arm of the God who took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses, is stretched out to touch us and heal us. The right hand of power upholds and preserves the servants of God (Rev. 1:20) and the almighty hands of our Creator continue today to beautify us who are His workmanship, created unto good works (Eph. 2:10). “Set with beryl” (S.S. 5:14): The beryl is a precious stone which is seagreen or bluish-green in colour. Blue represents the love of God, and so this stone speaks of the depths of the wisdom and love of God. Paul writes to the Ephesians of the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Eph. 3:18) of the love of Christ. About His wisdom he exclaims: “O the depth of the riches ... of the wisdom ... of God!” (Rom. 11:33). This shows that the works of the Lord were not only demonstrations of the most tremendous power, but also full of wisdom and love. Those who heard Jesus and saw His great works were astonished, and asked: “From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?” (Mk. 6:2). Let us therefore submit ourselves in total surrender into the beautiful hands of our Bridegroom, that He may mould us, according to His unsearchable wisdom and immeasurable love. “His belly is as bright as ivory” (S.S. 5:14) : The “belly” in the Bible commonly signifies the “heart”, or the very source of life. Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit when He said: “He that believeth on me ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:38). Christ is the very source of every blessing in life in all its aspects. Jesus spoke of Himself as “the bread of life”. John leaned on His breast, and enjoyed the comfort that he received from Him. Peter asked Him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). Virtue (power) flowed out of him to heal the woman who was suffering with an issue of blood for twelve years (Mk. 5:25-30). The power of life proceeded from Him in glorious abundance to quicken the weak and raise the dead (Jn. 10:10). Today, Christ is our “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30). He is our eternal life (I Jn. 5:20). From Him we receive abundance of consolation and comfort (II Cor. 1:5). In His name we receive healing and health. What a privilege it is to be able to sing of our Bridegroom, along with the Psalmist: “All my springs are in thee”! (Psa. 87:7). “Ivory” (S.S. 5:14): This speaks of the beauty which we see in the “ivory palaces” of which the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 45:8. But ivory, coming as it does from the tusk of the elephant, also signifies strength. Not only do we receive comfort and wisdom, healing and many other good things from Christ; He is also the source of our strength. To us who are called, Christ is “the power of God” (I Cor. 1:24). When He is in us, we can boldly say with Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). “Overlaid with sapphires” (S.S. 5:14): The sapphire is a beautiful, rich blue, and shows us the richness of God’s love for us. Over and above everything else, Christ is the source of love. In Him is manifested the unselfish love of the Father: the Father gave His only begotten Son for our salvation; Jesus, by His death at Calvary, reveals His own sacrificial love, whereby He was able to give Himself for us while we were yet sinners, and His enemies.
Love and strength go together. We are asked to love the Lord with “all our ... strength” (Mk. 12:30). Again, er are filled with the love of God and the power of God by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Acts 1:8). It is the love of Christ that constrains us to labour with all our might, according to the power that works in us mightly. “His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold” (S.S. 5:15): “legs” speak to us of two things. Firstly, it is our legs which take us about from place to place. When Jesus was on this earth, He “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). The reason God was with Him was that every step He took, was according to the will of His Father. Jesus Himself acknowledged this when He said: “I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (Jn. 6:38). If the Bridegroom used His legs for this purpose, then the Church, His Bride, must have the same spirit of evangelism and do likewise. This does not mean having a spirit of indiscriminate proselytism, but a spirit of compassion and of power, resulting from total obedience to the will of the Father. When we do this, the words of the prophet will be fulfilled in our lives, as they were in the life of Jesus: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace” (Isa. 52:7). A second feature of the legs is that they are the members which bear the burden of the Body. Christ’s greatest burden was the perfection of His Body, the Church. To this end He suffered and gave Himself for it, that “he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). In the letter to the Hebrews, it is written that Christ endured the Cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2). This joy was to be that of seeing His Bride presented before Him in spotless perfection. We, who are His Body, and who stand “complete in him” (Col. 2:10), should also share this burden. “Sockets” (S.S. 5:15): Sockets again speak to us of burden-bearing. In the tabernacle, each of the twenty boards which held up the tabernacle had two sockets of silver. These sockets represent faith and hope. What enabled Christ to go through so much suffering and to bear so great a burden was the hope which was set before Him and His unwavering faith in the perfect will of the Father for His life. If we too desire to bear the burden of the Church, we must similarly be firmly seated in and supported by these two sockets of faith and hope. In the New Testament, both the faith of the gospel and the hope of the gospel are spoken of. By faith, we have already obtained initial salvation: “... by grace ye are saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Yet by this very salvation, we are begotten again unto the lively hope of a further salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. This is the hope of our final salvation (I Pet. 1:3-5), that is, to be included in the Rapture. There is a difference between faith and hope. Faith is the means by which we obtain something in the world here and now, such as our salvation, our healing or our material needs. But when we hope for something, we know that we shall have to wait for it. Paul says: “For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom.8:24,25). To obtain the promise made by God of a son, Abraham had to use a combination of faith and hope. Firstly, it is said that he “against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (Rom.4:18). The Word of God had kindled the spark of hope in him. Then to this hope he added an active faith in the promise of God. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom.4:20). Thus he obtained that which had seemed humanly impossible. We too need to be grounded in faith and hope if we are to obtain the eternal promises of God. Paul says that if we hope in Christ, only for things in this life, we are of all men most miserable (I Cor. 15:19). But our faith and hope lie in something eternal: the total sanctification and perfection of the Church in Christ. It is for this that Christ laboured, and it is for this that we also, like Paul, must labour, striving according to His
working, which works mightily in us (Col. 1:29). “Sockets of fine gold” (S.S. 5:15): In the tabernacle, the sockets were of silver. Here, they are of fine gold, and this speaks to us of the righteousness obtained through tried faith. This righteousness comes only when our faith has been thoroughly tested, just as gold becomes fine gold only after being purified in the refiner’s crucible. Peter gives us the reason why we have to go through trials: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:7). Every life and ministry must be tried and found righteous. As for Christ, when He had been tried and found righteous. As for Christ, when He had been tried, He was raised far above all heavens by the Father, and this was the Father’s testimony concerning Him: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Having been tried in every aspect, Christ has now become our righteousness. “His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars” (S.S. 5:15): “countenance”: We read that when Jesus was transfigured, His countenance changed, and began to shine with the beauty and glory of His inner man . In our inner man also, we are called to have the very image of Jesus Christ. It is as we yield our lives in total obedience to the working of the Holy Spirit, and spend time in sweet and secret communion with Jesus, looking upon His countenance, that our characters are changed from glory to glory, into the very image of His character (II Cor. 3:18). “Lebanon” (S.S. 5:15): The name “Lebanon” means “white mountain”, and speaks of the purity and the holiness of the Bridegroom. In Lebanon is the source of the river Jordan, which waters the fertile Jordan valley. Not only is Jesus pure and holy, but from His countenance and His presence flow streams of living water, which make our lives fertile, as we dwell in constant communion with Him. “Cedars” (S.S. 5:15): The cedar is a majestic and beautiful tree, the glory of the forest in Lebanon. The countenance of the Bridegroom is described as being excellent as the cedars, and this speaks of the glory, the beauty and the majesty, which we see in Him as we look upon His face. “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (S.S. 5:16) “His mouth is most sweet” (S.S. 5:16): It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34). The beauty of the mouth of Christ stems from the fact that He brought forth words of grace and comfort from the treasures in His heart. His words were not the words of an ordinary man, but words of power and life: by them He revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. As Peter confessed, He had the words of eternal life (Jn. 6:68). Not only this, but there was power in His words. He spoke a word, and the centurion’s servant was healed (Matt. 8:8,13); by His word He cast out evil spirits (Matt. 8:16). Moreover, His words reveal the immutable steadfastness of His character: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). However, to the Bride, who knows Him intimately the words of the Bridegroom are most sweet. David says: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psa. 119:103). “He is altogether lovely” (S.S. 5:16): It is one thing to realize the power and divinity of Christ; it is quite another to come to a place of intimate communion with Him as a bride with her bridegroom, and to exclaim in rapture and wonder: “He is altogether lovely!”. More than anything else, Jesus is looking for those whose yearning for Him moves them to say, as did Paul: “that I may know him”. He is coming again, not for those who have simply confessed Him as Lord, but for those whose hearts are ardently longing for His appearing, and who delight in His presence more than in anything else. Yet, let us not forget that these words are spoken by a Bride who is in search of the
Bridegroom, whose presence she has lost. Only in her distress does she remember with nostalgia the greatness of His beauty. Though we who are called to be the Bride of Christ will not go through the tribulation, yet how often the tribulations which we undergo during our present lives come upon us because we have been careless about keeping the presence of God in our lives. “This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (S.S. 5:16): In answer to the question of the daughters of Jerusalem, the Bride, from verse 10, has been giving her description of the Bridegroom. If we are the Bride of Christ, we too should always be ready to give an answer to every man regarding the reason of the hope that is in us (I Pet. 3:15). This answer is not simply a statement of doctrine, but also an account of our personal experience with Christ. “This is my friend”, says the Bride, with tenderness, and affection and pride. Indeed, our very lives should become living epistles, known and read of all men, and telling forth the life and power of Christ, both in word and in deed (II Cor. 3:2,3). May God grant us the grace to be radiant and genuine testimonies to the character, beauty and splendour of our heavenly Bridegroom. “Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies” (S.S. 6:1-3). “O thou fairest among women” : There are two groups of people in the Church today: (1) Ordinary, Spirit-filled believers. They do not know that they are called to be the Bride of Christ, nor do they know Christ as their Bridegroom. In the Song of Solomon, they are referred to as “the daughters of Jerusalem”. (2) Spirit-filled believers with full revelation of their calling. Like the Shulamite, they are to Jesus, the fairest among women, and they enjoy a beautiful intimate communion with Him, their Bridegroom. As we saw earlier, the Bride is now in search of the Bridegroom, whose presence she has lost. Although she in no longer in her first love, nevertheless the daughters of Jerusalem see in her something great; they see that she is spiritually of a higher standard than they themselves, and so they acknowledge her as “(the) fairest among women”. By the same token, it may sometimes happen that new converts, and others, see us as more spiritual than themselves. But we should not be deceived by their praises. We must know our weaknesses and failures and understand our real state in the sight of the Lord. The Shulamite was the fastest among women to the daughters of Jerusalem, but her Bridegroom knew of her lapse from her first love, and of her separation from Him. “Whither is thy beloved gone ... whither is thy beloved turned aside?”: ask the daughters of Jerusalem; but it is the Bride who has turned aside from the Bridegroom in order to be at ease. They were together in the garden to begin with, but now, although He remains there, she has left His fellowship to take a little time for resting. She has washed herself and put off her garments. She is so pre-occupied with herself that she does not even realize that He has been standing outside, wet with dew (S.S. 5:2-6). Self-indulgence, self-pity, self-righteousness, self-exaltation, self-centredness, self-admiration and the like are the causes of spiritual coldness. Inevitably, this leads to separation from inner fellowship with Christ, and of eventual falling away from first love. This is the second time that the Shulamite has made the mistake of allowing herself to become separated from her Bridegroom. Earlier (S.S. Chap. 3), we saw how she wandered through the streets and alley-ways at night, in search of her Beloved. Sometimes God permits such mistakes in our spiritual life so that we may learn lessons. He says: “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early” (Hos.5:15). Once people have learnt their lesson, they will say: “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten and he will bind us up”
(Hos. 6:1). The Bride has already given to the daughters of Jerusalem a graphic description of her Bridegroom (S.S. 5:10-16). This was no mere intellectual exercise, nor was it a fond dwelling on by gone memories; nevertheless, it did not in any way stem from current experience of fellowship with her Beloved. By the same token, it is entirely possible for a believer to give a deep and clear exposition of the doctrines of Christ, revealing one by one the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, and yet be found fallen away from his first love. We read of the church of Ephesus that they had laboured without fainting for the Lord, and yet He said of them that unless they returned to their first love, He would remove their candlestick out of its place. Let us need this warning, and undergo a searching reappraisal of our spiritual state. Let us if necessary repent, paying no attention to the deceptive praise of others, but seek instead the approval of Jesus, and Him only. “That we may seek him with thee” : The daughters of Jerusalem are able to see that the Bride is now in search of her Bridegroom. “Where has he gone?” they ask, for now they wish to seek Him with her. We should note that the Lord has called us into deeper fellowship and communion with Him so that we may be able to lead others into the same experience. This is why St.Paul writes: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1; 4:16; Phil. 3:17). We must seek him perseveringly that we may win Him through our ministries, spiritual experience and gifts that we have received. To grow in the knowledge of Christ and to win Him, we must be prepared not only to count all things as loss, but to forsake it and count that loss as dung (Phil. 3:8-11). Being engrossed in the service of Christ if we are satisfied with His blessings to a greater extent than in being with Him, we would begin to gradually depart from Him and walk after our own whims and fancies. We must take care at all times to maintain our fellowship with the Lord, since neglect of it could lead even to our missing the Rapture. My beloved is gone down into his garden” (S.S. 6:2): A fruit-bearing Church is compared, in the Word of God, to a garden (Gen. 2:15; Joel 1:11,12; Lk.13:6-9;Matt. 21:33-43). As we have already seen, the Bridegroom has been in His garden, but the self-indulgent Bride has departed in order to take a little rest. This garden, which is the Church, becomes that of the Bridegroom, by the consecration which the Bride makes. When we freely give our whole life to Jesus, He takes a delight in every aspect of our life, and we become “his garden”. He desires to see in us the fruit of the Spirit. When we abide in Him as a branch abides in the trees, we bring forth much fruit. When we lead a life of separation and consecration too, we become as a tree planted by the rivers of water, which brings forth fruit in due season (Jn. 15:1-3; Psa. 1:3). Our Bridegroom, Jesus, is coming for the precious fruit (Jas. 5:7); so let us become His garden that He may freely enter in and “eat his pleasant fruits”. “Bed of spices”: Spices were used to prepare the holy anointing oil and the pure incense for the incense altar. The spices in these beds, therefore, speak of the sweet fragrance of Christ which the Bride (the garden, the Church) manifests by her Spirit-anointed life and by her life of prayer and praise (IICor. 2:15). Christ wants to impart this fragrance to us so that we may achieve the perfection of His divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (II Pet. 1:4). So the labours of the Bridegroom have a two-fold aim: to produce fruits for His garden, and to cause His fragrance to emanate from each one of us, His followers. “To feed in the garden”: The Bridegroom feeds His flocks as does a good shepherd. This is another part of our Bridegroom’s work in His garden (the Church). In the Old Testament, the Lord God is seen as a Shepherd who seeks after His flock when it has been scattered. He says that He will feed them on the fat (luxuriant) pastures of the mountains of Israel, and cause them to lie down in good folds. He says: “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick” (Ezek. 34:16). He says that He will “gather the lambs with his arm, and
carry them in his bosom”, and that He will “gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11). In the New Testament, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep. He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them. He knows His sheep, and is known of them. His sheep hear His voice, and follow Him. Those of His sheep who have strayed away from Him, He brings into the fold, and there is one fold and one Shepherd. Once in the fold, He gives them pastors after His own heart, to feed them with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15). New Testament servants of God are called to take heed to their flock and to feed the Church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). A good pastor assesses the needs of his flock. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, says that they have become “such as have need of milk and not of strong meat” (Heb. 5:12). So we see how these shepherds feed their flocks with the Word of God, according to their spiritual growth, giving the fundamental truths of the doctrine of Christ to the “babes” and the deeper truths of perfection to whose who are of “full age” (Heb. 5:13,14; 6:1). To those who care for and feed their flock faithfully, not as lords over God’s heritage, but as ensamples to the flock, Christ will appear as the Chief Shepherd, and give them “the crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Pet. 5:2-4). “To gather lilies” : Lilies were common flowers, found in valleys and among thorns, and they signify lowliness and the grace to suffer the consequences of living in humility. The Bridegroom gathering the lilies in the garden speaks of Jesus coming for humble saints, sanctified by suffering. “all of you be subject one to another and be clothed with humility”, writes Peter. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time ... the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (I Pet. 5:5,6,10). “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” The order of these two statements is now reversed. Earlier on, she said: “My beloved is mine and I am his” (S.S. 2:16). At that time, her thoughts were centred on the fact that she could depend upon the love and care of the Bridegroom. She knew that if trials or conflicts arose, he would be there to deliver her - he belonged to her. But the second aspect of the relationship - “and I am his” was of secondary importance to her. Now she says: “I am my beloved’s” She has learnt through hard experience the extreme danger of maintaining no more than a casual relationship with Him, and has made every effort to become truly close to Him, that she might win Him. In this we see a renewal of her consecration. She now belongs to her Beloved, and to Him alone. She has severed all connection with other diversions. Similarly, we also should surrender ourselves absolutely and unconditionally to our Bridegroom, Jesus. He is coming for those who are ardently longing for His appearing. Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead. Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them. As a piece of pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks” (S.S.6:4-7). During the Bride’s impassioned description of Him, the King has entered the room and has heard how she speaks of Him whom she so passionately loves. As she finishes speaking, He too pours out as impassionated eulogy regarding herself: “THOU ART BEAUTIFUL, O MY LOVE, AS TIRZAH, COMELY AS JERUSALEM”. “Thou art beautiful, O my love”: The face is the index of the mind. The love which the Bride and Bridegroom have for one another makes it possible for them to tell what is passing through each other’s minds by the slightest change in the other’s expression. They see in one another a loveliness which no one else can see, for each sees in the other’s face a beauty which is a reflection of their own love. Here the Bridegroom is joyfully attesting to the fact that because He loves the Bride, she has in His eyes a surpassing loveliness, and also that because she loves Him in return, her beauty is even more enchanting. The beauty of the Bride is also to be found in
her character. We become beautiful in Christ’s eyes when there is seen in us the fruit of the Spirit, and it comes to maturity in our lives. We see this in the life of Esther: Esther, we are told, was endowed with natural beauty, but in addition, her conduct was such that she pleased Hegai, and, in the king’s eyes, outshone all her rivals for his favour. Her appeal lay not only in her natural beauty, but also in her demure, humble and obedient attitude. There are many different ways in which we may become beautiful in God’s eyes. There is the beauty of holiness, in which we are exhorted to worship God (Psa.29:2; 96:9). There is also a beauty in consecration: The Bride is told: “forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty” (Psa.45:10,11). As we commune with the Lord, He gives us His beauty for the ashes of our sorrow and mourning (Isa.61:3). The psalmist prays that the beauty of the Lord may be seen in him (Psa.90:17). This beauty of the Lord is His glory; it is seen in His holiness, in his love, in His majesty, and it is this beauty of the Lord that is formed in the Bride of Christ. It is written: “In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people” (Isa.28:5). There is also beauty in the feet of the servants of God, preaching glad tidings of peace and salvation upon the mountains (Isa.52:7). In these and other ways, as we enjoy the sweet intimacy of fellowship with our Bridegroom, His beauty begins to permeate our beings. This beauty of Christ is not an outward beauty, for Christ had no form nor comeliness. He was as a root out of a dry ground, and there was nothing about His appearance that might have attracted anyone to Him (Isa.53:2). Yet it is written: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined” (Psa.50:2). This beauty is that of a noble character, refined and purified through a life of suffering. It is with this beauty, this righteousness, that the Church is seen clothed in Revelation 12:1, and it is glorious as the sun. “As Tirzah” (S.S.6:4): Tirzah was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel (I Kgs.15:33; 16:8) until Omri built Samaria (I Kgs.16:24). “Tirzah” means “delightful”, and it was city of great natural beauty. So is the Bride of Christ among the daughters of Jerusalem (S.S.6:1). “Comely as Jerusalem” (S.S.6:4): The Bride of Christ herself is New Jerusalem, the eternal capital of heaven (Rev.21:24-26). “Terrible as an army with banners” (S.S.6:4): The Church is an army, composed of overcomers. Even though Israel was still in Egypt, God spoke of them as His “armies” (Exo.7:4; 12:17). How much more should the New Testament Church, endowed with the very power of God, go forth as a conquering army of Christ. Our calling is to overcome all things — sin, sickness, trials and so on — and reign with Christ, as He Himself overcame, and set down with His Father on His throne (Rev.3:21). The armies in heaven which follow Christ to judge and make war against all iniquity are the Church triumphant, composed of those who in their earthly lives have overcome all things (Rev.19:14). “Banner”: In ancient times, each division or tribe of the army would have its own banner or standard. A standard bearer would be assigned from the elite of the army to hold the standard high during the battle. If the standard fell, then the troops no longer had a rallying point, and assumed they had been defeated, for the falling of the standard signified defeat. An army marching with its standard held high was an army marching in victory, ready to put fear into the hearts of any foe. In Numbers chapter 10, we read of different tribes of Israel holding aloft their standards of banners as they marched with the Tabernacle through the wilderness. However, over Israel as a whole, there was another banner, a banner which could never be lowered except by sin in the camp of Israel itself. That banner was God Himself, as Moses realized when God gave Israel the victory over the Amalekites. He built an altar and called it “Jehovah-nissi” — “the Lord our banner”. It is because God Himself is our banner, that we have the assurance of victory in our hands. Jesus said: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn.16:33). The reason that Israel was sometimes defeated, was that God — for one reason or another, did not go out
with their armies (Psa.49:4). The reason always had to do with sin on the part of Israel. But when our lives are right with God, then Jesus is our Captain and the Lord is our Banner, and we are able to go out with confidence, knowing that our victory is assured because of Christ, the Captain of our salvation. We cannot win victories in our own strength. It is said of Israel: “For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them” (Psa.44:3). “Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me” : From the beginning, Christ’s eyes have been upon the Bride. It was for the joy that was set before Him — the Church in all her splendour — that he was prepared to endure the cross (Heb.12:2). But now, the eyes of the Bride are fixed upon Him, and they see eye to eye. She has come to the same state of perfection as the Bridegroom. Our eyes scan the entire scene, and receive a vast quantity of information, some good, some bad. But the eyes of the Bride are consecrated, like that of Job, who said: “I made a covenant with mine eyes” (Job 31:1). “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord’s servant?” cries the prophet concerning the one who refused to look upon evil (Isa.42:19). Like her Bridegroom, she does not use her eyes to judge other’s nor does she reprove after the hearing of her ears (Isa.11:3). There is a progression to be observed in the vision of a Christian. When one is born again, one sees the kingdom of God. As one enters the kingdom of God, a whole new world is opened up before one’s eyes. As we grow in Him, we begin to fix our eyes upon the Lord and to receive His word (Lk.4:20). We begin to learn a life of total dependence on God, looking to His mercy (Psa.123:1,2). Gradually, all our affection becomes set on things above, as our life is hid with Christ (Col.3:1-3).Finally, we come to the place where we see the King in all His beauty (Isa.33:17). The eyes are the mirror of the soul, and as the Bride gazes intently upon the Bridegrom’s face, He is able to see in her eyes that she now desires none but Him, and desires Him with the same absolute fervour with which He desires her. In chapter 4 verse 1, we saw how the Bridegroom said: “thou hast doves eyes within thy locks”, as He saw her large, melting eyes half hidden behind her veil. But now there is a flame, an ardour in those same eyes, heightened perhaps by the effect of her time of separation from Him, and He is quite overcome by this new fervour in her gaze, full of love without blemish, and this causes Him to Him cry out: “turn away thine eyes from me for they have overcome me”. Thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead. Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof everyone beareth twins .. as a piece of pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks” (S.S.6:5,6,7): Face to face with her again, He speaks to her in words which clearly echo His description of her before their painful separation. (Please refer to the study on S.S.4:1-3). The beauty of her hair speaks of her glory, which lies in her submission to Christ. Sheep which go up from the washing are sheep which have been shorn. This speaks of how the Bride of Christ is shorn of all comfort and worldly pleasures, and is also purified with the washing of water by the Word (Eph.5:26). “... as a piece of pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks” : Here is a repetition, almost word for word, of verse 3 of chapter 4; the reader is referred to the comments upon that verse. It is good to be reminded that a piece of pomegranate is a pomegranate which has been cut open, and that just as the beauty of the pomegranate is displayed only when it is cut in pieces, so the beauty of the Bride’s character is seen only when she is cut and wounded. As we compare the description of 4:1-3 and 6:4-7, we see there has been a growth in the beauty of the Bride, who is now compared to Tirzah and Jerusalem, and a growth in her love for the Bridegroom which is seen in the expression of her eyes. Have our experiences, be they bitter or sweet, made us grow in our inner beauty and love for Christ, or have we become hardened by
the things we have been through? If we are to be the Bride of Christ, we should also share this character of Christ: the more He suffered, the more His sweetness, purity and loveliness were manifested. Let us seek His grace and mercy so that we too may live this life. “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice on of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her (S.S.6:8,9). In Chapter 5, we heard the Bride’s impassioned eulogy of her Beloved. Now, in Chapter 6, comes the climax of the Bridegroom’s commendation of His Bride; He declares her to be a nonperil - the choicest and the best. “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number”: In the Old Testament, kings and those who were wealthy had many wives; for example, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines (IKgs.11:3). Here, we read of three kinds of women who lived in the royal palace, and who were held in honour. These were queens, concubines and virgins. However, none of these had the qualities required by Christ for His only Beloved, His Bride. Threescore queens”: (S.S.6:8) By the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are made kings and priests. Queens therefore signify Spirit-filled Christians. Such queens may well be blessed with all Spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph.1:3), and enriched by Christ in everything, in all utterance and in all knowledge (ICor.1:5). They may come behind in no gift (ICor.1:7). They may establish new churches, earn a great name, found institutions, hold conventions and convey in every way the impression that they are members of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a peculiar people; to human eyes, they may appear to be unmistakably regal, but may, in the eyes of the Bridegroom, our great King and the only Potentate, rank no higher than this category of “threescore queens” which we are considering; they may even be amongst those who, at the time of the Rapture, will be laid aside as workers of iniquity, with the indictment: “I never knew you” (Matt.7:23); this will inevitably be the case if they have not submitted themselves to the perfect will of God, nor allowed Him to work out His plan for their lives. They will have preferred to glory in their gifts, their talents and their spiritual attainments. “Fourscore concubines”: These have a relationship with the king, but they are not married to him. They include “the friends of the Bridegroom”. John the Baptist was, according to Jesus, “the greatest of the Old Testament saints” (Matt.11:11); however, when he spoke of the Bride and Bridegroom, he acknowledged that he was only “the friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn.3:29). So these concubines may be said to represent, in one sense, the Old Testament saints. They may also be said to represent those in the New Testament who are nominal Christians, and who oppose the truth of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Their plight is great, for it is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we become the Church, the Body of Christ, and therefore, His wife (I Cor.12:13; Eph.5:23). Those who do not come into this experience may claim to be the Bride of Christ, and may have visions and dreams, and may receive holy inspiration; yet they can only be concubines, as they are not married to Christ by the baptism the Holy Spirit. There are also others in the New Testament who live like those of the Old Testament period. They live under the Law, their lives are void of grace, and they live by the principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. “Virgins without number” : We read in Matthew 25:1-13 of the “wise and foolish virgins”. These virgins all live, of course, in the period of the New Testament. We know that they signify Spirit-baptized Christians, because Jesus says that they had lamps; the lamps were of the purpose of holding oil. “Oil” signifies grace, but it also speaks particularly of the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Lk.4:18;Acts 10:38;Heb.1:9). Priests were anointed (Exo. 29:7; 30:30). The candlestick of the Old Testament tabernacle had continually to be replenished with pure oil so that it might give constant light in the holy place (Exo. 27:20,21). The candlestick is a type of the Church, and the
ongoing replenishment of its supply of oil foreshadowed the refilling, over and over again, of God’s New Testament people with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the tabernacle of the congregation (which is also a type of the Church) was similarly anointed with the holy anointing oil (again representing the New Testament outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people) (Exo. 30:26). So these virgins all carried lamps, which were intended to hold oil; the wise had oil in their lamps, but the foolish had lamps whose oil had all been used up, and which had not been replaced. Therefore, although all the virgins had received the baptism in the Holy Ghost, only half of them, the “wise”, had been careful to practise sanctification, the purpose of which was to grow spiritually, so that they might become as one, that one being the CHASTE VIRGIN. Sadly, the other half of them, the “foolish”, were careless, and had neglected these precious, crucial matters. Therefore, those whom they represent will be left behind at the Rapture, and we see them now, waiting to meet the Bridegroom and the Bride, but fast asleep. The Rapture will come and go, and they will fall into the hands of the anti-christ. These “virgins without number”, therefore, signify the tribulation martyrs. We read of the tribulation martyrs in Revelation 7: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues ... These are they which came out of great tribulation ...” (Rev.7:9,14). These martyrs (virgins) also have a place of honour in the palace of the king, yet they are not the Bride, they are not that “chaste virgin”, who is espoused to one husband. We read in the story of Esther that all the virgins embarked upon preparing themselves to meet the King, knowing that only one of them would be chosen by him. There were conditions which they had to fulfil if they were to satisfy the king. Esther was fairer than all the “fair young virgins sought for the king” (2:3,7). She outshone the others because of the outstanding quality of her inner character; because of this, she pleased Hegai, the one who was in charge of the women, and she obtained kindness of him (2:9). Other virgins lingered over their preparations, beautifying themselves in their own way (Esther 2:13), but Esther was satisfied with what Hegai had appointed for her (Esther 2:15); she therefore achieved a higher standard of purity and beauty. When we dedicate ourselves to do the whole will of God, to choose the things that please Him, and to do all things without murmuring or disputing, then God is able to hasten His work of perfection in us; then others see in us the radiant beauty of our holiness, coupled with chastity and meekness, emanating from our inner person. Esther had to purify herself every day throughout the entire year. For six months she had to be purified with oil of myrrh, and for the following six months with “sweet odours” (sweet perfumes) (Esther 2:12). The equivalent for us of “oil of myrrh” is bitter trials, and the equivalent for us of “sweet odours” is the process whereby we allow our hearts to be imbued with the divine characteristics of Christ: love, peace, compassion, longsuffering, endurance, faithfulness in prayer, and so on. The result for Esther of these preparations was that he king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins” (2:17). She was then crowned as his queen. So to be found as a “chaste virgin”, we need to be separated from the “foolish virgins” and also from the so-called “wise virgins”, who have neglected their life of watchfulness, prayer and sanctification. Secondly, we must set our love upon Christ, and seek His beauty, His kindness and His favour, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, we have to sanctify ourselves by being willing to go through bitter trials and also to become imbued with the characteristics of Christ, as we worship Him. Then will the King greatly desire our beauty, and He will give a glad shout: “My dove, my undefiled is but one”. “My dove, my undefiled is but one”: Although there are many queens, concubines, virgins (S.S. 6:8), king’s daughters and honourable women (Psa. 45:9) in the royal palace, apart from the innumerable daughters of Jerusalem (S.S. 5:8,16), who live in the city, the king has chosen only
one as His “dove”, His “undefiled”. Similarly, though the Church may contain saints who are at different levels in their service to the Lord and in their standards of holiness, and who are endowed with different degrees of grace and of gifts, yet only those who have satisfied Christ’s demands for holiness and love, will be accepted as His “dove”, His “undefiled”. The hope of the gospel is two-fold: (i) to present us “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in (God’s) sight” (Col. 1:22); (ii) to grant us “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for (us)” (I Pet. 1:3,4). These two features constitute our “lively hope”. We are commanded to continue in this faith “grounded and settled” and not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel as mentioned above. “My dove”: The dove is a symbol of gentleness, innocence and harmlessness (Matt. 10:16). It also has a quality which is rare in birds, and that is that it is faithful to its mate, and homeloving. It never engages in quarrels or fights, and when attacked, it offers no resistance. By the same token, we also are required to “do all things without murmurings or disputings: that (we) may be blameless and harmless ... in the world”. The dove is a clean bird, having nothing to do with other, unclean birds, or with dead animals. After the flood, when the rain had ceased, Noah sent out a dove, but soon she returned because she found no rest for the sole of her foot. However, when a raven was sent out, it did not return, but wandered to and fro, evidently feeding upon rotting flesh (Gen. 8:7-9). Similarly, a life of separation is essential for those who wish to preserve a life of holiness, and to remain in fellowship with God. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:17,18). He then adds: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). For further information concerning the spiritual significance of the dove, her wings, her eyes, her dwelling place and other aspects of her life, please refer to the studies on S.S.2:14,5:12). “She is the only of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her”: Jesus is the only-begotten and beloved Son of the Father (Jn. 3:16; Matt. 17:5). Such a Son seeks a Bride who is the only one and the choice one of her mother. “Jerusalem, which is above, is called “the mother of us all”. The “us” of this statement is the Body of Spirit-filled believers. In the vision which John had, he saw the Church as a mother in heavenly places, travailing to bring forth a manchild. Other children are born to her, but they are referred to as “the remnant of her seed”. Only the manchild will be caught up to the throne of God to be the eternal Bride. “The daughters saw her, and blessed her ... the queens and the concubines ... praised her” : The Bride must have a testimony, first of all in the world. In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, she must shine forth as a light. Secondly, she must be an example within the Church. Timothy was one such , for he was “well reported of by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium”. Paul was another, for he says: “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe” (I Thess.2:10). Again, writing to the Philippians he says: “Brethren, be followers together of me... ye have us for an ensample” (Phil.3:17). Peter counsels the elders to be “ensamples to the flock” (I Pet.5:3). The Bride of Christ should be an example “in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (IITim.4:12). Thirdly, in eternity, she who now lives in the Dispensation of Grace, must be worthy of the praise of all the saints from the other Dispensations. Jesus, speaking of His generation, said that “the queen of the south” would rise up in the judgment with them, and condemn them, as would the men of Nineveh (Matt.12:41,42). All of heaven and earth declare the Lamb to be worthy (Rev.5:12-14), and the same declaration will have to be made of His Bride. So let us not glory in our spiritual attainments, or be complacent about our present spiritual
state; let us not deny the truth about ourselves and let us not misuse the grace of God. Let us rather humble ourselves, surrendering ourselves to God’s perfect will in our lives, and let us be ready to be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit. Let us be wholly sanctified and “preserved blameless” in Spirit, soul and body (I Thess.5:23); let us be made one in Him, that we might be found as the “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such a thing; but ... holy and without blemish” Eph.5:27). This is His dove, His undefiled, which is but ONE. “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded. Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” S.S.6:10-13. “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” (S.S.6:10): This verse stands on its own between two sections (IV and V) in the book. It describes the Bride as she is when she has found her Beloved once again, and is basking in His love. The Hebrew word for “looketh forth” (shaqaph) gives the idea of “leaning over” or of “leaning out of” (a window), and “looking forth”. Here we can picture her leaning out of the palace window, and then the daugbters of Jerusalem catch sight of her and cry out in wonder: “Who is she?” Restored to her first love, and now in perfect communion with her Beloved, she is transformed beyond recognition by His grace and glory. Let us learn to maintain perfect fellowship with our heavenly Bridegroom continually, so that others may see in us at all times His glorious image. That looketh forth as the morning”: “The morning” speaks of the time during the Dispensation of Grace, when the coming of the Lord has drawn nigh. Paul says to the Romans: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Rom.13:12). This is that time, and the Bride of Christ must shine forth, the light of the eternal reflected in her face. “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun”: The Book of Revelation speaks of a wonder in heaven: “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev.12:1). The latter is, as we know the Church, and this description of her echoes the description of the Bride as given in Song of Solomon 6:10. The words “fair as the moon” speak of the beauty which she has received through living her life in the grace of God; She has no light of her own, but reflects His life and beauty. “The moon” also speaks of the peace which marks one living by the grace which God gives and not by self-effort. At the same time she is “clear as the sun”. Not only has the “Sun of Righteousness” risen upon her with healing in His wings (Mal.4:2); He has made her partaker of His very righteousness. Paul, to obtain this righteousness, was willing to forsake all things: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil.3:8,9). Jesus, to give us this righteousness, was willing to lay down His very life: “For he (God) hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (IICor.5:21). How much do we value this righteousness? The Bride of Christ should radiate such righteousness. She is pure and holy, and there is no darkness in her. “Terrible as an army with banners” (S.S.6:10): (Please refer to the study on S.S.6:4), where this phrase also occurs) .A life lived in such grace and holiness is a fearful thing to the forces of darkness of this world, whom we are called to combat (Eph.6:12). We should not forget that we have a war to wage in our spiritual life. Paul often speaks of this warfare, encouraging Timothy
to “fight the good fight of faith” and to “war a good warfare” (ITim.6:12;1:18). He also speaks of the way we should fight in II Timothy 2:3-5. In our spiritual warfare there are certain rules we have to abide by, if we want to be victorious. If we do not live a life of separation and holiness, we are not striving lawfully, and we cannot expect to have victory over the forces of darkness. This is why Peter exhorts us to be sober and vigilant, and to resist the devil, steadfast in the faith, a faith which we can have only when we maintain a good conscience (IPet.5:8,9; ITim1:19,20). The true Bride of Christ, living entirely on the grace of God, and dwelling in the purity of His light, has authority and victory over the forces of darkness, and she is a source of terror to them. SECTION V THE FRUITS OF THE RECOGNIZED UNION (Chapters 6:11-13; 7:1-13; 8:1-4) “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded. OR ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib: (S.S.6:11,12): Suddenly the scene changes, and the Bride finds herself going down into not the gardens of nuts before she is aware of what is happening. The zeal in her soul for her Bridegroom makes her spontaneous in her service for her Lord, and as swift as the chariots of Amminadib in carrying it out. “Garden of nuts”: The only other place in the Bible where nuts are mentioned is in Genesis 43:11, and even so, the Hebrew word there is not the same as here. So what is the Lord wanting us to understand here by His introduction of the “garden of nuts?” It must be this: To savour the nut, one must first break its hard shell. This speaks of a certain breaking, which is necessary in our outer lives, so that the savour (aroma) of the inner man, which is formed after Christ (Eph.4:24;Col.3:10) may be revealed to the world, There is a constant battle between the inner and the outer man. Paul says: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal.5:17). Peter beseeches us to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (IPet.2:11). Like Ishmael and Isaac, the two are implacable enemies and that is why Paul says: “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal.5:24). When our flesh, or our outer shell, is broken, then our inner life, by the Spirit of God, becomes a savour, a sweet perfume, to the world. “Fruits of the valley”: We often speak of “valley experiences “ in our Christian life, as being sombre and difficult experiences. Yet, it is the valleys which are the most fertile places in the natural world, for they are well watered by pure mountain streams. Let us not therefore become discouraged when we go through such experiences, for, in the sight of God they are the places where we shall produce the most perfect fruit for His glory. In S.S>2:2, the bride is spoken of as the lily among thorns, humble and lowly, suffering, maybe because of those around her, yet remaining pure and undefiled. In this way we can bare much fruit for our Master. “To see whether the vine flourished” (Please refer also to the study of S.S.2:13) regarding vines). The vine, through the ages, has been a symbol of Israel, or the Church (cf. Psa.80:8-19; Isa.5:1-10;Jn.15:1-8). She who once tried to keep the lives of others without maintaining her own spiritual life (S.S.1:6), now goes, in intimate communion with her Bridegroom, to see the state of the vine. Speaking to the Corinthian Church, Paul says: “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (IICor.6:1). Instead of working for Him, tiring herself with her own efforts in His service, she is now working in sweet and intimate communion with Him, drawing only on His strength and grace to look after the Church. “Pomegranates (Please refer also to earlier observations regarding the pomegranates in the study of S.S.4:3). Just as the flavour of the nut cannot be appreciated until the shell is broken, do the beauty of the pomegranate is not seen until it is cut open. We have already seen how the
many cells and seeds within, beautifully arranged in order, speak of the unity and order that exist in the true Church of God. “The Chariots of Amminadib: “Amminadib” literally means “my willing/noble/princely people”. The desire of her soul for her Bridegroom has given her a zeal which is no longer carnal; it is a zeal for service which is quiet different from that which caused her to neglect her own life with the Lord (S.S.1:6). The zeal which she now has is a noble willingness which is no longer immature and unstable, but is mature, reliable and full of power and authority. Chariots and horses were in those days the fastest means of transport, and so chariots also speak of the speed with which she runs to serve her Lord. Yet this new-found zeal is not, as we have seen, the result of mere youthful exuberance, but speaks of the swiftness of her service even in her maturity. “Return, return, O Shulamite: return, return, that we may look upon thee”: So swift-footed, yet so noble is the Bride, as she goes in the service of her Beloved, that the daughters of Jerusalem are, so to speak, left standing. Lost in the intimacy of service with Him instead of for Him, she is now severed from them. Frightened of losing her, they call out: “Return, return! “. When one comes to a certain stage in one’s love for the Lord, relationships which had once seemed so precious fade into insignificance. Others may wonder what is happening, and, being afraid of losing our affection, may cry out: “Return, return! What is happening to you?” Shulamite means “the pacified one”, just as “Solomon” means “peacemaker”. She is now totally yielded to Him, and she who was independent and rebellious has been pacified by the Prince of Peace. Now the daughters of Jerusalem recognize in her the qualities of her Bridegroom, and they call upon her to return in order that they may look upon her, for they see in her the divine beauty of her heavenly Lord. Those unwilling to pay the price necessary to obtain intimate communion with the Lord will often seek the company of those who possess this intimate communion, and when the latter seek to steal away to spend a period of time in private at the feet of their Beloved, the former will call after them: “Return, return! Is it really necessary to go all that way with the Lord? “What will ye see in the Shulamite?” The Bride, lost in communion with the Beloved, cannot understand this unwanted attention and affection bestowed upon her by those who are seeking to distract her. Like Moses when he came down from the mountain, she is unaware of the glory that radiates from her life as a result of her communion with the Lord. “As it were the company of two armies” The margin reading for “two armies” is “two camps” (in Hebrews “Mahanaim”). This is the name given by Jacob to the place where the angels of God met with him (Gen.32:2). It was also an important town in ancient Israel (IKgs.4:14). The dance of Mahanaim seems to have been a dance of victory, danced in two groups. In exactly the same way, the Church is formed of two camps, or armies. One camp is the army of perfected saints in heaven (those who have died in Christ). The other is the army of overcoming saints on the earth. So the Bride is made up of two victorious and rejoicing groups. Even the daughters of Jerusalem, who have a lesser status that the Bride, recognize and acknowledge a life lived on a higher plane than theirs, and this recognition can in fact have the effect of inspiring them to greater zeal in service, and to greater ardour in seeking the face of the Lord. ——————“How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman. Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins. Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple: the king is held in the galleries” (S.S.7:1-5).
The Shulamite has found her Bridegroom at last, and has renewed her fellowship and communion with Him, and this has wrought a great change in her. The daughters of Jerusalem and other women of honour in the palace see the transformation, and cry out to her to return so that they may look on her once more. Here they describe her beauty in true Oriental language. From head to foot, they see only perfection and beauty. “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!”: This means: “How beautiful are your footsteps”. In chapter 5:3, we read that she had put off her sandals, and was sleepy. She was no longer shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph.6:15). But now, as the literal rendering implies, she is not lying down, nor is she standing still, but walking. It is the agile, active feet upon the mountains (Isa.52:7), shod with the glad tidings, that are beautiful. Her feet are still more beautiful, because she follows the Bridegroom all the way in his footsteps. O Prince’s daughter”: Earlier the Bridegroom has called her His “dove”, His “sister”, “the fairest among women”, all of which speak of her purity, love and beauty. This is the first time He has bestowed upon her this title, and it implies nobility, majesty and a willingness to go wherever her Master sends her. “The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman : (S.S.7:1). Hands of a cunning workman” or “hands of steadiness” signify work done with skill and care as opposed to work which is hastily and carelessly executed. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that “we are his workmanship”. Not only dose God do a deep work of sanctification in us; we are also a new creation, His workmanship, vessels of honour (II Tim.2:20), “vessels of mercy... prepared unto glory in order to make known the riches of his glory” (Rom.9:23). “Thighs” denote strength. To be a powerful and swift runner, one has to have the joints of the thighs perfectly formed, otherwise the strength of the thighs will be wasted. In our spiritual race, we have to run and obtain the prize as one man. (ICor.9:24; Eph. 4:13). For this, in the Body of Christ, the members must be fitly framed together, knit together by the joints and also nourished and strengthened by that which every joint supplies (Eph.4:16; Col.2:19). We must thus become strong in the Lord and with ceaseless effort, run the race to the end. “Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor”: The Hebrew word for “liquor” literally means “mixture”. Mixed wine is delicious and intoxicating. One drinks it with pleasure and before one is aware of whose is happening, becomes intoxicated. The pleasure which the Bride gives the Bridegroom is like intoxicating wine. This gives us an idea of the ecstasy of joy that Christ finds in those of us who have grown to this maturity as the Bride of Christ. The joy of the Bride of Christ similarly knows no bounds. She rejoices in tribulation for Christ (Rom.5:3). When she faces “manifold temptations” and fiery trials, she rejoices “with joy unspeakable, and full of glory” (IPet.1:6-8). She regards it as a privilege to be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41). Such rejoicing helps her endure the “heaviness through manifold temptations” (IPet.1:6). “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies”: (For further information about lilies, please see the studies on S.S.2:2,16; 5:13;6:2). Heaps of wheat, decorated with flowers, were placed in parallel rows on eastern threshing floors. The colour of wheat was believed to be the most beautiful the body could have. A believer’s sanctified body will be as glorious as the Body of Christ (Phil.3:21). When we submit ourselves to God, listen to His voice and walk in His ways, He promises to subdue our enemies and feed us with “the finest of the wheat”; this speaks of deep and sound revelations from His Word, which will strengthen the inner man, and enable us to understand the “devices” of Satan (resist his “mind-oriented strategies” (IICor. 2:11), know his “depths” (Rev.2:24) and overcome the temptations and trials which he sends. “Belly”: The whole body is nourished from the belly. The belly of the Bride is compared to “an heap of wheat”, to show that spiritually, she is prospering, because she is nourished by sound doctrines (ITim.4:6) and deep revelations. “Lilies”: please refer to the studies on S.S.2:2, 2:16, 5:13, 6:2,3. The fact that the wheat is
set about with lilies speaks of her life of humility, adorned with the beauty of holiness. “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins”: “Breasts” speaks of the ability of the Bride to nourish newborn Christians with the pure milk of the Word (IPet.2:2). Two breasts” indicate a balanced supply of faith and love (Col.1:3,4). “Twins” always tend to stay and live together” so with faith and love (Gal.5:6). “Roes” are beautiful, graceful, agile animals which frequently have to endure inclement weather. Similarly, the Bride must also be prepared to endure difficult circumstances as she gives spiritual food to others. A life of suffering leads us to precious experiences of living close to Jesus, our Bridegroom, Who is also our High Priest, Who is ever willing to help us in time of need. These experiences enrich our faith and love. “Thy neck is a tower of ivory: (Please refer to the study on S.S.4:4). The neck unites the head to the body. It speaks, therefore, of fellowship with Christ (Col.2:19). “Ye are complete in him” writes Paul to the Colossians (2:9,10). The neck contains the vital connections between the body and the head. When we have fellowship with Christ, Who is the Head, we are nourished as a branch is nourished by the tree from which it grows. Jesus used this very illustration when He spoke of Himself as the vine and of His followers as branches. As long as we abide in Christ, we can bear much fruit for Him, but without Him we can do nothing (Jn.15:1,5,7). “Ivory” is the hard white substance of which the main part of an elephant’s tusk is composed. The strength of the elephant lies mainly in its tusks and in ivory which they contain, and this is clearly seen when he grapples with his enemy and subdues him. Hence, “ivory” points to the strength and steadfastness of our faith, whereby we overcome the world and the enemy (IJn.5:4). Ivory also has intrinsic value for which it is highly prized. Skilful craftsmen use ivory to fashion beautiful artifacts. Similarly, faith is known not only for its strength, but also for its preciousness. It is referred to as “precious faith” (II Pet.1:1), and as “faith which is more precious than gold” (I Pet.1:7). “Thine eyes like the fish pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbin”: (Please see the study on S.S.4:1;6:5). In S.S.1:15 and 4:1, the Bride’s “eyes” are compared to the soft and milky eyes of the dove. Then is S.S.6:5 her eyes are described as being aflame with zeal. Now they are described as being calm, pure and deep as the “fishpools of Heshbon”. This speaks of the transparent purity of the Bride, even before the all-seeing eyes of Christ which are as a flame of fire (Rev.1:14). “Bath-rabbim”: The literal rendering of this is “the daughter of multitudes: and the reference is to the vast number of people passing through the gate. To all who see her as they pass by, she is transparent and pure, without guile. “The understanding, and the intentions of a believer, are clear as these ponds” (Matthew Henry). “Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus”: Why is the nose of the Bride compared to the tower of Lebanon? It is because we face the way our nose points, and Lebanon faces Damascus; this shows that the Bride is undaunted in the face of the enemy; she is at all times upright and has her face in the right direction, set like a flint (Isa.50:7). It also signifies the ability to discern spiritually between things that differ, as animals scent danger, while it is yet afar off (Eph.5:15-17; Phil.1:9; IJn.4:2). “Thine head upon thee is like carmel”: Carmel towers over the surrounding country in solitary grandeur, aptly illustrating the majesty of the Bride. The Bride of Christ is indeed a prince’s daughter, holding her head upright, and dominating her enemies. Along with the psalmist, she can say: “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me” (Psa.27:6). Neither death nor sin have dominion over her (Rom.6:9,14). On the contrary, she is more than a conqueror over all her enemies, through the love of Christ (Rom.8: 35-39). “And the hair of thy head like purple” : (Please see the study on S.S.4:1 regarding hair). Long hair is the glory of women. When Israel disobeyed God and refused to take correction, God
rejected them and withdrew His glory from them. Then He said: “Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation upon high places; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath” (Jer.7:29). With this in mind, St.Paul gives us the following exhortation: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered ... Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have a long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering (ICor.11:5,6,14,15). The long hair of women, therefore, signifies submission not only to their husbands but also to Christ. The glory of the Bride lies, in the general sense, in her consecration to submit at all times to Christ in love, and this is symbolized by her long hair. “Purple”: Rich, black hair sometimes has a purple sheen. Purple speaks of royalty (Judg.8:26; Esther 8:15; Lk.16:19). In ancient times, kings were clothed in purple. Purple was the glory of Phoenicia, the area just north of Carmel, which includes Tyre and Sidon. We are made kings and priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Rev.1:6; IPet.2:9). “The king is held in the galleries” : The literal translation for this is: “The king is held captive in (its) tresses”. The Hebrew word for “galleries”, as used in Genesis 30:38 and 41 and Exodus 2:16, means “channael” or “watering trough”, with the idea of a channel hollowed out of the mountain side, descending in stages, so that the water in it comes cascading down like the ringlets of a luxuriant head of hair. The Bride’s hair falls thus, in rich, shining cascades, so beautiful, so royal, that even a king is captivated by the sight of it. The Bride’s beauty is greatly enhanced by the fact that her life is one of perfect submission and obedience to Christ. She is willing to do His perfect will under all conditions and circumstances, not by constraint, but out of pure love. It was the prospect of this love that gave rise in Jesus to the pure joy which enabled Him to endure the cross (Heb.12:2). It was because He had this enchanting vision of “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle ... holy and without blemish”, that He was able to give Himself for her (Eph.5:25-27). May the dear Lord help us preserve the vision; may our love and service to Him become a true and beautiful reflection of His love and His sacrifice for us! “How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!” (S.S.7:6) The king, or the bridegroom, is captivated by the charms of his bride; but what a delightful captivity it is for him! The delight which she brings to the heart of her lover stems not only from the stunning beauty of her outward appearance, but also from the inward beauty of her character. He is enchanted not only by her physical charms, but also by the deep kindness and unfailing pleasantness of her personality. How often, though we may claim to be spiritually adorned, do we lack this quality of pleasantness, or approachability, which enables others to come to us without fear of being turned away, and to unburden themselves to their worries and problems. How then did the bride come by these qualities? We read in S.S.1:16 that she says, “Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea pleasant”. It is because she had seen these very qualities in her Beloved. Through communion with Him, she has come to share His very nature, and He in turn can now say: “How fair and how pleasant art thou!” But the bride who receives these compliments has not always been delightful and pleasant. She has at times been cold, sleepy or even cruelly insensitive to the loving voice of her Bridegroom. Even now she has her faults and her failings. But He talks of none of these things, for “love thinketh no evil: rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (ICor.13:5,6). “Charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (IPet.4:8). The Bridegroom talks only of the Bride’s sanctified nature, not of her faults or of her backslidings. If the nature of the Bridegroom is formed in us, if we are truly the Bride of Christ, then this same trait will be manifest in us: we will not see or think evil, let alone speak it, of other children of God, but we will see only their good side, and appreciate the great work God has already done in their lives.
“This thy stature is like to a palm tree...”: The date palm is a tall, slender, unbranched tree with a tuff of leaves at its crown. It grows in the Jordan valley. The Bridegroom now sees in the bride the beauty and fruitfulness of the tall and upright palm, the emblem of grace and elegance. “Tamar”, the Hebrew word for this tree, was a common girl’s name (Gen.38:6; II Sam13:1, etc.) for the tree was regarded as being a type of feminine grace and beauty. For this reason, it was one of the ornaments of Solomon’s temple (IKgs. 6:7) as it will be used again as an ornament in the millennial temple (Ezek. 40,41). The palm tree is at its best when it is laden with foilage. The foilage has its parallel in the life of the Bride of Christ in the trials and afflictions which come her way, and it is in these times of trial that she too is seen at her best. There are many illustrations of this fact in the New Testament. As a general example, when the Church was persecuted in Jerusalem, the believers were scattered far and wide, and their whole ministry in preaching the gospel was greatly extended (Acts 8:1-4). As a more personal example we may consider Paul and Silas, who when they were chained and bleeding in the Philippian dungeon, caused the whole building to ring with their praises. (Acts 16:25). It is for this reason the foilage of the palm, which she rises as a beautiful crown towards the heavens, is an emblem of victory. She does not fear the heat of the scorching sun, or of the burning wind, hot from desert. It was with palm branches that the multitude welcomed Christ into Jerusalem proclaiming “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). And it is with palms in their hands that the multitude which no man can number, will stand before the throne, having at last found rest from their trials (Rev.7:9). In a glorious hymn of victory, they sing: “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and power, and might, be unto our God foe ever and ever” (Rev.7:12). The fruit of the date palm has great sustaining power, so much so that it is valued more than bread by the oriental traveller. The fruit-bearing powers of the tree do not pass away, but as age increases, the fruit becomes more perfect as well as more abundant. How well does this describe the man who is upright in all his ways!. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing..” Not only are these qualities a source of delight to the Bridegroom, but they are also a testimony to the world. “To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (Psa. 92:12-15). The stem of the palm tree is composed in a way that is peculiar to itself. Unlike the woody cylinder of hardwood tree, the stem of a palm tree is composed of hundreds of thousands of conducting stems scattered in softer ground tissues. The central core is larger and softer than the outer region, which is composed of densley packed fibres so hard that they quickly dull any cutting instrument. Because of its composition, it is also able to withstand the winds that would break ordinary trees. The Encyclopaedia Britannica calls it ‘a natural example of the best principles of engineering, permitting the maximum strength with economic use of strengthening tissues’. The Church, designed by the Master of master engineers is also is a body “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth” (Eph.4:16). She is able to withstand every tempest, and every wind of doctrine that breaks up and uproots the woody, lifeless cylinders of man-made institutions. It is written: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isa.54:17). Even the instruments of those who try to cut down the Church will be blunted and will not prosper. The conditions under which the palm tree grows also gives us an idea of the circumstances under which the Church grows. It grows in a desert climate, with no rainfall during most of the period development, but its roots going deep down, draw moisture form the ground which has stored up the rain during the rainy season. If it rains too much during the period of fruit development, the fruit is not of good quality. Even so with us. God showers blessings upon us at
a certain period of our lives, but the time when genuine fruit is formed is the period when there is no rain, a time which seems to us to be dry and barren. If we want God to shower blessings upon us continually, there will never be any fruit of real quality brought forth in our lives. Commercially, no part of the palm tree is wasted. The trunk and the leaves are all put to good use. The palm tree has no superfluous ornamentation even so is the Bride of Christ. There is nothing superfluous in her life, no glitter or passing glamour, and yet in her splendid and upright simplicity, she possesses a surpassing elegance and beauty. No wonder the Bridegroom compares the stature of the Bride to that of the palm tree, The palm tree evokes her beauty, her uprighteousness and her simplicity., It speaks of the victory in her life over difficult conditions and of her success in resisting all attacks and onslaughts, thanks to the wonderful way in which she is compacted together. It speaks of the fact that it is in arid conditions that she produces perfect fruit, and of the fact that her beauty has no need of tawdry glamour or of superfluous ornamentation. “and thy breasts to clusters” We have already seen how breasts speak of the balanced supply of faith and love ( Gal.5:6; Col.3:4) provided by those who feed the Church with the pure milk of the Word of God (IPet.2:2). “Clusters” what does the word imply? The next verse compares the breasts of the bride to “clusters of the vine” (“now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine”), implying “grapes”. But in the verse we are considering, the Hebrew text has simply “clusters”. In view of the context, it would seem that dates rather than grapes are what the writer has in mind. The important thing, however, is that her breasts are compared to clusters of fruit, of whatever kind. This shows that it is not only through the teaching of the Word, or of sound doctrine, but also through the fruit of the Spirit manifested in the lives of those who teach the Word of God, that the Church is brought to maturity, both in word and character. “I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also they breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples; And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. I am beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (S.S. 7:8-10). Last time we saw how fair and pleasant is the Bride of Christ, both in outward behaviour and inward character. Though she has not got the best of records and still has faults, the Bridegroom looks only on her good qualities and thus should we look at others. We have already seen how the Bride is compared to the tall, strong and elegant palm tree; now she is compared the lowly vine. In addition, the breath of the Bride is compared to the scent of apples and her palate to the best wine. We will also see how she reacts to these praises coming from the mouth of her Beloved and joyfully abandons herself to His love. “I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof” BOUGHS (Hebrew ‘Cancin’ from an unused root meaning ‘to be pointed’) probably refers to the leafy palm branches, which taper at their end. But it may also refer to the fruit-bearing branches whose clusters also taper slighty. Not content with simply admiring the one he loves, the bridegroom desires to take hold of her and express his love. Christ desires, not only to have communion with us, but also to seize us and possess us fully. Have we come to the state where we can say without reserve, ‘Lord, possess me fully; I would be one with Thee’? St. Paul not only had this experience of Christ laying hold of him to possess him, but also desired to lay hold of Christ and make Him his own: “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). “Now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine”: We have seen how GRAPES speak of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23) which grow from the believer’s life of dwelling in the true vine (Jn. 15:1). Jesus also said, “For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes” (Lk. 6:44). If we are the branches of the true vine, the true Church of God, we should produce the corresponding fruit in our daily lives, for we shall be known and judged
by our fruit. The BREASTS of the bride are here not only compared to clusters of dates, which have great sustaining power, but also to clusters of the vine, a plant which is a symbol of joy and fruitfulness (Ps. 104:15; 128:3). The fruit produced by the Bride for the Bridegroom is thus one which sustains and also gives Him much joy. “And the smell of thy nose like apples” The NOSE is the member of our body which is able to discern different scents. When the bridegroom speaks of the scent of her nostrils being like that of apples, this shows the discernment the Bride of Christ possesses through having nourished herself on the word of God. This discernment is spoken of in different ways in the New Testament. Firstly, Paul tells us that our love must grow more and more in knowledge and in judgment or discernment (Phil. 1:9). This speaks of how in our love for others we are to be able to discern HOW to love them in the correct way. Secondly, we read of how Paul prayed for the Colossians, “... that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:9,10). The Bride of Christ must know how to discern what is the will of God, and how to accomplish it. Thus she will be able to walk worthy of the Lord. Thirdly, we read that the discerning of spirits is a spiritual gift that should be operative in the Church (I Cor. 12:10). John tells us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I Jn. 4:1). Satan sometimes comes to us in subtle ways, and we must be alert and know how to discern his tactics. Paul says, “we are not ignorant of his devices” (II Cor. 2:11). THE APPLE of the Old Testament was a particularly fragrant fruit of the ‘pome order, which included the quince, citron, orange etc. One cannot be sure of its exact identity, but it was a tree that afforded welcome protection from the burning sun, whose fruit was sweet and much prized. Previously, the bride had delighted to sit under the shadow of the bridegroom, as under an apple tree (S.S. 2:3), and she had asked others, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples” (S.S. 2:5). We have seen previously that apples represent the word of God (Prov. 25:11). Now the Bride, who earlier had to be strengthened by the Bridegroom and by others, exhales the very fragrance of the word of God. Very often our breath betrays the sort of food we have been eating. Is spiritually, we have been feeding on the onions and garlic of Egypt, our breath with smell of it - and it is not a very pleasant smell. But the Bride has been nourishing herself on the fragrant and delicious fruit of the word of God, and this now becomes evident. In the Word of God we see several examples of men of God who made the word of God a very part of their life’s breath. Joshua was told, ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night ...’ (Josh. 1:8). The Hebrew word here for ‘meditate’ is ‘hagah’, whose literal meaning is ‘to murmur,’ Joshua was thus exhorted to murmur or mutter the word of God day and night ...’ so that it would be continually on his breath. This also is the experience of the man blessed in Psalm 1, who meditates (murmurs) God’s law day and night. In Psalm 119:15,23,48,78,148, the Psalmist uses another word for ‘meditate’: it is ‘siyach’ which means ‘to ponder’ or ‘to converse’ (with oneself or with others). Not only should we have the word of God continually on our lips, we should also reflect upon it to gain understanding of what the Spirit of God is wanting to say to us through that word. The palm is tall, upright, very strong and resistant, bearing nourishing fruit. By contrast the vine is lowly, small and very tender and yet is a means of bringing joy to the heart of man. Each of these comparisons complement each other and together produce a complete and vivid description of the Bride of the One, who is at the same time the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and also the gentle, lowly Lamb slain for the sins of the world (Rev. 5:5,6). Some of us are more like the palm, the others are more like the vine. However we should all possess both
qualities. Moreover the apples which the bride fed on, now perfume her breath, and impart to her their delicious odour. Not only should we eat the word, but we must also digest it and make it a part and parcel of our very being, of our spirit and of the very breath that comes out of our nostrils. As we go on, we see more and more the image of the Bridegroom reflected in the Bride. “And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine ...”: THY MOUTH: Before it was the Bride who delighted in the sweetness of the mouth of the Bridegroom (S.S. 5:16), in the gracious words that came from His mouth (Lk. 4:22) and in the words of eternal life and power that He pronounced (Jn. 6:68; Matt. 8:13,16), but now it is the Bridegroom who delights in the words of grace coming from the palate of the mouth of the Bride, out of the abundance of a heart purified by His word and by His grace (Matt. 12:34). St. Paul counsels us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). When the word of God really dwells in us richly, then our own words will be filled with the grace and the power that characterised the words of our Bridegroom when He walked in this earth. But if we do not permit the word of God to dwell in us, then other things may creep into our conversation, such as filthiness, foolish talking and jesting (Eph. 5:3,4). But Paul says, ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers’ (Eph. 4:29). WINE’ It is an intoxicating drink. It makes glad the heart of man (Ps. 104:15) and helps man forget his poverty (Prov. 31:7). At Pentecost, because of the joy and exuberance they showed, the 120 were accused of being drunk with new wine (Acts. 2:13). We have seen how, in S.S. 1:4, the bride preferred the love of the bridegroom to wine (a type of worldly pleasure). Here, however, and in verse 2 of this chapter, it is the bridegroom who compares the pleasure which the bride gives him, to wine, even to the best wine. Christ has no greater pleasure and joy than to commune with His Bride, to delight Himself in her company, and to hear her sweet words of love to Him; and yet how often we are oblivious both of His desire towards us and also of the pleasure He takes in us! “ ... For my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak” Here the Bride interjects, directing attention away from herself and to her beloved. All the qualities described above are for her Beloved, not for herself, or for her own glory. They are simply the fruit of her communion with him, and having received them from him, she desires to return them to him. The last part of this verse has been translated in various ways: ‘Flowing gently over lips and teeth’ ... ‘flowing gently over the lips of sleeping ones’ ... ‘Moving gently the lips of those that are asleep’ etc. However, one thing we can see clearly from these words is the unselfish zeal of the bride, who is ready to give freely and directly all that she has received. One can feel in these words the spirit of open and joyous service, both for the Bridegroom and for others, that characterizes the Bride, even in her maturity. Unconverted sinners, and even saints who at one time had an experience with the Lord, but who have now become cold, and old in their spiritual life, are like those who are asleep. The words of the Bride not only go directly and honestly, like the words of Paul, who says that he did not handle the word of God deceitfully or crookedly, or change his vocabulary to please men (II Cor. 4:2; Gal. 1:9,10); they also go down ‘smoothly’ or ‘gently’, with great love to those for whom they are destined. This causes a reaction in those who received them, causing their lips to move gently, and awaking them from their slumber. This shows that the Bride of Christ is not just direct and hard in her words, nor is she so gentle that she does not tell the truth directly enough to awaken others to the danger of continuing in sleep. But “speaking the truth in love’, she grows up ‘into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15). We see this way of speaking the truth in love beautifully exemplified by Peter in Acts 3:1226 after the healing of the man lame from his mother’s womb. Here he is speaking to a crowd
which included those who had murdered Jesus. He does not hide the truth, and says, “ye denied the Holy One and the Just ... And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead” (vs. 14,15). But then he goes on to say, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed ... he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out ...” (vs. 17-19). Gently, but firmly, he puts his finger on the wound, and then gives the remedy. If only we too could speak in this way, how many would we gain for Christ who might otherwise stay in their sins or backslide because of our wrong words! “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is towards me”: What must be the joy of the bride as she discovers that her Beloved is taking ever more delight in her! Here the bride repeats a cry she had made before, when, through negligence, she had lost her communion with her Beloved. Similar words came from her mouth just before she had found him again. But here there is a great difference in the way she speaks. She no longer says ‘My beloved is mine’. So enraptured is she in wonder at his love towards her that her thoughts and words are filled with the joyous realization that his desire is indeed towards her. Her cry here has a totally different tone to that which she expressed in S.S.6:3. There it was a cry mixed with anguish at the thought of the absence of her Beloved; yet it expressed at last a total yielding and acceptance of his soverign right over her life and will. But now having seen the tender, pure and strong love of her Beloved towards her, she proclaims gladly, without fear or reticence, the fact that she belongs to him, that she is His possession, and that He is totally sovereign in her life. The fact that she has now at last realized how much her Bridegroom delights in her, has made all the difference to her relationship with Him. She now joyfully proclaims “I am my beloved’s,” in total abandon to him, now forever sure of His love and desire for her. We have thus seen the power of discernment that charaterizes the Bride of Christ, and the way in which the life and words of the Bride are a sweet fragrance because of her delight in the Word of God. Paul says, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (II Cor.2:15). The Bride here is indeed a sweet savour of Christ and of His qualities, which have ripened in her because of her communion with Him. Yet her immediate reaction is to turn the attention of those who look at her away from herself and towards her beloved . During the whole of this chapter we have seen how the Bridegroom delights in and praises the Bride. Now at last she has realized, “Yes, He REALLY DOES love me!” He has not looked at her faults, but has only praised her good qualities. How different our relationship with Jesus would be if only praised we realized, “Yes, Jesus really does accept me; He really does love me, and His desire is toward me’. If we could but realize the depth and zeal of the love that Jesus has for us, our consecrations would not seem so costly or difficult: we would joyfully abandon all into His hands, saying, “I am my Beloved’s and His desire is towards me!”. “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the faith; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates but forth: there will I give thee my loves” (S.S.7:11,12). “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field” : Thy field is a place where men work, sometimes with extreme difficulty under the burning sun. The Bride knows that her intimate relationship with her Bridegroom will lead her to lay down her life in arduous labour for others; this is her desire, and so she says: “Come, my Beloved, let us go forth....” In the Word of God. both the world in general and the Church in particular are spoken of as a field. When explaining the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt.13:24-30, 36-43), Jesus said: “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one” (Matt.13:38). St.Paul, writing to the Corinthians, speaks of himself as a labourer in God’s field, or tillage, which is the Church. And so he says: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase... For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry...” (I Cor.3:6,9). So when the Bride says: “let us go forth into the field”, she is
simply expressing her desire to spend and be spent in demanding service, both for the lost in the world at large, and also within the Church of God. “Let us lodge in the villages”: Jerusalem, during the time of Solomon, would be a busy metropolis, swarming with people, for it was the capital of Israel. The Bride in this chapter has been praised by the daughters of Jerusalem, and, in their presence, by her Bridegroom Himself. This honour brings joy to the heart of the Bride. However, her chief desire is to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so that she can be alone with Him in one of the quiet, tranquil villages. Even Jesus Himself, when He was in this world, needed to withdraw from the crowds in order to enjoy communion with His heavenly Father. This was so that He might receive strength for His ministry to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew tells us that after feeding the five thousand, He sent the multitude away, and then went up into a mountain apart to pray and spent most of the night there alone with His Father (Matt.14:23). Mark relates how Jesus saw that the disciples were becoming exhausted as a result of their taxing ministry among such vast multitudes of people. He said to them: “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a while (Mark 6:31). How often we neglect this coming apart in our zeal to do things FOR our Bridegroom instead of being WITH Him! We end up exhausted, strained and irritated, unpleasant company for all around us, and a thoroughly bad testimony to believers and unbelievers alike. No! here the Bride has found the true secret of strength, spending time privately seeking sweet communion with her Bridegroom, and waiting on Him for strength. Youthful strength and power do not take long to become exhausted, and God does not delight in this kind of strength (Psa.147:10). “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not and not faint” (Isa.40:31). Another reason why Jesus took His disciples apart, was to reveal to them things which He could not reveal to the crowds that followed Him, On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus took the disciples apart in order to tell them in advance of His betrayal and death. Even amongst the disciples, it was only to Peter, James and John that He revealed His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt.17:1-8). If we are not prepared to spend time alone with Jesus, we cannot expect Him to reveal to us the secrets and burdens of His heart, nor to speak to us the deeper mysteries of God. “Let us get up early”: The Bride’s love is no lazy love, and she brooks no self-indulgence in her relationship with the Bridegroom. She has a spirit of industry, and works in concert with Him, she does not need to be told not to neglect her labour. It will help us better to understand this working relationship which we should have with Jesus, if we briefly consider Jesus’ relationship with the Father, Whilst He was on earth. In John 5:17,19, we read: “But Jesus answered (the Jews): “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work ... verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what thing so ever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” Here we see how totally Jesus lived in a spirit of continual dependance upon the Father. This same spirit of total, ongoing dependance charaterizes also the relationship of the believer with Jesus: “As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he that shall live by me” (Jn.6:57). The zeal thus shown by the Bride, in rising early for service is not, therefore, the product of her own zeal, but the result of her intimate communion with the Bridegroom, by Whom she lives, and by Whom she is motivated and strengthened. “To the vineyards”: The Bride is well acquainted with vineyards. From her early days she has been a keeper of vineyards. We read in S.S.1:6: “My mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept”. In her youth, others had made use of her immature zeal to minister to souls at the expense of her own spiritual life. Yet, even as she ministered from vineyard to vineyard, she has gained experience, and has learnt to distinguish between good vineyards and bad. She has known the incomparably beautiful
vineyard of Engedi (1:14), and is now capable of tending the vineyard that is to be entrusted to her (8:12). Thus, even the painful experiences of her youth have now become a well from which she can draw, as she goes on to serve her beloved as a more mature servant of God. At last she has come to the stage where she tends the vineyard of God WITH Him instead of FOR Him, or for others. “Let us see if the vine flourish”: (Please refer to the studies on the vine in S.S.2:13, 6:11). We have already seen how the vine represents Israel, or the Church. The Bride’s great desire is to see the vine FLOURISHING. A plant which does not grow is a sick plant. Those who have come to the maturity of the Bride, as shown in this Chapter, will not be satisfied unless the Church is growing, both numerically and in character. “Whether the tender grape appear”: (Please refer to the studies on the grapes in S.S.2:13;6:11). In spring, before the fruit appears on the vine, it produces tiny green clusters of flowers, which in turn become bunches of grapes. This is a very tender stage in the vine’s growth, and a sudden frost will kill the young buds. The vinedressers pay special attention to the vines at this time. In the same way, the Bride of Christ should take care of young Christians in their delicate, initial state, before a mature fruit-bearing life has begun in them. The desire of the Bride to see the buds safely through to producing tiny new grapes speaks of the desire we should have to see the development and maturing of young Christians. “And the pomegranates bud forth” : We have already seen how the pomegranate speaks of beauty reveal through suffering: the beautiful, orderly way in which the seeds are arranged cannot be seen until the fruit is cut open. We have also seen how it speaks of the unity and order among sanctified saints, and how it speaks of the pure and orderly thoughts of the Bride of Christ. Here the pomegranates are spoken of as being in their initial, budding stage. The Bride is expressing her desire to see the three qualities mentioned above germinating, growing and coming to perfection in the lives of younger Christians. “There will I give thee my loves”: We often think of our time in eternity with Jesus as being a time simply being alone with Him, enjoying His presence, and doing nothing but praising Him. But the Word of God does not bear this out. In the parable of the talents (Lk.19:1719), those who were faithful with their talents were afterwards given greater responsibilities, those of cities to rule over. Those who are counted worthy to take part in the first resurrection, reign with Christ for a thousand years. We often make a false distinction between, “prayer time” and “work time”, and we try to give Christ our love only in our prayer time instead of, as the Bride does here, giving our “loves” in working together with Him in the fields and in the vineyard of God. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century saint, discovered this secret, and he shares it with us: “I Possess God just as calmly in the bustle of my kitchen, where sometimes several people are asking me to do different things at the same time, as if I was on my knees at the altar. It is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn over my omelette in the pan for the love of God. When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself and worship my God from whom has come the grace to do it, and afterwards get up happier than a king” (“The practice of the Presence of God”). “The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved” (S.S.7:13). “The mandrakes give a smell”: Mandrakes, or love apples, belong to the potato family, and have a purple, cup shaped flower. The fruit resembles the plum, and has its own special fragrance. It was thought to have magical properties, and to produce fertility. The Bride makes the comment: “The mandrakes give a good smell”, because she is thinking of the fruitfulness of her relationship with her Beloved. God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve was: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen.1:28). Jesus said: “He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (Jn.15:5). Peter gives us a list of qualities, fo r which God looks in the Bride of Christ, and adds: “For if these things be in you, and abound,
they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Pet.1:8). We know all too well those who lay claim to great spiritualy, yet lack that warmth, maturity, compassion and serenity that charaterize those whose knowledge of God has brought forth fruit in their lives. The Bride is well aware that in her relationship with her Beloved, she should not be barren, but should bring forth fruit for Him. “And at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my Beloved”: Here the Bride reveals the fact that in calling upon her Beloved to come out into the fields, she is in no way acting upon a mere “spur of the moment” impulse. With great love and care, she has gone out beforehand to prepare a lodging in the villages, and has carefully selected the choicest fruits, new and old, that they may eat them together, What joy and love have come into the preparation of that little haven! Are we as careful in our preparation for our quiet times of intimacy with Jesus? Indeed, do we even bother to set apart a time each day in order to have a few minutes alone with Him? “FRUITS, NEW AND OLD”: This speaks of the fruit of diligent and regular study of the Word of God. In one of His shortest parables, Jesus said: “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is like a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt.13:52). If, down the years, we take the time each day to study and feed ourselves on the Word of God, we shall find that we have a treasure of “fruits, new and old”, which we can serve, any time we are asked. The house which the Bride has garnished for Christ is well stocked with both old and new revelations, with both old and new experiences. So now we see how, for the Bride of Christ, work and worship are inseparable. She fervently desires to be away from the hubbub of busy Jerusalem, and to spend time away with her Beloved in the quiet countryside; at the same time, her work forms an integral part of her communion with Him. How we need to rid ourselves of the false distinction between “spiritual” and “physical” work for the Lord, and to realize that to sweep a room for the love of God is greater in God’s sight than to preach a sermon for the sake of vain glory, or to embark upon a forty day period of fasting and prayer, which was not ordained of God, in pursuit of some mystical experience. May God give us the grace to follow the injunction of St.Paul: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (ICor. 10:31). Only in this way shall we become true yoke-fellows of Christ. “O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! When I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised. I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate” (S.S.8:1,2). “O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother!” (S.S.8:1): As we approach the last chapter of the Song of Solomon, we perceive an ever-lasting relationship developing between the Bride and the Bridegroom. The literal translation of this first phrase is: “Who can give you as a brother to me?” Here the Bride is expressing the desire that she may become as fully a part of the Bridegroom Himself as if He were her brother, having come from the same womb, and having been nourished at the same breasts (for the spiritual significance of breasts, please see the studies on S.S.4:5 and 7:3). Her one desire is to be of His flesh and bones. This relationship, as of a brother to the Bride, is something which Jesus Himself ardently desires. It is written: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb.2:11) The Bride has not yet realized it, but in fact, He and she are already “all of one”. There is, however, a price to pay, if we desire to be the brothers and sisters of the Lord. One day, when His natural brothers and sisters came to Him and wanted to speak with Him, Jesus stretched out His hand towards His disciples, and said: “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my
brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt.12:49,50). If we really desire Jesus to be our brother, we must be prepared to do the perfect will of God, and surrender ourselves and all we have and are to Him, unconditionally. Paul, writing to Timothy, counsels him to treat “the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” (I Tim. 5:2). This shows that there is no carnal tie in a pure brother sister relationship, for it is something much deeper than the carnal attraction which draws the sexes together. The affection and regard of this pure relationship is akin to that which grows in a marriage of long-standing. There comes into being an openness with one another of the kind which results only from a long period of sanctified, mutual love. Each has come to know the other thoroughly, inhibitions have all been dispelled and nothing is hidden by either party from the other. These words show that the Bride’s love is now taking on a new quality. The ecstatic joy and exuberant emotions of the early days have been tempered by the passage of time into a deeper, sweeter, more calm and mature delight in her Beloved. And just as well, for the initial stage was one of considerable instability on the part of the Bride, as we have seen from the account of her early history. No longer, mercifully, does the Bride impose upon the Bridegroom periods of separation. It is true that the book opens with the Bride saying: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better wine”; but only a very short time later, she has withdrawn from Him (S.S. 3:1). Now the early instability is a thing of the past, and the Bride’s greatest joy is that she has at last entered into a intimacy with her Bridegroom which is to endure. “When I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised” (S.S. 8:1): In this we see another way in which the Bride’s attitude to her Bridegroom has changed. Initially, the Bride’s desire was simply to be the passive recipient of her Bridegroom’s kisses and other marks of His affection. Now, however, she has assumed a more active role, and her love for her Bridegroom finds expression not only in service to her Lord, but also in demonstrations of affection. In S.S. 7:1-10, we saw the unrestrained and vivid imagery with which the Bridegroom expressed His deep, deep yearning for the Bride. In S.S. 7:8 we saw how He wanted simply to take hold of her, and embrace her. In these verses we see that this desire has become mutual, for now the Bride similarly wants to take hold of the Bridegroom, and to bring him into her mother’s house. Her fervent desire is freely to express her love. However, she realizes that there is a time and a place which are appropriate for this. Similarly, we as Christians, should also realize that there are certain things which are matters of an intimate and personal nature between ourselves and our Lord, which are purely for private expression, and which should not be shared even with those who are closest to us. There are, however, aspects of our love for the Lord which are appropriate for public expression. “I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house” (S.S. 8:2): This is the second time that the Bride has taken hold of the Bridegroom in order to bring Him into her mother’s house. The first time (S.S. 3:4) was after she had lost her communion with Him through her own fault (please see S.S. 2:17). When she regained Him, she held Him and would not let Him go, fearful of losing Him again before she was able to bring Him into her mother’s house. But here she takes hold of Him in quite a different way. This time it is after a period of sweet communion, during which she co-operated with Him fully, that she once more desires to lead Him into her mother’s house. No longer does she cling to Him, for now she is confident that she can retain her Bridegroom’s love; all fear of losing Him is at last gone. She rejoices in being able to say: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (S.S. 7:10). The “mother’s house” has, as we have already seen, another meaning also: it represents the true Church of God. Paul, writing to the Galatians, tells us that: “Jerusalem which is above is the matter of us all” (Gal. 4:26). From this we understand that the Christian who truly loves Jesus
will also love the fellowship of the saints in the Church of God. He will not be separate and content simply to enjoy his relationship as an isolated individual with his heavenly Bridegroom, but will desire to come with Him into the Body of Christ. “I would ... bring thee ... who would instruct me” (S.S. 8:2): It is here, in the mother’s house, that the Bridegroom instructs the Bride. Nowhere else in the Song of Songs is there any mention of the Bridegroom instructing the Bride, and it is significant that this instruction takes place “in my mother’s house”, that is, the Church is the place where believing Christians are taught. There are those who say: “We need no man to teach us: it is Christ, and Christ alone, who must teach us”. There is indeed truth in this statement; Christ Himself said, quoting Scripture: “And they shall be all taught of God” (Jn. 6:45). John, the apostle also said: “Ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you ... and is truth ... ye shall abide in him” (I Jn. 2:27). This means that each one of us has to undergo a course of personal instruction from Jesus Himself Who said: “Learn of me” (Matt. 11:29). But if this were the whole story, God would not have appointed teachers in the Church (Eph. 4:11-13) and it is in the Church, in the house of our mother, which is above, that a part of our instruction from Christ must come, by means of the teachers whom He has appointed and anointed for that purpose. “I would cause thee to drink of the spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate” (S.S. 8:2): Here, the wine seems to be not from the grape, but from the juice of the pomegranate (S.S. 4:3,13; 7:12). This is the first time that spiced wine is spoken of, and also the first time that the juice of the pomegranate is mentioned. We have already seen how the pomegranate beautifully illustrates, by its neat rows of seeds, the Christian’s well-ordered mind and thoughts, covered by the blood of Jesus. Then the pomegranate also speaks of the beauty, unity and order among sanctified saints. We have seen that the beauty inside the pomegranate can be seen only when it is cut open, and we have compared this to the beauty revealed in saints who are exposed to suffering. Here we see a different type of suffering expressed. To release its wonderfully refreshing juice, the pomegranate has to be crushed to a pulp. The type of suffering referred to here is that experienced when one is completely crushed, when even the order one has tried to keep in one’s life is totally destroyed. If at that time we are able to remain faithful to God and to preserve a thankful heart before Him, we shall be able to provide our heavenly Bridegroom with wine which can be likened to pomegranate juice, and we shall be able to refresh the heart of both Jesus and our fellow men. Paul speaks of this kind of suffering when writing to the Corinthians: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation ... For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (II Cor. 1:5,6,8). This experience of being abslotely crushed, even doing the will of God, can be seen as a type in the meat (grain) offering (Lev. 2). This grain is to be spiced with frankincense, and the wheat is to be crushed into fine flour. It is to be without leaven, that is the sacrifice is to be made without murmuring, wickedness and malice. But what is to be totally consumed is no more than a handful, and this reveals the comforting fact that God will never allow us to be tempted more than we can bear. This wine is not simply the juice from crushed pomegranates; it is also “spiced”. The Hebrew word used here for “spiced” (“reqach”) comes from a word meaning “to compound” or “blend”, as of an ointment when it is being skilfully prepared by the apothecary. The same word occurs in Exodus 30:25, in connection with the preparation of the “holy anointing oil”. The pomegranate wine which the Bride gives to the Bridegroom is not simply pure pomegranate juice, refreshing as that is to drink; it is spiced with love, and made with the same care as is used in the art of the apothecary. We too need to take the greatest care that the drink offering of our service, even when we are completely crushed, is spiced with joy and thanksgiving, that we may be a source of
refreshment to both God and man. “His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please. Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth; there she brought thee forth that bare thee” (S.S. 8:3-5). This verse and the following one echo almost exactly S.S. 2:6,7, to the study on which the reader is referred. When these verses were then under consideration, we saw how the Bridegroom’s placing of His left hand under the Bride’s head spoke of His concern that we might have victory in our thought realm (II Cor. 10:4-6), and how His embrace with His right hand pointed to His constraining love (II Cor. 5:14). How wonderful it is to know that the same right hand, with which He demonstrates His power to the world, is the one with which He holds us and presses us to His heart; for it is written: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until she please” (S.S. 8:4): This verse is a repetition of S.S. 2:7 and 3:5, but this time there is a notable omission of the words: “... by the roes, and by the hinds of the field”. This is the third and final time that the Bride falls asleep in the company of her Beloved. But this third occasion, when the Bride has fallen asleep in the presence of the Bridegroom, is quite different from the two preceding occasions: no longer does the Bridegroom need to adjure the daughters of Jerusalem, “by the roes and by the hinds of the field”, to allow His Bride to rest undisturbed. His reference to the roes and the hinds on former occasions revealed his fear that if the Bride were awakened from sleep, she would immediately flee from Him with the speed and agility of these fleet-footed animals. Now, however, He has perfect peace of mind regarding this possibility, for He is at last certain of her enduring love. And so the scene closes, with the Bride asleep in the arms of her Beloved; He too rests in the assurance that she is at last His for ever: “This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it” (Psa. 132:14). If we did but realize how much our heavenly Bridegroom desires us to find our rest in Him, and how much He desires to rest in us, sure of our love and faithfulness, our attitude towards Him and towards our circumstances would greatly change. Let us seek this rest, whatever it may cost us. UNRESTRAINED COMMUNION (Chapter 8:5-14) “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” (S.S. 8:5): These words introduce the last section of this book. In earlier chapters, we have seen the Bride busy among the vines and pomegranates, radiant in the joy of constant and intimate communion with her Bridegroom. Now we see a totally different scene: the Bride has changed. Gone are the zeal and vigour with which she worked in the fields alongside her Bridegroom; now we see her coming up from the desert, scarcely strong enough to walk on her own, but leaning for support upon her Beloved. What has brought about this change? This is the explanation: In S.S. 3:6, where we read how the Bride had fallen asleep on an earlier occasion in the arms of her Beloved, mention was then immediately made of the desert. On this earlier occasion, it was seen that it was the Bridegroom alone who came out of the desert; he was riding in His chariot on his wedding day, the day which He welcomed with such gladness of heart. At that time, no mention was made of the Bride, but only of the glory of the wedding procession of King Solomon. Here, the picture is different: there is no glory, no great procession; just a couple, all alone, coming forth from the desert. Christ is spoken of as a tender, delicate plant growing up out of a dry ground. He was One who was oppressed, afflicted and acquainted with grief. It is said of Him: “Yet it pleased the
Lord to bruise (lit. “crush”) him” (Isa. 53:10). She who is to be one with Christ throughout eternity must also share in the suffering which Christ underwent: of doing good, and being rewarded with evil; of being rejected by the very people for whom He had spent His life. The desire of Paul was: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). The Bride has worked in joyful communion with her Beloved, sharing in the power of his resurrection; but now she has been taken a step further: she now similarly has to face being despised and rejected by those for whom she has spent and been spent; she is now broken and alone, having no support other than that of her Beloved. Because this has happened, His strength and unchanging love are now precious to her as never before. We also read in Hosea 2:14,15 how God says of Israel: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor (lit. “trouble”) for a door of hope”. It is in the wilderness that God is able to speak with comfort to our hearts. It is when we are alone, and have none but Him to turn, to, that we can enter into the most profound communion with Christ. “I raised thee up under the apple tree; there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee” (S.S. 8:5); “I raised thee up” has the sense, not of: “I raised thee up as a child”, but of: “I raised thee from slumber”. The word “thee” in this verse, is in each case in the Hebrew a masculine pronoun, which would lead us to suppose that it was the Bridegroom who was being addressed by the Bride, or by someone else, who was not identified. A literal translation of this phrase would be: “Under the apple tree I awoke you; there you mother travailed with you; there she travailed, she bore you” (Jay P. Green). Matthew Henry takes it in this way, and says that the Bride “raised him up” in her times of prayer to help and comfort her, “as the disciples raised him up in the storm, saying, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” He speaks of the universal Church of believing souls, in whom Christ was formed. Indeed, Paul, writing to the Galatians, speaks of them as: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (4:19). In a certain sense, servants of God bear forth Christ in the lives of believers. But we also read, in Revelation 12, of another woman in travail, giving birth to a man child, the overcoming Church. Could the fact that the Hebrew pronouns in S.S. 8:5 are in the masculine, be the Holy Spirit’s way, unexpectedly, of marking the fact that the Hebrew pronouns in S.S. 8:5 are in the masculine, be the Holy Spirit’s way, unexpectedly, of marking the fact that the Bride of Christ is to be identified with the man child, with the overcomers in the Church? There is a third way of understanding this phrase. That is to follow the reading of the ancient Syriac version (which many commentators have done) which puts the pronouns not in the masculine, but in the feminine. This would identify the one awakened as the Bride, who has fallen asleep in the Bridegroom ‘s arms at the close of the previous section. This would seem to be more logical; it is easier to conceive of the Bride being borne and brought forth by the Church than of Christ being thus borne and brought forth in lives of believers. We have also seen that earlier on in the Song, the Bridegroom was presented as an apple tree under which the Bride was able to rest, delighting herself in its fruit (S.S. 2:3). One could thus say that her mother (the Church) brought forth the Bride under the shade of the apple tree (Christ, or the Word of God), and that it was there that the Bridegroom woke her up, and brought her into the desert. However, the mind of God is far beyond our understanding, and sometimes unfathomable to our human way of reasoning. It may therefore be better to assume that the masculine gender of “thee” is the correct one, difficult though this may be for our human intelligence to explain. “Set me as seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealous is cruel as the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath almost vehement flame. 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”. (S.S. 8:6,7) “For love is strong as death” (S.S. 8:6).
The word “love is much misunderstood these days. We hear of people “falling in love”, then a month later they “fall out of love”. It is not this kind of love which is described the song of Solomon. Nor is it the affection which is born between kindred spirits bent on a common purpose, even though such a friendship may last for a life-time. It is something greater and deeper, able to redeem our lives from the clutches of the prince of the world. Human affection may waver if the cost of it is death, but divine, redemptive love is able to face death squarely in the face. This love is equal to death. It is this love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). If we are perfect in this love, for Christ and for our fellow-men, then we will not know fear-fear of what men may say or do if we act according to love or of circumstances which may result from such action-for there is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear (I Jn. 4:18). It must not be forgotten that love is a passion and a vigorous passion at that. The reason why St. Paul was always on fire, spending himself in tireless service for the Kingdom of God was as he said, because “the love of Christ constraineth us” (II Cor. 5:14). What we often lack in our love for the Lord is this passion. The Ephesian Church sincerely loved the Lord, and worked hard for Him, but Christ reproached them with the words, “Thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). They were sincere and diligent in their service, yet they had lost that passion and total abandon to Christ they had experienced when they first knew Him. If only we were taken up and enchanted by the love of Christ as is the Bride with the Bridegroom in these verses, we would have the inner strength which would be more than a match for any situation, including death. If Christ were but the object of our passionate affection, a victorious and overcoming life would not be merely our ideal, but a living reality. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame” (or “a flame of the Lord”) (S.S. 8:6). In Proverbs 6:30-35 we read of the jealousy of a man who has been deceived by his wife. It is implacable and as hard as the grave. Restitution can be made for any other sin, we read, but not for adultery. Just as the grave accords no mercy to any, even so the man who has been deceived will show no mercy to the one who has deceived him. Love, once offended or rejected, when it is human love, becomes hard, implacable and cruel, and is very difficult to be won again. We read in Proverbs 18:19, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” However, holy love and holy jealousy are different in quality. “Holy love is a fire that begets a vehement heat in the soul, and consumes the dross and the chaff that are in it (Matthew Henry). There is a godly jealousy, by which Christ desires the exclusive love of His Bride. James, writing to some lukewarm Christians, unflinchingly tells them, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jam. 4:4). Paul writes to the Corinthians: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband ...” (II Cor. 11:2). Moreover, when we read the book of Hosea, we see the lengths to which God is prepared to go to possess Israel entirely as His own. In chapter 2 we see He is prepared to reveal her lewdness and to put her to open shame in the sight of her lovers so that He may afterwards allure her to the desert and speak comfortably to her, on her own. In chapter 5, we see God willing to tear and to destroy the one whom He loves so much, even to be rottenness to her, if that will enable Him to gain her exclusive love. However, He finds that not even this brings her back to Him and it is of Israel that he speaks when He says: “Their heart is divided” (Hos. 10:2). He desires to destroy them altogether, but then He says, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? ... mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together, I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man ...” (Hos. 11:8,9). Could we but realize the fierceness of God’s love for us, and the holy jealousy that burns in His heart when we give to the creature the
love and worship that belongs to God alone, how different our attitudes would be! “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it”: (S.S. 8:7) “Waters” speak of difficulties which come as a flood upon us, and which threaten to engult us and carry us away. David says, “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul ... I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Let not the water flood overflow me, neither let the deep sallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me” (Psa. 69:1,2,15). In another Psalm he says, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side ... then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul” (Psa. 124:1,4). And the promise of the Lord through Isaiah is: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Isa. 43:2). There are certain substances, such as Phosphorus which burn even when plunged into water; this property is like that of divine redemptive love. So many things attempted to drown the flame of love in Christ: unbelief and misunderstanding on the part of His disciples; rejection and scorn on the part of those for whom He had spent His life in healing and teaching; treachery on the part of one of His inner circle humiliation death inflicted upon Him by the political and religious leaders of His time. Yet, none of these things could put out the flame of divine love in the heart of Jesus; even for those who executed the cruel sentence of crucifixion He breathed the prayer, ‘Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Nothing can extinguish such a love. No wonder Paul writes in exultation of it. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, not life, not angels nor principalities, nor powers, not things present, not things to come, Nor height, not depth, nor any other creatures shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Rom. 8:37-39). This same love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given us, and it is the same love which Jesus expects from His disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (Jn. 13:34). He goes on to say: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15), and also: “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, abide in his love” (Jn. 15:9,10). “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contembed” (S.S. 8:7). Sex can be bought; even affection can sometimes be earned from the undiscerning by presents and marks of affection. But love cannot be bought. A prospective husband may spend all he possesses on presents and spend all his time and energy onmarks of affection fro the one he is trying to woo, but if she loves another, all the money and possessions in the world will be a matter of sheer indifference to her. Even in our lives, we may, like the Ephesian church, try to substitute much activity and work for the passionate love God desires of us. But these works can never satisfy the heart of our Bridegroom, whose longing is that at least some among the throng of those redeemed by His inextinguishable love may be able to love Him in return with the same love wherewith He first loved them. There can be no substitute for love. Christ may take note of all we do for Him and His kingdom in our sincere wish to please Him. But the desire of His heart is to find a group. His Bride - who will love Him with the same burning zeal, the same immortal love that He had poured out upon us and which He demonstrated at Calvary. This love has already been placed in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit, but we can bury it under a multitude of activities, or by the cares and pleasures of this world. He wants to see us grow and be perfected in that love, when He returns for His Bride, for, as it is written: “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). Upon us, therefore, falls the duty of preserving and nourishing this flame in our hearts. The development of all our gifts and talents can be no substitute for this, the most precious element of
our Christian lives. “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away ... But when that which is perfect is come, than that which is in part shall be done away ... And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Cor. 13:8,10,13). “Charity” means simply “love”. “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar” (S.S. 8:8,9). “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts”: (S.S. 8:8): in verses 6 and 7, we saw how the mutual love of the Bride and Bridegroom deepened in intensity, and at the same time, acquired a new quality. Now we hear the Bride saying: “We have a little sister ...”. At the beginning of the chapter, she said, with longing, to her Bridegroom: “O that thou wert as my brother”. The fact that she now says: “We have a little sister” shows that the greatly-desired brother-sister relationship has now been entered into. And now, filled with the love which has brought her into this brother-sister relationship, she turns her attention to her little sister. The fact that the little sister has no breasts indicates that she has not yet reached maturity. She may be compared to those who are “babes in Christ”, who have not yet developed sufficiently to feed others, but themselves need to be fed with the pure milk of the Word of God (Heb. 5:12). They are the responsibility of the Bride, and she feels this responsibility keenly. Since the younger sister is as yet but a child, the Bride and Bridegroom discuss the plans which they have for her character, which will necessarily include both good and bad traits, and which will be manifested as she grows up. “What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?”: In these words, we see further progress in the life of the Bride. It is one thing to work in God’s vineyard, and to delight in working together with Christ, caring for and nourishing the Church. It is quite another to have a real burden for other individuals. Moses is an example of one who had a real burden for the people of God. When the Lord told him that He was going to destroy Israel, Moses pleaded with God in these terms: “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains ... Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel ... to whom thou swearest by thine own self ...”. This prayer revealed Moses burden for the people of God. But when really revealed Moses character was the way in which he interceded before God, when he himself had seen the sin of the children of Israel: “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now ... forgive their sin ...; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exo. 32:12,13,31,32). This same spirit, this same constraining love, also inspired the apostle Paul, who said: “For I ... wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3); such was his burden for their salvation. It is with a similar burden that the Bride says: “What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?” This “day”, when she is to be spoken for, refers to the time of her espousals. This is the time when her character, good or bad, will have developed; and this is the time when she will be spoken of to any prospective suitors. Ruth was spoken of in this way. Ruth’s virtue and faithfulness were recognized by all those around her. Boaz said of her (when she asked if she might glean in his field): “It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband” (Ruth 2:11). Later, when Ruth asked Boaz to take her as his wife, he said: “I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtous woman” (Ruth 3:11). For the Church, the day of espousals comes with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, after which the Church must be prepared for the Rapture (the meeting of Christ with his saints in the
air). Some have already grown to the stature to which the Bride has grown in this chapter, and are ready to meet Christ when He come. Others, however, are still spiritual infants, and need to grow if they are to be found ready at the coming of Christ. Those who have become mature saints should share the burden which the Bride expresses here, and take to heart the growth of others younger in the faith, or less mature than they are. “If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver” (S.S. 8:9): A wall is built against a barrier against intruders, and effects a separation of one part of an area from another. Such a wall has ho opening in it, and the only way of getting from one side to the other is by scaling the wall itself. A sound wall has a sound foundation, and here the Bride is saying that if the little sister is a wall, then she will necessarily have a sound foundation. That foundation is Christ, and if her life is truly built upon Him, then she will have a good character and be strong, stable, chaste, and separated from sin and from worldliness. If this is the case, then the Bride’s proposal is to “build upon her a palace of silver”. The Hebrew word here translated “palace” actually means “wall” or that which fences off oe encloses. An extension of the meaning would be “a fortress” or “battlements”, and these renderings are to be preferred to the Authorised Version’s “palace”, since the word implies additional protection built upon the wall against any possible incursion by an enemy, rather than something which is purely decorative. However, these battlements are not made of ordinary building materials. They are of silver, representing all that is high and noble. As we have already seen (S.S.3:10), silver speaks of the ongoing work of redemption in our lives, since all the children of Israel had tobe redeemed in the desert with five shekels of silver (Num.18:16). When a slave was redeemed, he became the possession of the one who had bought him. The proposed making of the battlements of silver shows that if the little sister proves to be a wall, she will be adorned with fortifications, and will then become wholly the redeemed possession of the One for whom she has separated herself. It is true that we have all, already, been redeemed by the blood of Christ (IPet.1:18,19), but just as there is a final salvation, so there is also a final redemption, for the purpose of which we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:30). This final redemption is affected in our lives as we are led by the Spirit, and avoid grieving Him, and separate ourselves from all that is wrong in the sight of God. But a wall speaks not only of separation and firmness, but also of the defence of the truth from all that may assail it. St.Paul says: “I am set for the defence of the gospel” (Phil.1:17); earlier he has said to the Philippians: “I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and conformation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Phil.1:7). The little sister must thus learn to grow in the truth and to strive for the defence and confirmation of the Word of God before she is proposed as the Bride of Christ. For this, God has set watchman, who have attained the spiritual stature of the Bride in this chapter, to travail in prayer for the “little sisters” (as did Moses for the children of Israel): “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day or night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence” (Isa.62:6). “And if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. I am a wall; and my breasts like towers; then was I in his eyes as one that found favour” (S.S.8:9,10): Some take the comparison of the wall and the door to mean chastity and its opposite. However, a careful examination of the Hebrew word used here for “door” shows that this is not the whole story. In Hebrew, two words are used for door: “deleth”, used of the door itself, which swings on hinges, and “pethach”, used of an opening or entrance. The word used here is not “pethach” (“doorwa”), but “deleth”, which indicates a door, which swings to and fro. If, therefore, she is a door, she is unstable, and capable of swinging, first one way and then the other; she may well let into her life that which she ought not to countenance; if this is the case, then the plan will be to “inclose her with boards of cedar”. Some take the word “inclose” as meaning “to frame with doorposts and lintel”. However,
the Hebrew word translated “to inclose” here shows us something quite different. The same word, “tsuwr”, is used for besieging a city (I Chron. 20:1), casting a brass mould (I Kgs. 7:15) and for the shaping of his life, in the case of Jeremiah, by God (Jer. 1:5). It literally means “to cramp” or “to confine” in the formative or hostile sense. Moreover, the word used for “boards” here is not the same as that used for the boards of the tabernacle in Exodus 26 (which were long and narrow). It is the word used in Exodus 31:18 for the tables of stone upon which the covenant was written, and evokes the idea of a rectangular tablet or table, or of planks being laid together in a row, to form the deck of a ship (Ezek. 27:5). What is being spoken of here, therefore, is not the doorposts and the lintel, but wide planks, or a series of planks the size of the door, placed in front of and behind the door, to prevent easy access throught the door, or possibly to cut off altogether any possible access throught the door; this would have the effect of making the unstable door into a part of the solid, stable wall which surrounds it. In this way, the door, barricaded with planks, becomes an impenetrable defence against any undesirable would-be intruder. Here we have a picture of the New Jerusalem, of which we read: “And there shall in no wise enter into it (New Jerusalem) anything that defileth ...” (Rev. 21:27). Also associated with this barricaded door is the idea of safe protection for those who have found their eternal home in the New Jerusalem: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar of the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out ...” (Rev. 3:12). Here, the boards are made of cedar. The cedar is an evergreen tree, because the constraints imposed upon the little sister would not be dead human traditions and laws, but restraints whose effect is life, and not death. Furthermore, cedar cannot be destroyed by insects. If the little sister turns out to be an unstable door, the boards of cedar will protect her from being eaten away by insects, which may represents erroneous doctrines or any other evil which eats away our spiritual life. “I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour” (S.S. 8:10). “ I am a wall ...” (S.S. 8:10): We who have traced the unsteadiness of the Bride’s love through the different episodes of the book, may wonder at these words and ask: “How dare she affirm that she is a wall after the way in which she has vacillated?” But we saw when we considered S.S. 8:6, that she knew only too will the instability of her own human nature, and that is why she asked the Bridegroom to set her as a seal on His heart. The reason she is now able to say: I am a wall” is that her confidence is now founded entirely on Him, and not on her ability to change anything in her own nature. Being thus founded on Christ, the solid Rock, she is able to say, like St. Paul: “None of these things move me” (Acts 20:24), for through Him she has become firm and stable. She is now able to see herself as one set apart for the Lord, entirely devoted to Him. Never again will she be separated from Him, as she in S.S. 2:9, by her own indifference and by carnal ties. Having thus yielded herself entirely to her Beloved, she has become an impenetrable wall to all other suitors, be it the world, the flesh or the devil. As far as she is concerned, she is a wall; there is no argument about it. “I am totally separated to Christ”, is her triumphant cry: “Who then can separated me from his love!” (Rom. 8:35). “And my breasts like towers” (S.S. 8:10). As we have already seen, “breasts” speak of the capability of feeding others, and the two breasts indicate a balanced supply of faith and love (Col. 1:3,4; Eph. 1:15). The little sister, still spiritually immature, does not have this capacity to feed others. But the Bride has separated herself from the world, and as a result, her longestablished faith and love have now come to full maturity, rising, as it were, like towers for all to see. Naturally, there is a world of difference between the mere battlements envisaged for the little sister and these towers, which are veritable fortresses of virtue and truth, so necessary for the adequate sustenance of the Church. “Then was I in his eyes as one who found favour” (S.S. 8:10). All that now matters to the
Bride is that she has found favour in the eyes of her Beloved. Before his translation, Enoch had the testimony that he pleased God (Heb. 11:5). We too should have this same testimony if we are to be translated when Christ returns. For the Bride, the desire to please her Lord is the source and mainspring of all her actions. However, the Hebrew word translated here as “favour” in fact means much more than that. It is the word “shalom”, which also means “health”, “welfare”, “prosperity” and “peace”. For the Hebrews, the word “shalom” expressed the quintessence of all that was good and wholesome, and to this day when Jews greet each other, it is with the phrase “Shalom allechem”. The Bride has finally found “Shalom” in the bosom of her Beloved. At last she is at rest, at peace, sure of the work accomplished in her, and sure of the affection and favour of the Bridegroom. It is to this point that the whole book has been leading, for its theme is the search for “shalom” by Solomon (whose name means “the peaceful”) and by the Shulamite (whose name means “the pacified”). Neither, on their own, could find this “Shalom”, for each has an inherent need for the other. Now she is united to Him for ever, as the one who satisfies His deepest longings, as the one upon whom He is more than happy to confer “shalom”. How often have we heard quoted, or quoted to others, the words of Jesus: “... that in me ye might have peace” (Jn. 16:33) or “peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (Jn. 14:27), Yet, how often do our lives and reactions fail to reflect these words. In these verses we are shown how to attain this peace: by being a wall, as is the Bride. This is possible only through unwavering separation from all that is wrong, and through cultivationg fully mature faith, fully mature love in our lives. God will enable us to attain these virtues, by His grace. For this, we must continually seek His face. “Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, which is mine is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred” (S.S. 8:11). In these two verses, we read of two vineyards: that of Solomon, and that of the Bride. The vineyard of Solomon represents the whole work of the Lord, whilst that of the Bride represents her own life, which it is her responsibility to tend. “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon (S.S. 8:11): “Baal-hamon” means “Lord of a multitude”, and such was Solomon. Such also is the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Solomon is a type; He is Lord of a multitude of servants in all parts of the world, and each one of us is among that number. Jesus served His Father as a bond-servant during His earthly life and “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8); by this means, He became the “Lord of a multitude”. There is a multitude of servants of God in the world, but not all serve Him with the same clear vision as the earthly apostles. St. Paul says that “some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will” (Phil.1:15). And so it is today: some serve Him out of a sense of duty, or to obtain filthy lucre or praise; but others consecrate their all: father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and even “(their) own life also” (Lk. 14:26), and serve Him as true bond-servants. Christ has indeed exalted us to be His Bride and joint-heirs with Him, thus taking us to a place higher than that prepared for Old Testament saints (who are no more than “friends of the Bridegroom”); nevertheless he requires us to serve him as bond-servants, constrained by His love. St. Paul could boast that he was, in a sense, “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (II Cor. 11:5) and that he had “laboured more abundantly than they all” (I Cor. 15:10); on the other hand, he saw that he was totally unworthy to serve Christ at all, and then he confessed: “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle ...” (I Cor. 15:9). May the dear Lord help us to serve Him as bond-servants in all humility and obedience, chosen among the multitude of His servants who serve Him in the world.
“He let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver” (S.S. 8:11): When we think of the work of the Lord we should remember two things. Firstly, that it is not our work, but the Lord’s. If we begin to think that such a work is “ours”, and that therefore we have a right to make decisions with regard to that work, we are in danger of falling into the trap of becoming “lords over God’s heritage” (I Pet. 5:3). God may bless the work we do in His vineyard, and we may reap much fruit, but when He returns, all that is entrusted to us is still His own, and not our’s. We may indeed continue to refer to our own lives as “My vineyard, which is mine ...”, but we can never say this of any work which God may entrust to us, however dear it may be to our heart. The second thing we should remember is that though we are only keepers, we do have responsibilities in God’s vineyard, and that one day we shall be asked to gibe an account of our stewardship over what God has entrusted to us. The thousand pieces of silver refered to here, represent fulness of faith, love and zeal shown by the faithful servants of God, who labour for him in His ministry. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10). St. Paul confessess: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but only sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament” (II Cor. 3:5,6). A thousand talents is a full, round sum. The Lord does not want service that is half-hearted or incomplete, but service that is willingly given in tasks which are seen through to the end. “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me” (S.S. 8:12): Now the Bride speaks of her own vineyard. We note her emphasis: “My vineyard, which is mine ...”. She also adds that it is “before” her. This is a Hebraism, which means that it was in her power, to dispose of as she desired. In Genesis 13:9, we read how Abraham said to Lot: “Is not the whole land before thee?”. In saying this, he was telling Lot: “The whole land is before you; it is in your power; take what you want”. We wonder why the Bride appears to be so jealously possessive about her own vineyard! We feel that we could justifiably reproach her as follows: “You belong to your Beloved now; you should not say that anything is your own. You have been bought with a price” (I Cor. 6:19,20). But her attitude is the result of unfortunate earlier experiences. We heard the Bride say at the very beginning of the book: “My mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept” (S.S. 1:6). Her plight lay in the fact that others had taken advantage of her willingness to work, and she, too young to dare to refuse, devoted all her time and energy to being the keeper of other people’s vineyards. Now she has regained what she had almost lost, and now she knows its value; this is why she jealously guards it. How often, at the beginning of our love-service for the Master, do we neglect our own lives, wishing to please all around us, only to find that this works to our own detriment as we tend the vineyards of others! Only afterwards, when we have lost and then regained the care of our own vineyard, do we realize the value of what God has committed to us; only then do we come to appreciate the value of tending and watching over our own spiritual lives. When we come before the judgment seat of Christ, God will ask us how we have tended the lives of others only after He has asked us how we have tended our own lives. “Thou O Solomon, must have a thousand” (S.S. 8:12): The Bride is offering to her Beloved a thousand pieces of silver. This, as already stated, was the rent due to Solomon, from each keeper of his vineyard. But the vineyard, for which we see the Bride offering rent, in her own vineyard, as she has so emphatically stated, and she has therefore no need to give Him any rent at all. Yet here she is, offering Him her thousand as though this were her due. Why does she do this? It is because she is making a symbolic gesture; she is implying that she considers the vineyard to be His rather than her’s. It is as if she were saying: “Yes, Solomon, my vineyard is mine, and no one else’s. But I want to treat it as if it were thine, and not mine. I am thine, and so
is all that I have, including my most precious possessions, which I would never consider giving to anyone else. Therefore, please accept the rent for my vineyard as if it were thine own”. We all have things in our lives that are so intimate and so precious to us that we would not dream of allowing anyone else to touch them. But let us not with hold them from Christ, our King. We are His purchased possession, and let us therefore remember that He has sole right over every part of our lives, including these intimate items which we cherish so dearly. In Solomon’s vineyard, each ordinary keeper was under contract to hand over his increase, and this increase was represented by a thousand pieces of silver. But in the case of ten thousand pieces offered by the Bride, the gesture is made out of pure affection. St. Paul says that he is constrained by the love of Christ: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (II Cor. 5:14,15). The attitude behind these words is one we so often lack, for so much of the time we work for God out of duty rather that out of love! Here, the Bride was not working in order to earn favour, or because it was a duty imposed upon her; she was already assured of favour, and so she gave both her service and the thousand pieces of silver, simply as a mark of affection to her Beloved. “And those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred” (S.S. 8:12): In the Bride’s vineyard, these were those also who had helped her tend it, and to them also she gives the recompense due: “the labourer is worthy of his hire (wages)” (Lk. 10:7). A full tithe, nay, a double tithe, was to be their reward. By this gesture, she shows that she realizes that the success of her vineyard depended not upon her own unaided efforts, but also upon the assistance of her co-workers; and to all those, she gave the credit due; she did not claim for herself the praise that was rightly their’s, or attempt to steal their glory. We too should realize that our personal lives and the success of our ministry are not simply the product of our own labour, but also of the labour and prayers of others. We need also to realize that we should be incapable of tending our vineyards single-handed, and that God therefore sends others to help us. Although the full glory goes to the Lord for any work done in us, we should also remember those who have helped to see to it that our vineyard was fruitful. St. Paul says: “And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life ... Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only” (Phil. 4:3,15). This debt should be a debt of love: “Owe no man anything, but to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). Anything, or any service, offered by us to the Lord, or to the keepers of our vineyard, will be of secondary value only, unless we are motivated solely by love. Let us realize that our lives before God and man are not simply to be a response to a sense of duty, however strong, but a vibrant expression of love, causing us to yield to God so much more than that which is imposed upon us by law, and to man, double that which the law demands; our motivation will not be to obtain either divine or human favour, but, rather, to show our gratitude that we have already obtained the favour of God. “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to they voice: cause me to hear it. Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of spices” (S.S. 8:13,14). These last two verses in the book show the Bride and Bridegroom separated from one another. The Bride remains in the gardens below, but she calls to the Bridegroom to return to her from the mountains of spices. Though separated for a time, their relationship continues. This is a picture of the temporary, physical separation, which now exists between Christ, the Bridegroom, and the Church, the Bride. But there need be no spiritual separation, and Jesus has left us
comforting reassurances of His certain, imminent return. When the disciples beagan to be worried about His depature, Jesus said: “Let not your heart be trouble ... if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself”. The hope of His return, when we shall “see him as he is”, helps us to purify ourselves (I Jn. 3:2). “Thou that dwellest in the gardens” (S.S. 8:13) : As we have seen earlier on in this study, the gardens, like the field (I Cor. 3:9) and the vineyard (Matt. 21:33-41), represent the work of God. This is where the Bride must meantime remain, and this is where she must serve Him. Earlier, the Bride has been described as a garden inclosed, upon which the wind must blow so as to waft abroad the fragrance of her spices, and into which first the Bridegroom, and then their friends, are invited. This garden may represent both the individual believer and also the assembly, both of which need to be tended. The Bride is now tending others’ gardens, for her own produce is ripe, and ready for her Bridegroom. What, then, does her garden contain? We read a list of some of the things which it contains in S.S. 4:12-14; 5:1. In summary, we may say that they contain fruits, spices, streams of living waters, lilies, honey, wine and milk. Fruits speak of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); spices speak of the fragrance of a Christian life before God (II Cor. 1:15); streams of living waters speak of a life filled and overflowing with the life of the Spirit of God (Jn. 7:38,39); lilies speak of a life of purity and lowliness in the midst of afflictions and thorny trials (S.S. 2:1,2); wine speaks of the joy received at the baptism in the Holy Spirit and on subsequent occasions of being filled with the Holy Spirit, over and over again (Eph. 5:18); milk speaks of the pure Word of God (I Pet. 2:2), whilst honey speaks of the revelation of that Word to the heart of the Bride, so that her eyes are enlightened, and her strength is renewed (Psa. 119:103; Prov. 16:24; I Sam. 14:27). Through these qualities, she becomes a fountain of gardens (S.S. 4:15). The produce of her garden has come to full maturity; and so, later on (S.S. 6:11), we find her beginning to take care of the gardens of others; now she dwells in many gardens, and spends her love and care upon them. “The companions hearken to they voice (S.S. 8:13): Who are these companions who pay attention to the voice of the Bride? Are they the “friends” of Song of Solomon 5:1? No: the “friends” there are all those with whom the Bride has contact, from the daughters of Jerusalem to rank outsiders. The Hebrew word used in that verse is “reya”, a word which covers the whole spectrum of human relationships, from that between “neighbours” (Exod. 20:17; 22:26), to that seen in Song of Solomon 5:16, when the Bride refers to the Bridegroom as “my friend”. The Hebrew word for the “companions” of Song of Solomon 8:13, on the other hand, is “chaber”, and conveys the idea of being “knit together”; this is the word used by David in Psalm 119:16 to describe those who are one with him in heart and mind: “I am a companion (“chaber”) of all them that fear thee and that keep they precepts”. The “companions” of Song of Solomon 8:13, therefore, are the Bride’s fellow workers in the vineyard, those to whom she is closest of all, in terms of her human relationships. They recognize her experience, and the position she has before the Bridegroom, and for this reason, they pay attention to what she has to say. The Hebrew word for “to hearken” which is used here (“qashab”), gives the idea of sharpening or pricking up one’s ears to hear what someone is saying, and of paying diligent attention to the counsel offered. It is used, for example, in Proverbs 2:1,2: “My son ... receive (“qashab”) my words, and hide my commandments with thee ... incline thine ear (“qashab”) unto wisdom ...”. When the Word was preached in the early Church, it brought joy and faith, and also patience, into the hearts of the believers and helped them to turn from idols to serve the living and true God” (I Thess. 1:6-9; 2:13). “Cause me to hear it” (S.S. 8:13). “All well and good” says the Bridegroom, “but never forget that there is something even more important than sharing with others the wisdom and discretion you have acquired: I myself, your Bridegroom, long to hear your sweet voice, for it is
so precious to me”. This plea on the part of the Bridegroom shows us that although we may be much used and esteemed in the work of God, there is something which in His eyes is infinitely more precious; to go to the secret place of His presence in order to have sweet communion with Him. This gives more joy to His heart than any work which we may do for Him or for His kingdom. “Make haste, my beloved” (S.S. 8:14): We now hear the Bride’s concluding words. This is not the first time she has asked the Bridegroom to be like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains, but now she asks it in quite a different way. In chapter 2, the Bridegroom is wooing the largely indifferent bride, who is content merely that the Bridegroom is her’s (and no one else’s); in fact, He is of no more than secondary importance to her. To His supplications, she simply replies: “Until the day break and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether” (S.S. 2:17). “Bether” means “separation”. In other words, “Night is coming, and I want to sleep now. So just leave me for the time being; go and run swiftly over the mountains of our separation”. It is hardly surprising that, as a result of this attitude, she loses altogether the presence of her Beloved for a time, as we saw at the beginning of chapter 3, and through her own fault, is plunged into a period of anguish. However, we see that her indifference has in no wasy effected a diminishing of the Bridegroom’s love for her, and that He once again sets about wooing her. But this time, He says where He will go when night falls, and it is not to the mountains of separation! “Until the day break and the shadows flee away, I wil get me to the mountains of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense” (S.S. 4:6). As we have seen, “myrrh” signifies a life of prayer, and “frankincense” a life of praise (S.S. 4:6). In other words, when we go through trials and darkness, He will not be far away, but will be praying and making intercession for us with praise and thanksgiving as He sees His Father’s eternal purposes coming to fruition (Heb. 7:24,25; Rom. 8:34). Although the Bride’s lot is to stay in her vineyard and tend the gardens (the Church) and carry out her spiritual responsibilities on earth, she longs to be reunited with her heavenly Bridegroom. Hence her cry: “Make haste ...” What she is saying is: “I know that Thou has Thy work to do in heaven, but make haste and return to me as soom as possible!”. Although she has matured to the point of accepting voluntary separation from her Beloved for the sake of His work, it nevertheless costs her a great deal, and she is impatient for His return, when she can once more delight in His presence. The life of St. Paul mirrors this attitude. Writing to the Philippians he says: “For me to live in Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:2124). He would much have preferred to go to be with his beloved Lord, but for the sake of the work of God, he was willing to delay the day when he would at last see Him face to face, andknow Him even as he had been known by Him. Perhaps St. Paul knew that he would die before the coming of the Lord, and so his desire was to depart. But man of us may be alive when Jesus returns. Let this also be our prayer, therefore: Come back quickly Lord! We’re waiting day and night; Loving Thy appearing - Thy presence our delight, To see Thee face to face - to sit with thee on high; Come back quickly Lord, for Thy Bride! “Be thou like to a roe or to a young hart!” (S.S. 8:14). This is the third occasion upon which the Bride has compared the Bridegroom to a roe or a young hart upon the mountains. The first time is when He comes to woo her, leaping upon the mountains, and skepping upon the hills (S.S. 2:8,9). The second time is when she sends Him away, albeit with the words: “But of course,
Thou art beautiful, graceful and strong, like the roe or the young hart”. Now why does the Bride compare the Bridegroom to a roe and to a young hart, rather than to any other animal? The answer lies in the fact that in the Hebrew, the word translated “roe” or “gazelle” (tsebi) also means “splendour” or “glory”. It is used in places such as Daniel 11:45, where Zion is spoken of as the “glorious” holy mountain. In Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon we read: “(The) gazelle (was) so called from the beauty of its form”. The Jews, like the Arabs, so admired the beauty of the gazelle, that they compared it to whatever was handsome or beautiful, and even swore by them (S.S. 2:7; 3:5). No other animal has the beauty and grace of our Lord are unrivalled (S.S. 5:10; Lk. 4:22); hence the Bride’s comparison. But she also comparees Him to a young hart, or stag. The Hebrew word used here (“ayyal”) denotes a wild goat, or mountain chamois; but the derivation of this word is from the word for “ram”, with the implication of great strength, and so the full meaning is that of “a mighty ram”, with powerful horns. Thus the hart is in every sense of symbol of strength and vigour. The Bridegroom is, therefore, compared not simply to the graceful gazelle, or roe, but also to a “mighty ram”, or to a stag, magnificent in his tremendous strength. We who know our Bridegroom, do we not well recognize this beautiful blend of tenderness and grace, strength and power, in our Lord Jesus, meek as a lamb led away to the slaughter, and yet strong as the conquering Lion of Judah? How well does this picture of our Lord, as both a roe on the other hand, and as a young hart on the other, reflect these two aspects of His divine nature! “Upon the mountain of spices” (S.S. 8:14): “Spices” point to intercessory prayer, and the “mountain of spices” refers to the very presence of God, where joy, peace, praise, glory and honour are found in all their fulness; this is where Jesus, our Bridegroom, has gone as our High Priest, to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:5); it is there that we long to be also. May the cry of our hearts therefore be: “Make haste, come quickly, Lord Jesus!” We may have come into the fulness of the life of Christ here below in these gardens, and yet we long for something more, a sati faction which we can hope to experience only when we are united for all eternity with our Master and our Bridegroom. St. Paul says at the beginning of his epistle to the Philippians, that he is ready to meet the Lord; he then goes on to give us this exhortation: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded ... Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:15, 12-14). On that glorious day, when we meet with Him to part no more, faith will become sight, and prayer will become praise for ever. Love will then reach its climax, and be freed from all shadow of doubt. Surely the echo of all our hearts must be: “Make haste, Lord!” And the Bridegroom replies: “Surely, I come quickly”. And then we say: “AMEN! EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS! AND UNTIL THAT GLORIOUS DAY MAY MY GARDEN CONTINUALLY BEAR ITS FRUIT AND BRING FORTH ITS SPICES FOR THE DELIGHT OF THEY HEART”. ***********
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