If you have a copy of the Scriptures with you this morning I'd like you to turn with me to Psalm 45 - the 45th Psalm and verse 1. And the Psalmist writes: "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; whereby the people fall under thee. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall entreat thy favour. The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever".
I want you to turn with me to the Song of Songs this morning. The Song of Solomon, one of the smallest books in the Old Testament Scriptures - yet one of the ones that is ignored quite a bit, but one that is so often quoted and sung about in our meetings. Let's turn to Song of Solomon and chapter 1, I'm reading from verse 1: "The song of songs, which is Solomon's. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. 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. I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. 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 have I not kept. 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? If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents. I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots. 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. While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. 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. Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir".
Now if you were to go home this afternoon and take down from your shelf, if you have one, your concordance and look up the little word 'of', o-f. You would find that that little word comes quite a bit in the centre of titles within the word of God. You would probably find that one of the first titles that would be given in the concordance would be one from the book of Exodus. And you would open at the book of Exodus and you would find God's blueprint for the tabernacle. And you would find that God had given instructions, given a plan, almost a verbal diagram of the place where He was going to dwell, the place amongst men where His presence would rest. You would see a lot of descriptions within the book of Exodus about it: the outer court, the inner court, you would find the tent described, you would find the furniture in it - but right at the end of the description, as you would go to the end of that tent, right at the back of the tent you would find a curtain, and behind that curtain there is a place called the 'Holy of Holies'. The Holy of Holies, and that little word 'of' just is put there to emphasize that this place, above all the holy places that you could find in the earth or heaven, that this place is the holiest of them all - it is the Holy of Holies.
Perhaps if you looked into your concordance again you would find the book of Revelation, this time at the end of the Bible. You would see that John the apostle had a vision on the Isle of Patmos - and he saw, and it was revealed to him, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, risen, glorified and exalted. And when John saw Him he gave a description to that blessed Person and he said that this Person was to be given a title. The title was that He was 'King of kings and Lord of lords', really all that title meant was this: that out of all the lords that the earth knows, out of the house of lords, out of every ruler and king and potentate and president that the world has ever known, this blessed Person - Jesus Christ - is above them all: King of kings and Lord of lords.
But as we look at the book that we have before us this morning we have the Song of Solomon. And the correct title to give the book is the title that verse 1 gives it: the Song of Songs. Now the book before it, we believe, had the same author - the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon was its author, as Solomon was the author of Song of Songs. But as we read the book of Ecclesiastes we find that there is far from a song of happiness in the book, because Solomon as he is seems to be in, as it were, a backslidden state before God. It's as if Solomon is disillusioned with life, he wonders what the meaning of life really is, and because of that Solomon decides that he will go into everything that he can go into and see if there is any worth in any of it. He tries it all, he tries wisdom, education, wine, women, song - he tries everything and he delves into the depths of everything that the world around him can give him, and what is the cry? What is the cry at the end of it all? He says, 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity'.
But how his tune is gloriously changed as we look at the book that we read together this morning. Because from crying - from a man in degradation and distress who seeped himself in all the world and everything that the world could give him - suddenly his song of despair, of 'vanity of vanities', is changed to a song of songs. That just means it is the song above all songs, of all the songs that were ever written by any pen this is a song above them all.
If you turn with me for a moment to 1 Kings chapter 4, we see that Solomon did not just write one song. 1 Kings chapter 4 and verse 29: "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore" - that's the wisdom of Solomon. "And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt". Verse 32: "And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five". This man - Solomon - the wisest man that ever lived apart from the Lord Himself, he wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs, yet out of all those things that he wrote, out of all of those songs that he penned we are given one, and this is his song of songs.
As you read this book, I'm sure you'll know perhaps, that people have different ways of interpreting this book. And some people when they look at the book see a literal song, a literal song that you would sing, a literal love song between two literal people who were literally in love. And they wanted to describe their love so they wrote this song. And that is true, that when we look at this song, I believe, that yes it was a literal love song that was literally written by two literal people who were in love. But some have looked and seen in this little book a relationship and as we read in Psalm 45, which remember is a Jewish Psalm, there is a similar story that was written for us, a love story between a king and between a queen and we read similar things in that Psalm. And those Israelites and Jewish Rabbis often saw within this little book a relationship between Israel - the covenant keeping people, Israel - and their covenant keeping God, Jehovah. And it was as if they were in a love relationship, in a marriage relationship and this relationship is typified in this little book between Israel and God.
But down the history of Christianity there's been another interpretation that has been put on this book and that is that yes, we can see Israel and God - Jehovah, the covenant keeping God - in this book, but there is something more here, that in the king, in the shepherd king of this book we can see the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the bride, in the Shulamite, we can see the church of Jesus Christ, how He would or how He wants. But there's a fourth interpretation - and all of these interpretations, mind you, are correct, we take them all together - but this is the one I love the best. And this is an interpretation that sees in this book not just a relationship between a Saviour and His church, but a relationship between a Saviour and His child. An individual relationship, a day to day relationship of worship and knowledge and communion of a Christian with their Lord.
I want you to try and picture the scene, just for a few moments, of what we read together this morning. In the north mountainous areas of the Ephraimite country, the mountains, there was a vineyard. And we see from chapter 8 and verse 11 that this vineyard was Solomons, King Solomon's vineyard. But Solomon let this vineyard out to a little Ephraimite family, they were to look after it, they were to farm it. And this family consisted of a widow, two sons and two daughters. The younger daughter is the daughter that we read about later on in the book, who had not yet developed, and the older daughter is the Shulamite bride that we read about. It was their duty as a family to look after the vineyard, but we read in verse 6 of chapter 1 that for some reason the brothers of the family were angry with the oldest sister. She says in verse 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". And because they were angry with this young girl, they made this young girl look after the vineyard. From day to day she would work and toil and do everything that needed to be done, she would prune the vines, she would collect the grapes, she would take the harvest, she would set traps for the foxes who would eat the fruit. And day after day that young girl was exposed to the hot, glaring Mediterranean sun. And because of that she had a suntan, and she says 'I am black, I am black because day after day I toil from morning to evening under this hot sun and it burns my skin'. Now in those days it wasn't great to have a suntan, now if you don't have a suntan it's a disgrace - but in those days if a woman had a suntan it was a disgrace. That's why she said 'I am looking after this man's vineyard so much that I can't even look after my own vineyard' - she didn't have a vineyard, she's talking about herself. 'I'm looking after this man's vineyard so much that I haven't even time to look after my own appearance'.
And day after day she would toil and work at the side of the road, but one day she was startled because standing beside her was a tall, dark, handsome, young shepherd. And when he saw her she winced and she said: 'Look not upon me' - we see it in the passage - 'Look not upon me, for I am black'. And it's as if that young man said to her: 'Listen, I don't think you're ugly, I think you're beautiful'. And that statement went a long way to a friendship and that friendship grew to an affection, and that affection grew until it was love and they fell in love together, until one day that handsome shepherd announced to the Shulamite girl that he was going to have to leave her. But he promised her, he said 'If I leave you, I will come back and I'll make you my bride'. And she said, 'Where are you going? Where are you going to feed your flocks?' And he said, 'Don't worry about that' - he gave her an evasive answer - he said, 'You look after your flocks and I'll look after mine, but I will come back and get you'.
If you read the rest of the book you find out that the days passed and her brothers started to laugh at her. 'This is a con man', they thought, 'he's not going to come back'. Perhaps the town that she lived in laughed at her, 'She's waiting on this young man, he's never going to come back, he's gone'. And sometimes at night, she would lie in her bed and she'd be dreaming of her beloved, and she would wake up in a cold sweat thinking of him and crying out, 'My beloved, my beloved' - only to realize that he wasn't there, he hadn't come back. And she toiled again day after day in that vineyard, and she would see the beautiful women pass by, and the perfume carts that would go by and she would envy them. And one day she was working in that vineyard and in the distance she could hear the cobble of the wheel, a wooden wheel, going over the stone and then she could just see a puff of smoke, perhaps. And out of that smoke came a cavalcade, horses, carts, chariots and it came and, to her absolute amazement and astonishment, it stopped right beside her at the side of the road. Down from it came a guard, came over to her, she was shocked, she was embarrassed, he said: 'The King has need of you'. 'The King has need of me? You must have got the wrong person'. 'The King has need of you' - and she had to get into the chariot and she was taken to the palace.
They took her to the palace, they cleaned her up, they put new clothes upon her, they put ointment upon her to make her smell of perfume, and then they said, 'You're going to have to come and meet the King'. And they brought her to a chamber and they opened the doors of the chamber, and in that chamber was a throne room, and there may have been a red carpet right up to the throne, and they flung wide the doors. And she could see at the end of the room, a throne - and as she went closer and closer to the throne, she was starting to be able to make out the face of the one sitting on the throne. And as she got nearer, suddenly it dawned upon her poor mind that the King that was sitting on the throne was her shepherd lover. And she cried, as she cries in the book: 'Behold my beloved and his desire is towards me'.
Isn't that beautiful? Isn't it a song of songs? But listen, friends, this morning: it's a song of songs but is it more than that? Is it just a love song about a man and a woman? Can you not see in this little book, even in this little chapter, can you not see the facts of our faith? Can you not see it? That there was One, there was One who was seeped in the royalty, the majesty, the deity of Heaven. He knew what it was to be God and to be worshipped as God and to have the angels, the cherubim and the seraphim, fall at His feet and worship Him as such. But because He loved, He chose to leave and He chose to stoop and leave all the majesty, leave all the glory, leave all the royalty and come and humble Himself, and come to earth. Do you not see it? Do you not see it as He lived as a shepherd? The Good Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd that, He said Himself, would give His life for the sheep. And can you not see Him in the upper room, and what did He say to His sheep? He said, listen, John 14: 'I'm going away, I'm going away to prepare a place for you. But if I go away, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am you may be also'. The disciples couldn't understand it: 'Where are You going? We can't come where You're going. Tell us where You're going'. But He promised them that if He went He would come again. Then we go to Revelation and what do we find? We find that there's a day yet future, there's a day for those who are in Christ when He will burst the clouds, and He will take us to be with Himself, and He will make us His bride.
Isn't it a song of songs? Can we not say, like the apostle, can we not see it in this book? He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. Peter says, the just, the One who did no wrong, knew no wrong, in Him was no wrong and He could do not wrong, the just became the unjust that He might bring us to God. No wonder John could say, 'We love Him because He first loved us'.
But I want to quickly, for a minute, turn to 1 Samuel, 1 Samuel 18 and verse 1 - and you'll know, if you know the Old Testament, that in 1 Samuel 17 we have the story of David and Goliath. And Goliath the giant Philistine was defeated by the puny, small David, the Israelite. But in chapter 18 we have here in verse 1 these words: 'And it came to pass when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David. And Jonathan loved him as his own soul'. Now the question is: why did Jonathan love David as his own soul? Why was his soul knit? Well I think that it's because of chapter 17, because of the stand David took against Goliath, because of his victory, this drew Jonathan's heart to David and it was knit with him as his own soul. And there was a love that started there that David says later was better than the love of women. Jonathan loved David because of what he did.
Can I ask you believer do you love the Lord Jesus because of what He did? Do you? Because that's right, you should. But I want to ask you this morning: do you only love Him for what He did? Or have you grown in maturity and faith to realize that it's not just love for what He did, but you must love Him for who He is?
You know that was the thing that was forgotten by Israel. They were in this relationship, this husband and wife relationship with God, at Mount Sinai they were given a covenant, it was like marriage vows and they became the wife of God almost - Jehovah their covenant keeping God and they were the covenant keeping people. But what happened? You read the book of Hosea, what did God accuse them of? He accused them of adultery, not literal adultery, but they'd been going a-whoring after other gods and after the world around them, and because of that God threatened them to divorce them, to cut them off. Now why did Israel do that? Why did they lose their senses? Because they forgot who God was. They wanted God for what He could do for them and they forgot who He was.
You can see it in Saul, can't you? When he was in that battle, and things weren't going right and he took the Ark of the Covenant, like a talisman, like a good luck charm and he thought, 'I'll bring this into the battle and everything will be alright'. And God said, 'No' - why? Because he wanted God for what He could do for him, not just who He was. Is that the way we are this morning? Is that the way I am? I like the perks of Christianity. I like the blessings. And it's good to want the blessings and to love the blessings and to love what Christ has done - but are we getting so taken up with these things and are we not moving on further to actually love Him for who He is?
I want to say, and just draw your attention to a couple of things, in closing this morning. In verse 2 we read, that the Shulamite says: 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine'. Now a kiss in Palestine was a sign of peace, like a handshake today, it was a greeting. And we read, and we understand, that Solomon's name, in fact, means peace. And Solomon reigned in the city of Jerusalem which means the 'city of peace', and he reigned in the time of peace, he was the prince of peace. We see all this tying in with the passage here and she says 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth'. Now this was not the kiss of the prodigal - remember the prodigal was kissed on the back of his neck by his father for returning. It's not the kiss of salvation, it's not the kiss of betrayal, remember Judas kissed the Lord on the cheek - it's not that kiss. It's not even the kiss of servitude, remember Mary, she took her hair and anointed the Lord's feet and then kissed them after she had dried them - that was the kiss of servitude. But this is different, this is the kiss of the mouth. This is the kiss of a lover. This is a lover's kiss. This is talking about something more than all these things, this is sweet communion, this is sweet fellowship, this is intimate knowledge that the writer's speaking about here when she said, 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth'.
Do you notice she doesn't even name him? Doesn't say who he is, just 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth'. If we had time this morning we could go to John 20 and we could read how in John 20, at the resurrection of the Lord, the angels appeared to Mary, and what did she say? The angel said to her, 'Woman, why weepest thou?' And she saith unto them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him'. You go to verse 15, she doesn't name Him - she's standing before the Lord, she thinks He's the gardener, 'Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? And she supposing Him to be the gardener saith unto Him, 'Sir, if they have borne Him hence tell me where thou hast laid Him and I will take Him away'. And as far as Mary was concerned, and as far as the Shulamite was concerned, there was only one 'him' in their life. There was only one person that sat in the seat of their affections, that motivated all their actions, that had all their worship, where all their devotion, praise and love and glory was directed towards - it was 'him'. And she wanted everybody to know who heard her, that whenever she used the first masculine personal pronoun, 'him' that she was talking about him. Is that what you're like this morning? Is He everything to you? Is He the only one who you worship? We worship Him this morning. Psalm 2 verse 12 says: 'Kiss the son'.
But I want to show you one more thing from this passage. Not just His kiss, but His love - in verse 2 it says: 'Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth for thy love is better than wine'. Again in verse 4 we see at the end: 'We will remember thy love more than wine'. Now what is wine, what does wine symbolise in the Bible? Well often in the Old Testament wine symbolises the best of what the earth can give. It seems to mean what is most affluent in planet earth, in the world. The best thing that the world can offer, and what is being said here is that the love of this person is greater than anything that the world has to offer. You know, basically, what He's saying? Take the world and give me Jesus. You can take everything that the world has to offer, take it all and give me Christ and He is enough, He is enough for me to worship, He is enough for me to love, He is everything to me. What is the Christian church at large asking today? Many of our young people ask it, many of our older people ask it: what's wrong with going here? What's wrong with doing that? What's wrong with watching that? What's wrong with drinking that? What's wrong with this? Is there anything wrong with that? And more and more Christians are wanting to move the boundaries that have been there, set by Scripture. I want to do it at times in my motives, in my life - but what is wrong with me that I want to do that? Do you know what's wrong? Christ doesn't satisfy me. For if He satisfied me I would want nothing of this world, I wouldn't lust after it with the lust of the eye, the lust of the heart and the pride of life - I wouldn't look near it because Christ would be all in all, He would satisfy me! And so much of the time I walk around with burdens on my breast, we all do it. We worry about things that we shouldn't worry about, we have concerns about this, that and the other thing and we feel that we are getting nowhere and one of the reasons why it's so often like that - not always, but some of the time - is because we aren't satisfied with Him. And we're not satisfied with Him, not because He cannot satisfy but because we don't really know Him for who He is. We know what He's done, but we don't really know Him face to face, person to person.
This is what this is about: His love is better than wine. This is sweet intimate fellowship, communion, one to one with Christ. And she says here in verse 3, 'Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as an ointment poured forth'. It's like a perfume that fills her senses, that fills her being - verse 12: 'While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me'. He fills her senses, he fills her being, is Christ like that to us?
A couple getting married. It comes to their marriage evening and they've waited for so long. It's night, they go up to the bridal chamber, the bride has gone on and the bridegroom's coming and he goes to open the door and the door is locked. And he knocks on the door and there's no answer and he knows she's in there, but she won't open the door. They've looked forward to this time so much. And by locking the door the bride denies herself of the consummation of the love of her husband, and he is denied that consummation that he has longed for for so long - but she has the door locked! In Revelation 3 and verse 20 the Lord says to us: 'Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with me'. And so often in my life and in our life, He is knocking at the door day by day for fellowship, for intimate communion, for knowledge, yet we deny Him that privilege and ourselves. Let's be like Paul this morning and say 'that I might know Him'. Let that be the prayer of our hearts for Christ's sake. Amen.
Our Father, those of us who are in Christ this morning can say from our hearts, 'Yea, He is altogether lovely'. And we would pray as we meet around His table, 'Our Father draw us, and we will run after Thee'. Help us Lord to open that door, not just know what Christ has done, but to know Him as a person, to know Him in our lives, and to know His love in our hearts. For we ask it in His name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Portadown Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "He Is Altogether Lovely" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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