1The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
1The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
The first verse of the book shows that the Bible book Song of Songs was written by Solomon. Solomon has written more songs. We read that he even wrote “1,005” songs (1Kgs 4:3232He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.). Of all these songs – except perhaps Psalm 72 – as far as we know we do not have one in the Bible. But in the Song of Songs we have a long song by him in the Bible.
It is not just a song, a song of which only could be said it is a very good song. No, it is ‘the Song of Songs’, the highest song, the song that surpasses all other songs. In this song, the greatest Lover the world has ever known, sings of the most fervent love ever shown. In this song we hear the voice of the Lord Jesus speaking to the heart of His bride.
This song is so important to God, that He has incorporated it in His Word. It is His intention that we will read this song with the greatest attention, to get to know the feelings of His love for His people. If through this song our hearts begin to understand those feelings, it will help express our love for Him.
2“May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine.
The song starts suddenly. Without any introduction we suddenly hear how the girl, the bride, expresses her longing for the love of the groom. She plunges in as it were, so full is she of his love. She knows that love: it is an excellent love.
The girl doesn’t say who she is talking about, of whom her heart is so full. She first speaks in general, “he”, not to anyone personally. She longs for the groom’s intimate declarations of love. The kiss is an expression of intimate, personal love (cf. 1Sam 20:4141When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David [wept] the more.). By her declaration the bride shows how she longs for the affection of the groom.
No one can kiss two people at the same time. A kiss is an expression for one person. It is the expression of a personal, intimate love. This desire goes far beyond the ordinary desire for a proof of love. It is for us, the starting point of true spiritual growth. If this great longing for the love of the Lord Jesus is not there, we will not understand what Solomon means by this song.
In the prophetic sense of the word we see in the faithful remnant of Israel this attitude of intense desire for declarations of love from the Messiah, the Bridegroom. The question of the remnant, the bride, is always whether He will accept her. She indeed speaks to Him, but more often about Him to others. The Bridegroom always speaks to her alone. We will see how He wants to convince her of His love for her.
When we read the book Song of Songs, we notice that the bride is constantly looking for confirmation. She does not doubt his love, but she doubts his love for her. She desperately desires proofs of love from the Bridegroom, which will give her the certainty that He has accepted her. We see in her desire an uncertainty that we often see in Psalms. There is no established, lasting relationship yet. There are still doubts. Sometimes we hear her say she knows she is loved, but a little later the doubts return.
The certainty of faith, the certainty of the forgiveness of sins and acceptance by God, will only be known and enjoyed by the remnant when they see the Lord Jesus on His return to earth. Then He will free them from all doubt and show them His love in a perfect way and let them enjoy it in the coming millennial kingdom of peace.
The New Testament church as a whole, as well as the individual believer of the church, is not in such a relationship of uncertainty to Christ. It is not a question for the church and the individual believers whether He will accept them, for they know that they have been accepted. They rest in the work that He once and forever completed on Calvary. That is something that the remnant has to be convinced of in the future.
Yet even in this time, a believer can live in uncertainty when it comes to know whether his sins are forgiven and he is a child of God. This is the case when the law is taken as the norm for Christian life. The law cannot be accomplished by any human being, not even, if one tries – as is said – to do it out of gratitude. Maybe that is the case in the life of one of the readers. Whoever has truly confessed his sins and believes God at His word that He forgives whosoever confesses his sins (1Jn 1:99If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.). He may know for sure that he is a child of God. Then there is no doubt.
In the second line of the verse the bride does turn to the groom. She has experienced the groom’s love declarations. His declarations of love transcend all earthly joys, of which wine is a picture (Jdg 9:1313But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’; Psa 104:15a15And wine which makes man’s heart glad,
So that he may make [his] face glisten with oil,
And food which sustains man’s heart.
). She yearns for this excellent love, because earthly joy is nothing compared to his love (cf. Psa 4:88In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.).
For this bride the love of the groom was better than wine. It goes without saying that these expressions of love in our relationships put everything that can be spent on money or goods, into the shade. There was a man whose wife had left him. She couldn’t stand any longer to be with him. He had shouted it out to the Lord. When he explained it, he said, “I don’t know what I did wrong. I gave her everything she wanted.” In response, it was said that there is more to it, than giving someone everything he or she wants. It is important that we reach the heart. You can’t buy love, you can’t just show your love through gifts. When I get something, the heart must become visible. Only then is love really better than wine. Then there is an inner joy.
Whoever has tasted that the Lord is kind (1Pet 2:33if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.; Psa 34:99O fear the LORD, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
), knows that nothing ‘tastes better’ and will want to enjoy it more. The love of the Lord Jesus “transcends knowledge” (Eph 3:1919and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.). Whoever desires more of earthly joy, than for His love has not yet understood and enjoyed His love.
In our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters, proofs of love are also important. However, we must bear in mind that this must be done in a different way than in the marriage relationship and in a family context. There are brothers and sisters who yearn for a proof of love, so that their experience is that of being looked after, that attention is paid to them, that they are appreciated for who they are.
Nowadays, users of modern means of communication can also express or respond to their feelings via certain signs or icons. For young believers especially, traps lie here. Don’t get carried away in sending or replying to messages that stimulate your feelings. Such messages transcend the boundaries given by God. Preserve your expressions of love for him or her whom the Lord wants to give you or has given you. Expressions of love must always take place as God intended them. In marriage and in the family, it happens in an intimate, tender way; in the mutual relationships between brothers and sisters, young and old, it happens in a sound, honorable way, without any ulterior motives.
3“Your oils have a pleasing fragrance,
Your name is [like] purified oil;
Therefore the maidens love you.
The bride then talks about the ointment oils with which the groom was anointed. She smells it. She loves the smell of it; it still hangs, as it were, in the air. His love, which is better than wine, is surrounded by the scent of a mixture of ointments. Wine as a picture of earthly joy, is replaced by the smell of oil. The oil speaks of the Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:20,2720But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.).
The work of the Holy Spirit has become perfectly visible in the Lord Jesus, of whom we read that “how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and [how] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:3838[You know of] Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and [how] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.). He spread a wonderful fragrance around Himself in everything He said and did.
The fruit of the Spirit consists of nine parts (Gal 5:2222But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,). Those parts together are like this mixture of ointment oils. When we read in the Gospels how the Lord Jesus went His way on earth, we see all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in His whole action. Each part is expressed perfectly and in complete harmony with the other parts in everything He says and does. For all who know and enjoy His love, each verse in the Gospels spreads a full, wonderful scent of Him.
The Father knows and enjoys in a perfect way the composition of this ointment oil, that is the fruit of the Spirit, in the life of His Son. We can only smell or notice the wonderful smell of it per part, because “we know in part” (1Cor 13:9a9For we know in part and we prophesy in part;), that is, “piece by piece”, little by little. It is not possible for us to fully fathom the glory of the Lord Jesus in its depths, for it is written: “No one knows the Son except the Father” (Mt 11:27a27All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal [Him].).
The mystery of His Person, that He is perfect God and perfect Man, remains hidden from us. We should not try to understand this (cf. Exo 30:31-3331You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.32It shall not be poured on anyone’s body, nor shall you make [any] like it in the same proportions; it is holy, [and] it shall be holy to you.33Whoever shall mix [any] like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.’”). But we can be impressed by the perfection of its individual parts as we admire Him for all He has shown us of Himself.
The Lord Jesus is the Anointed One. Everything that flows out of Him, all oils spread a pleasant fragrance, both for God and for people. People do not spread that scent (Jer 48:1111“Moab has been at ease since his youth;
He has also been undisturbed, [like wine] on its dregs,
And he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
Nor has he gone into exile.
Therefore he retains his flavor,
And his aroma has not changed.
). A single misplaced word or an inappropriate comment can immediately spoil the atmosphere. This was never the case with the Lord Jesus. Sin is an aroma to death. The fragrance of Christ in the gospel leads to life or to death (2Cor 2:15-16a15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;16to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?). What smell emanates from us?
Then the bride says: “Your name is [like] purified oil”, or better: “Your name is as ointment poured forth” (Darby Translation) Isn’t that beautiful? If I call the name of an animal, for example a lion, this is not just a name. When that name is mentioned, the image of the king of animals appears before our attention. When we think of the name of the Lord Jesus, what kind of image appears to our attention? His name is an oil that is poured out, so that the whole expands and the surface is covered with oil. We can imagine that above this whole surface hangs a wonderful fragrance. In this way the knowledge of the name of the Lord Jesus will cover the earth, whereby each one knows another aspect or other aspects of that name, and enjoys it and expresses his admiration for Him about it.
The pouring out also reminds us of the giving of His life, which He has poured out into death. That makes His name so great. Calling the name “Jesus”, the name He received at His birth, gives as fragrance that He came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:2121She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”). It is the Name for Whom every knee will bow (Phil 2:1010so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,). To help us enjoy the scent of that name a little more, Isaiah pours out as an ‘oil stream’ some of His names that give a wonderful scent: “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; … and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:66For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
His name is “Wonderful”. Who can understand Who He is as God and Man in one person? Then His name is “Counselor”, for with Him is counsel and wisdom. He knows what He does, He knows what needs to be done. He knows our lives. If we have questions and problems, we may ask Him for advice and He will give it (Psa 32:88I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
). His name is also “Mighty God”. He not only says what we have to do, He not only shows us the way to go, but He also helps us to follow His advice. He oversees the whole, for He is the “Eternal Father”. His goal is to give us peace, for He is the “Prince of Peace”.
Do these names – and there are so many more names in Scripture, each with its own special scent – not give us, when we think about this, a pleasant scent, a scent in which we want to live, as if in a pure atmosphere? If we live in that smell, it will spiritually cling to our ‘clothes’, that is in our behavior. Everything in our lives will be permeated by it. Then the people around us will start to smell that smell as well. To the believing, but carnal Jacob, hung the scent of the field. This was because he had put on the clothes of Esau (Gen 27:15-16,2715Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.16And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.27So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said,
“See, the smell of my son
Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed;
). If we behave like the world, the smell of the world hangs around us. That should not be the case.
The name of the groom is all sweetness for the bride. But she also has an eye for the fact that the value of that name also attracts the love of others. She talks about “the maidens” who love him for the same reason as she does. In prophetic application we can think of the cities of Judah, who like Jerusalem will love the Messiah.
The lesson for us is that we need to be aware that our love for the Lord Jesus is shared by others. Love rejoices in the Object of love and enjoys it when others also have that love. “Maidens” is also translated as “virgins”. By this is meant women and men who keep themselves free from the world to live alone for the Lord Jesus (Rev 14:1-51Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb [was] standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.2And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard [was] like [the sound] of harpists playing on their harps.3And they *sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.4These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These [are] the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.5And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.; cf. 2Cor 11:22For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you [as] a pure virgin.; Jam 4:44You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.). They want it because they love Him.
4“Draw me after you [and] let us run [together]!
The king has brought me into his chambers.”
“We will rejoice in you and be glad;
We will extol your love more than wine.
Rightly do they love you.”
His love draws our hearts toward Him. The more we are engaged in His love for us, the more we will love Him. It makes no sense to be sitting in sackcloth and ashes regarding our lack of love for Him. It makes no sense in trying to stir up and intensify our love for Him. Instead, we must give up looking at ourselves and be engaged with Him. Thinking about our sluggishness and coldness does not help us to love Him more. If we notice slowness and coldness in our love for Him, we should confess it, and immediately afterwards start thinking about His love for us. Then our hearts will get warm again. “We love, because He first loved us” (1Jn 4:1919We love, because He first loved us.).
We feel that we are susceptible to things that take the place of our love for Him. That is why we feel the need for the fervent prayer, that He will draw us along with Him. This prayer is immediately followed by the heart’s intention to run after Him. We see this for example in the life of Paul. He knows he has been laid hold of, by the Lord Jesus and then he says he is pressing onward to lay hold on Him (Phil 3:12-1412Not that I have already obtained [it] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do]: forgetting what [lies] behind and reaching forward to what [lies] ahead,14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.).
It is a personal desire to be drawn: “Draw me.” But the desire to run and follow is a common desire, as we read here: “Let us run.” The desire that one has to be open to the working of God’s Spirit is the desire of most believers. Paul ‘pressed on’ and those who love the bridegroom ‘run’. Known and experienced love encourages the greatest possible effort to know Him and to be with Him.
When the eye and the heart are so focused on Him, we realize that the initiative lies with Him. He must draw. So it is, already at conversion. This is what the Lord Jesus also says: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn 6:44a44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.; cf. Jer 31:33The LORD appeared to him from afar, [saying],
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
; Hos 11:44I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down [and] fed them.
). Thus we are drawn from the power of the world and of sin (Gal 1:3b-43grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,). This does not take away the responsibility that calls on the sinner to turn back, but here we see God’s side.
For the believer it is the same. He is called to follow Christ. Whoever takes that call seriously, also feels the need for the Lord to work it in him. That the call is really taken seriously is evident from the conscious choice to run after Him as well. The life-giving work of the Spirit in us, and our commitment as believers are in harmony (cf. Hos 6:1-31“Come, let us return to the LORD.
For He has torn [us], but He will heal us;
He has wounded [us], but He will bandage us.
2“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
3“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
When the bride has expressed the wish to be drawn, followed by the firm intention to run after the groom, she immediately sees the final goal of the road before her. She knows that he will bring her “into his chambers”. She already sees herself there together with him. His chambers are the inner, hidden rooms of the king (Psa 91:11He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
). It is a place of intimate proximity. Here she calls him “king” for the first time. The relationship of love in which she stands to him is also a relationship in which she acknowledges that he is her lord (cf. Psa 45:1212The daughter of Tyre [will come] with a gift;
The rich among the people will seek your favor.
It is the same for us. The Lord Jesus really must be our Lord before we can know Him as a loving Bridegroom. We also know that He went to the Father’s house to prepare a place for us there. He comes back to take us up and bring us there (Jn 14:1-31“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.2In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.3If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, [there] you may be also.), but through His Spirit we are already connected with Him there.
The awareness of her beloved’s love for her and the recognition of his lordship elicit from her lips a call to rejoice. In a relationship of love and authority, of authority exercised in perfect love, lies the greatest possible safety and security. This can only result in joy and happiness. This is also the case with us in our relationship with the Lord Jesus. There is a deep joy because we know and love Him, and even more because He knows and loves us.
He is the Object of our joy, we rejoice in Him. Happiness without Him or a happiness that has another source, is trivial happiness, that flares up like straw in the fire for a while and then is extinguished without having given any warmth. Christ is the inexhaustible Source of joy and happiness. He is a Source that cannot be affected by anything that would diminish or even eliminate joy. The joy found in Him cannot be influenced by changing circumstances.
In the Father’s house we will drink continuously from that Source, rejoicing in Him eternally in a perfect, undisturbed manner. Already now, on earth, we are allowed to rejoice again and again (Phil 4:44Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!; 1Thes 5:1616Rejoice always;). In the Father’s house we will, as we already do on earth, constantly remember His excellent love. We will never forget that love, that love that is “better than wine”, that is, the joy that His love gives, goes far beyond all earthly joys. We will talk about that love with the Father and the Son and with each other. That is fellowship that gives perfect joy: “And indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1Jn 1:3b-43what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.4These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.).
In the last line of the verse, the bride assures the bridegroom that the maidens “rightly” love him. If we love the Lord Jesus, it is right to do this, for His love gives every reason to do so. It is also important that our expressions of love are sincere, not hypocritical, and without ulterior motives.
Our expressions of love are weak. But if they are sincere, they are appreciated by Him. The bride sees this here with the maidens and she testifies to it to her groom. Do we also have an eye for it when something is done out of love for the Lord Jesus? Or do we rather, or perhaps even alone, see the wrong thing in what another person does? We must learn to appreciate what is being done in sincerity and also express this as encouragement.
5“I am black but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.
After the bride was brought into the king’s chambers in the previous verse, she says something about herself. The sense of this privileged place does not make her proud, but humble. In what she says here, she addresses the “daughters of Jerusalem”. We will hear about them more often. We will see that the daughters of Jerusalem also include believers who love Christ but do not have the same burning a love for Him, as the bride has. They are also unable to understand the relationship the bride has, precisely because they do not have that burning love and do not know that intimate relationship. It is as if the bride justifies herself to them about her relationship with the groom and explains who she is to him.
She pronounces that she is “black” (cf. Lam 4:7-87Her consecrated ones were purer than snow,
They were whiter than milk;
They were more ruddy [in] body than corals,
Their polishing [was like] lapis lazuli.
8Their appearance is blacker than soot,
They are not recognized in the streets;
Their skin is shriveled on their bones,
It is withered, it has become like wood.
). She says that she realizes who she is by nature. This is an important aspect of our relationship with the Lord Jesus. When we speak of the relationship of love in which we stand to the Lord Jesus, we also have to be deeply aware that we are “black” in ourselves, which is sinful. Sin is still in us. “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1Jn 1:88If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.). This does not make us depressed or discouraged, but the recognition of this will turn our eye to the Lord Jesus, Who through His work on the cross has destroyed the power of sin for all who believe (Rom 6:66knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;).
The bride immediately hereafter says that she is “lovely”. This is what she is in the eye of the groom. She knows that, despite the fact that she is looking for confirmation. We may know that through repentance and confession we have forgiveness of our sins. But beyond that, we may also know that God “has bestowed us [or: made us acceptable] in the Beloved” (Eph 1:66to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.).
Yet we may have moments, or sometimes periods in our lives when this awareness is not so alive, that our feelings of gratitude have faded. Not that we have lost the certainty of our faith. That is not true, but the danger is present, that our certainty makes us somewhat indifferent. We know it so well, that it doesn’t amaze us anymore and that we don’t wonder anymore about what the Lord Jesus did to and for us and how God sees us now. The first fire of love for the Lord Jesus is extinguished.
When the bride says “I am black”, it expresses a deep conviction that each child of God must have. The words that immediately follow, “but lovely”, do not take away this conviction, but only increase the miracle of being lovely. This means for us the awareness that God looks at us in His Son and that we are children of God.
If we understand both sides with our hearts, we will remain fervent in our love for the Lord Jesus. If we forget either side or place a disproportionate emphasis on one of either side, our life of faith loses its stability. We will also, depending on our character, fall into legalism on the one hand or carnal freedom and even liberality on the other hand.
Then the bride uses two comparisons, which are an illustration of what she has just said about herself. She is “like the tents of Kedar” and also “like the curtains of Solomon”. Kedar is an area outside Israel. It points to a place outside the blessing of God. The remnant that in the future, during the great tribulation, will have been driven out of the land and fled abroad, complains: “Woe is me, ... for I dwell among the tents of Kedar!” (Psa 120:55Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech,
For I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
). Kedar’s tents are black. So we also live on earth, in a world that lies in evil, where it is black with sin. This includes the black of our sinful nature. But through faith we may know that sin within us has been judged by the judgment that Christ underwent on the cross.
As a result, we are clothed with the righteousness of God in Christ. We see that, in the second comparison, that of “the curtains of Solomon”. We can think of the radiant white curtains in the palace of Solomon. We know from this, that we have put on Christ and that we have been made pleasant in Him before God.
When we think about what we were, and what we have become now, we will say with the Psalmist: “Who remembered us in our low estate, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psa 136:2323Who remembered us in our low estate,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
). We owe it all to His lovingkindness. We will then be like Mary, who sang, when she was told that she would become the mother of the Lord Jesus: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave” (Lk 1:46-48a46And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
Just as the insignificant girl from Shulam, the shepherdess, became the object of the love of the great king Solomon, so has it been with us. We were by nature corrupt, lost, unworthy, rebellious creatures, but we are now connected in the most intimate way with the almighty God, the eternal Son. We are the objects of His love and share in the consequences of His work. We share in His place in heaven, and we share in His reign over heaven and earth. Isn’t it going to be a growing miracle that the longer we think about it, the better we get to know ourselves?
There is another practical comment to be made about the fact that there is a relationship of love between a countryside girl and a powerful king. There is a huge difference between Solomon and the bride in education, wisdom and wealth. Yet they are drawn to each other and long for each other. Similarly, two young people may today be brought together by the Lord, although there are great social and intellectual differences between them. The question is whether there is real love, because real love transcends and bridges such differences. A feeling of love, infatuation, is not a basis. It is about Divine love, because only Divine love can refrain from things that would be an obstacle in all other cases.
6“Do not stare at me because I am swarthy,
For the sun has burned me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
They made me caretaker of the vineyards,
[But] I have not taken care of my own vineyard.
What the bride says in the previous verse about her being black, she says from her own feelings about it. It means the acknowledgement that she herself is sinful. That is an important consciousness. Now she talks again, about her being “swarthy” or black, but this time she does that to others. She says the others shouldn’t blame her because she is black. Her frankness about her past must not lead to her being looked down upon. She can’t do anything about being swarthy, since the cause is the hot rays of the sun. She was exposed to this because her brothers forced her to guard the vineyards. She asks for understanding and acceptance despite what she is.
One lesson for us, is that we should not look down on others when they have told something of their past. Even worse is; when we upbraid someone for the bad man he is, after he has repented of his sins and confessed them. Here we must look at each other in the way the Lord Jesus looks at us. We know that we are also swarthy, sinful in ourselves. It can happen that this blackness becomes visible again because someone sinned. Then we should talk about it, not with others, but with the person concerned.
Here however, it is a question of reminding others of their past, or perhaps even coarsely, because the other is bothering us. Then we ourselves are not living in connection with the Lord Jesus, in the awareness of our own sinfulness. When we forget what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross, we also forget that He did the same for that other person. We may, and must say of ourselves that we are the foremost sinner, as Paul did (1Tim 1:1515It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost [of all].).
It is not about measuring the number of sins or the severity of them, but about one’s own awareness, of one’s own evil. No one knows better than myself, about all my many and dirty sins, do they? If we are convinced of this, Satan will not have the opportunity to take away our peace by reminding us of the sins we have committed.
There was one man who found it difficult to accept that his sins were gone. He kept staring at his sinfulness. Satan was successful with him by reminding him of his sins. He always thought, ‘I’m so bad. My sins are so great.’ He once talked about it with an evangelist. The evangelist said to this man, who was really in great need of conscience at peace; ‘But we have a great God,’ “for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:77Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
). “He throws all our sins behind His back” (Isa 38:1717“Lo, for [my own] welfare I had great bitterness;
It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
). ‘Yes,’ replied the man, ‘but when He turns around, He sees them again. ‘
The evangelist then pointed out to him that the Bible also states that He throws all the sins “into the depths of the sea” (Mic 7:1919He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea.
). ‘Yes’, the man threw up again, ‘but it also says in the Scriptures that there will come a time when the sea will dry up, and then He will see the sins again.’ Then the evangelist said: ‘But it is also written that God will remembers the sins no more’ (Heb 8:1212“For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.”). Then the man gave in and found peace.
It is great to know that God no longer remembers our sins. This of course only applies if they have been confessed before Him with sincere repentance. He is the only One Who can consciously forget something. When we forget something, it is weakness, a limitation of our ability to remember things. We can say something like: ‘I won’t think about it anymore’, but at the same time we are saying this, we are thinking about it very consciously. But God is able to consciously not think about anything anymore, so that He doesn’t remember the sins, and doesn’t remind us of them anymore, because they are gone.
So we can say the following:
1. God no longer throws up our sins at us, for He no longer thinks of them.
2. Satan has no right at all to point out our sins, and make our consciences troubled, because before God our sins no longer exist.
3. In view of these two facts, we should not remind a child of God of his or her past, for everything about this has been arranged by God on the basis of the work of His Son on the cross.
After the Shulamite asked that she be not blamed for her blackness, she explained how her brothers had treated her. Perhaps the motivation for her question was; not to imitate her blackness. It shows how sensible she is of her surroundings. She feels misunderstood, both by the daughters of Jerusalem, and by her brothers. She has a closer relationship with her brothers than with the daughters of Jerusalem. However, what they have done to her also hurts her more.
She doesn’t call her brothers ‘my father’s sons’, but “my mother’s sons”. That recalls the common position, that of grace (Gal 4:26-2826But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.27For it is written, “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more numerous are the children of the desolate Than of the one who has a husband.”28And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.). They share the position, but their practice is different. The brothers are not going through the same development as the bride.
She says of her brothers that they had become angry with her. She doesn’t say why that was. One possibility may be that they were jealous of her, their simple sister, because of her close relationship with king Solomon. We see something similar with Joseph’s brothers, who were also jealous because Joseph made Jacob’s heart glad. The brothers of the Shulammite sent her away with a commission. These brothers apparently had the power to do so. The brothers are much stronger than the girl. They have forced her to take care of the vineyards.
We can make an application here regarding our families. In families with children, it can happen that some children have some kind of power over another child. It is good that parents keep an eye on how their children interact with each other. Do they accept each other or do they want to use each other? Is there anyone – perhaps the oldest or the strongest or the brightest – who manipulates another member of the family by abusing his or her force majeure to allow the other to do something that benefits him or her?
It is important that we as parents ensure that the children only receive their assignments from us as parents. Parents are responsible for what their children do for as long as they are dependent, until they can take care of themselves.
The above is also important in the church, which consists of stronger and weaker personalities. We must be careful that the stronger personalities do not rule over the weaker ones and determine what they do. That is why it is good to ask ourselves: How do I behave towards my brother or sister? Do I really serve them, without demanding or even manipulating them?
So the brothers have sent their sister away as a caretaker of the vineyards. How she carried out this task is not mentioned. She does say of herself that she has not taken care of her own vineyard. Here we see the case where someone is forced to do something, and therefore fails to meet what should have happened first and foremost. An obligation to work for others may result in forgetting responsibility for one’s own work.
In connection with this application to our families, we can learn here that we must give our children tasks that they can carry out, for which they have the strength and the capacities. We should therefore take into account a child’s age and ability when we give him an assignment. The same applies to the church. Here too, we must only ask something of someone for that which they are capable to do, which matches his or her talents and does not go beyond them.
It may happen that we are very busy – in our opinion, of course, with good things – but that our activities are at the expense of our first responsibility. For example, fathers should be fathers in the first place and not workaholics. They should not leave the responsibility of fatherhood to their wives. Mothers should be mothers, not career hunters. It is about setting the right priorities. The taking care of their own vineyard, their own family, must take first place. Our boss may ask a lot of us and if we are our own boss, we may ask a lot of ourselves. But that does not mean that we should neglect our family.
Someone once said that some of his children did not follow the Lord. He said he had had a period in his life during which he was completely absorbed in his work. Late in the evening he came home, slept, got up early and left again. He hardly saw his children, nor did his children see him. It was precisely at a time when these children were making important life decisions, when they needed their father’s attention and conversation with him. He now regrets that very much. Let it be a warning for anyone who recognizes it.
What does it mean to take care of our “own vineyard”? It means that we have a field that has been given to us by the Lord Jesus to work for Him. His intention is that we should produce fruit for him in that area. The vineyard speaks of joy. He wants us to deal with what He has given us in such a way that it makes Him happy. Families, but also churches, are areas where we all have a responsibility. If we are aware of this responsibility and meet it, it will rejoice both God’s heart and ours.
It is important that we take care of that area. To take this care means that we have to do with an enemy. We must be constantly on our guard against his attacks. In the next chapter we read about foxes who are trying to spoil the vineyard, with the bride’s question: “Catch the foxes for us” (Song 2:1515“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”
). However, here it is about the fact that we have a responsibility to protect our vineyard.
7“Tell me, O you whom my soul loves,
Where do you pasture [your flock],
Where do you make [it] lie down at noon?
For why should I be like one who veils herself
Beside the flocks of your companions?”
Now the bride addresses the groom. She turns to him after her own failure in her work. This is what the Lord wants us to do when we have failed. So we don’t have to exchange courage for self-pity, but instead, go to Him. She turns to him as someone whom she knows and deeply loves. The appeal of love is greater than the defeat of failure. Our failure can never be greater than the love of Christ. We should always bear that in mind.
Peter also experienced this. The Lord Jesus speaks of his failure in advance, but He says that He prayed for him that his faith would not fail (Lk 22:31-3231“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat;32but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”). Whoever loves the Lord wholeheartedly is saddened by his own failures, but is also convinced of the love of the Lord Who never writes off a failing disciple, but always gives him a fresh chance.
The bride’s failure brings her back again to the one in whose company she so much loves to be. She realizes that she needs food and rest. It is exhausting to do work in which the Lord Jesus is not involved. When we experience that, we feel hunger and long for rest. This is the order: first food and then rest (cf. Eze 34:1515I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD.). A hungry sheep will not rest until it has found something to satisfy its hunger.
Only the Lord Jesus can give us food that satisfies our spiritual hunger, and gives us the strength to live in fellowship with Him and for Him. That food in fact, is He, Himself. We feed on Him when we read God’s Word, because that speaks continually about Him (Jn 5:3939You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;). Then we also get rest for our souls. It is important to start the day with food from the Word of God. When it is noon then, when the sun is at its hottest, i.e. when the circumstances of life become difficult (Mt 13:6,216But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.21yet he has no [firm] root in himself, but is [only] temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.), we will be able to continue our way in the power of this food (1Kgs 19:5-85He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.”6Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake [baked on] hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again.7The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”8So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.).
Just a practical application. If we have lunch break at work around noon, what do we do? Are there possibilities to read something from the Word of God? Or are we constantly busy? I know of a representative who was always busy. He had to meet his target number of sales. He was busy with that. If he had had some customers and it was time to have something to eat, he drove to a quiet place to eat his bread. As he ate his bread, instead of thinking about how the conversations with the customers had gone that morning and how he would handle later conversations, he would unwind by reading something from the Word of God. It will not apply to everyone, not even to every break, but are we at the very least trying, if the possibilities are there, to use a break in this way?
To the bride the important point is to be at the place where He pastures the flock and where He makes it lie down at noon. She seeks a personal relationship with him. This is an important example for us. Nothing is more important than a personal and living relationship with the Lord Jesus. We belong to His flock, we are together with other believers who also follow Him, but we do not disappear in the group. If we are looking for the flock, it is to be with Him. We do not follow a group and do not derive our identity from it, but we follow Him with Whom each of us has an own relationship. The good Shepherd knows every sheep of His flock “by name” (Jn 10:33To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.).
The bride doesn’t want to be absorbed in the group and walk around there like one with a veil. She should take that place if she were to join ‘the flocks of your companions’, which are flocks other than his. By this she indicates that her personal relationship with him cannot run through others. We see an illustration of this in Christianity. Therein are companies of people who follow human leaders. These are leaders who are working for the Lord, but the sheep still gather around themselves. They take the place of ‘mediator’ between the people of God and God Himself. Such leaders speak of ‘my church’, whereas only the Lord Jesus can say so.
We can only grow spiritually if we have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. If we listen to God’s Word, what is it saying to us? Is it important to us who preaches it and how it is said? Or are we really open to what God has to say to us? The rule for our judgment must be whether the things that are said strengthen our relationship with the Lord Jesus. The preacher disappears, but Christ remains.
We see this with the eunuch in Acts 8. The evangelist Philip taught him the Word of God and baptized him. Then Philip disappears. We do not read that the eunuch was sadly left behind because his teacher was gone now, but the contrary: he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:26-3926But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert [road].)27So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship,28and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”30Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”31And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
“HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER;
AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT,
SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH.
33“IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY;
WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION?
FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.”
34The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please [tell me], of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?”35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.36As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”37<And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”>38And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.). Every preacher who has been called by the Lord to serve with God’s Word, does not want anything else than that the one he has served with God’s Word, goes his way with joy, growing in fellowship with the Lord. We should not be content with men, whoever they are, but only with the Lord. That is what we can learn from the bride here.
8“If you yourself do not know,
Most beautiful among women,
Go forth on the trail of the flock
And pasture your young goats
By the tents of the shepherds.
The groom immediately answers the bride’s question, where he pastures the flock. His first words are: “If you yourself do not know.” Therein lies a soft reproach. It sounds like she could have known. If this soft reproach were to be misunderstood by the bride and perceived as a rejection, his following words make it clear that there is no such thing. He calls her the “most beautiful among women.” That means that he tells her how special she is to him. Although he has to make her a soft reproach, he appreciates that she comes to him with her question.
The Lord Jesus also sometimes has to reproach us softly for things we ask for, but for which we should have known the answer (cf. Jn 14:8-98Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”9Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and [yet] you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how [can] you say, ‘Show us the Father’?; cf. Heb 5:11-1411Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13For everyone who partakes [only] of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.14But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.). At the same time, He appreciates that we come to Him with our questions and He answers them. He does not reject us.
We can apply this to the situation in which our children come to us with questions, including questions to which they should already know the answer. How do we react? Do we then react, for example, as follows: ‘Why do you ask that, silly? I told you that already, didn’t I?’ A child may have forgotten something. If that is the case, we should not protest against the child.
We must not forget that we ourselves are also being constantly raised by the Lord. We are all at the school of life, both parents and children. The same can be said of young people in the church. How do we as elderly people treat them? Do we have patience to explain certain things more often, as often as they need it?
The bride is told to follow the trail of the flock to see where he pastures the flock and makes it lie down. The word “follow” is literally “go out”. So she gets the assignment to go out, to go outside to follow those trails. It means she was in a place she had to leave, where she didn’t belong. There is distance between her and the groom. To get to him she must first leave the area where she is. She moved in a different world from the one in which he pastured the flock. When she leaves, she can follow others who belong to him.
The same applies to us. If, spiritually, we are in a place where we don’t belong, where we miss the Lord Jesus, where He can’t be, then we might ask Him where He is. Then He will tell us to leave that area. This can relate to the comfort with which we have surrounded ourselves. It can also mean that we have to let go of human traditions, because they stifle our faith life. It also means that we must leave a Christian community that has become a human system, where God’s Word is not decisive, but instead what counts is what people consider to be good (Heb 13:1313So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.).
Then He says we have to follow the sheep’s tracks. By ‘the sheep’ believers are meant (Jn 10:2727My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;; 21:1717He *said to him the third time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.). The sheep in question are sheep that are in the truth about the church and live according to it. Many believers today are sheep, but they have no ‘flock consciousness’. They have no idea that they belong to the one flock of the one Shepherd. This is shown by the fact that they have no awareness of the church of Christ to which all believers belong. They believe that they should be a member of this or that church or group and they have no regard for the fact that there is for God only “one flock”, to which all true believers belong, with “one Shepherd”, the Lord Jesus (Jn 10:1616I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock [with] one shepherd.).
The bride can follow the groom’s sheep by following the “trails” they left behind. The ‘trails’ are the foot prints of those who have gone out before. ‘Trails’ also speak of movement and progress. Anyone looking for this should follow the same path and take the same actions. So it is not about taking a new road, but about following old tracks or paths (Jer 6:1616Thus says the LORD,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk [in it].’
) that have been there for a long time. They are there “from the beginning” (1Jn 1:11What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—). We can think back to the truths of the church and its gathering, because these words “were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1717But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,; cf. 2Pet 3:22that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior [spoken] by your apostles.).
It is about words that “were spoken beforehand”. This refers to the words of Scripture. We have everything we need in the Bible. There is no need to invent new things. When we have questions about coming together with the Lord, it is not about inventing something new. This does not mean that we could not experience the coming together in any other way. It is good to think about how our enthusiasm for the Lord can increase and how it can be expressed. Whoever desires to be with the Lord Jesus will make sure that being together around Him does not become a routine, but he will want to honor Him from the bottom of his heart, again and again.
Sometimes it is predictable how a meeting, a prayer or a message will go. Then the question is justified whether the Spirit can really work and make hearts fervent for Christ. If these predictable situations occur frequently, it would be good to pray to the Lord together, that He may point out what we need to change, to really experience His presence again. After all, we want to be with Him, don’t we?
To be truly with Him means to be impressed by Who He is. When something is read from the Word of God, we are often aware that God speaks. We then respond, either out loud or in our hearts: ‘God is speaking to me!’ So we can be open to what He has to say. The Word will be alive and powerful for us and work within us. In this way there is a living relationship with the Lord.
We all react differently to the Word. Older people do this differently from young people. Everyone does it in their own way. There is no particular language or jargon that one must first know to thank the Lord or to ask Him anything. Any believer may speak to the Lord in the same way as he speaks to others. The intonation may also remain the same. We don’t have to change our voice suddenly when we read something from God’s Word or pray out loud.
Every believer, old or young, may be himself with the Lord. We are all unique to Him and to each other. Every child the Lord has given us in our families, and every member of the church has his own development and must be given room for it. It is about a new enthusiasm in life with the Lord. This life develops on paths that have been there for a long time. The paths are fixed, because the Word is fixed.
The groom then gives the bride a task: she has to pasture her goats “near the shepherds’ homes”. She herself is pictured as a sheep that is directed by the groom into the pathway of the other sheep, a way that leads to him. Here she is told that she has to do her work as a shepherdess of goats near the homes of his shepherds.
We can apply these houses to the local assemblies. There are the shepherds of the Lord Jesus who do their work as agents of Him (1Pet 5:1-41Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as [your] fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to [the will of] God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.). All those who are looking for a new experience in their relationship with the Lord Jesus can learn from these shepherds how to do that work in the local congregation. It is about dealing with each other, accepting each other and learning from each other. The shepherds’ homes are places where we are stimulated in our relationship with the Lord Jesus, where it is further developed or revived.
9“To me, my darling, you are like
My mare among the chariots of Pharaoh.
The groom calls the bride here for the first time “my darling” or “my friend”. That applies to the confidential relationship between them. With a friend you share intimate things that you don’t share with everyone. This is only possible if there is an atmosphere of complete trust and security. The Lord Jesus also calls His disciples His friends, and He reminds them of His protection (Lk 12:44“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.). He mentions elsewhere another condition to be called a “friend” by him and to receive his intimate conversation: that is, that the disciple does what he commands (Jn 15:1414You are My friends if you do what I command you.).
Then the groom compares his bride with a mare. At first hearing, this does not immediately sound flattering to us Westerners, within a relationship of love. We don’t hear a man quickly say from his wife that she looks like a mare. The groom says so here. He adds that she is one among other mares and that they together are meant to pull the chariots of Pharaoh. So the mares came from Egypt (cf. 1Kgs 10:2828Also Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, [and] the king’s merchants procured [them] from Kue for a price.; 2Chr 1:1616Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue; the king’s traders procured them from Kue for a price.; 9:2828And they were bringing horses for Solomon from Egypt and from all countries.). They must have been beautiful and well-trained mares, real showpieces. They were used to pull the beautiful chariots of Pharaoh to show his majesty wherever they went.
As believers, we should all be such ‘showpieces’ of our Lord Jesus, carrying Him in the ‘chariots’ of our lives. We should show Him in our lives, so that His majesty becomes visible in them and all the light of our lives falls upon Him. He says here that we are so for Him. This means He can glorify Himself through us. We know for ourselves, that this is usually very poorly done in our lives. Yet He sees in us the desire to glorify Him. We would like to show the people around us what He means to us, what He has become to us through His work on the cross. He freed us from the power of sin and bought us for Himself. We are now totally His.
As has been said, the groom speaks of mares among other mares. We can imagine that it is important if there are several mares pulling a chariot, that these mares all gallop the same, and at the same speed. It shows that not only individually, but also together we can exalt the Lord Jesus. A common testimony has great power in the world. If everyone is personally full of the glory of the Lord Jesus, quarrels will not have the opportunity to mar this worthy testimony.
The mare obeys the reins of the master and gives her strength in his service. Thus, the Holy Spirit, so to speak, wants to hold the reins of our personal and communal life in his hands. Then the Lord Jesus will see in the lives of those who love Him that they are completely at His disposal to take Him where He wants to go. Thus we are useful for the Master. It is about giving our strength in His service, in dependence on the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the path He is showing us.
The result is a walk in peace and unity with others, just as the mares all kept pace. That will be an impressive sight, just as the chariots of Pharaoh must have been a beautiful display, a display that reflected his greatness.
10“Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with strings of beads.”
After comparing the stature of the bride with a mare of Pharaoh, the groom talks about the cheeks and neck of the bride. In the course of the book we hear him speak about several parts of her body. The bride, in turn, speaks several times about various parts of the body of the groom. Love sees not only the figure, but also the details. Each part of the body has charm. That charm is represented by comparing that part of the body, with jewelry or other things that bring brilliance, in a special way, to the value or the meaning of that part of the body.
The first part of the body that the groom mentions are the cheeks. Cheeks have to do with slander and mockery, meaning to offer them without defending oneself (Isa 50:66I gave My back to those who strike [Me],
And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;
I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
; Mt 5:3939But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.). The groom sees that slander has been done to her by her brothers. The slander does not tarnish her, but makes her all the more charming for him. The same goes for the slander inflicted on believers for the sake of the Lord Jesus. That slander is sweet to Him.
The slander done to the bride the groom views as being surrounded by graceful “ornaments” or “ornamental chains”. He places a frame around her slander, as it were. With this he encourages her. In the same way, the apostle Peter encourages the faithful who are reproached for the Name of Christ. He surrounds the reproach inflicted upon them with a brilliance of glory: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1Pet 4:1414If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.). The reproach brings about the brilliance of the Spirit of glory.
Suffering “for the Name of Christ” emphasizes the connection with Him. To suffer insult for His Name is the direct consequence of coming out for Him in word and deed. The world sees in the believer the representative of Christ, Who Himself when He was on earth was the great Representative of God. Because of this He experienced: “And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” (Psa 69:9b9For zeal for Your house has consumed me,
And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.
). This was no dishonor to Him, nor for us is it a dishonor when we are insulted for His Name. Peter even says that we are “blessed” when it happens.
We can also compare the chains with prayer. We sometimes speak of a ‘prayer chain’. By this we mean that a number of believers agree to pray continuously for a certain cause, each committing himself to do so for a certain period of time, after which another continues for a certain period of time. The need for a ‘prayer chain’ is particularly felt in a time of opposition and oppression. Insult or oppression that drives us into constant prayer is of special value to the Lord Jesus. Our lives should be a chain of prayer. We can only endure opposition if we are constantly praying (cf. Psa 109:44In return for my love they act as my accusers;
But I am [in] prayer.
The neck speaks of rigidity. That is, of the sinner’s refusal to bow before God and acknowledge Him as God. It indicates unwillingness to serve God and the neighbor. When the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt, we read of the nobles of Tekoa as it literally is said in Hebrew: “They did not bring their necks to the work of their masters” (Neh 3:55Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.). They did not want to serve. But the bride’s neck has bowed before the groom. She wants to be there for him. That’s why her neck is lovely now. Her neck is no longer a body part that displays rigidity, but is of beauty and value.
The “strings of beads” or the pearls around her neck can be connected to what Solomon says to his son (Pro 1:8-98Hear, my son, your father’s instruction
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;
9Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
And ornaments about your neck.). He speaks of “the father’s instruction” and “your mother’s teaching” which are like a chain around the neck when listened to. For us who, through faith in the Lord Jesus, have become sons of God, it means that it will adorn us if we listen to exhortation, and show willingness to learn. We then show that we no longer want to live for ourselves, but that we have bowed our necks to what God has to say.
The Lord Jesus appreciates it when we not only say that we love Him, but also show this in practice by listening to instruction and teaching. When we see someone living in accordance with the Word of God, we respect and appreciate it. A life in dependence on the Beloved is an ornament whose value is only fully known by the Lord Jesus. It is a life that resembles His life. He always listened. Every morning His ear was open to His God and He received Divine instruction (Isa 50:44The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens [Me] morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
). His life was totally free from own will and therefore it was like beautiful strings of beads for the Father.
11“We will make for you ornaments of gold
With beads of silver.”
Here we hear that the groom promises something to his bride. He shows her how valuable she is to him. In his description he made comparisons with valuable materials. She is already beautiful, but now he is going to add to what he found in her. Ornaments or golden chains he made himself. Here we see his commitment to his bride.
However, he does not say in the singular ‘I will ... make’, but in the plural “we will make”. Here we recognize in the speech of the groom the speech of the Lord Jesus. We listen to His intention to make His bride even more beautiful. When the Lord Jesus speaks, we always hear the triune God speak (cf. Jn 3:1111Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.). The ‘We’ can be understood as a Divine plural: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are at work. They are busy hanging the bride with “golden chains”. Gold speaks of divine glory. They are also busy applying “beads of silver” to the bride. Silver speaks of salvation and reconciliation and the price paid for it.
A chain is a series of separate links that together form the chain. The Holy Spirit puts a beautiful golden chain on us when He says to us through Paul: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom 8:28-3028And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.).
Do we see the chain?
Link 1: We are called to His purpose.
Link 2: We are known in advance.
Link 3: We are destined beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Link 4: We are called.
Link 5: We are justified.
Link 6: We are glorified.
Isn’t that a beautiful chain? It is a series of blessings that are strung together like a chain and given to us by God. We can wear this ornament in our hearts and think about it in our hearts, so that we will increasingly appreciate and praise this gift. What He gives us, is always something of Himself, of His glory. With that glory He clothes us and with His glory we reflect Him.
We also see the beads of silver. We will never forget that all that God has given us, that whole chain of glories, is based on the redemption through the blood of Christ, His Son. Everything is connected with the work of redemption of Christ on the cross. Whatever glory ‘that has been put on us’ we admire, we will always see that that glory is also due to what Christ has done for us. We have done nothing, but we owe everything to Him.
12“While the king was at his table,
My perfume gave forth its fragrance.
Here we hear the bride speak again. She responds to what her beloved has said in the preceding verses. She is at rest at the king’s table. It is not just a table, but a festive table that is richly set, with the tastiest pastry and meat dishes (1Kgs 4:22-2322Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty kors of fine flour and sixty kors of meal,23ten fat oxen, twenty pasture-fed oxen, a hundred sheep besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl.). But the most special thing about this table is that the king himself is sitting at it. All the delicacies on the king’s table would have no meaning if he were not at the table.
This scene points out to us the Lord Jesus and the fellowship with Him. A table speaks of fellowship. Here it is not so much about what is on the table, but about the fact that it is “His table”. Nor is this primarily an application to the Lord’s table, where His supper is celebrated. This happens when we meet as a church. But here, in the picture, it is about experiencing the constant fellowship with the Lord Jesus. The fact that this is a continuous fellowship is expressed by the “round table”, as it literally says. What is round is without beginning and without end. The fellowship that we may experience with the Lord Jesus is, by its nature, eternal, because He is eternal.
When the bride comes to the king’s table, she has her own, “my perfume” which literally is “my spikenard”, on her. “While” she sits together with the king at his table, the smell of her spikenard fills the dining room. We automatically think of Mary of Bethany, of whom we read: “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure spikenard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (Jn 12:33Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.).
Spreading the scent of the perfume of spikenard is a picture of worship. We can understand that. Isn’t it an unprecedented privilege for us, who formerly had no part in anything and were going to hell, to now be allowed to sit ‘at the table’ with the Most High? He has delivered us from our misery and given us that high place of fellowship with Himself. We should always think about that. It is not for nothing that the Lord Jesus links the anointing by Mary to the proclamation of the gospel (Mt 26:1313Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”). It shows that whoever is saved from his sins becomes a worshipper of God and of the Lord Jesus.
When we apply this to the coming together as a church, at the Lord’s Table, what the bride and Mary have done is an encouragement for us to prepare for the meeting with Him (cf. Deu 16:16-1716“Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.17Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.). Mary had saved up for her spikenard. The cost of this ointment was three hundred denarii. Converted, this is roughly the annual salary of an employee – one denari is a daily salary (Mt 20:22When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.). Mary had long been busy preparing for her deed, which received so much appreciation from the Savior.
13“My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh
Which lies all night between my breasts.
The bride spreads the fragrance of the spikenard in the presence of the king (verse 1212“While the king was at his table,
My perfume gave forth its fragrance.), because he is her “beloved”. He is her all and all. This short verse 1313“My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh
Which lies all night between my breasts. contains three times the words “me” or “my”, which makes her statements very personal. She describes what he is for her. He is primarily for her “a pouch of myrrh”. Myrrh is a pleasantly fragrant resin and can have a bitter, but also a sweet taste. Myrrh is extracted from different species of trees and is obtained by incisions in those trees. So the tree is injured. In the wilderness, at high temperatures, the softened resin seeps out from the wounds. In the time of the Bible, myrrh was a symbol of suffering and death.
What the bride says applies to our connection with the Lord Jesus. Is not our worship – of which the spikenard speaks – raised in a special way when we think of His suffering and death? He is our “Beloved” because He first loved us with such a love that He surrendered Himself to death for us. He is “the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20b20I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.). When He hung on the cross, to Him was given “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mk 15:2323They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it.). And Nicodemus brought Him after His death “a mixture of myrrh and aloes” to anoint his body (Jn 19:3939Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds [weight].).
The bride speaks of her groom as “a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts”. For us this means that the Lord Jesus in His suffering and death has a place of close proximity and intimacy in our hearts. Breasts are frequently mentioned in the Bible. Like other parts of the body, they are openly spoken about, without any thought of sinful lust. The parts of the body mentioned are beautiful. They literally show God’s ‘creativity’, while we may also see a spiritual meaning in it. Breasts in the Bible are a picture of spiritual maturity, of maturity in faith, through which one is able to pass on food to babies in faith.
The “breasts” (plural) also point to balance in the life of faith. So we can think of faith on the one hand, and love on the other. We find these two characteristics in “the breastplate of faith and love” (1Thes 5:88But since we are of [the] day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.). The breastplate, which consists of faith and love, protects the breast, where the heart sits. Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:1717so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love,). Christ dwells in our hearts and from our hearts we think with great gratitude about His work in faith and love. We believe in this with all our heart and place our full trust in it. Through His work for us, we are also convinced of His complete love for us.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes happen that we gradually lose the faith and love for Him in our hearts, so that He no longer has that place of intimacy. This is the case if we give our love to the world and the things of the world. The apostle John warns us not to love the world, for if this happens, we cease to the love the Father (1Jn 2:1515Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.). One love excludes the other love.
In the mass of God’s people, the opposite is found of what should live in the remnant, of which the bride is a picture. God says of His adulterous people: “Let her put away her harlotry from her face and her adultery from between her breasts” (Hos 2:2b2“Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts,
). He notices with his own - what is ‘between the breasts’. What is in our hearts: love for the Lord Jesus or love for the world?
The answer to that question depends on our understanding of the words “all night” which the bride uses. The world is in the night, because the Lord Jesus, the Light of the world, is not there. He is rejected by the world (Jn 1:5-105The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.6There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.7He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.8He was not the Light, but [he came] to testify about the Light.9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.). We are in the world and therefore in the night, but it is a night that is almost over (Rom 13:12a12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.). “We are not of night” (1Thes 5:5b5for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;), and we may ‘let the Lord Jesus spend the night between our breasts’, that is, cherish Him as our greatest treasure. What a joy it must be for Him to be the most precious possession for His own, that are in a world that has thrown Him out.
14“My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
In the vineyards of Engedi.”
Again (verse 1313“My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh
Which lies all night between my breasts.) it comes from the bride’s mouth: “My beloved is to me …“. She now adds to the previous equation that of “a cluster of henna blossoms”. In the previous comparison, that of a pouch of myrrh, we hear what the groom means to her heart, her inner self. The pouch of myrrh was not seen by anyone. The henna blossoms were used by Jewish girls to make a wreath of flowers and to decorate themselves with them.
Through the henna blossoms she shows others who the groom is for her. The flowers show what he is for her outwardly. They come from “the vineyards of Engedi”. Vineyards and wine represent joy (Jdg 9:1313But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’; Psa 104:15a15And wine which makes man’s heart glad,
So that he may make [his] face glisten with oil,
And food which sustains man’s heart.
). Engedi means ‘source of the goat.
This verse depicts, together with the previous verse, that Christ is our ‘Beloved’ both internally and externally. We not only cherish Him in our hearts, but also visibly adorn ourselves with Him. We show in our surroundings that we are happy with Him. This will be noticeable by others in our behavior, in all our actions and words. When our hearts are attuned to Him and He spends the night between our breasts like a pouch of myrrh, this should also become visible in our lives.
We give expression to this joy in ‘Engedi’. It is the name of a wilderness where David fled and hid from Saul (1Sam 24:1-21Now when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.”2Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.). In the wilderness of this world, we are allowed to occupy that special place. As has already been mentioned, Engedi means ‘source of the goat. This connects us with the work of the Lord Jesus as the sin offering. The goat is the animal of the sin offering par excellence (Lev 16:55He shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.). By becoming the sin offering, Christ worked reconciliation. This is also in line with a possible meaning of the word ‘henna’. It is believed that this word has a root that means ‘reconciliation’, ‘ransom’, ‘covering’.
Christ is the Source of Atonement, the Source of life. He is the Source out of Whom comes all things that bring joy to our life in this wilderness of this world. If He is then, the Source for all things in our lives from Whom we draw what we need, we may personally say with the sons of Korah: “All my springs are in You” (Psa 87:7b7Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes [shall say],
“All my springs [of joy] are in you.”). Our surroundings will perceive this in our lives, but above all it will be seen by our ‘Beloved’.
15“How beautiful you are, my darling,
How beautiful you are! Your eyes are [like] doves.”
The groom reacts to the expressions of the bride’s love by praising her beauty. By saying “how beautiful you are” twice, he emphasizes it. Sometimes this confirmation is necessary. This also applies to our relationship with the Lord. We may say to someone: ‘You are beautiful to God as you are. He sees you in the Lord Jesus, the Beloved. In Him God has accepted you.
The first time the groom praises the beauty of the bride to encourage her. He calls her again “my darling” (verse 99“To me, my darling, you are like
My mare among the chariots of Pharaoh.). The second time he says it because her “eyes are [like] doves”. He sees from her eyes, which are the mirror of the soul, that she only looks at him. Eyes indicate spiritual insight. She sees in him everything she needs.
Thus the Lord Jesus says to His disciples that they are surrounded by hostile people and therefore, among other things, must be “innocent as doves” (Mt 10:1616“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.). Innocent has the meaning of ‘simple’, ‘unsuspecting’. The eye of the dove has only one direction of vision, it can only be focused on one thing, not on several things at the same time, because it cannot move. It indicates the firmness and determination of the gaze. That is also important for us. If we love the Lord Jesus, our eyes should not wander back and forth, but only look at Him.
The dove is a faithful bird. Often, we see two doves together. They always stay true to each other. Thus does the Lord see us, His bride. He tells us that He sees us as doves, who in their love will be faithful to Him and only want to look at Him. Even if we have to admit that our eyes so often look at other things, He knows our desire to really see Him alone.
He knows we want to listen to the call “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb 12:22fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.). The word ‘fixing’ literally means ‘to look towards’, which means to refrain from all other things and to keep the eye exclusively on one object. If this is found with us, if our heart goes out all alone to Him, then we are “beautiful” to Him. Our beauty to Him is determined by the direction of our eyes.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul also speaks of “the simplicity … in Christ” (2Cor 11:33But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity [of devotion] to Christ.). He fears that the Corinthians will have deviated from this. Should it not be said of the church as a whole that this fear has proved to be justified? Her thoughts have not remained focused on Christ alone. Her love for the Lord Jesus has cooled. She has forgotten her connection with Him and has connected herself with the world. She has not remained a pure virgin. This is a great grief to the Lord Jesus.
Paul points out how that happened. It came because the church had a poor understanding of Satan’s tricks, the same as the case with Eve. Satan succeeded in turning Eve’s gaze away from God and directing it to what he proposed to her. Eve forgot what God had said and her thoughts were spoiled by what the serpent said. What should she have done? To simply hold on to what God had said. If we discover that we no longer have Him as the one Object for our eyes, because our heart goes out to other things, let us confess it and return to our first love for Him.
16“How handsome you are, my beloved, [and] so pleasant!
Indeed, our couch is luxuriant!
Here the bride is speaking. The bride says to the groom, in response to what he said to her in the previous verse, that he is “handsome” and also that he is “pleasant”. Each time they tell each other what they feel and mean to each other. They speak the language of love.
What she says, is an exclamation of admiration. She is impressed by his stature, she finds him “handsome”, engaging. When she sees him, she is deeply impressed by him. He surpasses everyone, he is her “beloved”. But not only his stature enraptures her, he is also “pleasant” in his dealings with her. In the way he approaches her and pays attention to her, he shows his respect for her. He treats her with love.
This brings her to an “indeed”, and that in connection with rest. She comes to rest with him and he also with her. She doesn’t speak about ‘my’ or ‘your couch’, but about “our couch”. The place where their couch is located is “the green foliage” (which is a better rendering than ‘luxuriant’). The bride sees herself with the groom in the freedom of the green field. “Green’ speaks of freshness, of life and of peace (green is the color that gives peace to the eyes). ‘Foliage’ speaks of intimacy and seclusion, being alone with the beloved without others seeing them.
We can apply this to our love relationship as believers with the Lord Jesus. When we did not know Him, we saw “no [stately] form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isa 53:2b2For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no [stately] form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
). But now we like to say to Him that He is beautiful, that He is our Beloved, yes, that he is handsome. He is impressive to us when we look at Him, when we read the Scriptures, and see Who He is and what He has done. And are we not also deeply impressed by the way He treats us?
In this relationship we have rest, while we know that the Lord Jesus also finds rest in this relationship. However, this is not an empty silence, but a rest that is fresh, in which something grows, in which life develops. It is not the rest of complacency, but of the satisfaction of a living relationship. We see that in the green foliage. When something is green, it grows. That is how it is with our love for the Lord Jesus. There is rest and growth at the same time. We are overwhelmed as we are shaped by His unchanging love for us.
This is especially so, when we are together as a church on Sunday. We want to worship God and the Lord Jesus and have fellowship with both of them and remember what Christ has done for us as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. During that meeting there may be quiet moments. At that time nothing audible happens. There is no singing, no reading, no thanksgiving expressed. That can mean one of two things. It may be that our hearts are full of adoration for the Lord. Then nothing is said, but the Holy Spirit has been able to direct the hearts so much to the Lord Jesus and His work that there is general adoration for Him. However, it can also be the case that our hearts are empty. Then we have nothing in our hearts for the Lord Jesus. We are not in the green foliage, but in a barren place.
Whether we come with full or empty hearts has much to do with our daily life during the week. If our life is truly for the Lord and we are engaged with Him, learning from Him, and spiritually nourishing ourselves with the things He shows us of Himself in His Word, then we will come with full hearts. We also have the responsibility not to come to the meeting empty-handed – for us: empty hearts – (Exo 23:1515You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed.; 34:2020You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem [it], then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.; Deu 16:1616“Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.).
We must all have something, not only the brothers, but also the sisters. We come together as a church. The brothers are the ones who express worship. It may be that a brother personally has nothing, but still says something, gives up a song or reads something from Scripture, or gives thanks, in which his heart is not so involved, but still expresses what is alive in the hearts of the sisters. Thus can the Lord work right through our weaknesses what is to His honor.
17“The beams of our houses are cedars,
Our rafters, cypresses.
The bride is still in the free and green field, which she compares in the verse above with “our couch”. Now she compares the trees with building material for “our houses” and “our rafters”. In the free green field, the bride sees herself surrounded by cedars. In it she recognizes beams for their houses. She sees the high cypresses as rafters that form the roof. She knows that being together with the bridegroom has the protection and firmness of the cedars that surround her, while the cypresses are a protection against the heat of the sun.
It is remarkable that most of the woodwork in Solomon’s temple was cedar and cypress (1Kgs 5:8,108So Hiram sent [word] to Solomon, saying, “I have heard [the message] which you have sent me; I will do what you desire concerning the cedar and cypress timber.10So Hiram gave Solomon as much as he desired of the cedar and cypress timber.). God considered these woods the most suitable for the construction of His house on earth. This reminds us that the description of the place where the bride is, speaks here of God’s sanctuary and of fellowship with Him.
Wood grows out of the earth. The woods speak of Christ Who “grew up … like a root out of parched ground” (Isa 53:22For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no [stately] form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
) as the imperishable Man. It has been noted that cypresses were common in Judean cemeteries. So they can be linked to death, so we can apply this to the death of Christ. What He has been in His life and death is the power of God’s house and the certainty of the future. God found His rest in the temple that was made of this wood and that is also the place where the believer finds rest.
It is also remarkable that the bride does not speak about ‘our house’, but about ‘our houses’. Therefore, the application does not only apply to God’s house, the church, but also to the houses in which we live. The church is built on Christ as the Son of the living God and came into existence by His work on the cross. In the church we may think of the death of Christ and honor Him for it. But it is also important that Christ and His work is the foundation of our homes, our marriages, and our families. He must be at the heart of it.
We may ask ourselves whether we build our houses with the same materials as those used to build God’s house. Everything in our homes that is connected with Christ and His work strengthens the building of the church as God’s home. Everything we do or allow in our homes without Christ weakens God’s house.
Does God’s Word and prayer take the central place in our homes or are we only busy making our homes comfortable places to live in? It is God’s intention that our houses should also be His houses, where He can have fellowship with us by the death of His Son, just as He wants to have fellowship with us in His house, the church.
The prophet Haggai speaks clear language about this to God’s earthly people (Hag 1:3-43Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,4“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house [lies] desolate?”). He tells us that we lose sight of the value of our own homes to God and make a wrong use of them if we lose sight of God’s home. Then “our houses” become only houses of people, in which He has no place. They are no longer houses in which we have fellowship with the Lord. And that is what the bride desires and in which she is an example to us.