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Song of Solomon 3:1-3
I sought Him, but I found Him not.
Hidings of God
Prophetically these verses may be taken as delineating the sorrow of the first disciples at the departure of Christ from the earth. Between Easter Day and Pentecost the infant Church was very much as here described. We would not, however, limit the application of this passage to the apostolic age. It has its fulfilment, we believe, again and again. The leading idea is that of a temporary estrangement, real or imaginary, between Christ and His people, during which they seek Him but cannot find Him.
I. There would be nothing remarkable in the Redeemer denying the consolations of His Presence to those who were careless about Him. The remarkable point suggested by the text is that there is such a thing as desiring ,God and being disappointed. Now it would seem to be an ordinary feature in God s providence to withdraw occasionally from the saints, in order to increase that very craving after Him which He declines to gratify. He suspends His operations in their behalf until what we call the last moment (John 2:4; John 6:5-6). Again and again have dangers and distresses thickened round about the Church. The heathen have furiously raged together. The kings of the earth have stood up, and the rulers taken counsel together. The tyranny of despotic monarchs has well-nigh crushed the Church at some periods: at others, heresies have prevailed so widely that the whole community has appeared tainted. This was the case with Arianism in the fourth century. They who maintained sound doctrine cried unto the Lord, and apparently in vain. They sought Him, but they found Him not. And this is no solitary instance. How often has it happened with those who have gone to bear the cross into heathen lands! They have laboured and toiled, and caught nothing. For months and years they have preached, and made no converts. Nor is it difficult to perceive that all this is a discipline to the souls of the faithful; nay, not only a discipline, but a test of the reality of their faith. How could the fervour of a man’s heart be proved, if he was heard at the first petition? How could the depth of the soul’s yearning after the Divine Being be manifested, if He was to be found as soon as sought for? Again, it is not unusual to find persons complaining that they are at times quite unable to experience pleasure or consolation in religious exercises. They go through the service of the Church without once being able to realize the presence of God, or the solemnity of what they are about. Their hearts respond not to the words of thanksgiving or of prayer. Everything seems heavy, wearisome, and cold. People are frequently discouraged when they find their souls thus chilled and lifeless--utterly unable to rise to the level of their work; but if you get possessed of the principle which we are illustrating, there will be no need for this discouragement. We are not always to blame when we are listless and cold in Church. If we do not try or desire to be otherwise, of course the fault is our own; but if we try to be devout and cannot, it may be only that God is dealing with us--that He is subjecting us to a discipline which He sees necessary. For example, He may be teaching us not to rely upon warm emotions--not to build overmuch upon feelings, however good.
II. Now from the foregoing considerations there flows a very solemn thought. We have said that, as well to individuals as to the Christian Church at large, the Redeemer applies a sort of discipline in modifying at times or altogether withholding the consolations of His Presence. What follows? Why, that He must personally engage Himself about every soul. The spirit of each man and woman is a separate planet in the spiritual system whose summer and winter, whose storms and sunshine are regulated by Deity alone. Hence the full meaning of that passage in which Christ Jesus is called the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. It intimates that the human soul is so fine and subtle a thing that none but He can supervise and tend it. From the moment of our new birth He takes us in hand. Every trial and temptation has been appointed by Him; every annoyance and disaster has been weighed out by Him. His seat is in heaven, yet is His hand upon each one of us. He shrouds Himself from the gaze of the seraphim, but He is about the path and bed of every child in this assembly. And this is what we would have you learn secondarily from the text, “I sought Him, but I found Him not.” His withdrawing Himself is a proof of His individual care. When anything happens out of the common course, it speaks to us of God. When with all our exertions we fail to find Christ, it is evidence that He is working in and about us. We recur to the main lesson involved in what has been said, which we desire especially to enforce. It is this. We are not to expect to find always great delight in the path of duty; we are not to be anxious about our feelings, if our actions are right. Daily service and weekly communion will often be attended coldly, and as we fear without heart. It must be so. It is the tendency of repetition to diminish ecstatic emotions; still we are to go on steadfastly on our road. The spiritual life is very like the natural, it has its bright days and its gloomy, its calm and its storm, its hours of exultation and depression. Let us take each as it comes, doing our work in each with care and sobriety and perseverance. Yet a little while and these variations shall be no more. We are travelling onward to a land where the sun never goes down, and the noise of the waterfloods is never heard. (Bp. Woodford.)
Song of Solomon 3:3
The Watchmen that go about the city.
The ministers of the Gospel are called watchmen, either in allusion to shepherds, who watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8); or else, to watchmen in cities as here; and their work may be considered:
1. With regard to themselves; they are to watch over themselves as well as others; they are to watch over their conversations, that they be as become the Gospel they preach, and so that they may give no ill examples to others, nor cause the ways and doctrines of Christ to be evil spoken of, and render their ministry useless; they are to watch over their doctrines, and take heed that they be agreeable to the oracles, of God; and they deliver nothing but the “wholesome words of Christ Jesus,” and such as may be for the edifying of their hearers, and suitable to the cases of souls; they are to watch all opportunities to preach this gospel, as the apostle says (2 Timothy 4:2), to “be instant in season and out of season;” and then they are to watch and observe the success of it, and how it is blessed and made useful to souls: moreover they ought to have a very great guard upon themselves; for if the enemy can but surprise, decoy, or corrupt them, it turns much to his advantage.
2. With regard to others, their work is,
(1) To give the time of night, as in (Isaiah 21:11-12).
(2) To give notice of approaching dangers.
They are to give notice of the danger that sinners are in, who are walking in the broad road to destruction; and also the dangers that churches may be in through errors and heresies springing up among them, as well as by indulging themselves in any vicious practices, which they are severely to cheek and reprehend. Now, this work requires vigilance, prudence, courage, and faithfulness; and also shows the necessity and usefulness of the public ministry, which can no more be dispensed with than watchmen in a city; and likewise what care the Lord has of His churches, in placing such officers in them, as well as the awfulness of the work they are concerned in; for if the watchman does not discharge his duty, the blood of those he has to do with will be required of him. (John Gill, D. D.)
Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?--
Objects of a Christian’s love
I. The object of a Christian’s love may easily be identified. Who should be the object of a Christian’s love but Christ? We wear His name, profess His religion, believe His Bible.
II. The existence of a Christian’s love should be personally known to ourselves. It must not be a theory, but a realization. Do we love Him more than the world or the creature?
III. The object of a Christian’s love should be openly and publicly avowed. It is not to be a secret thing, for he who is ashamed of his Master’s livery is unworthy of Him.
IV. The flame of a Christian’s love to Christ should be strong and vigorous. “My soul loveth Him.” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” etc. It will prompt to inquiry and earnestness.
V. The Christian’s love to Christ is not always satisfied. The Master sometimes hides His face. There may be some cause of the Saviour’s withdrawing--wandering in sinful paths, sinful company, etc.
VI. The Christian’s unsatisfied love will produce in his soul greater activity and zeal. (Homilist.)
Song of Solomon 3:4-5
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found Him whom my soul loveth: I held Him and would net let Him go.
The real presence, the great want of the Church
As God, Jesus is everywhere; as man, He is only in heaven; as God and man in one person, Mediator and Head of the Church, He is present with us by the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, whom the Father has sent in His Name. This presence, not a bodily but a spiritual presence, is the glory of the Church of God. When she is without it she is shorn of her strength; when she possesses it all good things ensue.
I. Before ever we can bring the Well-Beloved into our mother’s house, the Church, we must find Him personally for ourselves, “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found Him whom my soul loveth.” How can we bring into the chamber of the Church Him whom we have not yet met with ourselves? How can we communicate grace to others instrumentally unless, first of all, we have received it into our own hearts? If thou wouldst bring Christ into the Church which thou lovest, then, first of all, thine inmost soul must so love Christ that thou canst not live without His company. This must be thy cry: “Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?” and this must be the goal of thine aspirations:” I have found Him whom my soul loveth.” It must not be talk, it must be soul-love; it must not be a profession of affection for Jesus, but the inmost bowels of our being must be moved by His Name. These ardent lovers of Jesus must diligently seek Him. The spouse sought Him, sought Him on her bed, sought Him in the streets, sought Him in the broadways, sought Him at last at the lips of the watchmen, sought Him everywhere where He was likely to be found. In seeking our Lord we must use all ministries. The spouse inquired of the watchmen. We are not to despise God’s servants, for He is usually pleased to bless us through them, and it would be ungrateful both to Him and to them to pass them by as useless. But, while we use the ministries, we must go beyond them. Do not imagine that hearing the truth preached simply and earnestly will of itself be a blessing to your souls. Far, far beyond the servant, pass to the Master. Be this the longing of each heart, each Sabbath day, “Lord, give me fellowship with Thyself.” Note that we must search to the very utmost till we find our Beloved. The Christian must leave no stone unturned till he gets back his fellowship with Christ. If any sin obstructs the way, it must be rigorously given up; if there be any neglected duty, it must be earnestly discharged; if there be any higher walk of grace, which is necessary to continuous fellowship, we must ascend it, fearing no hill of difficulty. Oh, for more Enochs, men who walk with God, whose habitual spirit is that of close communion with Jesus, meditating upon Him, yea, more than that, sympathizing with Him, drinking in His spirit, changed into His likeness, living over again His life, because He is in them, the monarch of their souls.
II. If we would be a blessing to the Church, and have already found Christ, we must take care to retain Him. “I have found Him whom my soul loveth; I held Him, and I would not let Him go.” How comparatively easy it is to climb to the top of Pisgah! It needs but a little effort; many bold and gracious spirits are fully equal to it. But to keep there, to abide in that mountain, this is the difficulty. Mark that, according to the text, it is very apparent that Jesus will go away if He be not held. “I held Him and I would not let Him go”; as if He would have gone if He had not been firmly retained. When He met with Jacob that night at the Jabbok, He said, “Let me go.” He would not go without Jacob s letting Him, but He would have gone if Jacob had loosed his hold. He will go unless you hold Him. But note, next, He is very willing to be held. Who could hold Him if He were not? He is the Omnipotent Saviour, and if He willed to withdraw He could do so: let us hold Him as we might. But mark His condescension. Jesus is willing enough to be retained by hearts which are full of His love. And whenever you have Christ remember that you are able to hold Him. She who held Him in the Song was no stronger than you are; she was but a feeble woman, poorly fed under the Old Testament dispensation; you have drunk the new wine of the new covenant, and you are stronger than she. You can hold Him, and He will not be able to go from you. Embrace Him with the arms of mighty affection, enchain Him with ardent admiration. Lay hold upon Him by faith, and clasp Him with love. Be also much in prayer. Prayer casts a chain about Him. He never leaves the heart that prays. Hold Him, too, by your obedience to Him. Never quarrel with Him. Let Him have His way. Watch His words; be careful to obey them all. Be very tender in your conduct, so that nothing grieves Him. Show to Him that you are ready to suffer for His sake.
III. It appears from the text that, after the spouse had thus found Christ for herself and held Him, she brought Him into the church--“I brought Him to my mother’s house.” We ought lovingly to remember the Church of God. By the Holy Spirit we were begotten unto newness of life, but it was in the Church, and through the preaching of the Word there, that we were brought into the light of life. Did I hear a harsh but honest voice exclaim, “But I find much fault with the Church”? If thou lovest her, thou wilt go backward and east a mantle over all. But suppose thy candour is compelled to see faults in her; then there is so much the more need of her Lord’s presence in her to cure those faults. The more sickly she is, the more she wants Him to be her strength and her physician. I say, therefore, to thee, dear friend, above all things, seek to bring Christ into an imperfect Church, and a weak Church, and an erring Church, that she may become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. The saints can bring Him in by their testimony. I hope that often Christ is here when I have borne testimony to you of His power to save, of His atoning blood, of His exaltation in Heaven, of the perfection of His character, and of His willingness to save. But others can do it by their prayers. There is a mysterious efficacy in the prayers of men who dwell near to God. Even if they were compelled to keep their beds, and do nothing but pray, they would pour benedictions upon the Church. Wrestling prayers bring Christ into the innermost chambers of the Church of God. And there is no doubt that Christ is often brought into the Church by the example of those eminent saints who abide in Christ. You know what I mean. There is a very manner and air about some Christian men which honours Christ, and benefits His people. They may not be gifted in speech, but their very spirit speaks, they are so gentle, loving, tender, earnest, truthful, upright, gracious. Their paths, like the paths of God Himself, drop fatness.
IV. This leads me to the last point, which is this, to charge the Church that she be careful not to disturb the Lord’s repose, if we have been enabled by Divine Grace to bring the Lord into the chambers of our mother’s house (verse 5). Observe, then, that the Lord Jesus in His Church is not indifferent to the conduct of His people. The Lord Jesus Christ, looking around His Church, if He sees anything evil in it, will do one of two things; either He will go right away from His Church because the evil is tolerated there, and He will leave that Church to be like Laodicea, to go on from bad to worse, till it becomes no Church at all; or else He will come and He will trim the lamp, or, to use the figure of the fifteenth of John, He will prune the vine-branch, and with His knife will cut off this member, and the other, and cast them into the fire; while, as for the rest, He will cut them till they bleed again, because they are fruit-bearing members, but they have too much wood, and He wants them to bring forth more fruit. It is not a trifling matter to be in the Church of God. God’s fire is in Zion and His furnace in Jerusalem. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Love’s vigilance rewarded
I. Before we actually come to our text, we may notice three preliminary steps in the spouse’s progress.
1. The first one is implied in the words, “I love Him.” She refers to her Beloved under the title of “Him whom my soul loveth.” Can you give the Lord Jesus that title?
2. Then, in the spouse’s progress, there came another step, “I sought Him.” Can you put your finger on that sentence and say,. “That is true, too”? Have you been seeking Him this Sabbath day? Are you coming to His table to-night seeking Him?
3. Then comes in a little minor or mournful music, for the next clause is, “I sought Him, but I found Him not.” The spouse is so sad about it that the tells out her woe twice, “I sought Him, but I found Him not.” Do you know that experience? I hope you are not realizing it at this time; but many of us have known what it is. Our Lord Jesus Christ would not have us think little of His company; and, sometimes, it is only as we miss it that we begin to appreciate the sweetness of it. If we always had high days and holidays, we might not be so thankful when our gala days come round.
II. Inside the text, there are three further steps: “I found Him,” “I held Him,” “I brought Him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.”
1. This is the first of the second series of steps, “I found Him.” I do not wish to stand here and speak for myself, alone; but I want, beloved, that you should each one of you also say, “I love Him,” “I sought Him,” and now, “I have found Him.” What is meant by the words, “I found Him”? Well, I think a soul may say, I found Him, in the sense employed in the text, when first of all it has a clear view of His Person. My Beloved is Divine and human, the Son of God, and yet the Son of man. Let your soul picture Him so plainly that you can seem to see Him, for this will be a part of your finding Him. But that will not be enough; you must then get to know that He is present with you. We cannot see Him, but yet He that walketh amidst the golden candlesticks is, in spirit, in this house of prayer at this moment. If you can get that thought fully into your minds, that Christ is really here in our midst, you can then each one begin to say, “I have found Him.” But you want more than that, namely, to feel that He loves you, loves you as if there were nobody else for Him to love, loves you even as the Father loves Him. That is a daring thing to say, and I should never have said it if He had not first uttered it; but He says, “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you.”
2. Now we come to the second step. The spouse says, I held Him. This is a deeper experience than the former one; “I held Him” means more than “I found Him.” How are we to hold Christ? Well, first, let us hold Him by our heart’s resolve. Get you to Jacob’s boldness when he said to the Angel of the Covenant, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me”; but go even beyond that, do not put in any “except” at all, but say, “I will not let Thee go, for I cannot be blessed if Thou art gone from me.” Further, brethren, hold Him by making Him your all in all. Yield up everything to Him, be obedient to Him, be willing to suffer for Him, grieve not His Holy Spirit, crown Him, extol Him, magnify Him, keep on singing His praises, for so will you hold Him. Hold Him, too, by a simple faith. That is a wonderful hold-fast. One word more before we leave this point. The only way to hold Christ is to hold Him by His own power. Think of poor Jacob, who, when the angel did but touch him, felt his sinews shrink directly, yet he said, “I will not let thee go.” And I, a poor trembling creature, may hold the Omnipotent Himself, and say to Him, “I will not let Thee go.” How is that wonder to be accomplished? I will tell you. If Omnipotence helps you to hold Omnipotence, why, then, the deed is done! If Christ, and not you alone, holds Christ, then Christ is held indeed, for shall He vanquish His own Self?
3. The next step is described in the words, “I brought Him.” With this we finish: “I brought Him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.” And where, I pray you, is our mother’s house? I do not believe in any reverence for mere material buildings; but I have great reverence for the true Church of the Living God. The Church is the House of God, and the mother of our souls. How can you bring Christ to His Church? Partly, you can bring Him by your spirit. If you have really found Christ, and bring Him with you into the assembly, you will not be the man who will criticize, and find fault, and quarrel with your neighbour because he does not give you enough room in the pew. You will not be the person to pick holes in other people’s coats; but you will be very considerate of others. As for yourself, anything will do for you, and anywhere will do for you, for you have seen the Beloved. You want other people to get as much good as they can; you are no longer selfish; how can you be, when you have found Him whom your soul loveth? And now your poor brother need not be very choice in the selection of his words; if he will only talk about Jesus, you will be quite satisfied; if his accents should be a little broken, you will not mind that. So long as you feel that he wishes to extol your Lord, that will be enough for you. So, in this manner, you will in spirit bring the Beloved to your mother’s house, to the chamber of her that conceived you. But, dear friend, it will also be a happy thing if you are able to talk about your Lord, for then you can bring Him to the Church with your words. But if, alas! you feel that you cannot speak for Christ, then, beloved, bring Him by your prayers. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Song of Solomon 3:6-11
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness?
The royal pair in their glorious chariot
Great princes in the East are in the habit of travelling in splendid palanquins, which are at the same time chariots and beds. The person reclines within, screened by curtains from public view; a bodyguard protects the equipage from robbers, and blazing torches light up the path along which the travellers proceed. King Solomon, in this Song, describes the Church of Christ, and Christ Himself, as travelling through the world in such a palanquin. The day is coming when both our Divine Lord and His chosen bride shall be revealed in glory before the eyes of all men.
I. The magnificent progress, the glorious on-going of the Church and her Lord through the world (Song of Solomon 3:6). The equipage excites the attention of the onlooker; his curiosity is raised, and he asks, “Who is this?” The true Church of God is a stranger and pilgrim still; an alien and a foreigner in every land; a speckled bird; a dove in the midst of ravens; a lily among thorns. The ignorance of men concerning spiritual things is not, however, caused by the darkness of the things themselves, for Christ and His Church are the great lights of the world. When great personages travelled in their palanquins, and more especially in marriage processions, they were attended by a number of persons who, at night, carried high up in the air burning cressets which gave forth a blaze of light. Sometimes these lights were simply torches carried in the hands of running footmen; at other times they were a sort of iron basket lifted high into the air, upon poles, from which went up a pillar of smoke and flame. Our text says, “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke?” a beautiful illustration of the fact that wherever Christ and His cause are carried, light is a sure accompaniment. High lift your lamps, ye servants of our Lord. High lift up the Cross of the Redeemer; for in Him is light, and the light is the life of men. But you will tell me that our text rather speaks of “pillars of smoke” than of sparkling lamps. The smoke is but the effect of the flame, and even the pillar of smoke is luminous. What is the smoke that has attended the Church? What but the deaths of her martyrs, the sufferings of her confessors, the patient endurance of her valiant sons? Wherever she goes, the thick smoke of her suffering goeth up to Heaven. It often happens that Oriental monarchs of immense possessions are not content with burning common coals in these cressets, but frequently consume sandalwood and other woods which give forth a delightful smell; or else, if they use ordinary coals, they sprinkle upon them frankincense and myrrh, so that a delicious perfume is spread on all sides. In the olden times, they also went to great expense in obtaining drugs, which the merchants collected from all parts of the earth, and these were carefully compounded into the renowned “powders of the merchants,” which yielded a delicious variety of delicate perfumes, not to be produced by any one aromatic essence. Our inspired poet describes the travelling procession of the royal pair, and fails not to dwell upon the delightful perfume of myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant, “which make the wilderness smell as a garden of roses.” Wherever the Church of Christ proceeds, though her pathway is a desert, though she marches through a howling wilderness, she scatters the richest perfume. Among the ten wonders which Jewish tradition ascribes to the temple, we find that the rain never extinguished the fire of the wood which was laid in order upon the altar, nor did the wind ever conquer the pillar of smoke so as to disperse or bend it. Verily it is so with the Church of God, as she cometh out of the wilderness: who shall quench her flaming lamp, or stay the incense of her golden censers. Ride on, Great Prince, and bear Thy spouse with Thee in Thy majestic chariot, till Thou hast lit the world with Thy Divine light, and hast made it a temple filled with a cloud of incense of sweet smell to the nostrils of Jehovah!
II. The security of Christ’s Church at all times. Of course when travelling through a wilderness, a royal procession was always in danger of attack. Arabs prowled around; wandering Bedouins were always prepared to fall upon the caravan; and more especially was this the case with a marriage procession, because then the robbers might expect to obtain many jewels, or, if not, a heavy ransom for the redemption of the bride or bridegroom by their friends. What shall I say of the attacks which have been made upon the Church of Christ, and upon Christ Himself? They have been incessant. We know that Christ’s cause in the world is always safe because of Divine protection, and because the lemons of God’s angels keep watch and ward over the saints. But we have something more tangible than this. Our gracious God has been pleased to commit unto men the ministry of Christ. “Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” The Lord ordaineth that chosen men should be the protectors of His Church; not that they have any power as of themselves to do anything, but He girdeth the weak with strength and maketh the feeble mighty; so then, men, even the sons of men stand in array around the travelling palanquin of Christ, to guard both the bridegroom and the bride. Read the 7th and 8th verses carefully, and you will notice that there are enough swordsmen. “Threescore valiant men are about it.” There are always enough men chosen of God to guard the Church. Observe that these warriors are men of the right mettle. “Yes,” says poor trembling Little-Faith, “we have hosts of men, but they are not like, the great-hearts of old; they have not the qualifications which the age requires.” Ah! but remember, about the bed of Solomon there are “threescore valiant men;” and glory be unto my Master, while I may not flatter the ministry, I must not dishonour Him by believing that He has left His Church without valiant defenders. “Ah!” I think I hear you say, “but though there may be so many men, and men of the right sort, I am afraid they are not in the right place.” Look again at the text. It is written, “Threescore valiant men are about it”; that is, there are some on that side, and some on this, some before, and some behind; they are all round the travelling chariot of Christ. “I wish there might be one in our parish,” says one. Pray for Him, and He who has promised to send you all good things may yet send him to you. Notice that these men are all well armed. “They all hold swords.” What swords are these? Every valiant man in Christ’s Israel holds the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Besides this, and here is an opportunity for you all to carry swords--every valiant man in God’s Israel carries the sword of prayer, which is comparable to those huge two-handed swords of the olden time, which the soldier lifted up and brought down with such tremendous force as to cleave a man in halves: prayer is a weapon which no man can effectually resist. Further, these men are not only well armed, but they are well trained. They are all expert in war; men who have endured temptations themselves; men whose souls have been exercised; men who have slain both the lion and the bear, and are men of war from their youth. Further, these men were not only well trained, but you will see that they were always ready. Each man has his sword upon his thigh, ready to be drawn forth. Observe also that these men were watchful, for “they had their sword on their thigh because of fear in the night.” They never sleep, but watch always for the Church’s interest. Pray ye that the Lord may raise up many such, who night and day with tears shall watch for the souls of men, and against the enemies of our Israel.
III. The excellency of this chariot in which Jesus rides. It is not difficult to convey to persons the most unacquainted with Eastern manners and customs, an idea of what this palanquin is. It is a sort of large sedan in which one or two persons may recline with ease. Of course, this palanquin could not be made of gold or silver, because then it would be too heavy for carriage; it must be made of wood; hence King Solomon made a bed, or chariot, or palanquin, of the wood of Lebanon. Then there needs to be four pillars supporting the covering and the curtains; the pillars thereof are of silver. The bottom of it should be something massive, in order to sustain the weight of the person; the bottom thereof is of gold. The canopy on the top is a covering of purple. Since to lie on gold would be very unpleasant, it is covered with delicate, daintily wrought carpets; and so we have the bottom thereof paved, or rather carpeted with love for the daughters of Jerusalem. Some delicate devices of needlework adorn the bottom of this bed-chariot in which the king and his spouse recline during their journey. The doctrines of the Gospel are comparable, for their antiquity, for their sweet fragrance, for their incorruptibility, to the wood of Lebanon. The Gospel of Christ never decays; Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Not one single truth bears any sign of rot. And to those souls that are enlightened from above, the Gospel gives forth a fragrance far richer than the wood of Lebanon. As for the silver pillars which bear up the canopy, to what should I liken them but to the attributes of God which support and guarantee the efficiency of the great atonement of Christ beneath which we are sheltered. There is the silver pillar of God’s justice. He cannot, He will not smite the soul that hides beneath the Cross of Christ. Then stands the next, the solid pillar of His power. “They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand; My Father which gave them Me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” Then on the other side is the pillar of His love, a silver pillar, indeed, bright and sparkling to the eye; love unchanging and eternal, strong as the power and fast as the justice which bear up the canopy on the other side. And here on this side stands immutability, another column upon which the atonement rests. If God could change, then might He cast away His blood-bought; but “because I am God and change not, therefore, ye sons of Jacob, rejoice.” As for the covering of the chariot, it is of purple. I need not tell you where it was dyed. No Tyrian hues are mingled here. As for the bottom of this palanquin, which is of gold--may not this represent the eternal purpose and counsel of God, that purpose which He formed in Himself or ever the earth was? Then, to make this all soft and pleasant to recline upon, here is pavement of needlework. Soft cushions of love on which to rest. These is a double meaning here, for both the bride and bridegroom find rest in love. Our Lord finds rest in the love of His people. “Here will I dwell for ever.” They do, as it were, make these carpets of needlework in their love and affection for Him, and in their trust and confidence in Him; and here He rests. On the other hand, our Beloved spent His life to work for us our bed of rest, so that we must translate it “love of,” as well as love for the daughters of Jerusalem. We rest in Christ’s love; He rests in our love.
IV. The duty of every believing heart in connection with the subject. Let every believer, while he recognizes himself as part of the Church inside the palanquin, yet look upon himself personally as one of the daughters of Zion, and let us each go forth this morning to meet King Solomon. He is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and therefore is He King Solomon going forth. Get up from your beds of sloth; rise from your chambers of ease; go forth, go forth to pray, to labour, to suffer; go forth to live in purity, leaving Babylon behind; go forth to walk with Him alone, leaving even your kinsfolk and acquaintance if they will not follow with you. Wherefore tarriest thou at home when the King is abroad? Behold the Bridegroom cometh, come ye forth to meet Him,” and behold King Solomon. To-day let your eye rest upon Him. Let your eye behold the head that to-day is crowned with glory, wearing many crowns. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The simile is a most striking one. When Christ was on earth, He came, as it were, to a wilderness. He lived in the wilderness while here, in the desert, on the mountain-top. It was at His ascension that He appeared as pillars of smoke rising out of the earthly wilderness. “When He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” And when we consider who it was that ascended--the well-beloved Son of God, in whom the Father was well pleased, in whom His soul delighted, who finished His work on earth--we see still further the propriety of the figure. The smoke was not the smoke of offensiveness, but the fragrance of perfume, the smoke of the sweet-smelling incense, filling both earth and heaven with fragrance.
I. Christ’s ascension is the consummation of his work.
1. It was not complete until this had taken place. Before His crucifixion He was working out our salvation and accomplishing the purposes of His Father. When in the grave He was under the dominion of death. After His resurrection He was still in this world of sin and sorrow. But when He ascended into heaven the whole work He had undertaken to perform was carried to a fitting conclusion.
2. We must bear in mind that when Christ ascended into heaven it was not merely a return to the place He came from. He came from heaven a spirit, an essence. He returned, the same spirit indeed, but bearing with Him a human body. His ascension, then, was rather the entrance of renewed manhood into the presence of God, the admission of justified humanity into the kingdom of heaven.
II. Christ’s ascension was the earnest of our personal blessings. Two important objects were to be especially assured to us.
1. The preparing a place--“I go that I may prepare a place for you.” What this preparation involved we cannot exactly say.
2. The giving His Spirit--in other words, preparing us for the place.
3. The officiating as High-Priest.
III. Christ’s ascension was a suitable reward to His work. (Homilist.)
Like pillars of smoke.
Pillars of smoke
The architecture of the smoke is wondrous, whether God with His finger curls it into a cloud or rounds it into a dome, or points it in a spire, or spreads it in a wing, or, as in the text, hoists it in a pillar. In the first place, these pillars of smoke indicate the suffering the Church of God has endured. The smoke of martyrs’ homes and martyrs’ bodies if rolling up all at once would have eclipsed the noonday sun, and turned the brightest day the world ever saw into a midnight. Has persecution ceased? Ask that young man who is trying to be a Christian in a store or factory, where from morning to night he is the butt of all the mean witticisms of unbelieving employees. Ask that wife whose husband makes her fondness for the house of God, and even her kneeling prayer by the bed-side, a derision, and is no more fit for her holy companionship than a filthy crow would be fit companion for a robin or a golden oriole. For the body, thanks to God, there are now no swords or fiery stakes, but for the souls of thousands of the good, in a figurative sense, rack and gibbet and Torquemada. The symbol of the domestic and social and private and public suffering of a great multitude of God’s clear children, pillars of smoke. But nothing can be more beautiful than the figures of smoke on a clear sky. You can see what you will in the contour of this volatile vapour, now enchanted castles, now troops of horsemen, now bannered procession, now winged couriers, now a black angel of wrath under a spear of the sunshine turned to an angel of light, and now from horizon to horizon the air is a picture-gallery filled with masterpieces of which God is the artist, morning clouds of smoke born in the sunrise, and evening clouds of smoke laid in the burnished sepulchres of the sunset. The beauty of the transfigured smoke is a Divine symbol of the beauty of the Church. The fairest of all the fair is she. Her mission is to cover the earth with a supernatural gladness, to open all the prison-doors, to balsam all the wounds, to moss all the graves, to burn up the night in the fireplace of a great morning, to change handcuffs into diamonded wristlets, to turn the whole race around, and whereas it faced death, commanding it, “Right about face for heaven!” According to the number of the spires of the churches in all our cities, towns and neighbour-hoods, are the good homes, the worldly prosperities, and the pure morals, and the happy souls. According as the churches are numerous are the crimes few. According as the churches are few the crimes are numerous. The most beautiful organization the world ever saw or ever will see is the much-maligned Church, the friend of all good, the foe of all evil, “fair as the moon and clear as the sun.” Beautiful in her Author, beautiful in her mission, the heroine of the centuries, the bride of Christ, the queen of the nations! Through her gates will march all the influences for good that shall ever reach our world. Take its membership as a mass, not speaking of the acknowledged exceptions, they are the noblest, grandest, kindest, best men and women of the ages. But for them the earth would long ago have been a burned-out volcano. They have been the salt that has kept the human race from putrefaction insufferable either to human or angelic olfactories. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Song of Solomon 3:9-10
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.
I. Solomon was a type of Jesus Christ.
1. In his offices he represented Jesus.
(1) He was, as you know full well, a king, and a very notable king, richer and wiser and more glorious than any of the kings of the earth. And what shall we say of Jesus, who, even when He was here in flesh and humiliation, was still a King? Now that He is exalted at the right hand of God, He seems to be yet more kingly; but He is destined to sit upon a still nobler throne, and to wield a still wider influence.
(2) But Solomon, in this passage, and, indeed, throughout this wonderful book, is seen as a bridegroom. Herein also he represents Jesus Christ. Christ, as the Head of the Church, calls us His precious and beloved bride. All He has we have. “All that is Mine is thine,” says Jesus, and the bonds that bind us to Him neither life, nor death, nor earth, nor hell, can ever break, or even stretch. Blessed be the name of Him who, while He is not ashamed to call us brethren, admits His people into still closer relationship, and calls them collectively, “My sister, My spouse”!
(3) Moreover, Solomon was distinguished as a great temple builder. Jesus Christ is the architect and builder of the Temple that shall never fade away. Solomon’s temple has long ago crumbled into dust, and its successors have passed away, but Jesus Christ has been engaged from all eternity erecting a Temple which abides, which will outlive the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds, which will shine in greater splendour as the everlasting ages come and go. He is at once the architect and the builder of it; He is also the foundation-stone, and the chief corner-stone of it.
2. But there are certain qualities that distinguished the king that shine resplendent in the King of kings.
(1) Solomon was the wisest of men; he was wise enough originally to ask for wisdom. Then God gave him not only wisdom, but riches and honour and power. But oh, how wise is Jesus! In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge, and He is made unto us wisdom.
(2) If Solomon was wealthy, what shall we say of the Christ of God? The treasures of Solomon’s house, and the abundance of his table amazed all who visited his court, but think of the abundance of the wealth and fulness of Jesus Christ. He is the possessor of all things, He is God’s own Son and Heir.
(3) How glorious Solomon was, though indeed Christ said of the lilies that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Yet it must be admitted that Solomon’s court was magnificent. Oriental splendour was at its grandest in his case, but oh, how Jesus outshines him, not with the same sort of glory, but with the glory that excelleth, the glory of His grace, the beauty of His holiness, the grandeur of His goodness! If the lilies outvied and excelled Solomon in all his glory, what shall be said of Jesus, who is at once the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys, the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely?
II. The king’s chariot is a type of Christ’s covenant, and of the Gospel of the Grace of God. It was not a chariot really, but rather a travelling couch or palanquin, in which the king himself and his spouse were seated. It was the place of rest, in which these twain reclined at ease, while they came up from the wilderness towards the great and glorious city. Now such is the covenant to us.
1. Now notice concerning this so-called chariot that Solomon himself made it. “King Solomon made himself a chariot.” I do not mean that the royal hands were actually engaged in its construction--we can hardly suppose that--but he gave instructions for its construction, perhaps personally superintended the making of it I do say however, of the covenant of the Lord our God, that He Himself prepared it. As Noah built the ark, so God Himself has arranged the terms of the covenant. He Himself has signed it; Jesus Himself has sealed it with His own precious blood. Christ has built this chariot for Himself to ride in. You may be sure it is well and truly built, then; I have not the slightest fear in trusting myself on board that travelling couch, for I shall share it with Jesus.
2. Notice the materials of its construction. This royal litter is said to have been of cedar--“the wood of Lebanon.” That is the finest of all the woods, the most lasting and the most fragrant. It is as if to say that the covenant which God has made with Jesus Christ on behalf of all who love Him and trust Him, is a covenant that lasts, and which, while it lasts, is full of joy and fragrance. “He made pillars thereof of silver.” This represented Divine holiness and infinite purity. I notice that the floor or basis was of gold. It was constructed of this imperishable and unchangeable metal, because it was intended to set forth the immutable purpose and the unchanging decree of the infallible God. Over all was a purple canopy, with equally royal curtains hanging by the sides screening from the too-hot sun. Ah, here is sovereign grace, here is atoning blood: here is the doctrine of the substitution, for we can look through these purple curtains, even towards the sun of God’s holiness, and find the exceeding brightness bearable because Jesus Christ, the Day’s-Man, has come between us and Him. It was paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem, or, as some think, the chariot was lined and upholstered with embroidered work, so that the daughters of Jerusalem should be glad at sight of it, and the bride herself be filled with joy.
3. What is the purpose of this covenant, and of this Gospel of His grace? A parallel purpose to that of Solomon’s chariot. “Whereby believers are carried to heaven,” says Cruden. The spouse shares the triumph to Zion as well as in it, while the daughters of Jerusalem go out to meet the cavalcade, and to share the joy. (T. Spurgeon.)
The saint’s palanquin
It seems no part of the mind of the Spirit that we should take this description to pieces, and try to allegorize the several parts. The intention is to represent to us the fact that the believer is carried onward to heaven in a conveyance as costly and glorious as that here described; that the materials are of the richest, choicest, most durable character; that the midst is paved or tessellated with love. The provision made, the means provided for bringing us to glory, are of a rare and splendid nature. After exhausting the things most valuable among men, making the pillars silver, the railing gold, the seat or couch purple, he adopts a feature in the description entirely new, and says the midst is curiously wrought with something more precious than silver or gold, even with love itself--showing that the saint, while thus passing through the wilderness between this world and heaven, between our state of guilt and our state of glory, is in a palanquin of the most costly make, borne up in the hands of angels, surrounded by an armed angelic guard, and reclining on a soft couch beautiful as purple, the most costly colour, with the midst of the litter formed of love--the many acts of Divine love from Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there combining underneath us like the different pieces in a beautiful mosaic, tessellated pavement. In the spirit of this passage, those who wait on the Lord are said to renew their strength; and He will give His angels charge concerning such, to bear them up in their hands, lest at any time they dash their foot against a stone (Isaiah 40:31; Psalms 91:12). (G. Burrowes.)
Song of Solomon 3:10
The midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.
Paved with love
This palanquin or travelling chariot in which the king is carried, represents the covenant of grace, the plan of salvation, and, in fact, the whole system by which the Lord Jesus comes down in mercy among men, and by which He bears His people along with Himself through the wilderness of this world, onward to the rest which He hath prepared for them. It is, in a word, the mediatorial work of Jesus.
I. Notice the growth which is indicated here as to our views of the covenant of grace. The description advances step by step, each sentence mentioning an additional and far-enhanced preciousness. At the first glance the sweet singer who speaks in this Song perceived that the chariot was made of cedar, a costly wood; a closer view revealed “the silver pillars, beauteous to behold”--further observation showed “the basis all of burnished gold.” From cedar to silver, and from silver to gold, we have a clear advance as to precious material. On looking again, the observer remarks “the top of princely purple,” which is yet more precious as the type of imperial dignity, and the token of that effectual atonement which was wrought out by the ensanguined stream of Calvary. The blood which dyed that purple canopy is much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire. And then, though one would think there could be no advance beyond the precious blood, the Song proceeds yet one step further, for we find that “the midst thereof was paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.” The covenant is love in its secret places, all love, unalloyed love, invisible love, nothing else but love. When one comes to know most of the covenant, and admires the wisdom, the power, the purity, the eternity of all that God has done, yet the most striking characteristic of it to the advanced Christian is the love, the mighty love of God, by which he is brought by Jesus Christ into eternal salvation. Thou hast crowned me with lovingkindness; Thou hast loved my soul out of the pit; Thou hast loved me, and given Thyself for me. Thy love has redeemed me with a price most precious; Thy love has made me what I am; Thy love carries on the work, and Thy love will complete it, and present me to Thee in its own perfect image; for “the midst of it is paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.”
II. Note the position from which the love mentioned in our text is best seen, “The midst thereof is paved with love.” It is not, therefore, to be seen from the outside. The mere outsider understands nothing of the love of God to His people as displayed in the covenant of grace. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” And so note next, when the Christian himself stands apart from his Lord, and judges by outward appearances, he cannot perceive, as once he did, the lovingkindness of the Lord. Providence grows dark as a winter’s day. The tried believer cries, “My wife has been taken from me; my property is melting away, my business fades; I am sick in body and weary in soul; I cannot see a trace of the love of God to me in all this. Brother, the description in the Song does not say that the chariot is plated with love on the outside, but it is paved with love within, “in the midst of it.” Oh, that you had faith to believe that the heart and real core of every providence is love. The exterior of it may be as a thorn hedge, but sweet fruit ripens within. Look at the tessellated pavement of love beneath your feet for a moment. See you not the Father’s love--that golden mass of uncreated love, for the Father Himself loveth you: look at Jesus’ love, another diamond pavement beneath your foot; Jesus loved you to the death with a love that many waters could not quench, nor floods drown: look at the love of the Spirit, too: equally precious is the tender affection of the loving Comforter. Think how the Holy Ghost has borne with you, has striven with you, and endured your ill manners in the wilderness, and blessed you still. Look at those delightful embroideries from the Divine needle--the precious promises. A thousand promises there are, but they are all love. Look down and see how all the attributes of God are engaged for you, but they are all in league with love. Look, then, at all the providences of God towards you, at all the exercises of His grace in your heart, and you will see many and strange colours of varied beauty, all blending in one wondrous pattern of deep, unsearchable love.
III. Notice the peculiar position of the pavement of love described in the text. It is “in the midst” of the chariot, and only from the midst is it to be seen. It is in the midst of it; and therefore Jesus rides upon it, and His espoused ones ride upon it. It is a very simple thought, but it richly deserves to be beaten out a little. Jesus is represented here as the King in the chariot, and as the chariot is lined with love, we are taught that Jesus dwells in love. Where is He now? Among the thrones and principalities above, but He abides still in love. Love brought Him down from heaven to earth, love conducted Him in all His weary journeys over the acres of Palestine: love led Him to the garden, the death-sweat, and the cross; and equally at this hour does love attend Him: He loves in heaven as He loved below. Whatever He is doing, whatever He is feeling, whatever He is saying, we know this one thing about Him, He dwells in love to us, He is in His chariot, and all around Him in that chariot is love.
IV. Dwell on that love itself for a moment. Remember it is special love. There is an electing, discriminating, distinguishing love, which is settled upon a chosen people--a love which goes forth to none beside, but only to them; and it is this love which is the true resting-place of the saint. It is love undeserved, for what daughter of Jerusalem ever deserved that our glorious King should fall in love with her? It is a love, therefore, which is a theme for eternal wonder. Why didst Thou love me, Redeemer? Why didst Thou make a covenant of grace with me, and line that covenant with immutable love? This love is everlasting and eternal. It never had a beginning, it never will have an end. Simply as I have stated the truth, it is a nut with heaven for its kernel. Thou wast always loved, O believer, and thou always shalt be, come what may. It is love unrivalled, for never was there such affection as that which Christ has for His chosen; love unexampled, to which none of us shall ever reach. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Song of Solomon 3:11
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him, in the day of his espousals.
The coronation of Jesus
Here we have, by the voice of the Holy Ghost, the account of the coronation of human nature in the person of the Incarnate Word. As “the day of our Lord’s Resurrection is the day wherein the dignity of the everlasting priesthood was actually collated upon Him, so the day of His ascension, or placing at the right hand of God, is the day of His solemn enthronization, when the Lord ‘sent forth the rod of His strength out of Zion.’” But the coronation of our Lord is not the quiet accession of the heir of a desired and long-descended line to the peaceful seat of his fathers: it is rather the final triumph of a mighty warrior who through blood hath waded to the throne. It is rather the eventual vindication of the true heir, who, as in many an Oriental land, has been debarred from His succession by the intrigues of His enemies, and has to obtain His own by the might of His holy arm. And who are they whom the triumphant Lord hath thus routed? I will not speak of those temporal enemies who now, or in times past, oppose and resist His will Rather will I speak of the spiritual enemies of this Monarch, whom He hath overthrown--Satan, sin and death: each a mighty potentate--Satan, “the prince of this world”; sin, that “reigned unto death in our mortal bodies”; death, that by one offence reigned “from Adam till Moses.” Now the royal work of our ascended Lord is to subdue and to destroy these; and because, though scotched and crippled, they still exist, so the royalty of our Lord is a present and potential act of conquering dominion. The” demonstration of the eternal justice of God,” and the probation of holy souls, require that still the powers of evil should be allowed; and therefore is the Eternal Son “set down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.” And yet the conquest is complete, so far as our condition of trial will allow. Satan subdued is now the unwilling servant of Divine justice in the case of the reprobate, while he has no power to hurt the elect of God. Sin still remains, in all its hideous mystery, as the measure of the love of the Cross, but has no power over the children of the kingdom; and even death itself, though still allowed to fill its place in the physical world, has now changed its conditions, and altered its position in the kingdom of grace, its realm being the ante-chamber of the New Jerusalem, and itself the harbinger of a joyous resurrection. But we must not confine our ideas of the royalty of Christ to a mighty warrior going forth conquering and to conquer. Our Heavenly Monarch is to His own no “minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil”; but yielding to the deep necessities of the benevolence of His attributes, “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” First, His reign is established in the kingdom of the physical world. This bursting springtime, when nature is at its freshest and loveliest, when the hidden powers of vegetable life, so lately dead and inert, have again put forth their might to the glory of God, and the green carpet of the earth, and the rich foliage of the trees and the flowers reflecting every hue of paradise on the earth below, all speak to the eye of faith, as the sweet bird’s song speaks to the ear, tells us not merely of a King, but of a King whose law shall not be broken, and who shows us, by the beauty of that inviolate law how bright would be His other kingdoms, did not the free will of man mar what He had made good, and defile what He had pronounced pure. And next, His reign is established in the kingdom of grace. Our blessed Saviour is King and Lord of His Mystical Body. That mighty organization is no mere fortuitous congeries of holy souls, unknown to men, known only to God, without discipline or order; but it is a well-grounded polity, of which by far the greater part is in heaven, obeying, loving, serving, adoring, and where here on earth the heart of man finds its truest happiness in perfect and unreserved submission. How it comforts one in the midst of the mysterious providences and spiritual trials, and strange dispensations which mark the course of the fortunes of the Church here below, to dwell upon that unswerving obedience which is paid Him by the glorious hierarchies above. The Lord is king, be the people never so impatient. He sitteth between the cherubim, be the nations never so unquiet. And more than this, He is the very King and Lord of holy souls. When we say, “Thy kingdom come,” what mighty thoughts are stirred up within us! May Thy reign be established within our hearts!--Thy kingdom which Thou hast said is “within” us. May every power and faculty be subdued to Thy gracious commandments! Be Thou the Master of our intellects, the Lord of our affections. Rule Thou, and so constrain our wills already subject to Thee, that even in this world we may anticipate the perfect conformity of heaven. Is the thought of our Lord s ascension as connected with His royalty exhausted? I trow not. The ascension of our Lord hath not terminated in Himself. It is our ascension also. The coronation of our Lord is not merely the assumption of royal state by our ascended Head, it is also the coronation of His body mystical. The nature of man in the Person of the Divine Word hath been seated upon the throne of God. Who shall now use unworthy words of the worthlessness of that which is thus united to God? Who shall now undervalue the exalted position of the true Christian? Who shall now dare to profane, either in body, soul or spirit, that which has attained to so high a destiny? (Bishop A. P. Forbes.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Song of Solomon 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13