Lectures on the Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
But no, beloved brethren, it is evident that this is not at all the way of God's Spirit-to be writing a book, and a book at such a time, devoted to what was past, and what was even then passing into darkness and sin and ruin. Not so. The Word of God has in all its parts a prophetic character stamped upon it as a whole. The book of Genesis, even, has; and I particularly_ refer to that, because if anything might be supposed to look back at the past, surely it was Genesis. But Genesis could not close, and Genesis could not even make advance, without proving its divine scope, and withal the Spirit of God launching into the future. It might be in the form of type, of course; it might assume the character of prophecy; it does both. But I refer to it now to show that such, we may say, in a general way, is the character of all Scripture. It looks onward to a bright day. It has its root in the past, no doubt. It firmly deals with the present, but its aspect is always to the future. And no wonder, because if it is grounded upon the ruin of the first man, it looks onward to the glory of the Second. That is what all Scripture has for its great object and character.
Well, now, so has the Song of Solomon; and it is with reference to this that I will endeavor now to give a few suggestions, for I am only going to take it up in a general way. I do not profess to be acquainted with all the details of it; for 1 am really afraid to speak presumptuously, or in any way to take up the nice points which many persons raise whose inclination disposes them to what is commonly called allegorical interpretation. I repeat that I do not wish at all to expose myself to anything that is not of God. I wish to speak of what I know- what I most firmly believe-to be of God, and to speak, therefore, of the broad and deep characteristics of this wonderful book. But I think that the Lord may give sufficient to help the children of God to a larger view-a more correct understanding-and to have more than mere points of detail, which is never the most profitable way of looking at Scripture. What we want is to have it as a whole. When we have got the general idea-the outline of the map-then we can begin to look at the details; but the details I must leave to others. For my own part, I am content to give a few suggestions at this present time of a more general kind.
Now there is one thing that I would draw your attention to. I have been proving that the Song refers to the earthly bride and not to the heavenly one. I will not give you the spiritual reasons of that. I have given you dogmatic proof drawn from the Word of God; but I will now give you what I may call -spiritual or moral reasons why the Song of Songs, although most instructive and helpful for our souls, nevertheless does not present as its object the proper relationship of the heavenly bride, but rather of the earthly one.
And the first great difference between them is this, which we must always hold fast in looking at the Song: we come in as the bride between the two comings of Christ. The Jews will not. They had the revelation that they were to be the bride before His first coming; but they refused Him; they rejected Him; they despised Him; and they never, therefore, took the place of being His bride when He did come. The Lord left them veiled in their own silence and hardness of unbelief. But not so when He comes again. Consequently, you observe, it follows from this that their taking up that relationship is purely and solely a matter of hope-purely and solely a prospective relationship. The bride here is not united to the bridegroom. I will give the reasons and the proof of this when we come to look at it; and it is of great moment, because many, from not seeing this, have interpreted the figures in what I must consider a very low and, I think, uncomely manner. The purity of the poem is perfect; but the purity of the poem is so much the more perfect because the bride is not yet in the relationship. You never find the language of this song applied to the heavenly bride.
When we come to look at the heavenly bride, we find that there is this very important difference-that we come into relationship with Christ after His first coming and before His second. The consequence is that we are in the most peculiar position that it is possible for souls upon earth to stand in, because we are now, by the Holy Ghost, united to Him. It is not exactly that the marriage has taken place in heaven, for that awaits the last member of the body of Christ; but, still, we are His body. We are in the very nearest possible relationship to Christ. We are viewed as really being members of His body-not that we shall be, but that we are.
That is not the case with the bride here at all. The bride in the Song of Solomon—in the Song of Solomon—is awaiting His coming. There is nothing at all about His having come. There is no such thing as redemption; that is, we never find redemption referred to here. We find no such thing as the power of the Holy. Ghost baptizing into one body, or anything that forms the great substratum of truth for the Church of God. Nothing of that kind. You see we are in a present, known, settled relationship to Christ; and we know that His love is so completely ours that even when we go to heaven it is not that He will love us better, but that we shall enjoy it perfectly. But, I repeat, we are already His body; and He treats us as such. Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for us; and this is the very thing which is used-this very figure—in addressing husbands and wives about their mutual relationship. It is plain, therefore, that the Church stands in a very peculiar relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, and peculiar in this way-that there is a present establishment of relationship, and, consequently, a present sense of His love such as the Jewish bride could not have till He actually comes. Then the relationship will be established between the Bridegroom and the bride-the earthly bride-but not before.
Now, unless this is seen, I think we are apt to get harm from the Song of Solomon Let me refer to a proof which comes out-the exercises of heart through which the bride passes. She gets a vision of the Bridegroom, and He vanishes. She does not rise to open the door, and He is gone. Is that the case with the Lord? Does the Lord Jesus ever withdraw? Does the Lord ever hide His face from us? No, never. We may withdraw from Him,' but that is not the point of the Song of Solomon The point there is that He withdraws. Now I deny that that is the case in the dealings of Christ with the Church or with the saint-with the individual. I deny that the Lord ever withdraws from the saint now; so you see it becomes very important, because persons may take up Song of Solomon without seeing that there is a difference -that while there is a great deal which is common to us and to the Jewish bride, there is an essential difference, and this essential difference shows itself particularly in what I have now referred to. It is evident that we should be falsified in our relationship. We should be imputing to God's sovereignty (as people do in that case) what really is a matter of our own unbelief, thus throwing the blame upon Him instead of taking shame to ourselves-the sole cause and, indeed, the sole fact. For the bride's carelessness is, no doubt, the cause here.
But the truth is, there is no such establishment of relationship viewed in the Song of Solomon. It is entirely anticipative; therefore one sees that the idea of a kind of bringing before us the secrecy of the love of a relationship which was not yet established is all a mistake. It is not a question of publishing to other people what belongs to a relationship that is formed. No; there is a most mighty and worthy object in it. It is the Lord preparing her for the relationship. It is the Lord making ' known to her who might have thought that He could not love her and did not love her. It is the Lord who is acting in His own perfect grace to guilty Jerusalem, and letting Jerusalem know that He who wept for her will love her-that He who shed not merely His tears, but His blood for her (for He died for that nation)-that that blessed Savior will work by His own Spirit in their hearts to form and fit them for His love, but to form and fit them for loving Him by the perfection of His love to them. This is the great object of the Canticles.
Accordingly, the whole beauty of it is the love which Christ expresses (not to her), and the love that Christ forms in her heart to Him before the relationship is established. With us it is a different thing. We are taken up as the poorest of sinners; we are converted; we are brought to God as children of God; and we wake up to find the wondrous fact that we are the body of Christ-that we are the bride of Christ-that we are now in the closest possible relationship to the Lord Jesus. Sovereign grace! Sovereign grace, and nothing else; whereas in the case of the bride of the Canticles, it is another thing. They well knew that they ought to have been the bride. They well knew from the Prophets—from the Psalms—that that was a place which they ought to have filled. "Ah, but then we have sinned; we have refused Him; we have despised Him. Have not we sent Him away? Will He ever look upon us again?" That is the question, you see; and that question is answered by the Song of Solomon. There is the answer of the Lord, for it is the Lord; it is their own Jehovah, but it is their own Messiah.
And here I must explain a remarkable feature of it which has not always been noticed. Solomon wrote the Proverbs; Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes; Solomon wrote the Canticles-the Song of Solomon. In his proverbs he uses "Jehovah" as a general rule. I am not aware that the term "God," as God, occurs more than once (25:2) in the whole book of Proverbs; though we may compare also chapters 2:5, 17; 3:4; 30:5, 9. Thus, at any rate, we see it is not characteristic of that book. The characteristic term throughout Proverbs is "the LORD"-printed in our Bibles in small capitals-meaning "Jehovah"; and the reason is plain. It is the wisdom that Jehovah provides for a people in a settled relationship with Himself. Hence the term Jehovah is always used there.
The same writer wrote Ecclesiastes, and it is remarkable that "Jehovah" never occurs in Eccles. 1 do not know that it does. It is not the characteristic word. It is "God" that you find as a rule. I do not mean to say that you will never find "Jehovah" in it. I have not been looking for the purpose of refreshing my memory as to that. Possibly one might find the word in it. I cannot positively say, but I can say that it is not the characteristic word. But you must remember that the exception, as men say, proves the rule; and there is always a great force in an exception which proves the rule, because it is the very thing that brings out a striking truth so much the more plainly, seeing that it is not the rule.
Well, now, you have another book of Solomon, and in that there is neither "Jehovah" nor "God." Surely there must be something very pointed that the same writer should do this, and the same writer not merely giving us something inspired and something that was not inspired. We read of Solomon having written-was it a thousand and five songs? He wrote a great many songs, at any rate. Well, we have not got these songs that he wrote. We have the Canticles-this book. Even where writers were inspired, you see, God did not preserve all that they wrote, but only that which was essential to the plan and purpose of the Bible. The rest might be perfectly true and perfectly good; but whatever was a part of God's purpose in the Bible, and that only, did He preserve. For it was as much a part of God's mind that the Bible should be complete as that there should be nothing superfluous. The Bible is perfect. To have had one chapter more than was necessary for the purpose of God would have spoiled the Bible. There is not a word too much. But, on the other hand, there is not a word too little. There is nothing lost; God has preserved exactly what was needed.
But I daresay you have all heard of the foolishness of German infidelity. I am speaking now, I am sorry to say, of the infidelity of theologians. You have all heard, I suppose, of the ravages of that fearful thing, and that they apply their thought to the Bible in this way. They see "God" sometimes, and "Jehovah" at other times; and they judge from this that two different persons must have written the books-two different authors-different objects-in different ages-different countries -different men. Look at the answer here. The same man wrote these books I have referred to. In one it is "Jehovah," in another it is "God"; in the third it is neither the one nor the other. Why this? Why is it not here? The object is evident for the very same reason-that after giving the title, "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's," the opening words are, "Let Him kiss me." I need not tell you that it is infinitely better as it is, than anything which could have been suggested. Would it have been the same thing to say, "Let Jehovah kiss me"? Every renewed heart would repudiate such a thing. No; certainly not. It would be unbecoming. Would it be right to say, "Let God kiss me"? Clearly not. "Let HIM kiss me." How blessed!