Song of Solomon 4

 

 

1 “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.”

We commence, at this verse, the loving converse of the bridegroom with the bride,

which we must suppose is heard as they travel together in the bridal procession.

The words of adoring affection are chiefly spoken by the bridegroom, as is natural

in the circumstances, and the reference to the journey, and its consummation in

v. 8, make it certain that the intention is to carry us in thought to the

palanquin and the breathings of first love in bridal joy. The poetry is

exquisite and truly Eastern, while yet absolutely chaste and pure. The

praise of the eyes is common in all erotic poetry. Her eyes gleam, in color,

motion, and luster, like a pair of doves from behind the veil; showing that

the bride is thought of as traveling. The bride was always deeply veiled

(see Genesis 24:65), as the Roman bride wore the velum flamineum.

The Septuagint have mistaken the meaning, rendering, ejkto<v th~|v

siwph>sew>v ektos taes siopaeseos sou.  The veil might typify silence or

reserve, but the word is tsammah, which is  from a root “to veil,” and is

righty rendered by Symmachus ka>lumma kalumma - veil.  The

hair was long and dark, and lay down the shoulders uncovered and free,

which added much to the graceful attraction of the bride. In later times it

was customary for the hair to be adorned with a wreath of myrtle or roses,

or a golden ornament representing Jerusalem. The goats in Syria and the

neighboring countries are mostly black or dark brown, while the sheep are

white. Delitzsch says, “A flock of goats encamped upon a mountain (rising

up, to one looking from a distance, as in a steep slope and almost

perpendicularly), and as if hanging down lengthwise on its sides, presents a

lovely view adorning the landscape.” It would be especially lovely amid the

romantic scenery of Gilead. The, verb rendered “lie along” is otherwise

taken by the Septuagint, ajpekalu>fhsan apekaluphaesandescend;

cover; hide, and by the Vulgate ascenderunt. The  rabbis differ from one

another in their renderings. One says, “which, look, down;” another, “make bare,”

quit,” or “descend;” another, “are seen.” The modern translators vary. Luther

says, “shorn;” Houbigant, “hang down;” Kleuken and Ewald, “shows itself;”

Gesenius and others, “lie down;” Ginsburg, “rolling down,” “running down.”

Our Revised Version gives, lie along, which is a very probable meaning.

The reference is to the luxuriance and rich color of the hair. Gilead would

be a recollection of the bride’s native place.

 

2 “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even (newly) shorn, which

Came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is

barren among them.”  The simile is very apt and beautiful.  Thy teeth are

perfectly smooth, regular, and white; the upper set corresponding exactly

to the lower set, like twin births in which there is no break (compare ch.6:6).

The moisture of the saliva dentium, heightening the glance of the teeth, is

frequently mentioned in love songs.  The whiteness of wool is often used

as a comparison (see Isaiah 1:18; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:14). Some think that

twObWxq]. should not be rendered “newly shorn,” but “periodically shorn”

— a poetical epithet for μylejew]. The newly shorn would be

washed first, μa"T;, “to be double,....to be pairs,” in the hiph. is “to make

double,” “to make pairs,” “to appear paired.” Perhaps the reference is to

the sheep being washed in pairs, and going up side by side from the water.

This would seem almost more exact than the idea of twin lambs, because

the difference in size between the ewe and the lamb would suggest

irregularity. The word tL;Kuv", “deprived,” “bereaved” (Jeremiah

18:21), may point merely to the loneliness of the single sheep going up by

itself, suggesting one tooth without its fellow, “all of which

are paired.” Each keeps to its mate as they come up from the pool. This is

a decided improvement on the Authorized Version. But the figure is clear

with either rendering, and is very striking and suggestive of the pleasant

country life to which the bride was accustomed.

 

3 “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.”

Scarlet; that is, shining, glistening red color. Thy mouth (ËreB;d]mi). Thy

mouth as speaking. So the Septuagint, Jerome, and Venetian, “thy speech,”

eloquium, conversation. But this is questioned, as it should then be

ËreWbD]. The word midhbar undoubtedly means “the mouth,” from davar,

“to speak,” with the m preformative, as the name of the instrument. It is the

preterite for Ëypi, but perhaps as referring specially to speech. Thy temples;

Latin tempora, from the adjective qr", “weak,” meaning the thin, piece of

skull on each side of the eyes, like the German schlafe, from schlaff,

“slack.” The inside of the pomegranate is of a red color mixed and

tempered with the ruby color. Ginsburg, however, thinks that the cheeks

are intended, and that the comparison is with the outside of the

pomegranate, in which the vermilion color is mingled with brown, and

resembles the round cheek; but then why say, “piece of a pomegranate”?

tl"p,, from the root “to cut fruit” (see II Kings 4:39), certainly must

refer to the cut fruit and the appearance of the inside. The meaning may be

a segment, that is, so as to represent the roundness of the cheek. Possibly

the reference may be to blushes on the bride’s cheek, or to ornaments

which appeared through the veil. We can scarcely expect to make out

every particular in an Eastern description.

 

4  Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an

armory, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of

mighty men. There is an evident change here in the character of the

similitudes. The royal bridegroom does not forget to praise the majesty of

his bride. The description now suits a royal queen. She is full of dignity and

grace in her bearing. The tower referred to was no doubt that which was

sometimes called “The tower of the flock” (Micah 4:4), that from

which David surveyed the flock of his people (compare Nehemiah 3:16, 25)

— the government building erected on Mount Zion which served as a

court of justice. The word talpiyoth is an a[pax lego>menon hapax

legomenon - word used one time:  Septuagint qalpi>wq thalpioth

as if a proper name. Hengstenberg would render it “built for

hanging swords,” supposing it composed of two words — tal, from a root

“to hang,” and piyoth, “swords.” But the word piyoth does not mean

“swords,” but the “double edges” of the swords. Kimchi renders. “an

erection of sharp-cornered stones.” Gesenius takes it from two roots, “to

perish” and “to go,” that is, exitialibus armis, which is very doubtful.

Ewald’s explanation seems the best, “built for close troops, so that many

hundreds or thousands find room therein,” taking it from a root, connected

with the Arabic, meaning, “to wrap together.” Delitzsch, however,

observes that both in Aramaic and Talmudic Hebrew words occur, like

this, in the sense of “enclosure,” i.e. joining together, one working into the

other, so that it may be taken as meaning, “in ranks together.” This view is

supported by Doderlein, Meier, Aquila, Jerome, Vulgate (propugnacula),

and Venetian (ejpa>lxeiv - epalxeis). If this be accepted, it may mean

terraced,” i.e. built in stories one above another. This would convey the

appearance of the tall, straight neck better than any. Surrounded with

ornaments, the neck would so appear. There is another suggestion,

supported by Ginsburg and taken from Rashi and Rashbun, Jewish

writers, that the word is a contraction for a noun meaning “instruction,”

and means “the model tower” — the tower built for an architect’s model.

It would be rendered, “built for the builder’s model.” The meaning

“armory” takes it as composed of two words, tael,” a hill,” and piyoth,

swords.” It was decorated with a thousand shields, which was a customary

adornment of towers and castles (see Ezekiel 27:11). All the shields of heroes.

We can scarcely doubt the reference in such words to the time of Solomon, and

therefore to his authorship, as the allusion to heroes, or mighty men of

valor, would be customary soon after the time of David.

 

5 “Thy two breasts are like two young roes (fawns) that are twins,

which feed among the lilies.” This is a beautiful and yet perfectly delicate

figure, describing the lovely equality and perfect shape and sweet freshness

of the maiden’s bosom. The meadow covered with lilies suggests beauty

and fragrance. Thus the loveliness of the bride is set forth in seven

comparisons, her perfections being sevenfold. “A twin pair of the young of

the gazelle, lying in a bed covered with lilies, representing the fragrant

delicacy and elegance of a chaste virgin bosom, veiled by the folds of a

dress redolent of sweet odor” (compare ch.1:13). The bridegroom, having

thus delighted himself in praise of his bride’s loveliness, then proceeds to

declare his desire for her sweet society, but he is interrupted by the bride.

 

We take these ideas as setting forth, under their rich Oriental coloring, the

Blessed truth that, in the sight of their Lord, His people are without blemish,

all fair.” It is the same truth as was meant by that at present unloved phrase,

imputed righteousness.”  The Church is spotless in His sight. He says, “The

glory thou gavest me I have given them.” (John 17:22)  Christ is made unto us

“Righteousness and Sanctification.”  (I Corinthians 1:30)  He shed His blood

that His Church might be “a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle”

(Ephesians 5:27). He will present us “faultless before the presence of His glory”

 (Jude 1:24). “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto

you,” said our Lord (John 15:3; compare I Corinthians 6:11). And if He did not

so regard His people and count them “precious in His sight” (Isaiah 43:4), wherefore

should He have done and suffered for them all that He has? Whatever we make

sacrifices for we count beautiful. Our love pierces through the outer husk of

circumstance and evil habit, and sees the beauty within; and it is for that we

will make sacrifice if need be. And so with our most blessed Lord — His

eye of love pierced through the often hideous husk of men’s vile habits and

ways to the soul on which His heart was set, that He might redeem and save

it, and make it beautiful, like His own. And when that soul turns to Him in

trust and penitence, then at once that soul is “all fair” in His sight, and

there is no spot in” it.  The soul is, as it well may be, often overwhelmed

with the sense of its own vileness and sin. It clings to Christ with the grasp of

all but despair. What a help to know that Christ’s estimate of us is not our own!

How often we are able to help a man up by letting him see that we believe in

him, notwithstanding he has done wrong!  Arnold’s word, “Trust a boy, and he

will become trustworthy,” is most true. The fact we are considering is not only

full of consolation, but full of help to us poor sinful men.  If Christ thinks me so,

I will strive to become so. Is this His ideal for me? I will, in His strength, strive

to realize it.

 

 

The Charm of True Beauty (vs. 1-5)

 

The bride is now in the palace which is to be her residence of state. The

veil is removed from her countenance, and as her royal lover and spouse

gazes upon her form and features, he is filled with admiration, and breaks

forth in a poetical commendation of her loveliness. The language is the

warm language of love, and the figures employed are more Oriental than

those which would be used amongst ourselves. But all is natural to an

Eastern imagination, which revels in eulogium that to our colder taste

would seem extravagant. The beauty of the figure and the face may be

taken as emblematical of that higher beauty which attracts and satisfies the

spiritual discernment. The description has been taken as applicable to “the

bride, the Lamb’s wife,” faultless and flawless in the view of Him who has

purchased His Church unto Himself.

 

  • THE SPIRITUAL BEAUTY WHICH CHRIST DISCERNS IN HIS

CHURCH IS HIS OWN CREATION. There is no excellence in man apart

from God. The highest excellence to be found in human character and

history is the effect of the Divine interposition of grace. God in Christ has

created anew, and in His own likeness, those whom He has visited with His

favor. The beauty of regenerate character and consecrated life is the

beauty which the Holy Spirit has imparted. It is Divine grace which

bestows upon the human soul the virtues and graces which make that soul

admirable and invest it with a spiritual charm.

 

Nought God in us but His own gifts doth crown.”

 

  • THIS SPIRITUAL BEAUTY IS AKIN TO CHRIST’S OWN. The

influence is well known which the marriage state exercises in the gradual

assimilation to one another in character and habits of those wedded for

long years. The resemblance between the Divine Head and His spouse the

Church is so striking that none can overlook it. They who accept Christ’s

Doctrine:

 

Ø      place themselves beneath His guardianship,

Ø      cherish His love,

Ø      cultivate His society,

Ø      are hereby transformed into His likeness.

 

Who has not seen in faithful and devoted friends of Jesus traits of

their Lord’s spiritual character, lineaments unmistakably His? The

sympathy, beneficence, the purity and tenderness, the patience and

self-denial, which are “notes” of the true Church, are evidently

Christ’s; from the Divine Lord, and from no other  source, have

all these virtues been derived.

 

  • HENCE THIS SPIRITUAL BEAUTY YIELDS SATISFACTION

AND DELIGHT TO THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. If it seems at first an

extravagance to suppose that the Lord of all can find joy and complacency

in beholding His Church on earth, the explanation must be sought in the

principles just stated. Humanity was originally created in the image of God

and for the glory of God. The purpose of Eternal Wisdom in creating this

human race was that His own attributes might be visibly and manifestly

embodied and displayed, according to the measure of the creature, in His

own highest handiwork on earth. Nor has this purpose been defeated by

sin. The image sin has marred, THE GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST HAS

RESTORED!  And it may be that the work of redemption brings out the

moral and spiritual beauty in which God Himself delights, with a bloom

and charm and perfection which would otherwise have been impossible.

Christ sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied.  (Isaiah 53:11)

 

  • APPLICATION. The Church of Christ may well be encouraged and

cheered by the assurance that the Divine Spouse appreciates those spiritual

excellences which are due to the operation of His own Spirit. “Behold, thou

art fair, my love,” is the language of the Bridegroom as he looks upon his

beloved. And our Saviour is not insensible to those signs of grace, those

revelations of spiritual beauty, which He daily discerns in His own. Those

who would please Christ may well be animated by the knowledge that He

never looks with indifference upon the proofs of sincere affection, upon the

evidences of spiritual assimilation to Himself. Well may the Christian adopt

the language of St. Augustine, “Take from me, Lord, all that injures me

and displeases thee, and give me all that is requisite to please thee; give me

words, affections, desires, and works which may draw upon me thine eyes,

thy delight, and thy love!”  Also David, “Let the words of my mouth,

and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,

my strength, and my redeemer.”  (Psalm 19:14)

 

6 “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get

me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.” If this be

the language of the bride, which most modern interpreters think, the

meaning is to check the ardor of her lover, in the modesty of her fresh and

maidenly feeling — Let me retire from such praises. They are too ardent

for me. It is only a moment’s interruption, which is followed by still more

loving words from the bridegroom. We must naturally connect the words

with ch.2:17, where the bride certainly speaks. It cannot be included as

a description of the neighborhood of the royal palace. She

might, however, mean merely — Let me walk alone in the lovely gardens

of the palace until the shades of night shall hide my blushes. It is unlikely

that the words are in the mouth of Solomon; for then it would be

impossible to explain their use by Shulamith previously. She is not referring

to Lebanon and its neighborhood, and there can be no idea of looking

back to a lover from whom she is torn. The interpretation which connects

it with maidenly feeling is certainly the most in harmony with what has

preceded. Perhaps the typical meaning is underlying the words — Let me

find a place of devout meditation to feed my thoughts on the sweetness of

this Divine love into which I have entered.

 

Hebrews 12:22-24 tells us that the church is associated with Mount Zion,

the heavenly Jerusalem and we should seek Him there.   V. 6 seems to be a

suggestion to this effect. To forsake the assemblies, communion, and

fellowship of the Church is to suffer great loss. Some say, “We can pray at

home;” and when they must be at home no doubt they can, but when they

need not be we doubt if many do. And when we think of the treasure store

of help that is gained by them who seek the Lord in His Church, who get

them to the mountain, etc., where He is, we commiserate, even whilst we

condemn, those who never get themselves there at all.

 

 

The Bridegroom with the Bride (vs. 1-6)

 

The earthly bridegroom rejoices over the bride. She is wholly his. He enumerates

her beauties; they are very precious to him; his great love leads him to dwell on

every point. The love of the espousals (Jeremiah 2:2), the young love of the

newly wedded, is a beautiful thing, very tender and touching; it leaves a

fragrant memory behind — a memory treasured still after the lapse of many

years, when the love of wedlock has become, not less true, not less blessed,

but calmer and more mellow; and perhaps even more blessed, when no

jealousies, no quarrels, have tended to put asunder those whom God hath

joined together, but love has continued to increase with increasing years,

with less and less of earthly passion, but more and more of holy tenderness

and mutual self-denials for the loved one’s sake. Such, alas! was not the love

of Solomon. The fair promise, so very bright and beautiful at first, was soon

blighted. Corruptio optimi pessima (corruption of the best is corruption of

the worst). Nothing in this world is more beautiful and blessed than

that holy estate of matrimony which was instituted of God in the time of

man’s innocency, which God has consecrated to such an excellent mystery

that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity

betwixt Christ and his Church. And, on the other hand, nothing is more

degrading and ruinous than that sensual passion which is the caricature of

wedded love. The early goodness of Solomon, the bright promise of future

happiness and usefulness which gilded his youth, excites an interest in him

so personal, that it makes us feel a real grief and disappointment when we

read that “King Solomon loved many strange women;” that “when

Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart;” that “he went after

Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Zidonians;” that he “did evil in the sight

of the Lord”  (I Kings 11:1-6).  And so it came to pass that that bright beginning

ended in utter gloom, in the mournful cry of disappointment. “Vanity of vanities,

saith the Preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  He could not find

satisfaction in his wisdom when he had begun to fall away from God. He

found that “in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge

increaseth sorrow” (Ibid. v. 18). And so the wisest of men betook himself

to pleasure. “I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth;”

“I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house;” “I gat

me men singers and women singers;” “Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept

not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy” (Ibid. ch.2:1,

7, 8, 10). He found, as they that are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of

God always find sooner or later, that all this was “vanity and vexation of

spirit  (Ibid. ch. 1:14), nothing better than striving after wind. Therefore,”

he says, “I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is

grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Ibid. ch. 2:17).

And this is King Solomon, who surpassed all the kings of the earth for glory

and riches; who was wiser than the wisest of his time; who had won in his

youth the love of the pure and innocent Shulamite; who (and this is the

saddest thought of all) once loved the Lord: “Solomon loved the Lord,

walking in the statutes of David his father” (I Kings 3:3). While he continued

to love the Lord, he was true, we must believe, to the wife of his youth.

One who walks in the light of the love of God cannot love the works of

darkness, cannot admit into his heart that taint of impurity which so utterly

shuts the soul away from the love of God. We wonder whether Solomon

repented as his father David did. We know that God warned him, and

chastised him for his sins, but we know also that much will be required

from those to whom much has been given (Luke 12:48), and that to fall

from such grace as had been bestowed upon Solomon must be a grievous

fall indeed; to disobey God who had given him such abundant blessings

showed a depth of ingratitude which utterly startles us, till we learn to

know in penitence and self-abasement what Solomon impressed upon others,

whether he felt it himself or not, “the plague of our own hearts” (I Kings 8:38).

The pure love of wedlock is maintained in ever-growing affection when

husband and wife both live NEAR TO GOD!   “If we walk in the light, as

He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (I John 1:7). That

fellowship which “is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ”

(Ibid. v.3) involves of necessity the holiest grace of charity in our mutual

relations with our brother Christians; especially those whom God hath joined

together must and will, if they are living as the children of God, live together

in holy love unto their lives’ end. We wonder whether the fair Shulamite lived

to experience the change in her royal bridegroom; if she did, the loss of his

affection must have been a bitter trial indeed. Perhaps God in His mercy

took her to Himself before that trial came.

 

It is the will of the heavenly bridegroom, the Lord Jesus to present the

Church unto Himself as a glorious Church, holy and without blemish. The

Lord shall rejoice in His works. Through the cleansing power of His most

precious blood, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, which He giveth to His

chosen, the Church, His bride shall at the last be “all glorious within;” for

He is able “to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with

exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24). Then shall there be joy in heaven, when the

Lord, who endured for the Church’s sake the great agony of the cross, sees

the reward of His bitter Passion; when He looks upon the Church, a glorious

Church indeed, no longer marred and stained by sin and strife and error,

but cleansed and purified “even as He is pure” (I John 3:3), made like

unto Him in the vision of His love and holiness. Then He will rejoice over

her as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. “In that day it shall be said

to Jerusalem… The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: He will

save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love, he will joy

over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:16-17). The heavenly

Bridegroom will rejoice over His bride; He will see in her the beauty of

holiness; He will rejoice in her graces. She is very dear to Him, for she is the

reward of that long anguish, the agony and bloody sweat, the bitter cross

and Passion. And now she is wholly His; she has left all other masters, and

given her whole heart to the Lord who bought her, with the full, pure, holy

love which she has learned of Him — THE INFINITE LOVE!

 

The bride must make herself ready. (Revelation 19:7.) Without holiness

no man can see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14).  The holiness of the Church

consists in the holiness of its members. We must follow after holiness, holiness

of heart and life; for without the wedding garment, the white robe of

righteousness, none can be admitted to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

We must, each one of us, make ourselves ready and prepare to meet our

God. The Lord rejoices in the holiness of His people. We must learn, not to

seek glory from one another, not to set so much store on human praise, but

to seek that glory which cometh from the only God (John 5:44). There

were some who would not confess the Lord Jesus because “they loved the

praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). We must

look onwards to the praise which the heavenly Bridegroom will bestow on

the Church, His bride; then shall the true Israelite, who is a “Jew inwardly,”

whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29), have praise

of God (I Corinthians 4:5). We must seek that praise with a single

heart, walking with God, living to His glory, looking for the blessed hour

when we trust to see the heavenly Bridegroom face to face.

 

“He lifts me to the golden doors;

The flashes come and go;

All Heaven bursts her starry floors,

And strews her lights below,

And deepens on and up! the gates

Roll back, and far within

For me the heavenly Bridegroom waits,

To make me pure of sin.

The sabbaths of eternity,

One sabbath deep and wide,

A light upon the shining sea —

The Bridegroom with His bride!”

 

7 “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” The

bridegroom speaks. The sweet humility and modesty of the bride kindles

his love afresh. He praised the loveliness of her bodily form, and she by her

response showed the exceeding loveliness of her soul. It must not be

forgotten that, whether borrowed from this book or not, such language is

undoubtedly employed in Scripture of the Church, the bride, the Lamb’s

wife, who is described as “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”

(Ephesians 5:27). It should be noticed that the king immediately

addresses his love as “bride,” and “sister-bride,” to show that there is more

than admiration of her person in his thoughts. She is his by assimilation and

by eternal union, and he invites her to enter fully into the new life which he

has prepared for her, as in Psalm 45., “forgetting her own people, and her

father’s house.” It is not enough that feeling should be stirred, or even that

it should take possession of the soul, if it be only feeling; it is required of us

that our inner life of emotion should become practical devotedness,

counting all things but loss”  (Philippians 3:8) for the sake of Him we love.

 

8 “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.”

This seems to be simply the bridegroom rejoicing over the bride, the

meaning being, “Give thyself up to me” — thou art mine; look away from

the past, and delight thyself in the future. Delitzsch, however, thinks that

the bridegroom seeks the bride to go with him up the steep heights of

Lebanon, and to descend with him from thence; for while ascending the

mountain one has no view before him, but when descending he has the

whole panorama of the surrounding region lying at his feet. It is stretching

poetical language too far to take it so literally and topically; there is no

necessity to think of either the lover or his beloved as actually on the

mountains, the idea is simply that of the mountainous region — Turn thy

back upon it, look away from it. This is clearly seen from the fact that the

names connected with Lebanon — Amana, Senir, Hermon — could have

no reference to the bride’s being in them. as they represent Anti-Libanus,

separated from Lebanon by the Coelo-Syrian valley, stretching from the

Banias northwards to the plain of Hamath (see II Kings 5:12, where

Amana is Abana, overlooking Damascus, now the Basadia). Shenir, or

Senir, and Hermon are neighboring peaks or mountains, or possibly

different names for the same (see Deuteronomy 3:9). In I Chronicles 5:23

they are mentioned as districts. Hermon is the chief mountain of

the range of Anti-Libanus on the northeast border of Palestine

(Psalm 89:12). The wild beasts abounded in that district, especially

lions and panthers. They were found in the clefts and defiles of the rocks.

Lions, however, have now altogether disappeared. In the name Amana

some think there is an allusion to truth (amen) (see Hosea 2:22); but

that would be too obscure. The general intention of the passage is simple

and plain — Leave the rough places, and come to my palace. The words

with me” (yTiai) are taken by the Septuagint and Vulgate as though written

ytia}, the imperative of ht;a;, “to come,” as a word of invitation, deu~ro

deurocome hither.  The use of the verb yaiwObT;, “thou shalt come,”

i.e. thou hast come and be content, renders it improbable that such should

be the reading, whereas the preposition with the pronoun is quite in place.

The spiritual meaning is not far to seek. The life that we live WITHOUT

CHRIST is at best a life among the wild, untamed impulses of nature,

and in the rough and dangerous places of the world. He invites us to go

with Him to the place which He has prepared for us. And so the Church

will leave its crude thoughts and undeveloped life, and seek, in the love

of Christ and in the gifts of His Spirit, a truer reflection of His nature

and will (see Ephesians 4:14-16).  The Apocalypse is based upon the

same idea, the advancement of the kingdom of Christ from the place

of lions and panthers to THE NEW JERUSALEM,  with its PERFECTION

OF BEAUTY AND ETERNAL PEACE!

 

 

The Beautiful but Dangerous World (v. 8)

 

For once the literal and allegorical interpretation largely agree. For both

represent the places spoken of here as full of peril, and both desire the

beloved one to “come away” from them (Revelation 18:4), and promise

deliverance if she will come. Let the peril of delivering her be what it may —

as dens of lions and leopards — yet will He accomplish it. Allegorically

we may read here:

 

  • CHRIST’S DESCRIPTION OF THE WORLD. It is:

 

Ø      Beautiful to look upon. Some of the finest scenes, the most glorious

landscapes the world can show, are to be seen from the mountain

summits named here. The view is entrancing, so travelers say. And

the world is to the young soul fair indeed. But:

 

Ø      It is full of peril also. The dizzy heights, the steep cliffs, the lofty crags

of mountainous regions, demand a steady head, well balanced nerves, a

sure foothold. The inexperienced may not venture there. Death and

destruction track the footsteps of the traveler on such heights, and if he

be not well trained, they have him for their prey. The spiritual analogy is

illustrated by only too many sad experiences. To preserve the soul’s

balance on the heights of the world’s prosperity, how difficult for all!

How impossible for most! “How hardly shall they that have riches

enter into the kingdom of heaven!” (Mark 10:23)  “Man, vain man,

dressed in a little brief authority,” etc. But the special perils named

here are the beasts of prey. These have their haunts in these mountains.

In all languages and literatures the designation of evil men by the name

of some noxious beast is common (compare the Psalms; also our Lord’s

word, “Go, tell that fox”  (Luke 13:32); and in the Scriptures passim).

And the world is full of such creatures — pitiless, cruel, fierce, ravenous,

terrible. Smooth and soft and sleek as a leopard, so long as you are able

to defy them; but fall down, be at their mercy, and what mercy will you

get? “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10);  yes,

cruel as lion, leopard, or any beast of prey. Ask the world’s victims

what mercy they have received. Let the soul once give the world a chance,

and the world will drive it hell-ward with relentless cruelty. There is no

mercy there. What a contrast to “the mountains of myrrh” (v. 6)! “No

ravenous beast shall be there” (Isaiah 35:9); “They shall not hurt nor

destroy in all my holy mountain” (Ibid. ch. 11:9).

 

  • CHRIST’S PROMISE OF HELP. “Come with me.” His Word is full of

such promises and of the records of their fulfillment (compare histories of Joseph,

Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel, etc.). And it is the experience of every Christian

soul. Christ does not take us out of the world, but He keeps us from the

evil (John 17:15). He keeps us “as the apple of His eye;” hides us “under

 the shadow” of His wing (Psalm 17:8). He knows what He will do, therefore

He says, “Come with me.”

 

  • THE CONDITION OF THAT HELP. We must “come with” Him.

Some wonder that He invites us at all; that, loving the soul as He does, He

should leave it any choice as to whether it will or will not come; that He

does not deal with us as a father who would compel, not merely invite, His

child to come out of the burning house. So some wonder that Christ does

not compel the soul, carry it off by force. No doubt, in the literal story of

this song, he who spoke was prepared to do this by her whom he appeals

to. But Christ says, “Come with me.” He solicits, entreats, invites. For

there can be no deliverance of the soul unless there be the response of its

own will. Even Christ cannot save without that. If, as is the case so sadly

often, men “will not come unto” him that they “might have life” (John

5:40), they have it not. And that response of the will is from faith in Christ’s

Word as to our peril and His loving power. Then:

 

Ø      ponder that Word;

Ø      pray to know the truth;

Ø      the Divine Spirit shall teach you, and

Ø      soon the response Christ desires will be given.

 

9  Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse (bride); thou

hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy

neck.”   The bridegroom still continues his address of love, which we must

not, of course, press too closely, though it is noticeable that the language

becomes somewhat more sober in tone, as though the writer were

conscious of the higher application to which it would be put. Some

translators take the first clause as though the word “ravished” should be

rendered “emboldened.” Symmachus, ejqarsu>nav me etharsunas me.

The Hebrew word  bBeli, literally, “heartened,” may mean, as in Aramaic,

make courageous.”  Love in the beginning overpowers, unhearts, but the

general idea must be that of “smitten” or “captured.” So the Septuagint,

Venetian, and Jerome, ejkardi>wsav me ekardiosas me, vulnerasti cor

meum. My sister, my bride, is, of course, the same as “my sisterly bride,”

a step beyond “my betrothed.” Gesenius thinks that“one of thine eyes”

should be “one look of thine;” but may it not refer to

the eye appearing through the veil, as again one chain of the neck may

glitter and attract all the more that the whole ornamentation did not

appear in view? If but a portion of her beauty so overpowers, what will

be the effect of the whole blaze of her perfection?  As the Church

advances in her likeness to her Lord, she becomes more and

more the object of His delight, and as the soul receives more and more

grace, so is her fellowship with Christ more and more assured and joyful.

 

10 “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!

11 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.”  The expression of thy love, that is, the endearments, the

embraces, are delightful. The allusion to the lips may be a

mere amplification of the word “love,” but it may also refer to speech, and

we think of the nineteenth psalm and the description of the words and

testimony of the Lord, “more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than

honey and the droppings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10; compare

Genesis 27:27; Psalm 45:9). The words of pure, inward joy.  Flowing forth

from the lips may be so described. So the Lord has said, in Isaiah 62:5, that

He rejoiceth over His people as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.

 

 

All Love Involves Delight in Mutual Society (vs. 8-11)

 

 It does not matter whether life be passed in the cottage on the mountain side,

in the tent on the plain, or in the palace in the metropolis, if only it be passed in

that companionship which is congenial, in uninterrupted fellowship with the

chosen of the heart. However imperfect in its character is this fellowship,

however it be suspended in its enjoyment, the communion of the soul with

Christ is subject to no such drawback.

 

“They who once His kindness prove,

Find it everlasting love.”

 

Nothing in Christ can mar the perfection of spiritual intimacy, or can bring

that intimacy to a close. The love of Christ is the purest possession, and the

one unfailing source of strength and joy.

 

 

Christ’s Appraisement of Believers (vs. 10-11)

 

The interest which God takes in men is marvelous. Why He should have designed

 to save men from sin’s curse, AT SUCH PERSONAL COST, is a mystery,

and must remain so. It is equally a mystery why Jesus should have set such

strong love on the fishermen of Galilee. Notwithstanding their glaring

misconduct, “He loved them to the end”  (John 13:1).  In like manner Jesus

speaks in this passage of His high appreciation of His people’s love. The love

of Christ to us is a theme on which any Christian may well become eloquent.

But to hear that Christ sets high store on our poor love to Him, this staggers our

thoughts, and almost seals our lips. Nevertheless it is a fact. Full of blemish

and imperfection as we are, He counts us His jewels, His choicest

possessions (Even His inheritance.  I recommend Deuteronomy ch 32 v 9 –

God’s Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this we site – CY – 2014). He finds “His

inheritance in the saints.” With His generous heart He discerns all the goodness

there is in us. He sets high value on our love, and in this way encourages us to

give Him more.

 

  • OBSERVE CHRIST’S APPRECIATION OF OUR HOLY

INFLUENCE. How much better is “the scent of thy perfumes than all

spices”! In the East the dwellings are not so sweet as in our own land.

Want of general cleanliness, want of water, want of drainage, will account

for this. As a consequence, unguents and perfumes about the person are

very common. So in the hallowed savor of our piety there is a delicate

fragrance very acceptable to Jesus. Our influence over others is something

undefinable, yet very potent. It pertains to every habit of life, to every tone

of voice, to every expression of countenance. It lives in a smile or in a tear;

and results, begun in the minutest circumstance, stretch far away into the

great eternity. Jesus highly esteems this quiet, mystic influence. It is a

fragrant atmosphere created by love, and, like the savor of Mary’s

spikenard, it fills the house (John 12:3). Obdurate men may ridicule our

pious words; they cannot ridicule nor resist the influence of a holy life.

(Compare Stephen – Acts 6:10).  Our humility, our heavenly-mindedness,

our consecrated zeal, diffuse a delicate perfume, like

the subtle scent of roses, which every man of refinement appreciates, and in

it Jesus finds delight. It is richer and rarer than all the spices of Araby.

 

  • MARK THE FACT THAT JESUS GREATLY ESTEEMS A

CHRISTIAN’S TESTIMONY. “Thy lips drop as the honeycomb.” The

gift of speech is a noble endowment conferred on us by God. It

distinguishes man above the animals. The human voice, either in oratory or

in song, has potent enchantment for men. Speech is man’s glory. By it he

rules a nation. By it he enlightens and inspires the young. By it he molds

the destinies of mankind. Jesus loves to see this endowment

CONSECRATED TO HIS CAUSE!   He loves to hear our testimony to

His goodness. He loves to hear our pious songs. On one occasion Jesus cast

out a demon from a man who was dumb, and immediately the dumb man

spake. So, when Jesus “sheds abroad his love in our hearts,” our lips cannot

be silent. The desire to speak of His grace will be like a fire in our bones. A

strange impulse stirs within to make all men know of His mighty virtue, and

the tongue of the dumb will be unloosed. As the richest, sweetest of all

honey is that which drops freely and first from the honeycomb, so the

words of our fresh, warm love are very sweet in the car of Jesus. He

intertwines the welfare of His kingdom with human speech, for HE HAS

ORDAINED PREACHING to be his great weapon in the sacred crusade

with sin.  (I Corinthians 1:21).  If we did but remember that Jesus is always

a hearer — a generous, appreciative hearer — of all that drops from our

lips, should we not take care that He heard only what was true and kind and

beautiful? Should we not be eager to “order our conversation aright

(Psalm 50:23), and to have our speech like the droppings of the honeycomb? 

(Matthew 12:36-37)

 

  • JESUS CHRIST APPRAISES HIGHLY EVERY DISCIPLE’S

SERVICE. “The smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.” The

scent of pine trees and of cedar forests is peculiarly pleasant, and in this

respect Lebanon surpassed all other forests in Palestine. It is in keeping

with the symbolism of the Bible to employ “garments” as an emblem of

human actions. We have a similar figure in our own language, for we use

the word “habit” to denote one kind of apparel, and also to denote a

constant line of action. Acts frequently performed become habits. So the

garments of a Christian are his everyday actions — the things he wears

wherever he goes.” The lesson here is that Jesus finds pleasure in

everything we do, however trivial and insignificant. For there is nothing

insignificant. You may read a man’s character more clearly in the hourly

business of every day than in his conduct on Sundays, or than in some

great action of his life. The serving woman in a shop, or the drudge in the

scullery, or the hodman on the scaffolding, can serve Christ as well as the

bishop in the pulpit. Jesus loves to see how faithfully we do little things.

(“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much:

and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”  - Luke 16:10)

In His sight there is nothing little. It gave Him untold pleasure to see the

farthing which a poor widow dropped into His treasury (Mark 12:41-44).

He counts every hair upon our heads. He notes when a sparrow falls

(Luke 12:6-7).  This is a mark of true greatness that it never overlooks the

tiniest things. If from a disposition of love, and with cheerful temper, we

sew a garment or drive a nail, we bring new pleasure to our Lord. “Therefore,”

says the apostle, “whatsoever ye do, whether in word or in deed, do all in the

name of the Lord Jesus.”  (Colossians 3:17).  Sweetly does old Herbert sing:

 

“A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery Divine;

Who sweeps a room as for thy laws

Makes that and th’ action fine.”

 

12 “A garden enclosed (shut up) is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up,

a fountain sealed.” We must bear in mind that these words are supposed to

be spoken on the journey in the marriage procession. The bride is not yet

brought to the royal palace. She is still traveling in the royal palanquin.

The idea of a paradise or garden is carried from the beginning of Scripture

to the end, the symbol of perfect blessedness. The figure of the closed or

shut-up garden represents the bridegroom’s delight in the sense of absolute

and sole possession — for himself and no other. The language is very

natural at such a time, when the bride is being taken from her home. We

may compare with the figures here employed those in Proverbs 5:15-20.

 

13 “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits;

camphire, with spikenard,  14 Spikenard and saffron; calamus and

cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all

the chief spices:”  Thy shoots; i.e. that which comes forth from thee,

thy plants, “all the phenomena and life utterances of her personality.”

All the plants had their meaning in flower language. They are mostly

exotics. But it is difficult now to suggest meanings, though they may have

been familiar to Jewish readers at the time. The pardes, “park, or enclosure,”

was adorned especially with foreign and fragrant plants of great beauty.

It is an Old Persian word, perhaps, as Delitzsch suggests, from pairi (peri<

peri) and dez (Pers. diz), “a  heap.” Precious fruit; literally, fructus laudam,

fruits of renown” or excellence (cf. Syriac magdo, “dried fruit”). The carcom,

or saffron, a kind of crocus (Ind. safran), yields the saffron color from its

dried flower eyes, used both as a cosmetic and as a medicine (cf. Sansc.

kuakuma). The calamus, simply a reed, the sweet reed, a corn indigenous

to the East. Cinnamon (Quinnamon), Laurus cinnamomum, is indigenous

on the east coast of Africa and Ceylon, found later in the Antibes. The inner

bark peeled off and roiled together forms the cinnamon bark (see Pliny, bk. 12).

There are seven spices mentioned. We need not trouble ourselves to

identify them all, as they are mostly Indian, and such as Solomon would

fetch from the far East in his celebrated ships. The description is highly

poetical, and simply means that all sweetness and attractiveness combine in

the fair one. But symbolically we may see an allusion to the spread of the

Church over the world, and all the glory and honor of the nations” being

introduced into it. So the graces of the individual soul expand themselves

under the influence of Christian truth and fellowship.

 

15 “A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from

Lebanon.”  Referring, of course, to the clear, cool streams coming down

from the snowy heights. The sweet freshness of the country maiden suggested

this. May we not see a symbol of the spiritual life in such language (compare

John 7:38)? Ethically, at least, the blending of the freshness of a mountain

stream with the luxuriance and fragrance of a cultivated garden is very suggestive.

To an Eastern monarch, such purity and modesty as Solomon found in his bride

must have been a rare excellence which might well be made typical.

 

The grace of the redeemed soul is not confined to itself; it has ministries which

flow out to others. Allusion seems to be made in this verse to the fountains of

Solomon, which were “fountains of gardens.” And we are reminded of our

Lord’s words as to the “well of water” which should be in His people, and

which should sprang up in them “unto everlasting life.” And because our

Lord foresaw that through the souls He redeemed so many others should be

blessed — each one becoming “a fountain of gardens,” a well of living waters

for the help and salvation of others — herein is another reason why God

became man. It was part of “the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2), for

which He “endured the cross, despising the shame.” Ruskin tells how in the

slime taken from a city lane you have clay, soot, sand, and water. Submit these

to the laws of crystallization, and the clay becomes sapphire, the sand becomes

opal, with blue green, and golden hues; the soot becomes a lustrous diamond,

and the water crystallizes into that thing of beauty, a snow star. And more than

science sees in any city slime Christ sees in the soul, sunken in the mire of

sin though it be, which He redeems. Already He sees the flashing of the

jewels into which He will transform it, and will place in His diadem forever:

such is part answer to the question, “Cur Deus homo?” (Why God became

man).

 

16 “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.” This is the answer of the

bride to the lavish praises of her husband. I am all his. She is yet unworthy

of the king and of his love until the seasonal changes have developed and

unfolded and spread forth her excellences. The north represents cold; the

south, heat. Let the various influences from different quarters flow gently

over the garden and call forth the fragrance and the fruits (compare Esther

2:12). There is rich suggestion in such words. Whether we think of the

individual soul or of the Church of Christ, the true desire of those who

delight in the love of the Saviour is that all the gifts and graces which can

be bestowed may make them worthy of Him who condescends to call His

people His delight. Surely it is no mere romantic idyll that is before us.

Such significance cannot be a mere coincidence when it is so transparent

and so apt.

 

 Even So, Come, Lord Jesus!  (v. 16; Revelation 22:20)

 

This is the state of mind produced by the consciousness of Christ’s

gracious estimate of us. We can scarce believe that it is as He says, but that

He counts us such makes us long to be such. Therefore in this verse we

may hear the cry of the soul, that He would make us to be what He says we

are.

 

  • WHAT THE SOUL SUPREMELY DESIRES. “Let my beloved come

into His garden,” etc. This, translated, means that the soul’s supreme

solicitude is, as Paul’s was, to be accepted of her Lord (compare

II Corinthians 5:9), “I labor, whether present or absent, to be accepted of

Him”). The renewed soul seeks, to be well pleasing to her Lord; she cares

little for any other approval (compare Paul, “It is a small thing to me to be

judged of you, or by man’s judgment; He that judgeth me is the Lord” –

I Corinthians 4:4). To give pleasure to those whom we love, to know that

any achievements of ours will gratify them, is a greater pleasure than any

derived from the applause of strangers, however numerous or distinguished.

The lad laden with prizes at his school is pleased enough with the clapping,

and the praise of masters and fellow pupils; but his real pleasure is to come,

when he gets his prizes home and shows them to his loved ones there. To

see his mother’s eyes glisten with gladness, that is better than all the other

praise, were it from all the world beside. And so to be approved of Christ,

to please Him, that, to souls like Paul’s, is everything.”

 

 

Further Conversation Between the Bridgegroom and the Bride (vs. 7-16)

 

If the view of v. 6 indicated above gives the true meaning, the bride has left

the bridegroom for a time. In the evening they meet again, and the king again

expresses his affection: “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”

Such shall the Church be in the eyes of Christ, when He has sanctified and

cleansed her with the washing of water by the Word; when she is clothed in

the fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints; when He

of God is made unto her Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification,

and Redemption”  (I Corinthians 1:30). Such shall the saints be in His eyes

when they have “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of

the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14); “they are without fault before the throne of God”

(Ibid. ch. 14:5). But it is Christ who has cleansed them. They were stained with

many sins, as David was when he cried in the anguish of his deep penitence,

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter

than show” (Psalm 51:7). We have sinned so long and so greatly, we have

so often fallen back into sin after imperfect repentance, that to be “whiter

than snow” seems a hope altogether too high for us, out of our reach. But

we have THE SURE WORD OF GOD!  He is able to “present us faultless

before the presence of His glory” (Jude 1:24); He is able to “cleanse us from

all unrighteousness;” (I John 1:9); “the Lamb of God taketh away the sins

of the world”  (John 1:29).   Indeed it is true that “we are all as an unclean

things and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), but we

may have, if we come to Christ in faith, “that righteousness which is through

the faith of Christ” (Philippians 3:9); that righteousness which is His, not our

own; and yet,  if we abide in Him, it becomes through His grace our own;

for it is given to us, imparted to us, infused into us by the indwelling influences

of the Holy Spirit of God. Then we may dare to hope for that spotless

righteousness; we may, we must, long for it and strive after it. Not to do so is

not humility, but unbelief; not distrust of ourselves, but DISTRUST OF GOD,

for we have the sacred word of promise, “Blessed are they that do hunger and

thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)

 

 “With me from Lebanon, O bride, with me from Lebanon shalt thou come.

The Hebrew words are full of life: The bride is henceforth to be with the

bridegroom, with him always: she is to forget her own people and her father’s

house (Psalm 45:10-11). This is the bridegroom’s invitation.  She is to come

away from her old haunts — from Amana, Shenir, and Hermon; for even

Hermon in all its grandeur is but a “little hill” in comparison with the

spiritual glory of Mount Zion, where God is pleased to dwell (see Prayer

book Version of Psalm 42:6). She must come from the lions’ dens,

from “the violence of Lebanon (Habakkuk 2:17), to Jerusalem, the

foundation of peace. The Church, the bride of Christ, shall be in the eternal

blessedness “forever with the Lord”  (I Thessalonians 4:17).  She shall come

away from her old habitation, the earth which is filled with violence (Genesis 6:11

and will be in the end of time! – Matthew 24:21-22 – CY – 2014); away

from the raging of the roaring lion, who walketh about, seeking whom he

may devour (I Peter 5:8), to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the

living God. And the Christian soul, which looks forward in living hope to

the inheritance of the saints in light, must now come with Christ away from

other masters, from the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eye, and the

pride of life (I John 2:15-17).  “To depart and to be with Christ,” Paul says

(Philippians 1:23), “is far better” — “by much very far better,” for such

is the full meaning of the emphatic words. Then the soul that hopes to be

with Christ in Paradise must be much with Christ now; with Him in the

daily life of faith, in prayer and praise and frequent communion. He bids us

come. “Come unto me,” He says, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew

11:28-30).  He only can give peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I

give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you”  (John 14:27).

If we listen to His voice, and come with Him away from Lebanon, which,

though fair to look upon, with grand and wide-reaching prospects, was yet

the haunt of noisome beasts; if we leave the love of the world, with its

enticements and its dangers, for the blessed love of Christ, we shall have

all that we need for our soul’s peace and safety. “Let not your heart be

troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (Ibid.)

 

The bridegroom sings the praises of his bride. He calls her repeatedly,

“My spouse.” His heart is hers; every little thing about her, the very smell

of her garments, is dear to him; her love is by much better than wine; her voice

is sweet as honey. He dwells now less on graces of person, as in vs. 1-5, than

on her looks of affection, the depth and beauty of her love, the music of her

voice.  These words tell of a great love; but the love of Christ for His Church is

beyond the power of language. Solomon left his first love — he loved

many strange women; but the love of Christ for His Church is “an

everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), unchangeable, unutterable. “Greater

love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;” but

“God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,

Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And because He loved the Church

with so great a love, the responsive love of the Church is very dear to Him.

“He is not ashamed to call us brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). The voice of

the Church lifted up to Him in prayer and praise, making melody in the

heart unto God, is sweet to the Saviour. He praises the graces of the

Church, though those graces come all from Him; they are His gift. He

praises in the Book of the Revelation the Churches of Smyrna and

Philadelphia; He sees the beauty of holiness in those afflicted and despised

Churches: “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art

rich;” “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life;”

“They shall know that I have loved thee; Him that overcometh will I make

a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will

write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God,

which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God:

and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 2:9-10; 3:9, 12).

 

The bridegroom compares his bride unto a garden enclosed. She is like a garden

shut up, barred against intruders, kept sacred for its master’s use; she is like a

spring shut up, a fountain sealed as with the royal signet which none but

the king can touch. The garden, or paradise, is full of the choicest fruits,

flowers, and spice-bearing plants, the produce of many countries, some of

them brought in Solomon’s time by his navy from Arabia or India. The

fountain is a well of living waters, fresh as the gushing mountain streams of

Lebanon. Solomon praises the bride not only for her beauty and her rare

endowments, but also for her purity and faithfulness. The “garden

enclosed,” the “fountain scaled,” remind us of our marriage vow: “Wilt

thou… forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him so long as ye both shall

live?” Such should the wedded pair be each to the other; such was not

Solomon. We cannot but think and believe that the bride, innocent and

artless as she is described, kept herself pure unto the end. The Church,

which is the bride of Christ, should be as a garden enclosed, kept sacred

for the one Lord. The garden of Eden was a garden enclosed, but Satan

marred its sanctity; he, in the words of Milton,

 

“At one slight bound high overleaped all bound

Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within

Lights on his feet....

So clomb the first grand thief into God’s fold:

So since into His Church lewd hirelings climb.”

 

The Lord has said, “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold,

but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John

10:1). Again He has said, “I am the Door: by me if any man enter in, he shall

be saved, and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture”  (Ibid. v. 9).

They who are called to minister in the Church of God must ever remember that

it is God’s Church, that “He hath purchased it with His own blood” (Acts 20:28);

that it should be “a garden enclosed,” kept for the Master, tilled and watered for

Him; that every barren tree should be carefully tended, that it may bring

forth fruit before the awful word goeth forth, “Every tree that bringeth not

forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire”  (Matthew 7:19).  The trees

in the Lord’s garden differ much from one another. There are pomegranates with

their pleasant fruit, henna with its fragrant flowers, spikenard with its

costly perfume, frankincense for sacred uses; all manner of sweet spices —

myrrh and aloes, which tell of the bitter healing cup of sorrow, which point

to death and burial. The saints of God differ much from one another.

Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Peter, John, Paul,  have each

his own place in the garden of the Lord. All bring forth the fruits of the

Spirit, but in different forms and degrees; one we call the apostle of love,

another the apostle of faith, a third the apostle of hope; “but all these

worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as

He will” (I Corinthians 12:11). It is the Lord Himself who giveth the

Spirit. Mary Magdalene, on the first Easter Day, supposed Him to be the

gardener (John 20:15); and in a very true sense He is the Gardener of

the garden enclosed. And here we may remember that it was in a garden

that He suffered that dread agony, when His sweat was as it were great

drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). That blood taketh

away THE SINS OF THE WORLD;  it waters the garden enclosed with its

cleansing stream. And again we are told that “in the place where he was

crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein

was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus” (John 19:41). The Lord suffered

in a garden; He has purchased with His own blood the Church to be His own,

His garden enclosed. But the Church is also “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;”

Shut up in a sense, sealed with the Master’s signet, as His own sacred tomb was

sealed in the garden of Joseph, but yet (v. 15) “a fountain of gardens, a

well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” The fountain is sealed,

for it is the Lord’s; it hath “this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.

And, Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity”

(II Timothy 2:19). But its living waters go forth to fertilize the Lord’s

garden. The healing waters which the Prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision

issued out from under the threshold of the temple; they brought fruitfulness

wherever they went “because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary”

(Ezekiel 47:1, 12 – I recommend Ezekiel 47 – Spurgeon Sermon – Waters

To Swim In – this web site – CY – 2014). In a true sense the whole world is

the Lord’s field: “The field is the world” (Matthew 13:38); and the Church has

the Lord’s commandment, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to

every creature” (Mark 16:15). The well is the Lord’s; it is sealed with

His seal; but the living waters of that sacred well must issue forth, that “the

wilderness and the solitary place may be glad for them: that the desert may

rejoice and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1). And as the Church, the

bride of Christ, is for Him “a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed,” so must

every Christian soul BE WHOLLY HIS!   “We are Christ’s,” Paul says.

“Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8); and again,

“God, whose I am, and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23). Each Christian soul

must keep itself as “a garden enclosed” (“barred,” or “belted,” is the literal

meaning of the Hebrew word). We must strive earnestly to keep out earthly

passions, earthly ambitions, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the

knowledge of God (II Corinthians 10:5).  We must keep the gate barred

against the entrance of the evil one. And we must take heed that the house

be not left empty; it must be kept for “a habitation of God through the Spirit”

(Ephesians 2:22). We must strive to keep out worldly cares, coming to God in

all our troubles, whether great or small, that so the peace of God, which passeth

all understanding, may keep (guard, protect) our hearts and thoughts

through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).   The garden must be barred; the peace

of God must rule there (Colossians 3:15); and it must bring forth fruit, the

blessed fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness,

goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22). The tree that

beareth not fruit must be hewn down at last; it cumbereth the ground (Luke

13:7); “every branch that beareth not fruit is taken away  (John 15:2). 

How carefully, then, we ought, every one of us, to watch for the fruit of the

Spirit in our daily life, to see in diligent self-examination whether we are

exhibiting these holy graces in our Christian walk and conversation

(II Corinthians 13:5); and if, alas! we find them not, how earnestly we ought

to pray, with fervent, untiring supplication for the help of the Holy Spirit of

God to work within us, to assist our prayers, to make intercession for us with

groanings that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26), to lead us nearer to Christ,

that we may evermore abide in Him, without whom we can bear no fruit,

without whom we can do nothing!  (John 15:5)  The garden needs the

living water; the saint of God is a fountain sealed. The living water is the

Lord’s; it bears His seal. The Lord Himself is, in the truest sense, the

“Fountain opened… for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1);

with Him is “the fountain of life” (Psalm 16:11;36:9). He leadeth His redeemed

to living fountains of waters (Revelation 7:17). But they who have

received from Him the living water become themselves fountains, as the

Lord hath said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall

never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of

water springing up into everlasting life.” And again, “If any man thirst, let

him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture

hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 4:14;

7:37-38). The saint of God is indeed “a fountain sealed,” sealed with the

Lord’s seal, dedicated wholly unto Him; “a spring shut up” from all other

waters save only the living water which the Lord giveth, not “a fountain

which sends forth at the same place sweet water and bitter” (James 3:11).

But he must be “a fountain of gardens” (v. 15); he that is watered

of God must water the thirsty ground (Proverbs 11:25). Paul, who

had received the gift of the Spirit from the Lord, passed on the living

waters to Apollos; Apollos watered the garden of the Lord at Corinth

(I Corinthians 3:6). So must all God’s people do. They know in their

own hearts more or less of that holy calm and blessedness which the living

waters of the indwelling of the Spirit (John 7:39) bring to the faithful;

they must do their best to extend to others the blessings which they have

themselves received; they must pray and labor for the spiritual well being

of those nearest to them, within the sphere of their personal influence; they

must do their best to help missionary work through the world, resting not

till “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters

cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). But each must keep himself as “a fountain

sealedfor the Lord and the work of the Lord, that at the last he may be

sealed with the seal of the living God, and stand on the Mount Zion among

the mystic hundred and forty and four thousand who have the Lamb’s

Name and His Father’s Name written in their foreheads (Revelation 7:2-3;

14:1).

 

The bride accepts the bridegroom’s parable. She is a garden enclosed. She calls

upon the winds, north and south, to blow upon the garden, that the fragrance of

its spices may flow forth to give pleasure to the bridegroom. The garden is hers;

for it is herself, her love. And yet it is the bridegroom’s, for she has given herself,

her love, to him; she invites him to come into his garden, and eat his pleasant

fruits. So the Church, the bride of Christ, longs for the heavenly Bridegroom;

so each Christian soul seeks the Saviour’s presence. The soul that would give

itself wholly to the Lord as a garden barred against all other masters, and

enclosed for His use, strives ever to please Him more and more; she would

have her inward life of prayer and meditation and spiritual communion with

Him to become more and more pleasing to Him, more and more fragrant.

Therefore she calls for the north wind as well as the south to blow upon

the garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. She is willing to submit to

the cold blasts of adversity, as well as to be refreshed with the soft breezes

of joy and holy gladness. She knows that God will make all things, joy and

sorrow alike, to work together for good to them that love Him (Romans 8:28).

Therefore she prays only that His will may be done in her, whether by chastisements

or by spiritual joy and blessing. She would have the garden bring forth more fruit,

even though it must be purged with the pruning knife of affliction. For the garden,

though it is herself, her own heart, is yet the Lord’s; for she has given it to the

heavenly Bridegroom; therefore she yearns for His irradiating presence, praying

Him to enter into his garden, and eat His pleasant fruits.

 

 

The King’s Garden (vs. 12-16)

 

The Church of Christ is fitly likened to a garden. It is a piece of territory

separated from the rest, enclosed from the beaten road of this world’s

traffic. The distinguishing mark of a Christian Church is SEPARATION;

 i.e. separation from evil, separation as a means of blessing. As in a garden a

king finds great delight and solace, so in this sacred garden Jesus Christ has

a special joy. He calls it “my garden.” We do not hear Him say, “My star;

my snow-capped mountains; my veins of gold;” but we do hear him say,

“My garden; my people; my sister; my spouse. Such language is not

merely the language of proprietorship; it is the language of endearment.

Every plant and tree in this garden has been planted and pruned by Himself.

The unfolding of every blossom on the fruit trees He has watched with

delight; and when the blossom has matured into fruit, His delight has

become an ecstasy. One high ambition fills Him, viz. that His garden may

bear much fruit.  (John 15)

 

  • OBSERVE THAT THIS EMBLEM OF A GARDEN SUGGESTS

MANY TRUTHS.

 

Ø      There is the fact of separateness. In this text the writer lays emphasis on

this point. Every garden is more or less marked off from other ground, but

this is specially described as “a garden enclosed.” It is made inaccessible

to thieves, to cattle, and to wild beasts. Boars out of the wood would

soon lay it waste. So is it with the life of God in the believer’s soul. He is

thereby separated from the ungodly world. The chosen of God are

separated by God s eternal decree. Their names are registered in the

book of life. They have been separated by redemption. “Christ has

redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” (Galatians 3:13).  They are

separated by virtue of the new birth. They are separated by their own

personal choice. They have gone to Christ “without the camp, bearing

His reproach.” (Hebrews 13:13).  They are no longer “conformed to

the world.” (Romans 12:2).  As Jesus “is not of the world, neither are

they.” “My kingdom is not of this world.”  (John 18:36).

 

Ø      There is the idea of secrecy. This is not altogether the believer’s choice;

it is inevitable. The new life of the Christian is “hid with Christ in God”

(Colossians 3:3). As a spring or fountain has its source out of sight — yea,

far down in secret caverns of the earth — so the believer has the roots of

his new life in Christ. He has experiences now which others do not share,

and which he had not aforetime; but these are entirely hidden from the

public eye. New fellowship with God; new aims in life; new motives and

impulses; new peace and hopes; new springs of joy he has, with which a

stranger cannot intermeddle.” As the wind in its vagaries defies all the

predictions of man (none can “tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth

John 3:8), so is every one that is born of the Spirit. “The natural man

cannot understand the things of the Spirit; they are foolishness unto

him.”  (I Corinthians 2:14).  All life is mysterious; spiritual life is

especially so!

 

Ø      There is set forth the fact of security. As a shepherd guards his flock, so

the great Husbandman secures from adversaries His garden. “No wolf

shall be there, nor any ravenous beast.” The enclosure resists successfully

even the “little foxes,” who spoil the precious vines. The Christian is

secure against the world, the flesh, and the devil; for all the attributes

of God envelop him for his protection. He dwells under the shield of the

Almighty.  The omnipotence of Jehovah is his fortress. God is “a wall

of fire round about him” (Zechariah 2:5).  Hence “no weapon that is

formed against him can prosper”   (Isaiah 54:17).  As a garden enclosed,

he enjoys impregnable security.

 

Ø      Here is the idea of sacredness. The enclosed garden is set apart for the

use of the king. It is devoted to one person and to one purpose. So

Jesus claims this garden as His own, and what is true of the Church is

true of every person composing that Church. The believer is a sacred

person, a priest consecrated to holy service. He is God’s man, attached

to the court of heaven. Jesus said that He had “sanctified (or consecrated)

Himself, that they also might be sanctified (or consecrated) through the

truth (John 17:19).  Every part of the Christian is consecrated, viz. his

endowments, his learning, his property, his time. For “we are not our

own;  we are bought with a price.”  (I Corinthians 6:19-20).  Our

business is to serve the kingdom. “For us to live is Christ.”  

(Philippians 1:21).  We are part of the “sacramental host of God’s elect.”

 

  • OBSERVE THAT THIS GARDEN IS FAMOUS FOR FRUITFULNESS.

“Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits,” etc.

 

Ø      Abundant fruitfulness is asserted. It was the earnest longing of Jesus

Christ that His disciples “should bear much fruit, and that this fruit should

abide.” (John 15:1-8).  Very soon rich clusters of fruit did appear in His

Church. The prayerfulness culminating on the Day of Pentecost; the

Generous communism of the saints; the courage and zeal of many; the

fervid piety of Stephen; the practical sympathy for the poor; the

magnanimity of Barnabas; the whole-hearted consecration of Paul; —

these were the firstfruits of discipleship. And from that day to this fruit

has abounded in the Church. The noble qualities of mind and heart; the

splendid virtues; the patience, fortitude, and zeal; the consecrated heroism

of believers, have been the admiration and astonishment of the world.

“Whatsoever things are lovely, excellent, pure, and of good report”

(Philippians 4:8) these have been conspicuous in the Church.

The elite of mankind is within the Church.

 

Ø      There is also variety of fruit. In nature God has made His goodness most

manifest in the vast variety of fruits with which our earth teems. Equally

in the Church may we find a splendid variety of gifts and graces. The early

fruits of humility and repentance and tenderness of conscience soon appear.

The spice trees of prayer and sympathy send forth a goodly odor. The

trees of righteousness and holiness bear large stores of precious fruit. In

each succeeding age new excellences have appeared, new fruits have made

this garden famous. Here and there you will find a gnarled and crooked

tree that bears little fruit. But this is the exception; a blot upon the garden.

You will find even in a royal garden some withered branch, some rank

shoot that is unlovely and unfruitful. Still, we do not on that account

condemn the whole garden. All temperance reforms, all hospitals and

asylums, all plans for the betterment of humanity, all alleviations of misery

and woe, have appeared among us as THE FRUITS OF CHRIST’S

LIFE!   The fruit abounds in variety almost endless.

 

Ø      Mark the utility of this fruit. The fruit was choice; the rarest fruits were

there. Some were full of cooling juice, pleasant to the taste in hours of

scorching heat. Some had a value as medicines for the cure of disease,

and for soothing burning pains. Some yielded rich perfumes (as spikenard),

and added to the joy of royal or marriage banquets. Others produced myrrh

and frankincense, and were consecrated to Divine worship. Others, again,

conferred a delicious flavor to human food. Each and an had a mission of

usefulness among mankind. So is it also in the Church of Christ. You

cannot put finger on a genuine Christian who is not more or less a blessing

to the race. His piety has a delicious savor in the circle in which he lives.

His prayers bring blessing upon a thousand bosoms. As God blessed Egypt

for Joseph’s sake, as God blessed Israel for David’s sake, so for the

Church’s sake HE OFTEN BLESSES THE WORLD!   Every Christian

is a light, illuminating the world’s darkness. “Ye are the salt of the earth”

(Matthew 5:13).  Since Christ lived, and because He now lives in others,

the moral and social aspects of the world are changed.

 

  • OBSERVE THE DEPENDENCE OF THIS GARDEN UPON

SOURCES OF PROSPERITY OUTSIDE ITSELF. It needs the

fountain;” “the well of living waters;” “the streams from Lebanon.”

 

Ø      This may well teach us that the Church needs God in the way of

providence. While yet the Church remains on the earth it needs

earthly good. It needs, at least, toleration or sufferance from earthly

governments.  It needs human teachers, and all the aids of human

learning. It needs the use of books and printing. It needs material

buildings for public worship. It needs earthly wealth to carry on all the

agencies of instruction and of blessing. Likewise the individual disciple

receives much from God in the way of providence. We have the

priceless ministry of angels. We have the pillar of cloud, and the pillar

of fire. We have the stimulating influence of godly companions. We

have the benefits of parental teaching and holy example. We have the

inspirations that come from the biographies of heroic men. These are

wells in the desert; “streams from Lebanon.” All that is requisite

to make this garden fertile, rich in umbrageous shade, rich in

luscious fruits, rich in aromatic spices, has been lavishly supplied.

No lack can be found in the thoughtfulness of the husbandman.

(“What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I

have not done in it?”  - Isaiah 5:4)

 

Ø      Equally the Church needs God in the way of spiritual gifts.

“Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my

garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.” The Hebrew

word for “wind” means also “breath,” or “spirit;” hence we

have here a striking emblem of the work of the Divine

Spirit. To Him belongs the sole prerogative to impart life to

the trees of the garden. We invoke His presence because He is

the Lord and Giver of life.  For the largest prosperity of the

Church the good Spirit of God is needed in all His offices,

in all His fullness of power. A blustering gale from the

north scatters noxious blight, but the soft wind from the south

will quicken the flow of vital sap, and will nurse the tender

blossoms into ruddy fruit.  So do we often need that the Spirit

of God should come like a northern tornado, and scatter to the

ground our false hopes and flimsy errors and earthly ambitions.

And we need Him also as the Comforter, who shall reveal to us the

virtues of our Divine Healer, and shall melt us into sweet obedience

by the warmth of Immanuel’s love. As the fragrant odors of

flowers lie hidden in their tiny cells until the fresh south wind

coaxes them forth, so, too, the precious graces of the Christian

remain concealed and slumbering within until the Spirit of life

and power brings them forth, and diffuses them through the

Church. Then do the disciples of Christ become“living epistles,

known and read of men”  (II Corinthians 3:2).  “Awake, O

north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden.”

 

“Come as the wind, the dew, the rain;

Come, make this heart thy temple home;

Spirit of grace, come as thou wilt,

Our souls adjure thee — only come!”

 

 

The Response of Love (v.16)

 

The impassioned encomium of the bridegroom is not disregarded, is not

ineffectual; it not only yields satisfaction and pleasure to her who is the

object of unstinted praise; it elicits the response of appreciative gratitude

and affectionate welcome. If Christ delights in the Church, the Church also

delights in Christ, and yields to Him the tribute of loyal obedience.

 

  • DIVINE INFLUENCES ARE ENTREATED. The breath of the Spirit

of God passing graciously and gently and yet mightily over the Christian

society alone can call forth all its spiritual fragrance. The silent, unseen,

benignant influences are to be sought with fervent, earnest prayer: “Awake,

O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden!”

 

  • THE EXHALATION OF SPIRITUAL FRAGRANCE IS DESIRED.

“That the spices thereof may flow out.” Because the Church is Christ’s, it

has great capacities for good; yet the actual exhibition of the vital qualities,

in proofs of piety, in deeds of holiness, in services of benevolence, is

dependent upon the “Lord and Giver of life,” whose quickening grace is

the greatest privilege of the Christian dispensation. There is an aroma of

spiritual excellence in the Church of the Lord Jesus which is beyond

comparison the sweetest and divinest quality which HUMAN SOCIETY

HAS EVER MANIFESTED!

 

  • THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD HIMSELF IS REQUESTED.

“Let my beloved come into His garden.” True, He has given His Church the

promise, “Lo, I am with you alway  (Matthew 28:20).  He is among His

people to know their works, to accept their service, to inspire their devotion.

He ever visits His vineyard; comes, “seeking fruit  (Luke 13:7).  The Church

speaks of itself as both “my” garden and “His” garden; and it is both. When

the Lord is invited and welcomed, it is to His own chosen and congenial

possession.

 

  • THE FRUIT THAT IS DUE TO THE LORD IS OFFERED.

 

Ø      In what do these precious, pleasant fruits consist?

 

o       Praise,

o       devotion,

o       love, and

o       obedience.

 

Ø      To what are they owing?

 

o       To Divine care and protection;

o       to the tilling of the wise and forbearing Master;

o       to the genial influences of the Holy Spirit.

 

Hence they are “His” fruits. The weeds are ours; the fruits are His.

 

Ø      How are they regarded?

 

o       Christ delights in them, for they are the results

of His purpose and of His sacrifice.

o       Christ “eats” of them; i.e. uses them in

His condescension.

 

His people may well say to Him, “Of thine own have we

given thee” (I Chronicles 29:14).  There is no satisfaction possible

to Christ’s people so great and so pure as that they feel when their

Lord accepts their offering and approves their endeavors.

 

 

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