Song of Solomon 2

Song of Solomon 2  •  1.1 hr. read  •  grade level: 6
VERSE T. "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." What a wondrous thing grace is-the grace of God to sinners! What mighty changes it effects in those who know it, as to their thoughts, objects, desires, and affections. It gives us the mind of the Lord as to what we are in His sight, and to His heart. Here, mark it well, my soul, and meditate deeply thereon. The fountain is deep, drink freely.
To know grace, is to know God, and His full salvation by Jesus Christ, through the teaching and power of the Holy Spirit. But a little while ago, and the bride was confessing, " I am black.... black as the tents of Kedar," and now, through grace, she can say, and say in truth, nothing doubting, "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys"-the very crown and ornament of Sharon -the very beauty and sweetness of the valleys. And mark, too, that she says, " The rose.... the lily." She speaks not in general terms of her attractions to the Bridegroom, but in the most definite way. She is not vainly boasting to others of what she is, but addressing Himself directly, in the happy consciousness of her own place in His heart. There is full communion, for He immediately adds, "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." And further on in the book, He says plainly, "My dove, my undefiled, is but one, she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her." Such is the distinguishing love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and such is the special place which the bride has in His sight. He always goes beyond her in the expression of affection., This is most blessed to the heart. How widely different is the beautiful, fragrant lily from the lacerating thorn!
There are many who say, when they hear such truth, " O, I am not worthy of such a place." Quite true if you speak of your own worthiness. But what place do you think you are worthy of? If not this one, an inferior one, I suppose. But is this humility? No, friend, it is pride of heart. We are worthy of no place at all in His presence. Consequently, any place there must be pure, sovereign grace. To be within the threshold, would be as pure grace as to be on the throne.
The prodigal son, no doubt, thought that it would be very humble in him to say, " Make me as one of thy hired servants." But this was remaining pride and legality of heart, not humility. All such thoughts spring from the natural heart, which is essentially proud and legal, and utterly ignorant both of its own condition and of the grace of God. True humility is seen standing afar off, and confessing that it is not worthy to lift up so much as its eyes to heaven. (Luke 18) The prodigal had no more title to be received as a servant than as a son. He had forfeited all claim on the ground of righteousness. He had but one plea to offer; namely his pressing need. He could only be met in grace. Had he been met in righteousness, he would have been condemned forever. But grace reigns; nothing is said about his sins. He could not have answered for one of a thousand. The question of sin was settled between God and Christ on the cross. And now, grace shines, and shines in all its heavenly brightness. The Father's heart is the spring, and He has His own joy in it all. He acts from Himself, and as Himself The prodigal's premeditated speech is interrupted: he never gets to the part which says, " Make me as one of thy hired servants." How could he? Grace prevents; the Father ran to meet him, fell on his neck and kissed him Reconciliation is expressed and accomplished the moment they meet. He receives the kiss of peace at once; grace is free. God having received the atonement on the cross, we receive the reconciliation the moment we meet Him in Christ.
And now, being reconciled through the blood of the cross, the once lost, ruined, and degraded one, is made a son and heir-an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ. This is grace-the grace of God in Christ Jesus, to all who believe in His name. And, further, the same one shall shine in grace, and be the vessel of its display throughout the countless ages of eternity. As age after age rolls on in countless numbers, those who have been the subjects of that grace in time shall continue to shine in its ever-increasing brightness. Oh! what a place for the once poor, friendless, homeless, outcast, one to occupy, and that forever. But God is establishing His character for grace, and such are the suited vessels for its glorious and eternal display, in the house of many mansions. "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7).)
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 with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." Learned men have searched and written much, endeavoring to ascertain the particular kind of rose and lily that are referred to in the first verse, and the particular kind of tree in the third. Most say that what is here called, " The rose of Sharon," belongs to the lily tribe, and should be translated, " The Narcissus of Sharon." Many different opinions have also been given as to the particular flower here meant by the " lily." And many good and learned men have thought, that in the first verse we have the voice of the Bridegroom, not of the bride. And many, alas, who have written, and written much, have been more occupied with the flowers than the persons. But surely in the second verse the Bridegroom owns the speaker in the first verse to be His loved one. "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." All are agreed that this is the voice of the Beloved. In the first verse, we have no doubt, the bride is the speaker. She is acknowledging in joy of communion, what He in His grace has made her; that all her beauty in His sight, as well as the affections of her heart for Himself, are His own creation. And in comparing herself with these beautiful flowers, she is only repeating what He Himself has taught her.
But mark well, my soul, that she says, " I am the lily of the valleys"-not of the cities. In the quiet vale she finds her native soil, and breathes her native air. There she blooms, for the eye of her Beloved, and sheds her fragrance for His refreshment. " He feedeth among the lilies." It was in the city she lost the joys of His presence; and there she was insulted and unveiled by the watchmen. These were her wandering, backsliding moments. Oh! how much better for her, had she never left her native valleys! My soul, here pause a little. Meditate on these things. At a distance-far from the stream and spirit of this world-in heart far from its attractions, study that which will be pleasing to the eye of Jesus, and refreshing to His heart. Oh! wondrous truth! that He who is seated on the throne of God in heaven, and surrounded with its glory, should yet think at all of such good-for-nothing ones as we are, and, most of all, to be pleased and delighted or grieved and wounded, by the character of our ways! Alas! that He should be so frequently wounded in the house of His friends! Oh! is there one thing under the sun, that should give thee such unfeigned pleasure, as to please Him? Canst thou think of anything more unworthy of a Christian, than his seeking to please himself, and to find pleasure in the things of the world? Especially when he knows, as men speak, that it is to grieve the heart of One whom only he should find his supreme delight in pleasing-the One who died for him on Calvary.
Having well judged thy heart and ways on this solemn subject, let thy care, love, and sympathy go out after others; especially the young of the flock, for the Lord's glory. How beautiful to the eye of Jesus now, and how refreshing to His heart, to see those for whom He died, walking happily and steadfastly in the footsteps of the flock, and feeding beside the shepherd's tents. There the tender budding grass is found, and the quiet waters flow. But oh! how grieving both to the chief, and to the under shepherds to witness, it may be, a dear young disciple, who seemed for awhile to be all heart for the Lord, yielding to the arguments of unconverted friends, and to the attractions of the world, and, by and by, making excuses for a measure of conformity to the fashion of the world.
Must I give up this-and must I give up that? such will sometimes say. Rather think, my brother, my sister, on what you gave up in order to enjoy these things. Most solemn thought! For these follies and vanities you gave up Christ. I mean as to your experimental enjoyment of Him. Von know that you cannot enjoy the Lord and these things at the same time. And now, you must give up these for Christ. But do you hesitate for a moment? Look to the cross! " Oh how he loves "—-oh how He dies, and dies for thee-and for these very sins! Oh! cast thyself at His blessed feet with true godly sorrow. Thou hast offended His eye, thou has grieved His heart, thou hast dishonored His name; confess all to Him; and thy restoration shall be perfect, and all thy past sins shall be forgiven and forgotten forever.
But until this is done, spirituality of mind, earnestness of heart, and communion with the Lord are interrupted. It is a solemn case of backsliding. And unless the Lord clog the wheels of the chariot, who can tell how fast and how far it may run down the hill? Sometimes an accident will happen and stop it suddenly, but with much damage, the scars of which may remain forever. O Lord, let Thy grace shine forth; and allure many into the wilderness who keep too near the world's borders, and too often cast a wishful glance over the line of separation. Wean them from this present evil world. Let them be arrayed in the meek and lowly beauties of the lily, for thee alone. Suffer them not to appear adorned for the eye of the world. Surely, most blessed Lord, to hear Thee saying, "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters," would infinitely more than recompense for all our self-denial.
We are told by those who have traveled in the East, that the apple-tree of this country is not what is here meant; but most likely, the rich citron-tree of Palestine. The thick, dark green foliage of the citron boughs affords a most convenient shelter from the rays of the sun, and its delicious fruit is most fragrant and refreshing. Compared with the common trees of the wood, it must be an object of great beauty and interest to the eye of the weary traveler. So the spouse compares her Beloved with all others. "As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons." There is none like Christ. He is the " chiefest among ten thousand." She is in the full enjoyment of Himself. Not of His gifts merely, blessed as these are, but of Himself.
There is now, observe, full personal communion. She is in the cloudless light of His favor. The response is perfect: "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." "As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons." What has grace wrought! See where it leads to! Could the Jew ever have reached the bosom of God by climbing the rugged cliffs of Sinai! Ah, no! It must be all grace from first to last. Here we see perfect reconciliation and communion. The Lord rests in His love; as it is written, " He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." (Zeph. 3 ii.) The bride, too, is now enjoying perfect repose in that unchanging love. " I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." Here her soul finds rest, joy, and abundance. The heart is feeding on Christ. Every need is met. She is in her own happy place now. She once had another place; the place, alas, of sin and death. But the Lord has delivered her out of it, and brought her into His own-His new place as the risen Messiah. And this is now her place: she cannot be in both. " I raised thee up under the apple-tree." The apple-tree is Christ.
Israel, we know, shall ere long be raised up from their present condition of national death, to enjoy the blessings of the new covenant under Christ. But they can only be raised up by Christ, and come into blessing under Christ. Mercy is their only ground, helpless necessity their only plea, and Christ their only way. When it comes to this, all is well, forever well, both with Jew and Gentile. Israel shall yet be gathered on this ground and under this blessed Head. Then shall they sit under His shadow in the fullest sense, and find His fruit sweet to their taste-the glorious fruits of His wondrous love in dying for the rebellious nation.
"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." (Rom. 11:2626And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (Romans 11:26).) " In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under his vine and under his fig-tree." (Zech. 3:1010In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree. (Zechariah 3:10).)
" Hail, blessed scene of endless joy!
Where Jesus shall forever reign;
Where nothing hurtful shall annoy,
But gladness fill the happy plain.
Free from all sin, and free from fear,
None shall e'er sigh or shed a tear."
Verse 4. "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." In meditating on the different scenes of delight, into which the happy bride is introduced by the King, let thy thoughts, O my soul, dwell for a little on the source of these many streams of happiness. It is the believer's privilege to drink at the fountain as well as at the stream. God Himself is the source of all our blessing. The pleasures which are at His right hand can never be numbered. But the deep, deep fountain of the soul's perfect blessedness is the happy assurance that nothing was needed to turn the heart of God to us. Oh, precious truth t His love is like the ring that was put on the hand of the prodigal, it has neither beginning nor end. " God is love." He changeth not. Therefore all the rich blessings of His love are secured to us forever, by what He is in Himself. Not by what we are, but by what He is. " Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:1010Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10).)
This is the perfect rest of faith-the heart of God-the native fountain of all true happiness. How can I doubt the love that gave an only-begotten Son? What an answer to every question! -He gave His Son for me a sinner. " God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).) What is unbelief? Not believing how good God is in giving His Son to die for us. What is faith? Believing in the perfect love of God, and the gift of His dear Son. "Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24).)
The work of Christ was not needed to turn the heart of God to the sinner, but to turn the heart of the sinner to God. All scripture reveals this blessed truth. It was revealed in the garden of Eden when man fell. This was the first occasion to bring it out. The guilty pair sought a hiding-place from the presence of the Lord behind the trees of the garden. But the voice of Him who came to seek and to save the lost, falls in gracious accents on their ear: " Adam, where art thou?" In is now a lost sinner, and God is seeking him.
The first words of redeeming love characterize the whole work of redemption. And the revelation of God's love in the prediction that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent gained their confidence, we doubt not, and drew them from their hiding-place into the presence of God. Ever since then, and now, at this present time, when the sinner, through grace, believes in the perfect love of God, in the gift and work of His Son, he is brought to God in faith, and in the full credit of the death, resurrection, and glory of the Lord Jesus. Thus he is pardoned, and accepted in the Beloved, and the desires of the heart of God toward him are fully answered.
But though the love of God towards us has ever been the same, there were many hindrances in us to its full and free outflow. God is righteous as well as love. He is holy as well as merciful. He is ever consistent with Himself But what love desired, wisdom planned, and power accomplished. The removal of the hindrances proves the greatness of the love. Jesus came to do the will of God. He finished the work. He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Love, divine, eternal love, could not do more than this. He abolished sin by the sacrifice of Himself. To what end, O my soul, was this great, mysterious sacrifice! The apostle answers-"That he might bring us to God." Not merely into heaven, but back to God Himself. To the knowledge of Himself, and to perfect reconciliation with Him. " For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:1818For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18).) And again, it is written, " For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him " (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).) And now, mark, we have both the love and the righteousness in Christ. Both are ours in Him. He is also our life as the risen Jesus; but carefully observe, that it is a life beyond the grave, a life which has the stamp of victory over death and the grave. We have everything in Christ now which fits us for the immediate presence of God, where there is fullness of joy, and where there are pleasures for evermore.
In companionship with Jesus, the spouse is here enjoying the same scenes as Himself. They are, as it were, visiting the many springs of divine happiness. He is leading her to the " fountains of living waters." In the morning of the day she says, " The King hath brought me into his chambers." A little while after, and the scene is changed. She appears to be with Him in the fields, where He feeds and rests His flock at noon. Further on in the day, she says, " Our bed is green. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir." Here, the figure appears to be that of persons reclining on the tender grass, beneath the refreshing shade of the interlacing boughs of the fir and cedar trees. After this, she sat down under the shadow of the apple-tree, and found the fruit thereof sweet to her taste. And now, at the close of the day, we may say, she is brought by her Beloved to the banquet of wine, under the banner of His love. The unfolded, manifested love of the Bridegroom is the secret of all her joy, the native spring of all her delights.
Long, long has the banner of His love lain, as it were, folded up. Faith always knew that in God's account, it was only laid aside for a little while; surely wrapped up in the word of promise though not displayed. Still, many good men have both said and written that the banner of Jehovah's favor would never again float over His ancient Zion. The truth of God as to the rebuilding of the city and temple, and the restoration of Israel, has been overlooked by many, and spiritualized by others. But what said the scripture?
Ever since " the Nobleman," spoken of in the parable, " went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return," no banner of divine love has waved over Jerusalem. For more than eighteen hundred years the beloved city, and the beautiful temple, have been laid in ruins, and the people dispersed to the four winds of heaven. This, the Lord Himself repeatedly predicted. " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,and ye would not. Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matt. 23:27-2927Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, (Matthew 23:27‑29).)
He has delayed His return, we know, in rich grace to us. His love has been active, though not in Israel. His longsuffering is salvation. From Jew and Gentile He has been calling out, through the power of the Holy Ghost, by the preaching of the gospel, a people for His name. (Acts xv. 1418.) Since the day of Pentecost, He has been making " of twain one new man." This is what God is now occupied with, and what we should be occupied with, namely, the new man; not the old man. Hence we are exhorted to " put off the old man," and to "put on the new man." (Eph. 4) But ere long the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, shall be complete, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air, -and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (Eph. 1:22, 2322And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23) Thess. iv.) This will be accomplished before Israel can be owned again as the people of Jehovah. But though the Jews have been long set aside and chastised for their sins, the apostle assures us that they are not cast off forever, and that " the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Rom. 11)
The time to favor Zion shall come, the time which God hath set. He shall appear in His glory when He builds up Zion. For the name of the Lord shall be declared in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem. (Psa. 102) The word of the Lord shall stand fast forever: the mere theories of men shall come to naught. " For lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." (Jer. 30:33For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. (Jeremiah 30:3).) And again, " Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul." (Chap. 32:41.) Then, surely, shall the banner of God's unchanging love wave over them. Oh! what must be the blessing of that people whom God shall assuredly bless with His whole heart and His whole soul! What grace and condescension in God thus to speak! Oh, what blessing awaits the now outcast and down-trodden Jew t Few will believe it, but the day is coming, and near at hand, when Messiah their King shall stand up for them against every foe,-when He shall be a wall of fire around His beloved Jerusalem, and the glory in the midst of her. Then shall the long-folded-up banner of His love be unfurled, to be furled no more forever. Then shall all the families of the earth see the Lord's faithful love, when they come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zech. 14) And then, O then, shall this precious word be fulfilled: " 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."
And now, O my soul, what do these changing scenes of deep, and deeper blessedness-these varying fountains of fresh delight, suggest for thy meditation? What voice have they for thee now? Figures and allegories though they be, they were written aforetime for thy learning. Plainly, they represent the realities of fellowship with Christ-the affections of Bridegroom and bride-the sympathies of hearts that are one. Hast thou not sometimes observed, that after actual separation from the world for a while, as a hidden one, and close communion with the Lord enjoyed, the tone and character of our minds become more spiritual? The Lord's presence is more fully realized; the body becomes less a clog, the spirit more free. Then we feel further from earth and nearer to heaven, in the conscious enjoyment of heavenly things, in the assurance of the Lord's love, and His delight in us.
But this state of high spiritual enjoyment is only occasional; nor is it reached, generally speaking, in a moment. We cannot turn, all at once, from the enjoyment of earthly things, to this measure of enjoyment of heavenly things. True, we have Christ, and the Spirit, and the word, and the Father's love, always the same; but our communion in these things is not always the same. Even the necessary occupation of mind and body with temporal things, blunts our spiritual sensibilities for the time. Secret prayer, meditation on the word, self-judgment, the body kept under, the heart delighting in the things of God, and the Spirit revealing to our souls the love of Jesus, will, in most cases, be found associated with this condition of spiritual enjoyment. Indeed, we believe these exercises must be the habit of the believer, if he would be heavenly-minded. We must walk by faith, as belonging to the new creation, not by sight as of the old. (2 Cor. 5:16, 17, 1816Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:16‑18).) At the same time it is well to remember, that the blessed Lord is not bound to any one class of means, in bringing His loved ones into His house of wine—the place of His presence where there is fullness of joy. We have seen a soul in ecstasies of joy, through being suddenly brought to a sense of its own failure, and of the Lord's unfailing love. But here, in the case of the bride before us, there has been no apparent failure as yet, there is marked progress in her experience. Like a soul coming from the closet to family worship, and from thence to the public banquet of the Savior's dying love. The tone of her communion deepens as she passes from scene to scene. Her joy increases, until the revelation of the Bridegroom's love and goodness become so overpowering to her soul, that the body faints under it. Yet she seeks to be sustained by that which has exhausted her. " Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love."
" The love, the love that I bespeak,
Works wonders in the soul;
For when I'm whole it makes me sick.
When sick, it makes me whole.
"I'm overcome, I faint, I fail,
Till love shall love relieve;
More love divine the wound can heal,
Which love divine did give."
Feeding on Christ never satiates the soul. While it satisfies to the full, it whets the appetite. And the Lord's delight is to give more abundantly. " Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." He alone can satisfy the desires of the heart and of the mind But mark, He draws her yet nearer to Himself. " His left hand is under my head, and his right doth embrace me." Blessed Lord Jesus -Savior God-Heavenly Bridegroom-Head of thy body, the church! Where shall we find the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths of thy love? More intimate-more real-more blessed communion can never be enjoyed. She leans her head on the bosom of her Beloved, the place of perfect and eternal repose. There can be nothing higher than this-lower there ought not to be. Oh, for more experience of the exhausting and sustaining power of the Lord's gracious presence! Oh, for a larger heart-a more capacious soul!
Verse 7. "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 [she] please." At the close of this happy and cloudless day, we leave the bride of the King, in the repose which His changeless love alone can give. The banner of His love over her, the everlasting arms underneath her, she rests in His eternal embrace. She delights in what He is. Hence she speaks of His shadow, His fruit, His banquet, His banner, His left hand, His right hand. It is all, it is only, Christ. When the soul is thus occupied with Him, He of all others is the most careful that it should not be disturbed. The roes and the hinds are the most easily startled creatures in the field. And their sense of hearing is so acute, that a far distant sound of danger will alarm them. So keenly sensitive should we all be to the 'most distant approach of that which would interfere with our walk and communion with the Lord; or that would in any way turn us aside from the paths of practical holiness, and entire devotedness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
" The startled roe, the timid, trembling hind,
See how they stand in watchfulness intense,
Noting the changeful breeze, lest on its wing
Some tones of distant peril should be borne
I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem,
I charge you by the roes and by the hinds,
Ye sons and daughters of Almighty God,
Be watchful too;-be jealous over prayer,
With sensitive alarm observe and shun
Whate'er disturbs or threatens to disturb
Communion with your God!——the roving thought,
The self-exalting fancy, and the doubt
Mistrustively unjust; come they not oft
Struggling to quench the flame of holy love
Enkindled in the soul, and intercept
Glory's bright dawning from the eager eye? "
Verse 8. "The voice of my beloved, behold he cometh leaping upon the mountain, skipping upon the hills." When the soul has been maintained, for a length of time, in uninterrupted communion with the Lord, the affections become more lively, and the desire for His return becomes more real and earnest. Host thou caught, O my soul, the spirit of the loving and the loved Shelomith, in these blessed words? " The voice of my beloved, behold, he cometh." Is He indeed thy best beloved? Is there no voice to thee like His? Art thou waiting and longing for Him daily!
There is a great difference between a person believing in what is called " the doctrine of the second advent," and a loving soul in the joy of communion, earnestly looking and longing for the Lord Himself to come. How little influence the belief of the doctrine has on the heart and life, compared with having the Person of Christ, as the all influential object for the heart, and being like the Thessalonians, "waiting for the Son from heaven," or like the bride waiting for the Bridegroom.
" The Spirit and the bride say, Come." It is the heart of the bride that says Come, though moved and stirred by the Spirit who dwells there. He gives us the happy consciousness of the relationship, and the affections that belong to it.
We are swift to hear, and quick to recognize, the sound of the voice we love. The well-known voice, and the familiar name " Mary," thrilled her whole soul. And even when the person speaking is too far off for us to hear the words, the sound is enough to touch the chord that vibrates the whole heart, and awakens all its drowsy energies. " The voice of my beloved," she exclaims, " behold he cometh." Her whole soul is filled with expectation. Now He is near. " The Lord is at hand." Lo, He comes! He conies! " Leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart." His feet are swift as hinds' feet.
In place of nearness to the Lord in spirit fully satisfying the heart, it really increases its desires for the fuller joy which His personal presence gives. What could be more near, more dear, more intimate, than the communion which we have seen the bride enjoying, by faith, since the commencement of our meditations? There has been no interruption to her joy, but decided progress in the apprehension of His love, and the enjoyment of His favor. Some have thought, that in the passage before us, there are signs of the heart going back and getting out of communion-during the season of her repose; that the abundance of her privileges led to a measure of carelessness; and that her great spiritual enjoyment was succeeded by a measure of declension. Such a thing, no doubt, has often occurred, but we see no signs of it here.
Is it when we are in communion or out of communion that we desire the coming of the Lord? Easily canst thou answer this question, O my soul. There can be no real desire for the Lord to come when we are not happy with Him. True, we are always safe in Him, but, alas, we are not always happy with Him. If we have gone a step too far with the world, or neglected self-judgment, we lose our happiness with Him, and at such times, we would rather that He did not come. " Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." (John 13:88Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. (John 13:8).) He does not say,
observe, thou hast no part in me. That He could never say. But he teaches Peter, and us, that if self-judgment is neglected, if the daily defilements are not cleansed away " with the washing of water by the word," fellowship with Him is interrupted. He cannot go on with unjudged-unconfessed evil. " Thou hast no part with me," are words of deepest solemnity. What wouldest thou not rather part with, O my soul, than part company with thy Lord, even for a day, or an hour? Where would be thy power for walk, worship, and service? What weakness, what darkness, would beset thy path! Shame may cover thy face, and sorrow fill thy heart, as thou placest thy soiled feet in His hands, for surely He will see where thou hast been. But remember this, they never can be clean until He do it. " If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me." If thou wouldst walk with Jesus, and be happy with Him, thou must walk in separation-in true separation from all evil-from all that is contrary to His holiness, and unbearable to His nature. Lead me, O Lord, in Thy way, in this evil day, that so I may ever most earnestly pray for, and lovingly desire, Thy coming!
My lord delayeth his coming," is the language of a heart that is seeking present gratification in this world. " Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly," is the language of a heart that is filled with love to Jesus, and earnestly breathing after personal nearness to Himself In the proportion that we enjoy Christ spiritually, we shall long. to see Him face to face. In the New Jerusalem, " They shall see his face." Who would not long for this, that has seen Him even through a glass darkly? This is always a test of the soul's condition. When the house is in confusion, the wife is not waiting and longing for her husband's return. No, she is occupied in getting things put in order, and when everything it straight and such as he likes, she begins to think of his coining, and longs to hear his voice and see his face.
Is it not enough, some Christians say, that I know I am His? Why should I be every day looking for His coming from heaven? I know my sins are pardoned, and that I am saved. Besides, I can trust and love the unseen Savior. So far well, my fellow-Christian; but is this the voice of an earnest, loving heart, or of one that is cold and indifferent as to His blessed Person? Canst thou think of all His love and grace, of all His sufferings, and death for thee, and of His exaltation and glory, and not long to see Himself? Art thou not longing for a glimpse of that face, which shall ravish thy heart forever, and fill thee with loftiest praise? What would the absent husband think, how would he feel, were his wife thus to speak: " I know I am his. That is enough for me. I am satisfied. Besides, I am hearing from him daily, and receiving the assurance of his love, but I never think about his return-I have never once said-Make haste home. I never long to see his face." Ah! my friend, my friend, how would you interpret such a condition of things? Would you call this love for the absent one? Would it satisfy your own heart-especially if your love had not cooled down? As the love of Christ never cools down, He feels at once the least falling away in us. Nothing but love will ever satisfy love. " We love him, because he first loved us." Christian love is the reflection of Christ's. The more frequently the loving wife hears from her absent husband, the more is her desire quickened for his return. And the communications of his love by letter, only make her long the more to see himself The home circle may be perfectly comfortable, but to her heart it wants the presence of one to make it completely happy. And while he is not there, nothing on earth can fill the blank. Alas, how little we feel the blank which the Person of Christ alone can fill!
It is the Lord Himself, as Messiah the King, that the loving spouse so longs after here. " The voice of my beloved, behold, he cometh." He has revealed Himself to her heart. She now enters, by faith, into His love and joy as the Bridegroom, the King in Zion. Now she knows and values His love, and longs to possess Himself as her own Messiah. Blessed change! The place where He was once despised and rejected, by the daughter of Zion, and over which He shed tears, shall ere long be the scene of His Bridegroom-love, and His bright millennial glory. The desire of the God-fearing remnant in the latter day for the appearing of the Messiah as their King and Deliverer, is spoken of in the Psalms and the prophets, as of the most fervent and intense character: " Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence." (Isa. 64:1,21Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, 2As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! (Isaiah 64:1‑2).)
Under the figure of a bride, we have the same intense desires in the song, though different in character. In the passage before us, it is not so much their own deliverance, and the overthrow of their enemies, or even His own kingdom and glory, as the heart's desire for the Person of their coming Messiah. It is " My beloved.... He cometh. He comes quickly. Like a roe or a young hart." Already He is, as it were, at the wall of our house, looking through the windows, and showing Himself through the lattice-work of our garden. The remnant in Jerusalem have here intimations of the near approach of the King-their own full deliverance and millennial glory. He greatly cheers their heart by still plainer revelations of Himself, and by assuring them of His love, and of the joy of His heart in them.
Nothing could be more beautiful and touching than the words of the Lord in the following verses. He addresses herself, and she loves to repeat His words. " 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." (Vers. 10-13.) A little while ago and she could only discern the sound of His voice, and catch through the lattice-work a glimpse of His eye. But now, O happy bride, He is near enough for her to hear the words of His mouth. To faith, blessed be His name, he is ever, present. " His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me." This is faith. It can lean upon His bosom. It can repose in His embrace at night, and go out with Him in the morning to the vineyards, to see how the vines flourish. This is most blessed. Still, personally, He is not here. He is in heaven, we are on earth. Knowest thou well, my soul, these distinctions? And say, is it not while reposing by faith in Him, that thy heart most earnestly longs for His coming, to take thee up to be with Himself in glory? Oh! to be free in heart from this world, and ever ready, like the bird on the bough of the tree, with well-fledged wings to fly away. Earth's fairest scene is not heaven, its happiest spot is not the paradise of God.
Now, the day of gladness begins to dawn for long oppressed Israel. The morning breaks! " The Lord Himself will soon appear." " The kingdom of heaven is at hand." The long, dark, and dreary winter of the Lord's absence is past. The springtime has come, the summer draweth nigh. The bright and cloudless morning begins to dawn. Since the day that man sinned and fell, this groaning earth has never witnessed such a scene of vernal beauty as these verses describe. Nevertheless, they fitly represent the future glory and blessing of the land of Israel, and of the whole earth.
" See the day
As if already present, when the storm
Of wintry tribulation shall have passed,
And clouds have ceased to pour their torrents down,
And floods restrained their overwhelming rage:
See earth made beautiful... Lo! Judah's sapless bough,
And severed Ephraim, are grafting in-
Wondrous precursors of the summer nigh."
Many have thought and said, that Israel's winter would be perpetual; that no spring or summer would ever return for the cast-off nation. But such thoughts were never learned from the book of God. There we read in the plainest terms, that in due time "He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root. Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." The cheering beams of "the Sun of Righteousness" shall chase away forever the gloom and barrenness of their long winter. The budding flowers, the ripening figs, the blooming vines, the singing of birds, the voice of the turtle, are sure emblems, not only that winter is past but that spring has come. And though nothing in the vineyard of the bride be yet ripe, there is, in the unfolding bud of promise, the sure pledge of a glorious 'summer and an abundant autumn.
Verse 14. "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." In thy meditation, O my soul, on the signs of the coming glory, see that thou distinguish according to scripture, between that which is earthly and that which is heavenly-between the earthly calling of Israel and the heavenly calling of the church. The blessed Lord, as Jehovah, in the latter day will espouse the cause of His earthly people, and Jerusalem will become the center of earthly glory and blessing in her character as bride of the King. The church is the bride of the Lamb-the once lowly, suffering, atoning Lamb, but now exalted, heavenly Christ. Both, of course, are figurative. But figurative of what? The term bride is the symbol of affection, endearment and oneness as to position. The bride ranks with the Bridegroom. The Jewish bride will rank with Him in earthly glory. The church, the heavenly bride, will rank with Him in heavenly glory. Having owned and trusted Him during His humiliation and rejection, she will be nearest and dearest to Him, in His exaltation and glory. The term also represents myriads of saved souls. An individual believer now could not speak of Christ as his Bridegroom, but as his Savior. I can say, He is my Savior, and that "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." He is the Savior of the sinner, the Bridegroom of the church.
The glory of the coming kingdom will be twofold-celestial and terrestrial. " That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." (Eph. 1:8, 9, 108Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:8‑10).) The full power, blessing, and glory of both spheres will be headed up in Christ.
Here, mark, for a moment, the difference between Israel's place and blessing in connection with the coming kingdom, and that of the church, as spoken of in scripture. The Lord comes down to where Israel is and blesses them there. " The redeemer shall come to Zion." (Luke 1:68-8068Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel. (Luke 1:68‑80).) The church is caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thess. iv.) They (the Jews) will be blessed with all temporal blessings in a pleasant land. (Amos 9:11-1511In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this. 13Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. 14And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 15And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God. (Amos 9:11‑15).) We with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. (Eph. 1) Jerusalem on earth will be the center of earthly glory and blessing-the royal city-the metropolis of the whole earth; and through it all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2) The Jerusalem above will be the center of heavenly glory. The glory of God will lighten it, and the Lamb will be the light thereof. (Rev. 21.) The heavenly saints will be in their bodies of glory; fashioned like unto Christ's body of glory. (Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21).) The whole house of Israel will then be blessed with the long promised blessing of " the new heart " and " the right spirit." (Ezek. 36:24-2824For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:24‑28).) And they shall fall away no more forever.
Israel of old is spoken of as being married to Jehovah. " For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is his name." (Isa. 54:55For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. (Isaiah 54:5).) But because of their unfaithfulness, and especially for their rejection of Christ, they were cast off for a season. Since then, Israel has been on the common level of all sinners. In the preaching of the gospel, both Jew and Gentles are alike addressed as lost sinners; and all who are gathered out by the grace of God from both parties, are formed into " one body." Both are blessed with the same privileges in Christ, and the " one body " is blessed with the same privileges as Christ in heavenly places. The Gentiles who were dispensationally far off, and the Jews who were nigh, have now, on the principle of faith, equal blessings in Christ. He hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition, for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (See Eph. 2:13-2213But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13‑22).)
The true hope of the church-the " one body " -indwelt by the " one Spirit," is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, to receive us unto Himself. " I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also." When this has been accomplished, Israel will again appear on the scene. Then the Spirit of God will begin to work in the remnant of Judah. After the church is caught away, and during the open reign of Antichrist, before the Lord appears in glory-just between the rapture of the saints and the glorious appearing, this remnant will be the object of the Lord's especial care and love. Speaking of them under the figure of a spouse, He says, " I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi, that is, my husband, and shalt call me no more Baali, that is, my lord. And I will betroth thee unto me forever." Now, their espousals shall be everlasting, the union shall endure forever, and great will be the Lord's delight in His faithful, loving, admiring, adorning, worshipping spouse. (See Hos. 1; 2; 3)
What then are we to understand by the passage before us? " 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." From the tenth verse to the close of the fifteenth, we have an unbroken address of tenderest love, sweetest encouragement, and brightest hope. What more blessed words could even the lips of divine love utter? His object is to draw out her heart in love and confidence towards Himself. It is quite evident that the full blaze of millennial glory will not burst suddenly on the land of Israel and the nations, but by degrees, like the passing away of winter, and the gradual approach of spring and summer. Hence the need of faith on the part of the spouse. But He cheers her heart with the assurance that the day of her deliverance draweth nigh. He would have her to know that His eye is upon her, and to wait patiently. On the other hand, we learn from many portions of scripture, that she will, at this moment, be the special object of the malice of Antichrist. He will seek to devour the faithful remnant. (Rev. 12:6, 176And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelation 12:6)
17And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17)
.) But guided by the Spirit of God, she finds a refuge in the wilderness. " Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains." The Beloved knows her hiding-place. To His eye and to His heart, she is like the dove in the rock-in the secret places of the stairs, or the rugged side of a precipice, which has the appearance of a stair.
But her voice is sweet to her Beloved, and He loves to hear it, though it still resembles the mournful note of the dove, that sits solitary, mourning for its mate. Her countenance is comely: she is beautiful to Him, however marred by persecution, suffering, and trial. And He seeks to see her—to hear her; oh, deepest, tenderest, kindest love! Was ever love like this? There is no love like His. " Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." Oh! what gracious, unselfish love! What a revelation, what an unfolding of His heart! Truly may it be said of His heart, but of His heart only, " Love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave." Does death take a strong hold of its victim? Oh, how strong! what a hold!-such is the strength-the hold of the Savior's love. Let thy meditations be deep, and patient, O my soul, on the love of Christ-the love of Christ to His spouse-the love of Christ to thee. Think of the grasp-the hold which death takes-think of the almighty grasp, the eternal hold of the Savior's love. The similitude is appalling-overwhelming-the reality, consoling, comforting, refreshing, and strengthening, beyond all measure. Oh! the deep, vast, profound, immeasurable, untraceable, glories of the Savior's love!
Still further, gather up all thy strength-concentrate all thy thoughts-meditate on that other aspect of the Savior's love: " Jealousy is cruel as the grave."' What meaneth this? These seem hard words to set forth my Lord's most tender love. Only strong similitudes give an idea of the power of His love. These give its twofold aspect. If death takes a strong hold of a person, the grave keeps it. It is unyielding. It is a cruel grave. It hears not the cry of the bereaved. The widow's groans and sighs, and tears-the orphan's deep and bitter wail, are alike unheeded. It holds fast its prey. It yields not to the deep tones of the broken in heart, the wounded in soul, and the crushed in spirit. If thou shouldst supplicate the grave on bended knee, ever so earnestly, it will never yield to thee the loved one who has been wrenched from thy heart's core, and entombed in its deep caverns. How often it has been besieged, and besought with bitterest tears, deepest groans, loudest cries, but all in vain. It hears not, it heeds not, it yields not. What takes such hold as death? What keeps it like the grave?
Learn then, O my soul, from these dark but strong similitudes, the character of the Savior's love. Sheltered in the cleft of the rock-in His wounded side-nestling in that mysterious heart of love, His timid, fluttered dove securely rests. No bird of prey can ever molest her there. All the vultures of hell cannot touch a feather of her wing. They can never reach the cleft of the rock wherein she hides. She is far above their highest flight. But may not she lose her hold some day, in an unguarded moment, and after all be seized, and perish by those who are seeking to devour? Did her security depend in the least degree on her holding fast, all would be lost in a moment. But, bless God, all depends on the hold which Jesus has. It is the rock that holds her, not she that holds the rock. What takes such a hold as death? What keeps it like the grave? Divine love holds its object with a power stronger than death, though sweetly tender, and is more unyielding than the grave. Will the blessed Lord ever "deliver the soul of his turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked?" No! never! never! " I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:28, 2928And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:28‑29).) " Behold a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of waters in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (Isa. 32:1, 21Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. 2And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:1‑2).)
But all types and figures, allegories and illustrations utterly fail to set forth the Savior's love. His glory will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it. But His love can never be fully revealed. True, we shall see Him as He is-in all the realities of His love, and know even as we are known; and find in His love our eternal delight. But there are heights and depths, lengths and breadths, in His love which must remain unknown, unrevealed, forever.
Verse 15. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes."
Most graciously the well-beloved links himself with, his spouse in the care of the vineyard. Take "us" the foxes.... for "our" vines have tender grapes. They are yet green and tender. They are only beginning to blossom. The vineyard must be guarded. The little foxes have sharp teeth, and though little, they are subtle and do great damage amongst the vines. During the bleakness and barrenness of winter there is no cover in the vineyards for the fox. The leafless bough offers no inducement. But with the reviving spring they find abundant shelter, and favorable opportunities to commit their ravages. Watch, then, O my soul, the state of thine own heart. Watch especially against the daily cares of this present life, and the thousand things that tend to mar thy fruitfulness. Abide in the true vine, let thy nourishment be drawn from His roots. So shalt thou bear much fruit to the Father's glory. " Be careful for nothing: but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6, 76Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6‑7).)
In times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and of great awakenings, there is need for redoubled care. It is truly pleasing to witness the springing bud, and the unfolding blossoms-to listen to the songsters amongst the branches; the soft and significant voice of the turtle; but the keeper of the vineyard has more to do than contemplate the beautiful, or listen to the sweet sounds of music. He must watch against the subtle intruder, that lurks amongst the luxuriant foliage of the vines to deceive and to destroy. Around thee now, and back over many years' experience thy thoughts instinctively flow. Many a goodly vine hast thou seen marred for a season by the cunning craftiness of him who lieth in wait to deceive. Oh, how heart-breaking such disappointments are!
" Redouble your precautions, O ye saints!
Aware of the destroyer!-stop the gaps
Where, entering silently, he spoils the vines:-
Be cautious I for your enemy is strong,
To sleepless malice adds perfected craft,
And spiteful certainty of shortening rule;
Ye know, if ye are Christ's, your struggling souls
Resist a baffled and defeated foe.
'Take ye those foes.' who contrive the woe
Of God's Jerusalem I expose their craft,
Seize your keen weapons, servants of the Lord,
And sword in hand, yea, in your armor build
Her walls and fences that are broken down!
The weakest is made strong who cleaves to Christ."
Like the vine-dresser who has taken every pains to see that his vines are well watered, trained, and pruned, he leaves them in the evening, full of hope that they may be looking still better in the morning. But, lo! to his bitter disappointment, the destroyer has been amongst his vines-many are sadly nipped; one, to outward appearance, is ruined. While the keeper of the vineyard slept, the fox was accomplishing his work of devastation. Its sharp teeth had gnawed the stem to its core. The life-blood was running down. It was also stripped of its bark, the branches were broken, the leaves lay scattered on the ground, and the tender grapes were entirely gone. Alas, alas, it was one of his most flourishing vines. It had a goodly stem, well nourished in a rich soil, beneath the genial beams of a southern sun. Its blossom was beautiful, and it promised an abundant vintage. But in one night, in an evil hour, it fell a prey to the enemy. While the husbandman looked thus sorrowfully on his dismembered vine, the thought crossed his mind-thank God! the root remains. For even the foxes of hell may not burrow up the roots of any plant of the Father's planting. But such was the damage done to his hopeful vine, that for a long time to come, it would bear but little fruit.
The application is easy. In the secret of the divine presence, O my soul, study the lesson. Has God given thee a love for souls?-a pastor's heart? Oh! seek to win souls to Christ; and to shelter, nourish, and watch over the sheep and lambs of His fold. " Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof.... And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (I Pet. 5:1-10.)
Verse 16. "My beloved is mine, and I am his: he leadeth among the lilies." The happy spouse now speaks with full assurance, as to the possession of her object. She speaks of Him as her own. There is conscious possession of the object of her affections. " My beloved is mine." She does not say, " I hope He is," but says plainly, without a question, He is mine. When affection is real, the desire of the heart is to obtain possession of the object. For this it will persevere. Nothing less will satisfy the heart.
We have seen, in our Meditations, that the bride was in the full enjoyment of the blessings of His love. We have also listened to her speaking in admiring delight of His many and excellent qualities; still the heart was seeking after possession-relationship When the person is possessed, all his qualities and virtues are possessed. He Himself is mine. Thus will it be in the latter day. Christ will be for the remnant, and the remnant will be for Christ. " Thou shalt abide for me: thou shalt not be for another: so will I also be for thee." (Hosea But we are all slow of heart to believe. Again and again, He assures her of His admiring love, and of His great delight in her. The outpouring of His affection is wonderful. Even when she speaks of her blackness, His ready reply is, " O thou fairest among women." How could a doubt remain as to the purpose of His heart? Now she sees what is coming, relationship is anticipated, she can say with certainty-He is mine! Blessed triumph! Happy victory! "Jesus is mine." Now, she speaks not of the fruits of His love, or of His excellencies, but of Himself. All are included in the Person.
Couldst thou speak thus certainly, O my soul, as to the possession of any earthly object? Assuredly not. One might say, with a measure of truth, " This money is mine-this place is mine-this honor is mine-this happiness is mine." But how soon may all these things pass away from us, or we from them? Only when Christ is the object of the affections can it be truly said, " My beloved is mine." How often it has happened, that when we thought we had sure possession of that on which the heart had been set, it either eluded our grasp, or if, perchance, we got a hold, the long-looked-for object withered in the hand like a flower plucked from its stem, or if it bloomed for a while, our disappointment was the deeper when it perished. How many, alas, of the children of men, will have at last to take up a lamentation and say, " All I cared for, all I lived for, all I toiled for, all I sighed for, is not mine now, and never will be mine, never can be mine; for a morsel of meat I sold my birthright, and now all hope is perished, and I must go penniless and portionless forever!"
What a vain thing it is, for any of the sons or daughters of men to speak of " My" anything, as to this world! Supposing one could speak of everything that the world holds dear, as my riches, my influence, my power, my wisdom, my fame-what would they, what could they do for the soul, the nobler part of man? But oh! how different, when Christ-the well-beloved, is the object of desire-of affection! And when faith can say without the least misgiving-" Christ is mine-He is my beloved-and my beloved is mine "-mine now-mine to wash my sins away-mine to clothe me with the righteousness of God-mine to dwell in my heart by His Spirit-mine through life- mine in the swellings of Jordan-mine in heavenly glory! Yes, my soul, and more-much more! Mine to look to-mine to speak to-mine to care for me-mine to sympathize with me-mine to succor me-mine to close my pilgrim path-wind up my long and weary journey and take me up in the skirts of His cloudy chariot to be with Himself forever. Say, say, O my soul, is this-all this a suited portion for thee? is it enough for a poor, vile sinner?
Ah, who can weigh
The mines of treasure hidden in those words I
am my Savior's, and the Savior mine?
'What overwhelming prospects they reveal
Through ages yet to come! The spouse of Christ
Fears not to use them, glories in their use,
My Lord, my God, my Savior, my beloved!
But has she not his warrant? Said not Christ,
As me the Father loved, so loved I you?
And loved He not unto the end' His own
And claims He not from them one only gift-
That only gift their heart?
But ere leaving this blessed, precious, glorious subject, record thy wonder and astonishment that any of the sons and daughters of men should overlook, neglect, or despise this portion-this Christ-this well-beloved. " For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." All else is emptiness and vanity. And now, as the risen Man in glory, the heir of all things, He invites the poor and the needy, the rich and the noble, the young and the old, to come to Him, that they may share with Him His position, His riches, and His glory. " For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Rom. 10:1-131Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:1‑13)
On the other hand, many a dear, precious soul that truly loves the Lord and trusts in Him is afraid to say, " My beloved is mine." They think it would be presumptuous. Surely they forget that He says it first. And can it be presumptuous to affirm that His word is true? It is always more humble to be guided by His word, than by our own thoughts and feelings. But how came such to love Him? Just because He first loved them. " We love him," says John, "because he first loved us." We never anticipate Christ. The soul that really desires Christ and His salvation is in possession of both. It may refuse to believe it, but it is not the less true. He has already visited that soul in the riches of His grace. He creates the desire that He may satisfy it. He creates the love that He may meet it. He creates the faith that He may answer it. Every good thing cometh down from above. Nothing good can spring up in our hearts naturally. Nothing good can be planted there by the world or Satan. Everything that is good must come from above. And all this is wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Every good thought or desire comes from the Lord; so that we may truly say, to desire Christ is to have Him-to desire His salvation is to have it. Every soul that really desires to know Christ-to trust Him-love Him-serve Him-praise Him, shall surely know and enjoy Him-love, serve, and praise Him forever. Man may awaken expectations that he can never satisfy; he may induce love, and bitterly disappoint it; but not so the blessed Lord. He is the true God, His love is perfect. It has been fully manifested.
Be assured, then, dear fellow-believer, that He is ours-ours by the free gift of God: ours by the gift of Himself, so that we can say in all humility, " Jesus is mine," " My beloved is mine." May our souls be enabled to take a more comprehensive grasp of all that He is, and of all that He has for us!
"And I am his." Well she knows that she is His. He has often assured her heart of this precious truth. The bride is in the habit of saying what she thinks of her beloved to others; but He addresses herself directly. " O my love, my dove, my fair one." The dignity and glory of the Head are seen in Him. Is it not a truly blessed thought, (5 my soul, that the Christian belongs to no one but Christ-and is subject to nothing but Him? " Therefore let no man glory in men," says the apostle, " for all things are yours. Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come: all are yours. And ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (1 Cor. 3:21-2321Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:21‑23).) Precious truth! It is plainly stated. The word can never change. " Ye are Christ's." The individual soul can say, " I am his." Thus we honor God's word. We belong exclusively to Him. We are subject only to Him.
Moreover, it is also said, "All things are yours."
While we belong to no one but Christ, all things belong to us. " Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, " &c., &c. They are all in the place of servants to us, no longer as masters. Even death itself has lost the mastery. It is now to the believer, not a master, but a messenger of peace-his servant. It can no longer look on me as its prey; the world can no longer say I am its own; the enemy cannot say, I am his. That precious word settles all, " ye are Christ's," and no one's else. Oh! believe it-so believe it, as to follow Him alone. We are bought with a price. We are His by right of purchase-the price, His precious blood. But is it not enough, O my soul, to know that thou art His-His now, henceforth, and forever-His in time, and His through all eternity? Blessed Lord! it is enough. It is relief and rest to the heart, energy and power to the life, to know that thou art mine, that I am thine, and that I never can pertain to another. O my soul, meditate on these realities-ponder them closely. Though thou must now dismiss them for a season, return to them again. There is a living freshness to the soul in kindred love, in eternal relationship.
" He feedeth among the lilies." She remembers the name He gave her, " The Lily." This is happy-anything but presumptuous! Oh! that we might think more on the words which He uses, on the title which He gives. As " The Lily," she is the representative of all His people. In the largeness of her soul, she calls them all " lilies." Besides, she knows that " He feedeth among the lilies." He is to be found there. He finds His refreshment, satisfaction, and delight in the garden of lilies. Oh! to be used in gathering lilies into His garden, that He may find fresh delight, while yet He delays His coming.
Verse 17. " 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," (or division, margin). The full assurance of His love, and the happy enjoyment of Himself by faith, greatly increase her desire for the day of His glory. Then, "all shadows flee away." All types and shadows being fulfilled in Him, they pass away when He appears. Now, we see through a glass darkly; then, face to face. We shall see the same Jesus then as we see now, but the dim glass shall be removed. " We shall see him as he is." For Israel, the rising beams of the Sun of Righteousness shall chase away forever all the darkness of night, and all the gloom of their long and dreary winter. The flowers appear, the birds begin to sing, creation is filled with joy.
The exercise of faith and hope in these two verses is beautiful and instructive. In reply to His description of the millennial day of glory, and of the place she has in His heart (vers. 10-15), she thus expresses her faith, " My beloved is mine and I am his." And her hope " until the day break, and the shadows flee away." There is no question on her mind as to the day of glory being near. She only waits for its dawn, and she further knows, that before the brightness of that morning, every shadow must flee, away. "And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain." (2 Sam. 23:44And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. (2 Samuel 23:4).)
But " until " the dawn of that happy day, she prays her beloved to abide with her. She earnestly desires that she may have His gracious presence, and the comfort and sustainment of His love, " until " He appear Himself in glory. She clings to the Person of her Beloved. Happy fruit of a well-grounded faith and a " blessed hope."
" Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart among the mountains of Bether." She is still in the wilderness. Her trials are many. Like a country that is intersected with mountains and valleys, the pathway is difficult. She longs for her Beloved to come in power and glory, with the swiftness of the roe or the hart, on the mountains of division. What are the mountains and the valleys to the swift gazelle? They are as nothing. What are all the difficulties of Israel's full restoration to the Lord? They are as nothing. One gleam of His coming glory will strike terror into the hearts of their enemies, and prepare the way for " the ransomed of the Lord to return and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isa. 35:1010And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10).) Then, "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." (Isa. 11:4, 54But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. (Isaiah 11:4‑5).) But, " until " that long looked for moment arrive, she prays to be maintained in the enjoyment of His love, and encompassed with His favor as with a shield. Blessed combination! Happy fruits of grace! Faith, laying hold on the word-hope, looking out for the first streak of day -prayer, for the present enjoyment of His gracious purpose. She is pressing on, and would press through everything, that she may be actually with Himself.
Consider this, O my soul, meditate on these things. Is this thy condition? Having faith in the word of the Lord, art thou looking, longing, and waiting for His return? And is it thy constant prayer, to be maintained in His presence " until he come?" The hour immediately before the break of day is said to be the coldest and darkest hour of the night. So will it be with the remnant of Israel in the latter day. "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the day of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." (Jer. 30:77Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7).) But the first breath of morning will bring deliverance to the waiting, praying remnant, and destruction to their proud oppressors. " This know also," says the apostle, writing for the church, " that in the last days perilous times shall come." Happy they who are holding fast by the word-following the Lord and waiting for His coming. The last hour of the night may indeed be cold and dark, but heed it not, O my soul, weather it, watch, pray-the morning will soon break-abide in thy watchtower. Happy they who, with diligent, sleepless eye, catch the first radiance of the Morning Star!
" But ye, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." (Jude 2020But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, (Jude 20), 21.)