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Canticle 1 . Son_1:2-17 ; Son_2:1-7 .
The Assurance of Love.
The Bride. (2-7) .
2. Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.
The song opens with the voice of the bride. Her first words express the ardent longing of her heart for a pledge of the Bridegroom's love. This is not the language of a stranger to the Bridegroom, nor of one who is indifferent to his love. These are the words of one who has been attracted by the Bridegroom, and longs for, yet lacks, the assurance of his personal love.
At the close of this first canticle she obtains the desire of her heart, for she can say, with great delight, "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me." The desire expressed at the outset is realized at the end. She will have other lessons to learn in the course of the Song, but she has obtained the assurance and enjoyment of the Bridegroom's love. This then is the great theme of the first canticle - The way love takes to confirm the heart of the bride in the love of the Bridegroom.
To lack the assurance of the love of Christ is far indeed from true Christian experience, and yet at the outset of our history with God our souls are not always confirmed in the love of Christ. And when the assurance of His love is possessed it is not always enjoyed; and thus the language of the bride expresses the longing of many a child of God. But the enjoyment of the love of Christ is the secret of all true devotedness. As we trace the devoted life of the Apostle Paul, the persecutions he suffered, the perils he faced, and the hardships he endured, we ask, what was the hidden secret of this marvellous life? And we hear him answer, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Here was the hidden spring of his life, a heart kept in the assurance and enjoyment of Christ's individual love. How deeply important that our souls should be thoroughly assured of the love of Christ. There are other loves in this world, but His love alone can satisfy the heart, - "Let Him kiss me." For satisfaction of heart His love must be consciously known, and this is the import of the kiss, - "Let Him kiss me." But, further, His love must be known as an individual and personal love, "Let Him kiss me."
2. For thy love is better than wine.
3. Thine ointments savour sweetly;
Thy name is an ointment poured forth:
Therefore do the virgins love thee.
Addressing the Bridegroom, the bride discovers to us the secret of her desire for the assurance of His love. She has learnt the preciousness of His love and the excellence of His name. The thought of His love fills her heart with a deeper gladness than "wine which maketh glad the heart of man." His love is better than wine, and His name is like an ointment poured forth. It is the soul's discovery of the infinite worth of Christ that creates the longing for the assurance of His love. His love is better than all earthly joys, of which wine is but the symbol; and His name, when revealed, is like an ointment poured forth. In the Bethany scene of John 12 we see the happy result of the ointment poured forth. In the alabaster box the odour was confined, but when poured forth, "the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." Prophets, priests, and kings, had foretold the coming of Christ and the names He would bear, but in their day the odour of His name was confined, as it were, to the alabaster box. When, however, Christ became incarnate and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, then indeed His name was poured forth: then the name of Jesus stood revealed as the perfect expression of meekness, gentleness, patience, longsuffering, holiness, and love. Other names may stink in the nostrils of men by reason of the cruelty and wickedness of those that bear them, this name is fragrant with every grace. The odour of this name filled the little company gathered around Him on earth; it fills the courts of heaven with its fragrance; it will become excellent in all the earth; it will fill the new heavens and the new earth. But it is only the virgins - the pure in heart - who value His name, and appreciate His love. "Therefore do the virgins love thee." They love because of His love. "We love Him because He first loved us."
4. Draw me, we will run after thee!
- The King hath brought me into his chambers -
We will be glad and rejoice in thee,
We will remember thy love more than wine.
They love thee uprightly.
The preciousness of His love, and the excellence of His name, not only create the longing for the assurance of His love, but also the desire for His company. The bride expresses this desire, as, in company with the virgins, she says, "Draw me, we will run after Thee." She is loved into loving and drawn into running. And, thus drawn, the Bridegroom leads into the secret place of His presence - the chambers of the King. In due time the bride will be a worshipper of the King at His table (12), and yet a little later she will rest with infinite delight in the banqueting house of the King ( Cant. 2: 4 ); but first she must be a learner in the chambers of the King. In that secret place she forgets herself, rejoices in the Bridegroom, and remembers His love. There the King is loved with a pure love - they love Him uprightly. Thus it is that Christ becomes exceedingly attractive to our souls; He draws us after Him; He brings us into His presence, that, alone with Him, we may forget ourselves and rejoice only in Him and His love.
5. I am black, but comely, daughters of Jerusalem,
As the tents of Kedar,
As the curtains of Solomon.
In the presence of the Bridegroom, the bride can only rejoice in Him and His love; but, as the result of having been in the King's chambers, she gets a true estimate of herself, so that before others she owns her true condition. Discovering what we are in the presence of all that Christ is, we can use the language of the bride and say, "I am black," - black as the tents of Kedar. But if we learn what we are in the presence of Him who is the King, we also learn what His grace has made us, and thus while owning we are black we can also add, "but comely" like the beautiful curtains of Solomon's temple. These are lessons that all God's people have to learn. In the presence of God, Job had to say, "I am vile." In the sanctuary, the psalmist had to say, "I was as a beast before Thee." In the presence of the glory, Isaiah says, "I am unclean"; and, as a result of being in the chambers of the King, the bride has to own, "I am black." The soul will be restless and the assurance and the enjoyment of the love of Christ be lacking, until, in the secret chambers of the King, we have learnt these three great truths: (1) The infinite worth of Christ and His love: (2) the utter vileness of all that we are by nature; and (3) the comeliness His grace has put upon us.
6. Look not upon me, because I am black;
Because the sun hath looked upon me.
My mother's children were angry with me:
They made me keeper of the vineyards;
Mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Having seen the King in His beauty and herself in her blackness, she has no desire to attract attention to herself. If she speaks of herself, it is not to draw attention to herself. "Look not upon me," she says, "because I am black." The heat of this world's trials, persecution from those that were nearest to her, slavery in the vineyards of others and neglect of her own things had, all left their mark upon her. And in like manner, having discovered our blackness in the light of Christ's perfection, we realize that we are no pattern for others. As we think of our many failures under fiery trials, how often we have broken down in the presence of the opposition of men of the world, how much we have slaved in the world's vineyards, and how much we have neglected our own things, are we not constrained to say with the bride, "Look not upon me?" And yet how often our words and ways betray the vanity of our hearts which practically says, "Look upon me." The effort to attract to ourselves tells how little we have been in the chambers of the King.
7. Tell me, thou whom my soul loveth,
Where thou feedest (thy flock),
Where thou makest it to rest at noon;
For why should I be as one that turneth aside
Beside the flocks of thy companions?
The bride, who has been speaking to the daughters of Jerusalem now turns to the Bridegroom - the one whom she loves. Questions may arise in her heart as to His love for one who is so black, but she has no doubt as to her love for the King. ,She does not say, "Thou whom my soul ought to love," or even "desires to love," but "Thou whom my soul loveth." And loving Him she desires to feed where He feeds and rest where He rests. Attracted by His love she has no desire to turn aside. And so with ourselves, it is the love of Christ filling the heart, that alone can keep us from turning aside. And yet, alas, have we not each to confess that too often, we are "as one that turneth aside" to seek our food and rest in earthly things. And then we wonder why we make such little progress, and yet, if feeding on the husks of this poor world, the wonder would be if we made any spiritual growth. The philosophy, science and literature of this world will not attract, still less feed, the souls of the lovers of Christ. If we truly say, "Thou whom my soul loveth," we shall surely desire the heavenly food and the divine rest; and the ardent desire for spiritual food is the best antidote against turning aside to earthly supplies.
The Bridegroom. (8 - 11).
8. If thou know not, thou fairest among women,
Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,
And feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
Here for the first time we hear the Bridegroom's voice. He addresses the bride as the "fairest among women." Black in her own sight she may be, hated too and persecuted by others, but in His sight she is the "fairest among women." Nothing will alter Christ's estimate of His people. Neither the failure of the saints, nor the slander of the world, will alter His appreciation of His own. He ever views them in all the value of His own work, and according to the counsels of His grace. Would we know where to find food and rest for our souls we must follow in the footsteps of the flock. Christ has His flock and His shepherds in this world. And Christ, the chief Shepherd of the sheep, leads His flock into green pastures. Would we be fed, then let us follow in the footsteps of the flock. But there is further instruction for the bride. Let her feed the lambs beside the shepherd's tents, and in feeding others she will herself be fed. What is this but the anticipation of that last scene in the gospel of John with the Lord's touching words to a restored backslider, "Follow Me," and "Feed my lambs." To feed the lambs we must follow Christ, and if we follow Christ we shall delight to feed the lambs. The secret of obtaining rest and food for our souls is found in following Christ and feeding His lambs.
9. I compare thee, my love,
To a steed in Pharaoh's chariots.
10. Thy cheeks are comely with bead-rows,
Thy neck with ornamental chains.
11 We will make thee bead-rows of gold
With studs of silver.
Having answered her questions, the Bridegroom is free to express the thoughts of His heart concerning the bride. Like a horse in Pharaoh's chariot, adorned with all the trappings of royalty, so the bride was comely, in His sight, with the beauty He had put upon her; as the Lord can say, by the mouth of Ezekiel, "I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck" ( Eze_16:11 ). Does not Christ delight to unfold His thoughts of love towards His own? And more, to let us into the secret of things which God hath prepared for them that love Him - things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man? And so the Bridegroom not only expresses His present delight in the bride, but lets her into the secret of all the glory that is purposed for her, "We will make thee bead-rows of gold with studs of silver," doubtless referring to the crown she shall yet wear. There is the present comeliness in which Christ sees His people - for as He is so are we in this present world; and there is the future glory in which the saints will be displayed, when the marriage of the Lamb is come. Beautiful are the saints in His sight even now, but the crowning day is coming by and by.
12. While the king is at his table,
My spikenard sendeth forth its fragrance.
13. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me;
That passeth the night between my breasts.
14. My beloved is unto me a cluster of henna-flowers
In the vineyards of Engedi.
The glowing thoughts of the Bridegroom for the bride calls forth her immediate response. While the King sitteth at his table, the worship of her heart ascends as a sweet odour. The King at his table gives us a lovely picture of Christ in the midst of His own. Not Christ with the girded loins, in lowly service, washing sin-soiled feet; not Christ as the Captain of the Lord's host leading His own in the fight with the powers of evil; not Christ with the tears of divine compassion comforting a sorrowing heart, but Christ at rest, finding joy and delight in the midst of His own. Not Bethany with its sorrow, but Bethany with its feasting - that happy moment when loving hearts "made Him a supper." It was not often in this sad world that any one made a supper for Him. Once in the house of Levi a feast was made that Christ might bless poor sinners, and once in the home at Bethany that Christ might commune with saints. There at last they spread a feast for Him who spread a feast for all the world. There the King sat at His table, and there the spikenard of the bride sent forth its fragrance. It was blessed to sit at His feet as a learner and hear His word, but Mary's spikenard sent forth no fragrance there. It was blessed to fall at His feet in the day of sorrow and receive the comfort of His tears, but it drew no fragrant spikenard from Mary's broken heart. But when the King sat at His table in the midst of His own, - no longer sustaining them in the pathway, comforting them in their sorrows, dealing with their weakness or correcting their mistakes, but now resting in His love in holy communion and intimacy with His own, - then indeed the suited moment had come to bring forth the alabaster box and pour out the precious spikenard upon the King, and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. It is the presence of the King at His table that calls forth the worship of His own. Only a heart set free from its sorrows, and its exercises, and busy service, can worship in the presence of the King.
To learn at His feet is good, but learning is not worship. To be comforted by His tears of sympathy is sweet, but comfort is not worship. In learning, I am conscious of my ignorance, in comfort, I am thinking of my sorrow. But when we spread a feast for Christ - when the King sits at His table - it is no time for instruction or comfort. There we leave our sorrows, our ignorance, our daily cares behind, and at His supper, He alone engrosses the mind and holds the affections; and when the heart is filled with Christ we worship - "Our spikenard sendeth forth its fragrance."
Worship is the overflow of a heart filled with Christ. When Christ fills the heart we can say, in the language of the bride, "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me." The myrrh speaks of Christ, but not Christ as an object before our gaze, but Christ dwelling in the heart by faith. Myrrh does not attract by its beauty' like the flower. It is a resin precious by reason of its sweet odour. The myrrh, too, is wrapped in a bundle; it is unseen but its fragrance is enjoyed. Such was the beloved to the bride, and such is Christ to the believer when dwelling in his heart by faith. And, says the bride, the bundle of myrrh shall lie all night between my breasts. All through the darkness of this world's night, until the dawn of endless day, the believer has Christ enshrined in the secret of his affections.
But further, the bride likens the Bridegroom to the beauty of a cluster of henna-flowers in the vineyards of Engedi. She would delight in her beloved in the secret of her affections, but she would also enjoy him as the object of her enraptured gaze. So too we need Christ not only dwelling in the heart by faith, but as the attractive Object of our souls, that gazing upon Him with unveiled face we may behold the glory of the Lord and be changed into the same image from glory to glory.
We need Christ to draw forth the fragrance of the spikenard at the feast; we need Christ as the bundle of myrrh throughout the long dark night; and we need Christ as the cluster of flowers in the vineyards of Engedi enshrined, as it were, in His own glory.
16. Behold, thou art fair, my love,
Behold, thou art fair: thou hast doves' eyes.
The spikenard of the bride has sent forth its fragrance, expressive of her delight in the Bridegroom; now he expresses his delight in the bride. She had said, "I am black," but the Bridegroom says, "Behold thou art fair." Christ, ever viewing His people in the light of His purpose, and on the ground of His work, can say of each one, "Thou art fair." Thus the Apostle John can write, "As He is so are we, in this world." Moreover, the King adds, "Thou hast doves' eyes." The dove mourns and languishes when separated from its mate. Hezekiah could say in his sickness, "I did mourn as a dove." The dove has no eye but for its loved object; and it is those who have before them one object - and that object Christ - of whom He can say, "Thou hast doves' eyes."
16. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea pleasant;
Also our bed is green.
17. The beams of our houses are cedars,
Our rafters are firs.
The Bridegroom had said, "Behold, thou art fair, my love"; and with great delight the bride at once responds, "Behold, thou art fair, my beloved" Her comeliness is the counterpart of his. Is Christ fair? So are His people. The beauty of the Lord God is upon us ( Psa_90:17 ). But not only does the bride say, "Thou art fair," but she can add, "Yea, pleasant." Of others it may be said, many are "fair" that are not "pleasant," and some are pleasant that are not fair. Christ is not only fair to look upon, but He is wholly pleasant to engage the thoughts. How "pleasant" was Christ to the Psalmist when he said, ''My heart is welling forth with a good matter"; and how "fair" when he added, "Thou art fairer than the children of men." Well we may sing,
"Each thought of Thee doth constant yield
Unchanging fresh delight."
But more. Not only is the King "fair" and "pleasant," but in his presence there is rest, security, and shelter. "Our bed is green." The bed refers to the couch on which the King and the bride recline at the King's table, and gives the thought of rest. When Christ takes His place in the midst of His own there is found a green spot in this barren world. In His presence there is rest. But it is "our" bed, the rest is mutual. "I with Him, and He with me." In His presence, too, we shall find security and shelter. "The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters fir." The "beams" support the building and make it secure, the rafters support the roof and make it a place of shelter. In the presence of the King we have security and shelter. What kind of setting has the Bethany scene, when the King sits at His table? Immediately before we read of the great ones of the earth consulting to put the King to death, immediately after Judas covenants to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. Outside the storm is rising, inside there is shelter and security from the coming storm. One, indeed, will find fault with Mary, but at once the sheltering care of the Lord is seen: "Let her alone, she hath done what she could." No power of the enemy can touch the one of whom the King says "Let her alone."
"In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me.
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?"
These files are public domain.
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29