Song of Songs
1-2 The Bride: a Lily 3 My Beloved Is like an Apple Tree 4 His Banner over Me Is Love 5-6 I Am Lovesick 7 No Love Before the Appointed Time 8 The Beloved Is Coming 9 The Beloved Seeks Cautious Reconciliation 10 Arise and Come Along 11-12 Winter Is Past, Singing Time Has Arrived 13 Again: Arise and Come Along! 14 Seeing the Form and Hearing the Voice 15-17 Catch the Little Foxes
The Bride: a Lily

1“I am the rose of Sharon,
The lily of the valleys.”
2“Like a lily among the thorns,
So is my darling among the maidens.”

The bride says that she is “the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys”. The rose and the lily are small field flowers. In this way, the bride expressed her smallness, which she emphasized by saying that she is a lily “of the valleys”. The valley points to a place of humiliation. Sharon and the valley become places of safety and rest for God’s people, who come from the great tribulation: “Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks, and the valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for My people who seek Me” (Isa 65:1010“Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks,
And the valley of Achor a resting place for herds,
For My people who seek Me.
).

In verse 22“Like a lily among the thorns,
So is my darling among the maidens.”
the groom reacts to what the bride says of herself, in verse 11“I am the rose of Sharon,
The lily of the valleys.”
. He takes over the image the bride uses and speaks of her as “a lily”. That’s how he sees her. And he sees her, this delicate wild flower, “among the thorns”, so that her beauty is expressed all the more. She is like a diamond lying on a black cloth, making the brilliance of the diamond shine all the stronger.

Thorns, often called along with thistles, are a picture of sin (Gen 3:1818“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
). It is human nature, as it was made by the Fall. “The maidens” can be seen here as the daughters of apostate Israel (Hos 4:1414I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot
Or your brides when they commit adultery,
For [the men] themselves go apart with harlots
And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes;
So the people without understanding are ruined.
; Eze 2:66And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house.). Thorns will no longer be there in the kingdom of peace (Eze 28:2424And there will be no more for the house of Israel a prickling brier or a painful thorn from any round about them who scorned them; then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.”). “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up” (Isa 55:1313“Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the LORD,
For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”
). This is thanks to the Lord Jesus, Who has born the curse of sin.

The world is full of thorns and thistles and sighs under the consequences of the curse that rests on creation through sin (Rom 8:20-2220For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.). It is very painful to dwell here. Sometimes we feel it with each other that there are thorns and thistles affecting us. We too can hurt others.

Yet here we read that it is said, “As a lily among the thorns, so are you.’ A lily is a flower that flowers only for a short time. The Lord Jesus says: “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is [alive] today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much more [clothe] you?” (Mt 6:28-3028And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is [alive] today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much more [clothe] you? You of little faith!). We see here that the Lord equates the lilies on the field with the grass because of the short-lived glory they have. The lilies shine one day and are burned the next day in an oven.

Despite its brevity, God clothed the lilies with a beauty that surpasses the glory of Solomon. The followers of the Lord Jesus receive a glory greater than that of Solomon, despite the fact that He must address them as ‘you of little faith’. The bride has the same great glory for the groom, despite what she thinks of herself. The faithful remnant of Israel will be clothed by the Messiah with a glory coming from Himself (Eze 16:1414Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD.).

The Lord Jesus sees His own in a world full of thorns and thistles. For Him they are like lilies. That may give us confidence in the short time we are on earth. He will give us everything we need. The care that He has for the faithful remnant in the end times, He now also has for us. We may be witnesses in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil 2:1515so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,) and especially in the midst of an apostate nominal Christianity.


My Beloved Is like an Apple Tree

3“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
So is my beloved among the young men.
In his shade I took great delight and sat down,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste.

The bride gives a testimony again of what the groom means to her. He compared her in the previous verse to “a lily among the thorns”. She now compares him to “an apple tree among the trees of the forest”. A tree is a picture of power (cf. Dan 4:10-14,20-2610‘Now [these were] the visions in my mind [as I lay] on my bed: I was looking, and behold, [there was] a tree in the midst of the earth and its height [was] great.
11‘The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to the sky,
And it [was] visible to the end of the whole earth.
12‘Its foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it [was] food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it.
13‘I was looking in the visions in my mind [as I lay] on my bed, and behold, an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.
14‘He shouted out and spoke as follows:
Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it
And the birds from its branches.
20The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth21and whose foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which [was] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—22it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.23In that the king saw an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze [around it] in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,”24this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:25that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.26And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that [it is] Heaven [that] rules.
; Eze 17:2424All the trees of the field will know that I am the LORD; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will perform [it].”). The apple tree speaks of the Lord Jesus. The other trees represent the young men of the world, impressive people, who also try to draw the bride’s attention to themselves and who want to seduce her to love them.

For those other trees she has no further attention, despite their impressive stature. Her longing goes out only to him, whom she calls her beloved. There is no one who can be compared to him. He is, and has, everything she desires. She yearns strongly for him because of his shadow and his fruit, these speaking of his protection and his food.

Under the apple tree there is rest in the first place: she wants to sit there (cf. Lk 10:3939She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.). It is a refuge from the heat: there is shade (Isa 25:44For You have been a defense for the helpless,
A defense for the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat;
For the breath of the ruthless
Is like a [rain] storm [against] a wall.
). There is also food, of which the taste is good: the fruit is sweet (Psa 34:88O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
). When the Lord Jesus gave food to the crowd, He first let them sit quietly (Mk 6:31,39-4031And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many [people] coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)39And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.40They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.). To receive something from Him, there must be rest. When we fly back and forth restlessly or are disturbed by all kinds of reports on the means of communication we have in our pockets or bags, we miss much of the food He gives us.

We must be close to Him to experience His shadow, His protection, and enjoy His fruit. If we stray from Him, if we are not close to Him, we miss His shadow. Christ is not simply a means to enter heaven, but in Him the joy of heaven comes down to fill our hearts, and to support us on our journey to heaven.

Apples, the fruit of the apple tree, are compared to good words in God’s Word. In Proverbs 25 it says in visual language: “[Like] apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” (Pro 25:1111[Like] apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
). The words themselves are of gold; the silver speaks of the way they are passed on. That is how the Lord Jesus speaks to us. Gold speaks of divine glory. Silver refers to the price paid for the salvation. When we sit in His shadow and want to eat of the fruit of the tree, it means that He speaks to us words of Divine glory, which are connected with salvation.

How beautiful it would be if we could speak among ourselves in the same way, words that bear witness to God’s glory and words that we know are linked to salvation. Then we would not speak harsh words. Men are warned not to be embittered against their wives (Col 3:1919Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.). That will not happen when they speak good words, words that build up. To speak good words, we must first take them to us and eat them.

Jeremiah tells us how this can be done: “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jer 15:1616Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts.
). Isn’t that encouraging? When we talk to each other, let us use words that are good, that we want to eat, words that do us good spiritually, making and keeping us healthy. The awareness that God’s Name has been proclaimed upon us, that we have been named after His Name, this will help produce that work within us.

So we can rightly say that the Lord Jesus Christ is ‘the apple tree’ for the believer. Let us sit in His shadow and eat of His fruit.


The bride, after sitting in the shadow of the groom and enjoying what he is eating (verse 33“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
So is my beloved among the young men.
In his shade I took great delight and sat down,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
), is brought by the groom into the fullness of joy. This is symbolically expressed by the “banquet hall”, or better “the house of wine” (Darby translation) in which he brings her. She rejoices at his love, which is like a banner over her. A banner speaks of victory. Where the banner is placed, the victory is achieved. Love overcomes the greatest fear and enmity.

The believer should know that he is brought by the Lord Jesus into the full joy of the fellowship with Him. As we have seen before (Song 1:2b2“May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine.
), wine is a picture of joy. Here we see ourselves as believers brought into a house of joy. We did not enter that house in our own power and we did not invite ourselves to it. Christ has invited us. He brought us there. In His grace He gave us that place beside Him. Through His work on the cross He opened the door of that house for us and carried us inside.

The Lord Jesus demonstrates this in the parable of the lost sheep found by the shepherd. He puts it on his shoulders rejoicing and brings it home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and invites them to rejoice with him. It is a picture of the joy that is in heaven over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:5-75When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’7I tell you that in the same way, there will be [more] joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.).

The similar or even more impressive example, we see in the parable that the Lord Jesus tells about the prodigal son, also in Luke 15. When this son comes home, his father brings him into his own house, the father’s house, where there is an abundance of joy. A large meal is prepared there in an atmosphere of joy, which begins but never ends: “And they began to celebrate” (Lk 15:2424for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.). That starts here on earth, where we can already enjoy this feast as a foretaste of heaven, where we will continue this feast for all eternity.

The banner speaks of the Lord Jesus as the Victor and of His power (Exo 17:1515Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner;; Isa 5:2626He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation,
And will whistle for it from the ends of the earth;
And behold, it will come with speed swiftly.
; 11:10,1210Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.12And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
). He proved His love by dying for us and thereby freeing us from the fear of the devil: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn 4:1818There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.).

The banner speaks not only of victory, but also of ownership. The area where a banner is located belongs to the person who placed the banner there. If we look up and see the banner, we see Him, the Victor, and we know His love. Then we are no longer afraid of any power that might take us away from Him (Jn 10:28-2928and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.29My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand.). The banner of His love is like a shawl in which He has completely wrapped us, making us feel His warmth and also protection and security. We may rest with joy in that love.

This combination of joy and love we also see in God. Through the work of His Son, God can rejoice with joy over His people, and can quiet them so they can rest in His love (Zep 3:1717“The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
). We are enabled to share in the feelings of God, because Christ has carried the judgment of God in our place. By doing so, He opened the door to the house of complete joy and love, to the house and the heart of the Father for us.


I Am Lovesick

5“Sustain me with raisin cakes,
Refresh me with apples,
Because I am lovesick.
6“Let his left hand be under my head
And his right hand embrace me.”

The bride is overwhelmed by the banner of love of the groom over her (verse 44“He has brought me to [his] banquet hall,
And his banner over me is love.
). She is even “lovesick” (verse 55“Sustain me with raisin cakes,
Refresh me with apples,
Because I am lovesick.
). By this she means that she has the feeling that her heart is succumbing to his love. Lovesick for us means merging into the perfect happiness of the consciousness of our Lord’s love, where the heart still cannot grasp all that He has done for us. It is becoming overwhelmed at the thought of all that the Lord has given and done, and will give and will do.

The bride wants to respond to his love, but is not able to. His love is so great, so impressive, that she succumbs to it. Therefore she asks him to strengthen her with “raisin cakes”. She wants to experience the full joy of his love. Raisin cakes are just like wine made from grapes. They speak of joy connected with power, a power that is found in God for the believer: “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh 8:10b10Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”).

For Jerusalem, the bride of the Messiah, the time will come when she will no longer strengthen herself with the raisin cakes of the idols (Hos 3:11Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman [who] is loved by [her] husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”), but with His raisin cakes. This will happen when the Lord Jesus returns as the true David to Jerusalem to reign there. We see that in the image as David brings the ark to Jerusalem. He then distributes “to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one” (2Sam 6:1919Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.).

We learn from the bride that she does not always do her best to experience that love and to express her joy about it. She wants to rejoice in his love, but is aware that she also depends on the groom for that. In some Christian groups it is only about joy. You have to be happy and express it loudly and also think of all the various forms of joy. Here we learn that the real experience of the Lord Jesus’ love overwhelms and breaks us down. The reaction to this is not a worked-up joy, but a question to the Lord to help us with His power and to respond to His love.

Now she requires not only reinforcement, but also refreshment. Not only strength is needed, but also consolation (cf. Psa 94:1919When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
). In her need for refreshment she asks for “apples”. We can see in this the question of a believer who has come impressed by the love of the Lord Jesus and who wants to be invigorated by His words. They are personal words for someone in his own specific circumstances. He is able to prove the saying that “[like] apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” (Pro 25:1111[Like] apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
). Once someone knows the Lord Jesus, and are overwhelmed by His love, they have a great longing for Him and want to know Him better, especially in the circumstances in which they find themselves.

We need His support. We recognize this support in the bride’s longing for the left and right arm of the groom in verse 66“Let his left hand be under my head
And his right hand embrace me.”
. This is a highlight in the book. After a period of trials and desires comes the moment of rest and security. There may be doubt and unrest if we do not experience the Lord. But He will convince us of His great love, which will make us long for Him.

The bride wishes to be in his arms. She mentions his two arms separately. His left arm is the arm that comes as it were from his heart, from his love – the heart is on the left. His right arm is the arm of his power (Isa 41:1010‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
; Psa 63:88My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.
). In his arms she is completely safe (cf. Deu 33:2727“The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
And He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, ‘Destroy!’
). The fact that his left hand is under her head also means that he lifts her head to look at him. The fact that his right arm embraces her means that he keeps it protectively around her.

We see this in the Lord Jesus. Whoever lives in an intimate relationship with Him will experience His love and power. It is not about strength in itself, but about how that strength works in an intimate relationship. His love supports and protects. If we can experience His love and power in this way, perfect peace has come. This will be experienced by the believing remnant of Israel in the future, when it will look, after the great tribulation, on Him Whom they have pierced and at the same time will find complete peace in Him.

With this scene of rest, the first third section of the book ends. The two previous parts have also ended in the same way. The first part, Song of Songs 1:1-4, ends with the bride brought into the king’s chambers; the second part, Song of Songs 1:5-17, ends with the scene that the king and his bride are together.


No Love Before the Appointed Time

7“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you do not arouse or awaken [my] love
Until she pleases.”

Verse 77“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you do not arouse or awaken [my] love
Until she pleases.”
is a refrain we encounter three times in the book, introduced here for the first time (Song 2:77“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you do not arouse or awaken [my] love
Until she pleases.”
; 3:55“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you will not arouse or awaken [my] love
Until she pleases.”
; 8:44“I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not arouse or awaken [my] love
Until she pleases.”
). It concerns the special character of love, about which the bridegroom speaks to the “daughters of Jerusalem”. The daughters of Jerusalem represent believers who have a connection with the Lord Jesus, but they do not live in the same close relationship with Him as the bride, and also have other thoughts about love. They try to manipulate and steer love through prescriptions. But this is not how love can be guided.

When love is enforced, there is no more rest in love. This is shown in the comparison with the “gazelles” and “hinds”. These are shy animals. If there is no danger, if everything is quiet around them, they move full of grace. However, as soon as they smell the slightest danger, they become nervous. Their rest is gone, and they shoot away. So it is with love.

Prophetically we can apply this to Jerusalem. It would be a forcing of love if the Lord Jesus returned now, for Jerusalem is not yet ready for it. She doesn’t know Him and doesn’t want to accept His love. First the city, that is to say the remnant, must go through the great tribulation. She will fervently long for His love and look forward to Him. Then love will be pleased to show herself to her and to embrace and protect her.

That’s how love always works. She has her own laws. She must not be forced upon and she must not be raised prematurely. That does not fit with love. Raising or stirring up love, before it is time for love to express herself, means disturbing the rest of love. We can apply this to the relationship with our children. We have seen the arms of the groom, what they mean as expressions of love for the bride. How do our children think about our arms? Do we embrace our children, or are they afraid of us because we have arms with hands for hitting them?

Love needs time and must be given time. Let us also be patient with our children and with our brothers and sisters when we see something in them that we may not like so much. Let us not intervene too quickly. Our young people need time to grow in their love for the Lord Jesus. We can block this growth by asking for proofs of their love, which they cannot (yet) give. Remarks such as “if you really love the Lord Jesus” or “if you really love me” can lead someone to an action we desire, while love is lacking in that action. That hinders love.

The whole scene of verses 4-74“He has brought me to [his] banquet hall,
And his banner over me is love.5“Sustain me with raisin cakes,
Refresh me with apples,
Because I am lovesick.
6“Let his left hand be under my head
And his right hand embrace me.”7“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you do not arouse or awaken [my] love
Until she pleases.”
speaks of an atmosphere of love, of a love that cannot be forced. Real love needs time to develop. Older believers and parents can make their contribution. They do so aware of the patience that the Lord has also had with them. Do we realize how much patience the Lord has had with us?


The Beloved Is Coming

8“Listen! My beloved!
Behold, he is coming,
Climbing on the mountains,
Leaping on the hills!

Here begins a new section. After the time of the first love in the previous section, a certain time of slackening has come in the bride’s love. There is a distance between her and the groom. We probably recognize that when we look at our own lives. In the first time of our Christian life, we gave the Lord Jesus the first place. After that a time of cooling has come, the first love is somewhat diminished. Other things have come into our hearts, so that our love no longer goes out to Him alone.

The bride wakes up as it were when she hears the voice of her beloved. She doesn’t see him yet, but she recognizes his voice. Thus the Lord wants us to give Him our first love again, that is our only love. For this He uses His voice, that is His Word. When we read God’s Word, we hear the voice of the Lord Jesus. And when we hear His voice, we also get an eye for Him again. We see that when the bride then says, “Behold, he is coming.” Not only does she hear Him, but now she sees Him.

She also observes how the Bridegroom comes. He comes “climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills”. In the mountains and hills we see a picture of the great and small difficulties in our lives, as a result of which the Lord Jesus has disappeared from sight. Apart from His Word the Lord also uses difficulties and problems in our lives to regain sight on Him. When His voice has again penetrated our hearts and our eyes have turned to His Person, we see that He is above the difficulties. For Him there are no such problems.

By introducing Himself to us in this way He wants to lift us up above our problems. The problems don’t disappear, but He helps us to get out of it and not let us be controlled by it. We will gain that experience when we throw all our care upon Him. If we do, we will find peace in the certainty that He is taking care of us. He invites us to bring to Him all worries and difficulties: “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you” (Psa 55:22a22Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
; 1Pet 5:77casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.; Mt 6:25-3025“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, [as to] what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, [as to] what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?26Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and [yet] your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?27And who of you by being worried can add a [single] hour to his life?28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is [alive] today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much more [clothe] you? You of little faith!).

When we cast (there is power in that expression) our burden upon Him, He has taken them over from us and continues to take care of us. If we don’t do that, we will continue to walk around with our burden and will be so preoccupied that we have no eye for God. But He loves to take care of us. That means that every detail of our lives is important to His heart. He not only wants to be involved, he wants to take over all our needs from us. He brings us into trial and need, that we may learn to accept it from His hand and give it into His hand (Psa 10:1414You have seen [it], for You have beheld mischief and vexation to take it into Your hand.
The unfortunate commits [himself] to You;
You have been the helper of the orphan.
).


The Beloved Seeks Cautious Reconciliation

9“My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, he is standing behind our wall,
He is looking through the windows,
He is peering through the lattice.

The bride compares the groom to a gazelle and the young of a deer. Gazelles can walk over the mountains with great speed and grace (cf. 2Sam 2:18b18Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel [was as] swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field.; 1Chr 12:88From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and [they were] as swift as the gazelles on the mountains.). In the case of the stag or deer, who also jump easily over obstacles, there may be added the thought of joy (cf. Isa 35:66Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
). Gazelles and deer are innocent animals. They are not carnivores, they are not hunting animals. These are pure animals, which could be eaten by the Israelites (Deu 12:15,2215“However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your gates, whatever you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and the deer.22Just as a gazelle or a deer is eaten, so you will eat it; the unclean and the clean alike may eat of it.; 14:4-54These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,5the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep.; 15:2222You shall eat it within your gates; the unclean and the clean alike [may eat it], as a gazelle or a deer.). Both animals are also known to be very wary, and they use direct and rapid flight as danger presents itself.

This is how the bride sees her groom approaching. He quickly comes closer and does not allow himself to be stopped by anything. At the same time, he remains cautious in his approach. In this way the Lord Jesus also comes to each of His own, who turn to him again after a period of weakening love. He is careful to observe any growing desire to live in fellowship with Him. He does not impose Himself and He does not force access. He has no desire to crush us.

We can learn from this how to approach someone whose life with the Lord has been put on hold. True love for our straying brother or sister will make us quick to help and at the same time we will do so with due caution. In these cases it is not about clear sins, but about signs that may indicate that someone no longer lives fully for the Lord. If we find that someone does not come to the meetings of believers as frequently as before, it is good to pay attention to this and to ask ourselves why – without directly accusing anyone of infidelity.

That there is some reserve with the groom in his approach, we can conclude, from the place where the bride is located. She herself says, that the groom is “behind our wall”, the wall around her house. He has come closer and looks inside through the windows. She likes the fact that he is there, but there is still a wall between them. She calls it ‘our’ wall, but she only hid behind it and he is outside. It has more or less become her wall.

A wall is a picture of separation from the wrong in order to be devoted to the Lord. If it is separation without the Lord, it has become isolation. We can withdraw so far into our isolation that we no longer allow the Lord to come to us. He does look inside and is standing behind the wall. He is not sitting, but is ready to take action when the bride is ready.

The Lord wants to use other believers to visit us at a time of spiritual decline. Maybe we let them into the house, but do we also let them into our lives? Just when we are no longer full of the Lord, and other things in our lives have become important, we tend to maintain the wall around our hearts. We do not want to expose ourselves or dare to be vulnerable, perhaps because we are afraid of being hurt again.

For example, we may have entrusted something to someone who we thought would keep it to himself, but he has broken our confidence. This causes us to resist resuming the close relationship because we are afraid of another disappointment. That reaction is understandable. At the same time, it is good to be aware of the danger of retreating completely into isolation. The Lord wishes to cautiously point this out with. He wants to have the first place in our lives again and address what prevents this.

Life in isolation is increasing in the world and among Christians. This is due to the growing individualism, which also increases selfishness. We want to have everything for ourselves and do everything for ourselves. Computers, internet, smartphones, all these devices carry the danger that we will completely withdraw into our own world. Our children are growing up into this. They only look to that one device to have fun. But older believers may also have a need for all these kinds of things to keep up with the times. We are increasingly being captured by these devices, which are strongly ‘I’ oriented.

People no longer know how to deal with each other. Recognize the scene: people sit at the table eating together, but there is no mutual communication because there is a digital connection with the outside world. Everyone eats for themselves and is now busy with their smartphone. If there is a message, it must be responded to immediately. We must be aware of these dangers! These devices are said to promote communication. But in reality, the real communication decreases and finally disappears completely. The device says you are important. People need me, they want to let me know something; and I think it is necessary to let people know what I think of a case.

The result is that we do not have time to quietly occupy ourselves with the Word of God, to visit church meetings, and to help brothers and sisters. We just don’t have time anymore. This risk is great because we are withdrawing from the fellowship of the saints and living in isolation. We live in such a way that the Lord cannot come to us. But he does try to come to us. He stands there, He looks through the window, that is in fact a barred window.

The bars give the impression that we are locked up in a prison. Are we locked up? We can be locked up in our own thoughts, in our lives, in the plans we have and be a prisoner of them. But He looks through it. What plans do we have? What do we want? What is the purpose of our life? Is all this a prison for us? Can we think of nothing else? The Lord now stands before the window of our lives and looks through the bars. He looks and He loves to come to us to give us satisfaction and true fulfillment of life.


Arise and Come Along

10“My beloved responded and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.

The first and last part of verses 10-1310“My beloved responded and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.11‘For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over [and] gone.
12‘The flowers have [already] appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for singing,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.13‘The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth [their] fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!’”
respectively, begins and ends with the same words the groom speaks to the bride. He wants her to arise from her place of isolation, a place of rest in the sense of laziness, and come to him. The bride is still inside, behind the wall, and the groom is still outside. When he begins to speak, his speaking is an answer. He “responded” to her (verse 1010“My beloved responded and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.
). However, we do not read that she asked a question. This may mean that his answer is directed to the weakened feelings of her heart, which he knows.

He addresses her very personally. She understands, he is addressing it “to me”. Now she is hearing not only his voice, but also what he says. There is no reproach from his mouth because she is hiding from him and he does not order her to show herself. The way he approaches her is full of tenderness and love. He asks her to arise.

He calls her “my darling, my beautiful one”. These are names in which he expresses the value she has for him. He wants to share the thoughts of his heart with her as his ‘darling’. That he calls her the ‘beautiful one’, indicates that he is full of admiration for her and that his heart is full of her. With these names he wants to speak to her heart and persuade her to come to him. Thus the Lord Jesus will tell the remnant of Israel how beautiful they are for Him. He calls Zion “the perfection of beauty” (Psa 50:22Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God has shone forth.
; Col 2:1515When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.; Eze 16:1414Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD.).

In the same way, the Lord Jesus is busy with each one of His own, who have lost sight of Him through circumstances. He voices the value he or she has for Him (Isa 43:4-74“Since you are precious in My sight,
[Since] you are honored and I love you,
I will give [other] men in your place and [other] peoples in exchange for your life.
5“Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
6“I will say to the north, ‘Give [them] up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold [them] back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
7Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
). He chooses His words with care to make clear how much He cares about them. He fully means what He says. His words are not harsh, but pleasant and constructive. They touch the heart and make it soft and willing to live with Him again.

The bride must start by rising. This is the beginning of every true conversion, whether it be the conversion of an unbeliever or the conversion of a believer. From the prodigal son in Luke 15 we also read that at some point he says he will get up and go to the father. Then we read that he gets up and goes (Lk 15:18-2018I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘20So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion [for him], and ran and embraced him and kissed him.).

For us it may also be the case that we have to arise from our circumstances, for example from our self-pity or from the excuses we bring forward to not completely surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus.


Winter Is Past, Singing Time Has Arrived

11‘For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over [and] gone.
12‘The flowers have [already] appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for singing,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.

Prophetically, the bride is a picture of the faithful remnant of Israel. This remnant will pass through a time of great trial. The Lord Jesus speaks of “a great tribulation” (Mt 24:2121For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.). At that time God will provide a refuge for that remnant (Isa 26:2020Come, my people, enter into your rooms
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while
Until indignation runs [its] course.
). The period of great tribulation comes to an end after three and a half years, because the Messiah causes the tribulation to stop. Then He comes to them and says that “winter” of the great tribulation is “past” (verse 1111‘For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over [and] gone.
). “The rain” time with its devastating torrential rains is also a picture of the great tribulation (Eze 13:11,1311[so] tell those who plaster [it] over with whitewash, that it will fall. A flooding rain will come, and you, O hailstones, will fall; and a violent wind will break out.13Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, “I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath. There will also be in My anger a flooding rain and hailstones to consume [it] in wrath.). That time “is over [and] gone”.

The groom assures the bride that the time of tormenting fear and impending suffering is really over. It has become spring. The groom then points this out to the bride (verse 1212‘The flowers have [already] appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for singing,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.
). Prophetically it looks as if the great tribulation with the cold of winter and the flood of trials is over and gives way to the beautiful spring of the kingdom of peace (Isa 35:1-2,101The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
2It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the LORD,
The majesty of our God.
10And the ransomed of the LORD will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
). The Lord Jesus is the Man Who has been for the remnant a “shelter from the storm” (Isa 32:22Each will be like a refuge from the wind
And a shelter from the storm,
Like streams of water in a dry country,
Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.
). He will now be for them the “King” who “will reign righteously” (Isa 32:11Behold, a king will reign righteously
And princes will rule justly.
) for a thousand years in the kingdom of peace.

We may also experience a time in our lives when the problems exceed our capacity to cope, and we are under such pressure we lose sight of Him. The Lord then offers to come back into our lives. When He comes into our lives, He can turn winter into spring and the flood of rain into mild rain. When winter, the time of trial, is past, there is room for a new floral splendor with multicolored beauty. Beautiful flowers will appear. After the death of winter, the new life of spring appears.

This points to the resurrection of the believer, the transition from death to a new life. The groom points this out to the bride, because it seems she has no eye for it yet. She is reminded of the fruits of the resurrection. The groom stands on the ground of resurrection. Death has been conquered. Do we see the signs of recovery when the Lord Jesus comes to us in our circumstances? Wherever He comes, there is restoration and blessing.

Another application can be made to the situation in which our lives have become so superficial, that there is neither smell nor taste. Nobody sees anything of the fact that we know Christ. We complain bitterly. When our eye is then again turned to Christ, He will become visible again; for He is our new life. Then our life will show the beauty of flowers. Are we in our environment the ‘flowers’, do we radiate beauty and attractiveness? Flowers give fragrance, you can smell them, you can see them and touch them. Flowers brighten up the surroundings and make them more beautiful.

Paul thanks God for leading him and his associates “always … in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2Cor 2:14-1514But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;). It is God’s intention that our lives spread the fragrance of Christ. He is working on this. That is why we mean so much to Him. Our life is a new land, a new creation, in which He grows and takes care of these flowers.

The new life not only has a smell, it also has a sound. We have a voice to sing with. Can we sing? Or can we only complain? James says, “Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises” (Jam 5:13b13Is anyone among you suffering? [Then] he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.). When the Lord Jesus comes into our lives, we have every reason to sing. We can do so much singing, if we let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us: “admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:1616Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.). Are we still singing in our hearts before God? When we are full of problems, criticism and bitterness, singing is stilled. If the Lord Jesus is central to our lives, we will praise Him daily.

Prophetically, there will come a moment for the remnant of Israel when the time for complaining is over and the time for singing has arrived. Spring is so beautiful and pleasant because it follows a period of darkness and cold. Because of the contrast with winter, spring is warmly welcomed. The flowers on the ground and the birds in the air also testify in their own way that the whole creation has been renewed. They express a heavenly message of joy, peace and righteousness.

The “turtledove” is a picture of the faithful remnant (Psa 74:1919Do not deliver the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast;
Do not forget the life of Your afflicted forever.
) which, like the turtledove, knows the time of its arrival in the kingdom of peace (Jer 8:77“Even the stork in the sky
Knows her seasons;
And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush
Observe the time of their migration;
But My people do not know
The ordinance of the LORD.
). When the cooing of the turtledove is heard in “our land”, it means that the remnant of God’s people is back in the Promised Land. We as Christians must also understand the coming or presence of the right time to do something.


Again: Arise and Come Along!

13‘The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth [their] fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!’”

After the winter, the time of trial, come the fruits. Besides the flowers that appear on the land (verse 1212‘The flowers have [already] appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for singing,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.
), we also see “the fig tree” and “the vines in blossom” (verse 1313‘The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth [their] fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!’”
). The young figs show that it is spring and that summer is nearby (Mt 24:3232“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;). The fig tree represents righteousness. Adam and Eve, after their fall into sin, wanted to cover their nakedness before God with aprons of fig leaves (Gen 3:77Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.). However, these homemade aprons are not an adequate covering to God.

There is no self-righteousness whatsoever, that counts for God as a covering for sin. Israel has tried to establish its own righteousness before God with the result that it has not submitted itself to the righteousness of God (Rom 10:33For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.). The only righteousness that is acceptable to God is the righteousness which is worked through Christ on the cross and to which man gains a part through faith (Rom 10:44For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.). On the basis of faith in that righteousness, God’s people can enjoy the blessing before God in the coming kingdom of peace.

The result is joy. We see this in the image of the flowering vines (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.
). A vine in blossom has the promise of an impending harvest of grapes or joy. The grapes are not there yet, but the scent is already smelled. So it is with the believer who has had a time of trial. He is no longer in need, there is liberation and that can be seen in him. Peace and rest have come in his life. It won’t be long before he expresses his joy about it in an exuberant way. He will testify of how the Lord has redeemed him from his need and what a joy fills his heart for what the Lord has done.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews links the discipline which God inflicts on believers, to the production of righteousness as a good fruit: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:1111All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.). Through discipline we are “trained”, that is, we are trained in how to deal with it. By training we learn to control something. If we can accept the discipline of training, if we know how to deal with it, then we will have a more intimate fellowship with God. The result will be that we enjoy more practical peace and show more justice in our lives.

The “peaceful fruit of righteousness” will soon be reality for Israel in the realm of peace, after the people have passed through the exercises of great tribulation. God already wants to bring this fruit into our lives through His upbringing (Jn 15:2,82Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every [branch] that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and [so] prove to be My disciples.). The vine and fig tree together symbolize the time of the kingdom of peace, of which we see a foreshadowing in the reign of Solomon – the Prince of Peace and a picture of the Lord Jesus (1Kgs 4:2525So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.).

After the description of spring with its wonderful evidence of new, fresh life in verses 11-1311‘For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over [and] gone.
12‘The flowers have [already] appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for singing,
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.13‘The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth [their] fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!’”
, the groom invites his bride to come to him again with the same words as in verse 1010“My beloved responded and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.
. He would like her to enjoy that spring. She can leave winter behind her by accepting his invitation. After what he has shown her of spring, it can no longer be difficult for her to give up her backslidden existence and share her life with Him.

The Lord Jesus presents us with the attraction of living with Him, so that we no longer allow ourselves to be controlled by circumstances that depress. He is committed to ensuring that it is not the ‘wintery conditions’ in which we sometimes find ourselves that determine the temperature of our spiritual life, but the mild temperature of ‘spring life’. To this end, He points out to us the features of the new life, which He possesses and also wants to work in us.


Seeing the Form and Hearing the Voice

14“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret place of the steep pathway,
Let me see your form,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely.”

The groom uses different images each time to reach the bride and to move her to come to him. He now calls her “my dove” (verse 1414“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret place of the steep pathway,
Let me see your form,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely.”
). The dove is an animal known for its loyalty and attachment to its partner. The bridegroom appeals to the bride in her loyalty and attachment to him. The memory of this may prompt her to leave her isolation and come to him.

He also mentions the place which she occupies in verse 99“My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, he is standing behind our wall,
He is looking through the windows,
He is peering through the lattice.
. It is “in the clefts of the rock, in the secret place of the steep pathway”. The place where she has withdrawn is a place where she wants to hide from the enemy. The groom tells her that she can emerge, because the enemy has disappeared just as winter has passed. She has hidden herself from the enemy, but at the same time from him.

In the same way, we too may have withdrawn into isolation for fear or other reasons. This is also why we withdraw from His presence. We are not then perfect in love. That is to say that the awareness of His love for us does not enthuse us. Perfect love drives out fear (1Jn 4:1818There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.). He wants us to turn our gaze back to His love, so that we seek our protection from Him and not from anyone or anything else.

He wants to see the bride and hear her voice. Thus the Lord also wants us to come out of our hiding place and let Him hear our voice in praise and prayer. This is a wonderful invitation to go to Him boldly with all that is in our hearts. He wants to see us, as we are, before Him and He wants us to know that, and say that to Him. This can be a very short prayer or a very short thanksgiving as long as it is the sincere expression of the love of our heart.

We can make another application. The Lord wants to see the “form” of each of us personally, “your form”, and not that of another. He wants to hear the “voice” of him from us personally: “your voice” and not the voice of another. When we speak to Him in prayer, we should not suddenly start talking in a completely different tone, as I have heard someone do. The words we use must also be our own. Not parroting others or necessarily wanting to do things completely differently, because we want to be ‘original’. The Lord then sees another form.

Every believer who lives with the Lord has learned a lot from others, but he is not a copy of those other believers. It is not about trying to say it in a way that no one – we ourselves or anyone else – has ever said it before. It is about saying it in a way that the Lord has never heard of us before. We use the same words as before or words that someone else has used, but it comes from our heart in a more profound way.

The Lord does not only say that He wants to see our form and hear our voice. He says also why this is so: “Your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely.” This shows His desire for fellowship with us. We hear this desire in His voice. When we hear Him speak like this, can our hearts remain cold? When He speaks like this to us to persuade us to come to Him, can we keep Him at a distance? He speaks so graciously to us to let us know how precious we are to Him, and He is so eager to hear from us how precious He is to us. Shall we let Him talk and ignore His loving attempts to conquer our hearts? Shall we forget Him and continue our own life? What a disappointment and sorrow that would be for Him!


Catch the Little Foxes

15“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”
16“My beloved is mine, and I am his;
He pastures [his flock] among the lilies.
17“Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether.”

The groom tells the bride to catch “the foxes” and especially “the little foxes”. She has to catch those little foxes “for us”, with which the groom indicates that she has to neutralize them in view of their relationship. The foxes, also the small ones, destroy the vineyards, especially at a time when “our vineyards” are in blossom. He uses the word “our” again, with which he emphasizes their relationship, here in connection with the joy it gives to belong together.

In the spiritual application we see in the blossoming vineyards the early fruits of joy through new spiritual life, which the believer has in his relationship with the Lord Jesus. When these fruits are spoiled by little foxes, joy with the Lord disappears and spiritual growth stops. Our joy and growth are nipped in the bud. The little foxes represent things in our lives that deprive us of the joy in the Lord. These are often small sins, which are justified by the reasoning that there is nothing wrong with them.

The Lord Jesus calls Herod “that fox” because of his cunning to thwart God’s work that the Lord is doing (Lk 13:31-3231Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.”32And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third [day] I reach My goal.’). False prophets are also called foxes (Eze 13:44O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins.). These foxes are big enemies that we have to eliminate, so that they cannot exert their pernicious influence. In the case of the fox Herod we can think of the pressure exerted on us not to devote ourselves to God’s work. In the case of the great foxes we can think of false prophets and of charismatic errors in which, for example, it is told that you do not have to be ill and that your faith is not right if you are or remain ill. If we know God’s Word, we will easily recognize these ‘great foxes’ and defuse them.

However, there are also the little foxes. These are not gross sins, but sometimes feelings of dissatisfaction that cannot be mentioned and that negatively affect our lives as Christians. These are the small irritations in the interrelationships. Our brother or sister says or does something we do not like so much. We are agitated and thereby make the atmosphere even more unpleasant. Irritations create an extremely unpleasant and eventually explosive atmosphere, which puts an end to all the joy that characterizes a good relationship.

The fathers in the families are told not to exasperate their children “so that they will not lose heart” (Col 3:2121Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.). This includes minor harassment, which makes a child despondent and thoroughly disrupts the relationship if not stopped. This also applies to relations in the church and in society. All these irritations have a direct effect on the relationship with the Lord Jesus, because it is disturbed by that. It is therefore important that minor irritations are immediately judged before they become a major quarrel. As Solomon says in the book of Proverbs: “The beginning of strife is [like] letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out” (Pro 17:1414The beginning of strife is [like] letting out water,
So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.
).

The little foxes who disrupt the joy of fellowship with the Lord can also be little time robbers. How much time is lost doing useless things? They need not be bad things, but things to which we devote a great deal of attention, forgetting time. In our hobby or sport or other forms of pastime, which in themselves can be quite relaxing, we can go overboard and forget about time. The Lord Jesus seeks fellowship with us. We may also do our hobby or whatever it is, in fellowship with Him. If we thank Him for what He gives us in this, we will capture the “little fox” who wants to prevent us from living in fellowship with Him.

What a loss it would be if the little foxes were to prevent grapes from growing on the vines that blossom. Spiritually applied it means that the Lord is deprived of the joy of fellowship with His own. We are certainly also losers, but He suffers the most loss. For he has done everything possible to make fellowship with Him possible. It is our responsibility to eliminate everything that makes it impossible for Him to enjoy that fellowship with us.

In verses 16-1716“My beloved is mine, and I am his;
He pastures [his flock] among the lilies.
17“Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether.”
we hear the bride’s reaction to all the groom’s efforts to persuade her to come to him. He pointed out to her that she must catch the little foxes so that she can no longer be stopped from being with him. A first effect of the expressions of his desire for her is that she becomes aware again that her beloved is hers and that she is his. There is an inseparable bond between them. Love is the strongest bond that connects people.

It is remarkable, however, that she says these words to others and not to him. The answer she gives is also not the one the groom is waiting for. Her thoughts revolve around herself. Her love is still self-centered. The point is that he is hers, “mine”. What matters to her is what it brings her, not yet what she means to him. She still has to grow in her love and she does. We will see that later (Song 6:33“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,
He who pastures [his flock] among the lilies.”
; 7:1010“I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is for me.
).

She connects his love to his occupation as the shepherd who pastures his flock (cf. Eze 34:11-1511For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.12As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land.14I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.15I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD.; Isa 40:1111Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry [them] in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing [ewes].
). The words ‘his flock’ are not in the original text and are therefore placed in square brackets. All emphasis therefore falls on his shepherd’s task, the fact that he pastures. He is not so much operating among the sheep, but “among the lilies”, under which that special lily is located, his bride (verse 22“Like a lily among the thorns,
So is my darling among the maidens.”
). The bride knows she is one of his lilies. She emphasizes that. It is not about him, but about herself. She knows she belongs to the right company, but does not yet go out to Him.

We see in verse 1717“Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether.”
that the bride wants to wait a while. She wants to wait “until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away”. This indicates that she is not yet fully convinced that winter is passed and spring has arrived. She still is in the dark of the night. When the day comes and the refreshing wind makes life pleasant, then she wants to come to him. If the shadows flee away first and she has a clear view of reality, then she will give herself to him. “Until” this moment arrives, she prefers to stay in her cozy environment.

Similarly, in our lives there may be circumstances in which we want to see improvement before we entrust ourselves entirely to the Lord and go to Him. We experience the cold of the trial of faith too much to accept that it is really over. There is a wait-and-see attitude. We want to see if the Lord really has brought a change in our circumstances. This shows that we have not yet learned that as soon as the Lord comes to us and we entrust ourselves to Him, this will bring about a tremendous change. As soon as we surrender to Him, that day in our lives has come and we see everything clearly again.

The bride tells the groom to leave. She still calls him “my beloved”, but he needs to be kept at a distance until she feels able to join him. Until then, he can move freely “like a gazelle or a young stag”. So she described him when he came to her in verse 99“My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, he is standing behind our wall,
He is looking through the windows,
He is peering through the lattice.
.

Because she is not ready to accept his loving invitation he can go as he came and return to the “mountains of Bether”. They are the “cleaved mountains‟ – that is the meaning of the name “Bether” –, mountains in which a way has been made. She allows him a way without obstacles. But he is not interested in her wish that he will have an easy way, he wants a highway in her heart. He wants access to her heart, but she turns him down. The following chapter shows the reason for this.

The spiritual lesson is obvious. We may not say clearly to the Lord that He must leave, but we can behave in such a way that our attitude gives that message. He seeks fellowship with us, but we turn Him down because we have no time. Not now. It takes us too much effort to catch the little foxes. Then He does not impose Himself, but continues His way.


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