We're turning, as I've already said, to Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs it would better be entitled. We're beginning to read at chapter 2 and verse 1. Song of Solomon chapter 2 and verse 1, and I hope you remember, as I told you last week, that whenever you read the word 'love' it speaks of the woman in this allegory; and whenever you read the word 'beloved' it speaks of the masculine, it speaks of the bridegroom. Of course, this is, we believe, a literal story, a literal love story that probably went on with King Solomon and his Shulamite bride. But we also believe that there is a deeper, spiritual, typical, allegorical meaning behind this book. We looked last week at how scholars, down through the ages, have seen a representation of Israel and her covenant husband God, Jehovah. Then we looked how, in the New Testament, most scholars would concede that there is also the story of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ, as the bridegroom, and the bride of the Lord Jesus, who is the church. We are the bride of Christ, the collective called-out ones who have been redeemed by His blood and one day will be married to Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, which is a day yet to come.
We narrowed it in a little bit more in that allegory, that representation, to see not just the church, but each individual believer - you and I in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal everyday sense. I think that you can see that, and perhaps that that does the most justice to this little book. It is specifically a book of communion with the Lord. Verse 1: "I am the rose of Sharon", the bride says, "and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among the thorns, so is my love," says the bridegroom, "among the daughters. As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved", she says, "among the sons. 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 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 my the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love till she please".
I didn't explain that last week - just to say that [verse 7] is a translation mistake. The preposition there, personal pronoun is 'she'. You see, it says 'my love' - that's the feminine, isn't it? I've told you that already. "My love till she pleases", verse 8, "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, in the secret places of the stairs", he says to her, "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. My beloved is mine, and I am his", she says, "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". Verse 1 of chapter 3: "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 she please".
We looked last Lord's Day morning at the communion that we are invited to as the children of God - that communion is the Song of Songs. I gave you a brief resume of the whole story of this book. Really, you saw how this allegory of a shepherd - a poor but handsome young shepherd wooing this young farming Shulamite girl, and then coming back for her as the shepherd king, taking her home and dressing her down, and taking her as his bride - is nothing but the story, a type of the great relationship between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ. How He who was rich for our sakes became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich. How the Lord who is our Shepherd came to this world and wooed and won a people for Himself, and bought them with His own blood, and then looked into the eyes of His own disciples one day in the upper room and said: 'I am going away, but if I go I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also'. We looked at how we are in that transition period. We are in the period that we've been reading about where the Shulamite bride is having dreams and waking up out of her dreams, thinking that she sees her beloved peeking through the lattice, thinking that she hears his voice calling her name, but only to realise that it's an awful dream and he is gone.
But what communion we are invited to! I hope you enjoyed it last Lord's Day morning - I certainly did - as we anticipated and contemplated the great joy, the great peace and satisfaction, the great fulfilment that there is, even in the absence, bodily, of our Lord Jesus Christ, what we can enjoy as His children in Him here and now.
You remember we saw - chapter 2 and verse 1 - that we are like the lily of the valley, there in the hidden valley growing on our own. We have been separated unto Christ, not just separated practically as the church, called out of the world, but we saw that this is more: this is a heart's separation. This is having Him alone on the throne of our hearts and having all of our passions, desires and will regulated by our Lord Jesus. We are separated unto Him. We saw that we ought to be sheltering underneath Christ. It says that she dwelt under the shadow of her beloved. Verse 3: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow". She is sheltering underneath him - and how it is our delight to shelter under the Lord Jesus Christ. But she goes on further and says that under his shadow he was like a great apple tree and his fruit was sweet to her taste - she was satisfied by him, she had great delight under the shadow of his wing.
We saw how important it is to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. We continue on from where we left off last week, and we look at verse 10 this morning. We see the great entreaty of love that this beloved woos his bride with. Look at these words, they're remarkable: "My beloved spake", verse 10, "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".
The loving entreaties of her beloved! Do you know what he effectively is saying? He is saying it is springtime, and it seems that all of nature is responsive to my coming presence - the coming presence of the king. The flowers are budding, the turtledove is wooing, all of nature seems to be praising the presence of this shepherd king, and the question that he is asking is: 'Will you not too come away? Will you not too praise me? Will you as my bride not also be responsive to my love?'.
Does it not remind you of the Lord Jesus? It's only coming to me now, how on that great Sunday He said that the very stones would cry out in praise of Him if the people wouldn't. You can get up early in the morning and you can hear the birds, and I believe they're singing praise unto God. The psalmist would say that 'the heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth forth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night showeth knowledge'. We can see, as Romans 1 says, the glory of God in all of creation - you don't even need to read the Bible to see it and to hear it! All of nature is responsive to this great Shepherd King coming, and what He would ask of us today as He asks of his dearly beloved bride is this: 'Are you not, too, responsive to my loving entreaty?'
In verse 14, he says: "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely". He is saying: 'You're my bride. I can hear the birds singing. I can see the fruit on the trees. I can see the day that uttereth speech and the night that gives forth knowledge. I can name all the stars and they bring glory to me - but the one thing in the world that I want to see is your face, the one thing in the world I want to hear is your voice'. Isn't that wonderful? Look at it! "Let me see thy countenance". Why? Because it is beautiful! "Thy countenance is comely". Now remember in chapter 1 and verse 6, she is the one that says: 'Don't look upon me for I am black'. She is ugly! But friends, just as we have been ugly in our trespasses and in our sins - as Paul says, 'dead in our trespasses and in our sins' - we have been made beautiful, as the lily of the valley, in reflection of the beauty and the righteousness and the glory of Christ. When Christ looks at us He sees the very glory of God in us. We're not black, but comely. He would say to us: 'I want to see your face, for your face is beautiful to me. I want to hear your voice, for your voice is sweet'.
Can I just spend a few moments on this, because I think that there's so much in this book that I think is wonderful - but it doesn't get much better than this. You think of God in His universe, or rather we should say correctly 'the universe in God', for in Him we live and move and have our being. There is nothing that exists outside of God, God is omnipresent, and everything that is, is within His being. Think of that! This universe, the noises at the end of the galaxies that you can't even fathom in your mind, and a mathematician cannot put down on paper - God hears those noises. What I would do to hear them! But He hears them! He sees the great technicolour spectrums of stars that explode and are being born as we speak. He can see to the very depths of the black hole that scientists don't think there are any depths to. He can travel in light years to the furthest star. He can count the little sparks that come off the sun that we couldn't even come near to, and if the earth came one more inch near it would be frazzled. This is our God! He can hear the voice of the little ant, and He can hear the whole collective cry of the whole of the human race at once, in prayer to Him this day. But isn't it amazing, astounding, that that same God is only interested, it would seem, in your face and in your voice?
He is saying: 'Before you go to work in the morning I want to see your face and I want to hear your voice. Before you preach I want to hear your voice before other people hear your voice. Before you try to witness I want to see your face before anybody else sees your face at the door. Before you take the Sunday School or the Youth Fellowship or a Bible class', or whatever it may be that you do for the Lord - and in fact, we are to everything 'as unto the Lord' whether we eat or drink - we are to do it with our voices heard in Heaven and our faces being seen.
But doesn't it just enthuse you? As Hudson Taylor put it so well - and he only wrote one book in his whole life and it was a book on the Song of Solomon - listen to what he says. Think of it: 'Imagine that He whose love once made Him the man of sorrows, may now be made the man of joys by the loving devotion of one human heart'. Let me repeat that again: 'Imagine that He whose love once made Him the man of sorrows, may now be made the man of joys by the loving devotion of one human heart'.
What a communion this is! What a love story this is! It is truly the Song of Songs, isn't it? But you would be forgiven for maybe thinking: 'Well, how could such a love as this ever be spurned? Surely if this is our relationship with the Lord, and if it's such a great weighty love, surely it will never wax or wane? Surely His invitation and this great wooing to communion could never fall on deaf ears? It could never even be broken. Once it starts, surely the love pull and the emotion should be so great that we would never ever go away from such love?'. Well, you would think that, wouldn't you? But you and I both know in this pilgrimage down here that there are often times that this same wooing love, this same everlasting love is broken. At times it waxes cold, it wanes, and He doesn't hear our voice, and He does not see our face. When He calls us to rise up and come away with Him we do not do it.
Not only is there that communion invited, but communion, sadly, can be interrupted. That is exactly what you have in chapter 3 and verse 1. For by night, after he woos and wins her and invites her to such communion, it says: "By night on my bed", and she's probably dreaming, "I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him but I found him not". She's disturbed - and you would know that you often dream when you're disturbed, and have bad dreams at that. In fact, Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5 and verse 3: "a dream cometh through the multitude of business". When you're too busy or you've too much on your mind and heart, you dream, and you dream some funny dreams as well! But here she's lying on her bed, and she's thinking of the love of her beloved, but she starts to realise that he's not with her. Most of us have known that experience in our Christian life, where we have sensed that God or the Lord Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit's influence is distant from us in a way that it has never been before.
Perhaps that's even what you're going through this morning. Why it happens - well, I can't answer that. Only you can answer that before God with an open heart. It could be many reasons. It could be that you've grieved the Holy Spirit, and something that you have been doing is sinful. It could be that the Lord is putting you through a test of faith, that He wants you to hold on by your fingernails of faith, if you like. He wants you to trust Him in the dark as you have done in the light. Samuel Rutherford, who went through prison for his Lord, put it well when he said this:
'But flowers need night's cool sweetness
The moonlight and the dew.
So Christ, from one who loved Him
His presence oft withdrew'.
Just as the flowers need the night-time, they need the winter-time, they need the rain and the dew, there are times when God, in His sovereign will and purpose - I don't know why - but He withdraws a sense of His presence so that we can hold onto Him by bare faith. As I've already said, in our present dispensational experience, we know the Shepherd's absence, as the disciples did in John chapter 14. As Peter said: "We love one whom we have not seen". We have not heard Him verbally, we have not been able to touch and handle the Word of Life as the disciples did. But there could be another reason why that communion in your life has been broken, why you don't know such a fellowship, such a spiritual intercourse that is described within this book. I think that some of the answers and some of those reasons and clues can be found within the eight chapters of this little book.
There are 4 that I want to give to you today, and I want you to note them down if you can because I think they'll be of benefit for you. Your communion could be interrupted, first of all, because you are choosing little sins at the expense of luscious fruit. You are choosing little sins at the expense of luscious fruit. What do I mean? Look at chapter 2 and verse 15. After the loving entreaties of the beloved, he says: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes". You remember we saw last week that it was the Shulamite's job in the vineyard to prune the fruit, to collect it and take it away for Solomon. It was her job to set little traps for the foxes and for the squirrels and all other wildlife that would eat the fruit. But it seems that she has been neglecting in some way setting these traps, and verse 15 says there are foxes, little foxes, that have spoiled the vines and the tender grapes.
I hope that the analogy is very clear. You have fruit here and you have a little thing that is spoiling the fruit. Do you see it? Little foxes! And you have foxes, I have foxes, they may be little foxes, and what we're saying is this: there can be little sins that infiltrate our lives that can do great damage to our spiritual communion and fellowship. They might be small enemies but they do large and great damage to our spiritual communion with God. You know them and I know them. John the apostle knew them, for when he finished his great epistle what were the words that he left them with? "Little children, keep yourselves from idols". We tend to think in our minds of idols as little things, don't we? Little things that we bow down to and worship. There can be little things in our lives that are eating away at the fruit, little sins that we take into our bosom at the expense of luscious fruit in God.
Is that not what the writer to the Hebrews was echoing when he said that we are surrounded with such a great cloud of witnesses, therefore we are to press on in the race that we are in, setting aside every weight that so easily ensnares us and pulls us down, and all the sins that so easily beset us? Those are two separate things - one, weights; and two, sins that so easily beset us. That means this: there can be sins in our life that pull us down and bring us into the mud and into the mire of our own human depravity. But also there can be legitimate things, familiar things in our life, the mundane things of everyday experience that can weigh us down; little foxes that we can let into our life that don't seem to be intrinsically evil and wicked but they can weigh us down in the race. Let me illustrate it to you like this: we are all in a race, but none of you would attempt to run a race in the Olympics with a duffel coat on, with a top hat on, with waders on and with money in all of your pockets to weigh you down. None of you would do that. Those things are not sinful - you're not running the race with a pint of bitter in your hand and cigarettes out of your mouth - but still those are weights that pull you down! The apostle in the Hebrews is telling us to lay them aside and, in fact, what the beloved is saying here is: 'You've got to take away those foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vine'. God wants pure unadulterated devotion. If you don't have this wonderful experience of this love communion in your life, it could be that you have chosen the little foxes at the expense of luscious fruit.
Secondly, you may have chosen service at the expense of sitting. Service at the expense of sitting! What am I talking about? If you look at chapter 1 and verse 6 - remember she said that she was black because the noonday Mediterranean sun was beating upon her. Her brothers had made her the keeper of the vineyard. "They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept". She was serving at the expense of herself. In other words: 'I'm so busy keeping Solomon's vineyard, I'm so busy keeping the family vineyard that's meant to be kept by my brothers, that I haven't even time to keep myself. That's why I look so ragged, and that's why I look so black. That's why I'm so ugly'. Do you see it? Service at the expense of our spiritual sitting! In other words, she was too busy about the master's business that she missed the master. Is that not what we looked at last week when we looked at Mary and Martha at the feet of the Lord Jesus? Martha got up and she went into the kitchen, and she started to serve the Master. Don't get it into your mind that she wasn't doing the Lord's work - she was doing the Lord's work. In a sense, it was Mary who wasn't doing the work, but Mary had chosen that better part.
We can serve the Lord so much, can't we? We think that we are doing the Lord a favour. We think that that's really what He wants. Let me say this: I'm not trying to discourage you from serving the Lord for, if anything, God knows today that we need people to serve the Lord in this assembly, and there's a dearth of it. But what is more important, and what is primary and must come before service, is sitting underneath the shadow of the Lord. That is what He wants: "The Father seeketh such to worship Him".
Let me illustrate this with a story. There was an old man who was widowed. He was the father of an only daughter. That father and that daughter loved each other so much. They found solace in each other during lonely dark days and in the long nights of winter. Evening after evening, after work and their meal together, they would sit in the living room. They would clear everything up and then sit down together and read or talk and enjoy each other's company. One long winter evening that young only daughter said to her father: 'Now father, you will excuse me tonight. I have something to occupy me upstairs. You read and I'll go on upstairs'. So he sat alone that evening. And it continued for another evening, and it went on for about two whole weeks, until Christmas Day. On Christmas morning that young daughter came bounding in to her father and said: 'Merry Christmas Daddy!', and handed him a beautiful pair of handmade slippers. He looked at them and he kissed her, and he said: 'You made those yourself? Is that why I've been denied your company for the last two weeks?'. She said: 'Yes, that's right! I made them for you'. Listen to what he said: 'That is very lovely, but next time I would rather have you than anything that you could make for me'. Have you got it? 'Next time I would rather have you than anything you could make for me'. You can serve at the expense of sitting.
Thirdly - I must hurry - emotion at the expense of devotion. Emotion at the expense of devotion! If you look at chapter 2 and verses 8 and 9 it says: "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" - watch that - "our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice". She doesn't say, 'my wall'. It's not 'my wall' is separating him from me, it is 'our wall'. It's inferring that the wall is of both their making. I believe the wall was something that she thought enclosed both her and her beloved in, that's why she calls it 'our wall'. But the problem was that he was outside it - she was inside it, he was outside it. The very thing that she thought shut the two of them together was the very thing that shut her beloved out and she didn't even realise it. She still calls it 'our wall'. She thinks that the two of them are still together. Not even the enjoyment and the thrill of the moment - that wasn't the thing that counted. What I want you to see is this: in all of her excitement, in all of her love, she didn't realise that the thing that she thought was keeping her and her beloved together was the very thing that was keeping him shut out. I believe that it is emotion at the expense of devotion.
What do I mean? Can I illustrate it like this? In Matthew chapter 9 and verse 5 you have the story of the Transfiguration. The Lord brings Peter, James and John up the high mountain and He is transfigured before them - that means His glory just shines out for that split second. Moses and Elijah are seen with Him. Peter, in his impudence, comes and says: 'Look, we'll make a tabernacle for You Lord, and also for Elijah and also Moses'. He is so taken up with the emotion and the thrill of what's going on that he misses the whole point. At that moment the clouds open and God speaks: 'This is My beloved Son, hear Him'. Suddenly, when they looked round about they saw no man anymore, save Jesus only with themselves. Do you see it?
Her wall was her emotions for her beloved, and her emotions for her beloved got so carried away that she didn't realise that her beloved had gone. Do you see it? You can get so taken up with the experience of Christian life, the experience of your walk with Christ, what you feel, and the buzz that you've had, and the supernatural touches that you've gone through that you miss the fact that you are not in deep intimate communion with the Lord. Do you see it?
Little sins at the expense of luscious fruit. Service at the expense of sitting. Emotion at the expense of devotion, and a little bit like it: blessings at the expense of the Blesser. Look at this quickly. Chapter 2 and verse 16, she says with confidence - now, he's gone, he's behind the wall, he's not with her - but she says with confidence: "My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies". She says: ''He is mine and I am his forever, and I know where he is. I can go to him. I can take you to him right away. I can find him now at any time". But while she is basking in the blessings of his love, enjoying the prosperity of it, and everything about him, she doesn't realise that she is without him.
It doesn't take much to apply this to our hearts today. You know, we can get so taken up with the Bible. Do you know that? So taken up with the word of God - and what a blessing it is, and it's a good thing to be taken up with it. But we can get to the word of God and not see past it to the God of the word. We can get so taken up with the blessings of the Lord's table, the blessings of our hymns, the blessings of the doctrines, the blessing of the characters, the blessings of you-name-it, that we forget the Blesser. We know where to find Him, we know the ABC of the doctrine, we've got everything dotted and crossed, but we miss Him! We don't even realise that He's not here. The hymnwriter put it well:
'Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord.
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His word.
Once His gifts I wanted,
Now the Giver own.
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone,
All in all for Jesus,
Jesus will I sing.
Everything in Jesus,
and Jesus everything'.
There's a difference in knowing about Him, and knowing Him! Let me say this as I close: the communion was instigated afresh. As soon as she realises, in verse 1 of chapter 3, her loss, she says: 'I must find him'. She gets up and she goes to find the object of her affections. In verse 2 she says: 'I will arise'. It reminds me of the prodigal when he said: 'I will arise and go to my father and say unto Him I have sinned against heaven and earth in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son'. But she got up and she went and sought him. She couldn't find him, but in verse 4, after going through the towns and the cities in the middle of the night - and she didn't care what people thought about her - it says she laid hold of him, and she held him and she would not let him go, because she could not be happy without him!
Listen to what she says at the very end of it all. Remember where she's gone: she's fallen in love with him, she's lost him - even in the midst of her emotion and her blessing she's lost him and his fellowship. Now she gets him again and she holds onto him, but what is her conclusion of the whole matter? Verse 5: "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". What's she saying? If you've lost communion seek Christ until you find Him. When you find that communion again don't let anything disturb it.
The Bridegroom cometh! Come ye out to meet Him! Who will meet Him? Will you? When you meet Him will you hold on to Him and not let him go until your love is fulfilled? Maybe there are little foxes in your life: you've got to behead them in the trap of God's righteousness, otherwise that love will not ever be known again in your life. But let's come out to meet him - remember what Revelation 3:20 says, and it's to believers: "If any man hear my voice" - He's knocking! - "If any man" - not a group, an individual - "If any man...I will come in and sup with him and he with me". The Bridegroom cometh! Come ye out to meet Him!
Let us pray: Our Father in Heaven, we pray that Thou wilt forgive us when this great communion that we are to enjoy is interrupted by little foxes; Father, when we get so taken up in our emotions that we forget devotion; when we get so taken up with blessing that we forget the Blesser; and Lord perhaps when we're so busy serving Thee that we forget to sit underneath Thy shadow and take great delight in Thy fruit. Lord, help us to hear the voice of the Master. Help us in this busy life that we live, day by day, to hear the nail-pierced knocking of His hand upon our heart, wanting communion, wanting us to sit at His feet. Help us Lord, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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 Part 2" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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