We're turning in our Bibles this morning not to the Sermon on the Mount, but to Song Of Solomon, or it would be better titled Song of Songs, and chapter 2. Before I came to the Iron Hall as the Pastor, most of you will know that I grew up in the Iron Hall, and I did a Bible Reading several years ago - I don't know how long ago it was - on the Song of Songs. I'm sure that you don't remember that, but ever since that study I have been chomping at the bit to look at the Song of Songs again because I only dealt with the first couple of verses of chapter 1 on that occasion. Just recently I have been enabled to study it again in my own private study and devotions for my own benefit and also for the benefit of others, and with the events that have taken place this week I haven't had an opportunity to look at the Sermon on the Mount, and I have taken it as God's providence that He would have me bring this to you - because it was the only thing that I was able to bring to you really this morning from the word of the Lord. But I do believe that the Lord has blessed me in the last couple of days even meditating upon it again, and I trust that it will help you also.
Chapter 2, and we'll take time to read chapter 2 and first five verses of chapter 3, and I want to speak to you on 'Communion and Reunion' - communion and reunion. Verse 1 of chapter 2, now this is the bride speaking - this is a common misconception - the Shulamite girl says: "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys". The Lord Jesus does not say that, neither does Solomon or the beloved, those are the words of the bride - the Shulamite - no matter what our chorus books tell us, that is what is being said here. She is saying: "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters". Now just a little bit of an education for you on this book: whenever you find 'my love' spoken of, it is always speaking of the woman. Whenever you read 'beloved', it is speaking of the man in this book, and love speaking of the woman. Therefore in verse 1 it is the woman speaking, and in verse 2 it is the man speaking: "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters".
Verse 3: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons", so it's the woman speaking now again. So, verse 1 it's the woman, verse 2 it's the man, and verse 3 again it's the woman. "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love", or sick with love. "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till [she] please. The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock", he is speaking now, "in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes". Now she speaks: "My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether".
Now it seems that she is dreaming: "By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please".
Now due to the constraints of time I don't think that we'll get through all of our reading this morning, and it may flow into next week also - so I'm preparing you for a dead end this morning already! Let me just refresh your memory about the Song of Songs. The reason why I call it the Song of Songs, and I'll give you a little bit more education now, I've told you this before: the title of every book in the Hebrew Bible, that is the Old Testament, can be found in chapter 1 and verse 1 of our Bible. The titles that we have are added by the scholars, but the real title is verse 1 of chapter 1, and here you have: 'The Song of Songs'. You can find it right throughout the whole Bible, Genesis 1 verse 1 says: 'In the beginning', and 'in the beginning' is the word 'Genesis' - the book of beginnings, and that is the title of the book. So that's how you find the real title of the book.
The reason why this book is called The Song of Songs is because we find out in the book of Kings that Solomon wrote a great many Proverbs and a great many songs - in fact it tells us that his songs were 1,005. So he wrote 1,005 songs, but we have only one of his songs within the whole of holy writ in the Scriptures, and it would be rightly thought of as the Song of Songs - if he had 1,005 and we only have one, it must be the best of them all. It is the best of them all, for The Song of Songs is a love song.
Now there are several interpretations of the book of The Song of Songs, and I'm not going to go through them all this morning, but just to say that there's about four in summary. Typologically there is an interpretation of this book, we believe that it was literally a love song between probably Solomon and a Shulamite girl - but there is a deeper spiritual meaning within this book. The holiest rabbis of Old Testament literature have seen within this book the relationship of Israel, who is the wife of Jehovah, and of course Jehovah who is the Bridegroom. Of course we have to see that the Old Testament, you see it in the book of Hosea where God is estranged from His Old Testament wife. But as we go into the New Testament we see here typology of the mystical relationship and union between the Lord Jesus Christ and His church. Although Israel is the wife of Jehovah in the Old Testament, the church of Jesus Christ is the bride of Jesus Christ being prepared for that day - the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we will enjoy in heaven that union, that marriage between we, His church, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom.
But there is one interpretation that is a little akin to that last one I spoke to you of which I like to see personally in my own devotional life before the Lord. It is simply the relationship of communion, not between the church and the Lord Jesus, but between the individual believer and his or her Lord. Of course it's the same, but a little bit more individualistic and personal to us all.
Now let me give you a resume of the book just for a moment, I've done this before but I think it's fitting that we do it again. In chapter 8 and verse 11 we find that Solomon had a vineyard. We are told where it is, it's on the heights of Ephraim, a vineyard at Baalhamon. 'He let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver'. As we read through this book we find that there was a little family of a minimum of four children, we know that the Shulamite was the eldest girl and there was a younger girl - we read of her lack of development in puberty right throughout this whole book. Then we find that there are also brothers, in chapter 1 and verse 6 it says that her 'mother's children', and in Hebrew that word is literally her 'mother sons' were angry with her. So there was at least two girls and at least two boys for there to be 'sons', plural.
So there was this little family, the mother was widowed obviously because her mother's sons were angry with her, and sent her into the vineyard to work. There we have this Shulamite girl, the oldest daughter, out in the vineyard working day by day, pruning the vines of Solomon the King. Day by day, as she works under the hot heat of the Mediterranean sun, she is scorched and she is sunburnt, and that's why we read in chapter 1 and verse 6: 'I am black'. Now to have a suntan today, everybody's running to get a suntan today, but in those days a suntan was not attractive - it was attractive to have fair skin. To have a suntan was a sign that you didn't have a ladies life, but you were in the field and you were pruning the vines and you were doing a man's job - it was unattractive.
There she is day by day pruning the vines, setting the traps for the foxes, taking the fruit back home for Solomon her King. Day by day she's going through this mundane life, but all of a sudden one day she's startled, and there's a tall dark handsome young figure beside her - a shepherd. She says, as we read in verse 6: 'Look not upon me, because I am black'. I believe the response that that young shepherd gives her is: 'Thou art black, but comely', beautiful. Most of you girls will know that a statement like that will go a long way for a friendship, let alone a romance and a love relationship - and that is exactly what happened between these two individuals. For the next few verses we read of their love relationship that is taken up, and how they bond in courtship, and they grow in love toward one another. All of a sudden, after they bond in such a close courting relationship, this young handsome shepherd says to the Shulamite: 'I have to go away, I am going away. But if I go away, I will come to you again'.
You can imagine how she felt. Of course, he did go away, and all of her neighbours and her friends probably mocked her: 'He's a conman, he has gone away, he has promised you that he's coming again - but where is he? He's been gone for so long. He got what he wanted and now he's gone, you'll never see him again'. We read in the book that she would lie on her bed at night and she would dream, and waken in a cold sweat thinking that she saw her beloved through the lattice, but he was gone! Thinking that she heard his voice, but when she woke she realised it was only a cruel dream!
One day she is labouring, and this is a little bit of poetic licence but I hope you can bear it, she's working in the vineyard again and from the distance she can hear a wooden wheel over the cobbles. She sees a cloud of smoke, perhaps, on that country farm lane. As she looks she sees a royal chariot, and to her amazement the royal chariot stops beside her little plot of the vineyard, and guards get down and come to her and say: 'The King has need of you'. I can imagine her saying: 'You must have made a mistake, the King couldn't have need of me!'. 'The King has need of you, he requests you' - and they take her! They take her down that lane and they take her to the palace, they strip off her clothes, her old work clothes, they put moisturiser and perfumes and beautiful soaps upon her body. They clean her up and put new robes upon her, and then they take her to the throne room. I can just imagine it, the doors of that room opening wide, and a great red carpet up to the throne. The further she comes up that red carpet the more her focus is coming to her eyes, and she begins to see that the King who is sitting on that throne is her beloved shepherd. I can almost hear it coming from her heart: 'This is my beloved, and his desire is toward me'!
You would agree with me that that is the song of all songs, isn't it? I hope that I don't even need to interpret any typology for you today. It's obvious, isn't it? Our Shepherd King who came to us, the Lord is our Shepherd, who has come to us, who became poor who was rich, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He had nowhere to lay His head - the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere - yet He came from the splendours of glory to woo and to win and to buy with His own blood a bride for Himself. One day He will come again, He said: 'If I go I will come again'.
Now here is where we are today: we are in the period between Him leaving and Him coming again. That is where we are in this chapter that we have read together today. For there are people who come to you and me in our daily experience, and say: 'Where is the promise of His coming? Where is He? You Christians have believed this for 2,000 years, but where is He? You've been preaching this second advent, this parousia of the Lord Jesus, but where is He?'. We feel like the Psalmist, in Psalm 42 I think it is, where they come to him and they say: 'Where is thy God? Where is He? Look what's happening all around you, look at what's going on in the world, perhaps personally, look at what's going on in your life - where is your God? Where is the Lord Jesus Christ coming again to rescue and to reign on the earth?'.
Whether it's corporately like that, as the church is bombarded by blasphemy and accusations, you and I both know that no love story is without ups and downs. Every relationship in life has its peaks and troughs, and the absence of the Shepherd today for the church of Jesus Christ in our period can often mean that we have a lack of communion with Him. We are invited into communion with Him, we're invited to know Him in a deeper sense than even the disciples new Him in a fleshly sense, face-to-face when they were on the earth. But it's hard for us as creatures of the dust, as human beings, to love One whom we have not seen - it is like looking through a glass darkly. I don't know about you but I find it extremely difficult at times, because I don't believe in picturing the Lord Jesus in your mind - I think that's idolatry - but it is difficult to relate to One whom you have never seen. That can add to an interruption in communion.
Now let me talk to you about the communion that is ours, what we are invited to - that's my first point: communion invited. If you look at chapter 2 and verse 1, the Shulamite says: 'I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys'. If you're familiar with Palestine you will know that the lily of the valleys thrives in the hidden places of the valley - that's what a valley is. It thrives where things are hidden, it doesn't grow in the heat or the bustle of the busy city, but it grows out in the midst of the wilderness in the countryside, between two mountain peaks in the depths of a valley, in the cool and in the quiet field. This is what the Shulamite is like: 'I am separated, I am out from the city, I am in a hidden place', and that is speaking to us I believe in our place today as the church of Jesus Christ, but individually as believers in communion with Christ, as to how we are separated unto the Lord Jesus. It is not simply as the church, ecclesia, called out of the world and separated as different to the world because you don't drink and you don't smoke and you don't go to bars and pubs and everything - that is a measure of separation, but what this is speaking to us of is something to do with the heart. A separation unto Christ in our hearts.
I'll show you why that is the case. In chapter 1 and verse 2 the Shulamite says: 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine'. Wine speaks as a symbol of that in life which is exhilarating. Some of the most affluent pictures of life are pictures of wine, it's the fruit of the vine, it's the greatest thing perhaps that the earth produces - and in the Bible it speaks of vitality and affluence, the vive of life. What the Shulamite is saying is: 'My beloved's love is better than wine! No matter what the world can offer to me, the love that I have in my beloved', and we say that we have in Christ, 'is better than anything'. That's why we are separated unto Christ, not just physically as a people, but spiritually, emotionally, devotionally in our hearts. As one writer has said: 'One minute spent in fellowship with Christ is worth all the joys of earth'. Do you believe that? One minute spent in fellowship with Christ is worth all the joys of the earth. I'll tell you how you know if you believe it: you'll behave it, and you will spend more than one minute with Christ and forsake the world.
Equally the antithesis of that is that you cannot enjoy this communion with Christ if you're not separated from the world, if you're not forsaking the world. It's like eating sawdust with your dinner, you can't enjoy it unless you separate the both. We are invited to come, look at chapter 2 and verse 3, we're invited to come as the lilies of the valley, separated unto Him in our hearts, to come and to shelter underneath His shadow: 'As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste'. I think that's beautiful, isn't it? 'I sat down under his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste'.
Now again let me transport you to Palestine - remember chapter 1 verse 6, the warm Mediterranean sun beating down upon this young girl? What did she need? She needed a shadow. That's what you do need when you're working out in the Middle East, you need a shadow! You may need a siesta to go away and to rest out of the noonday sun. It's talking to us here in an eastern climate, a tropical climate, of how the traveller, the worker, the sojourner needs a place of rest, and needs a place of recovery. Now, where are we? The Lord has gone, the Lord has not come back again yet, and the sun is beating down upon our lives as we go through the trials, the tribulations, the problems, the accusations that people throw at us - what do we need? We need a shadow! We need something to shield us, a place of rest and a place of recovery.
The Psalmist knew where to find it when he said: 'Keep me as the apple of thine eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings. How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God, therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings'. Isaiah said: 'Thou art a shadow of a rock in a weary land'. Psalm 91 verse 1: 'He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty'. Now, where is our shadow? Where is our refuge? I'll tell you where it is: it is in the place of sheltering under Christ. Now I'm not talking about salvation, although that is in it, I'm talking - in fact I'm not, the Holy Spirit here in this very book is speaking - of sheltering under the communion of Christ. If you're not abiding under His shadow, you will not know the shelter of it.
We are separated unto Christ in heart like the lily of the valley. We are sheltered underneath Christ, like sitting under an apple tree with great delight, and His fruit ought to satisfy our taste. Isn't it lovely that she doesn't do it because it's her quiet time and she has to do it between half past seven in the morning and eight o'clock. That's not why she's sitting under his shadow, she says: 'I sat under his shadow', watch, 'with great delight'! This is a love story! Imagine on Valentine's Day, which wasn't so long ago, you come to the door and you knock it, and your wife comes to the door, and you hand her a big beautiful bouquet of flowers, and she says: 'Oh, thank you darling, you shouldn't have done that' - and you say: 'Well, it was my duty'. How would you feel if he said that? You don't say that, you say: 'You're worth it, I love you, of course I should have done it'. That is the relationship that we are meant to have with the Lord Jesus, that communion relationship. It's not meant to be a drudgery, and sometimes it is for me too - but it's not meant to be! It's meant to be a love relationship, a courting process, that not only are we separated in our hearts to Him, there's none other for us but our Beloved. Not only are we sheltering under His shadow and eating of His fruit, but we are doing it with great delight. That means this: we are satisfied with sheltering under Him. We are separated unto Him, we're sheltering under Him, and we are satisfied by Him! We ought not to be pining after the leek and the garlic of Egypt.
Verse 4 speaks of a step further, where it says: 'He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love'. Do you know what that means? There's a progression here: he's taking her out from among other people, out from the daughters of Jerusalem - you find there's three groups in chapter 1, there's the daughters of Jerusalem, the bridesmaids if you like, and then there's the beloved and the bride. He takes her away from the bridesmaids and he brings her into his banqueting house, and the banner he puts over her is love. It's just her and him alone! Just the two of them, nobody else is allowed, and he fills her vision, he satisfies her spirit, her desires, her appetites. It should literally be translated: 'He brought me into his house of wine'. It's a rest of love, it's what we read of where the Psalmist says: 'In thy presence is fullness of joy, and at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore'.
Can I ask you a question: who is at the right hand of Jehovah? Our Beloved, and at God's right hand there are our pleasures for evermore. I think this is wonderful, for in verse 5 and then in verse 6 she gets so taken up, so ecstatic with the emotions that are plunging through her whole soul that she says: 'Stay me with flagons', if you have a more modern translation it would probably express it a little bit better, it's simply saying: 'I am beside myself. Don't put any more love upon me, I can't take it!'. That's why she says: 'Comfort me with apples: for I am sick with love. This is unbelievable, I'm just taken up in this'. In verse 6 she says: 'His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me' - why? Because she's just fainted in absolute ecstasy of love!
Isn't it wonderful? So taken up with him that she can't think of anything else, and this is why - and this is what I've been working up to this morning - this is why it says in verse 7, and mark this: 'I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till she' - the Hebrew, that translation's wrong - 'till she please'. What's he saying? This is wonderful: he brings her into his banqueting house, the banner over her is love - or if I could paraphrase it, he puts a sign on the door saying: 'Do not disturb'. She has been separated by him out of the daughters of Jerusalem, and she says to them: 'Do not awake or stir our love until I please' - until she pleases! They're shut out, and it's just her and him, and she is saying: 'I don't want to be disturbed until I'm ready'.
Now my friends, what does that teach us? I believe it teaches us that we are to be so taken up with Christ that we are not to bring anything into that relationship, or into that communion, or into that closet that will upset it, that will interrupt it. I think what is being spoken of here is the story in Luke chapter 10 of Mary and Martha. You know it too well: Martha is cumbered about with many things serving. I was reading Luke's gospel this morning again about it, and I was just wondering - I haven't looked into it - but I was wondering, it seemed to indicate that both Mary and Martha were both at the Saviour's feet, and Martha got up and started working. It says that Mary was also at Jesus' feet - implying that Martha was there too - but Martha got up and started working in the kitchen, and then she came into the Lord and said: 'Lord, I'm doing it all myself, are You not going to tell Mary to help me?'.
What did the Lord say? 'Martha, Martha, there is something more important than dinner. Martha, Martha', do you know what He was literally saying? 'Martha, Martha, I charge you that ye stir not up nor awake her, till she pleases'. In other words: 'As long as Mary is content to sit at My feet and drink up My love, that means more to Me than all the dinners in the world!'. Isn't that beautiful? She was separated unto Him, she was sheltering under Him, she was satisfied by Him, and she was sitting at His feet. That's our duty.
Can I read you, and I'm nearly finished, can I read you what Jonathan Edwards wrote to a young convert by the name of Deborah Hathaway? He wrote her a number of resolutions that she should exercise in her young Christian life, but this was one of them, number seven: 'When you engage in the duty of prayer, come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship, come to Christ as Mary did. Just like her, come and cast yourself down at his feet and kiss them, and pour forth upon him the sweet perfumed ointment of divine love, out of a pure and broken heart, as she poured her precious ointment out of a pure alabaster vessel'. Just as she did it, you do it to.
Can I share something personal with you that I experienced this week? More than what I experienced this week, but as I was meditating upon this passage and with all the events that have taken place, I found it very difficult to study - very difficult. For I just wanted to be up in the hospital with Barbara and with Lydia. But as I was meditating upon this passage, do you know what I felt the Lord saying to me? 'You see the way that you just want to be up there, as her father, I just want to be with you as your Father', that is the communion that we're invited to. Next week we'll look at how that communion can be, and often is, interrupted. So come back next week - and I have my sermon prepared already, isn't that wonderful!
Let's bow our heads, and perhaps as a child of God that communion with Christ has been absent from your life as it ought to have been. Isn't it wonderful that this is speaking of that communion that we can have in the Beloved's absence? Still today He is knocking at the door, and if anyone will let Him in He will come in and sup with them, and they with Him. You just have to open the door, go into the closet, and shut it behind you.
Father, we pray that we would know the experience of turning from the world, Jesus to seek; being caught up with Him and Him only; and Lord being drawn into the communion that has been sovereignly ordained and planned from the very beginning - yea, before the beginning of the world. Lord, it is for us to enjoy and for our good, and we pray that we will enter into it, that communion that we are invited to, that we will embark upon the adventure of communion with Christ. In His lovely name we pray, Amen.
Don't miss 'Song Of Songs - Communion and Reunion - Part 2'...
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Communion and Reunion" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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