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2: 1. I am the rose of Sharon,
A lily of the valleys.
The King has said "Thou art fair," and in response to his "Thou art" she can rightly say "I am." "I am the rose of Sharon." Faith expresses what grace has made her in His sight - fragrant as a rose and beautiful as a lily of the valleys. Not a lily in some crowded city for the admiration of the world, but a lily for the Bridegroom's delight in some secluded valley. There is no presumption in accepting the place that Christ, by grace, has given us before Himself. Rather is it presumption, when Christ says "Thou art fair," to say "I am unworthy." The prodigal could speak thus in the far country, but when the Father's arms were around him and the Father's kisses covered him all was changed. And, in the presence of the King at His table, we may well take up the words of the bride, not indeed to exalt ourselves, but to magnify the grace of the One who has put His beauty upon us.
2. As the lily among thorns,
So is my love among the daughters.
This is the response of the King. He affirms what the bride has said. She is the lily; but in the valley where the lily grows there are thorns which serve as a background to bring out the beauty of the lily. In the dark valley of this world there are those who have none of the beauty of Christ upon them, thorns for the burning, thorns that would only wound Him. But there are also His own, those in whom Christ can delight - the excellent of the earth - lilies among the thorns. They are Christ's sanctified ones, and He has put His beauty upon them. Their excellencies are the more displayed by reason of their dreary surroundings. To have His lily Christ had to descend into the valley of the thorns, yea, He must wear the thorns to win His bride. It is by His "one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" ( Heb_10:14 ).
(3 - 7).
3. As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
So is my beloved among the sons;
I sit down under his shadow with great delight,
And his fruit is sweet to my taste.
The response of the bride is immediate. If the King sees excellence in the bride above all the daughters of women, the bride sees in her beloved the only one among the sons of men in whom she can find rest, and shade, and fruit. Thus she likens him to the citron tree with its dense shade and luscious golden fruit. Many trees of the wood may appear more imposing to the eye of man, even as men esteem their fellows of more account than the despised and lowly Jesus. Other trees of the forest may give shelter, but yield no fruit; some, too, may yield fruit but give no shade, but this tree alone meets every need. Christ is the true citron tree. Christ is the tree of life. To man's eye, as He passed through this world, merely a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness, but to the believer that lowly Man is the only one among the sons of men that can afford shelter, and refreshment, and rest in this dry and weary world. If, with faith's transpiercing gaze, we look on to the New Jerusalem we see the tree of life in the midst of the street, by the river of life, growing in its native soil, and there indeed shall we find eternal rest and perennial refreshment. Like the bride we shall say, "I sit down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to my taste."
4. He hath brought me to the house of wine,
And his banner over me is love.
In the Bridegroom's presence the bride has found rest from toil, shelter from the heat of the day, and fruit sweet to her taste. Now her experience deepens; her needs all met she is led into the full enjoyment of the bounties provided by the King. She is brought into the house of wine, to taste the fulness of his joy and the rapture of his love. Not now "his shadow," nor "his fruit," but himself.
So, in the experience of our souls; we sit down under the shadow of Christ, and in His presence find rest from toil, relief from the burden and heat of the day, and refreshment and nourishment for our souls. But, great as these blessings are, they have in them a measure of relief; and beyond the blessings that bring relief there are others that carry with them richer, deeper, experiences - experiences into which no thought of relief can enter, but only the infinite enjoyment of His fulness. Experiences which answer to the house of wine and the banner of love. Setting us free from earthly things Christ would lead us into His heavenly things. He would give us a taste of the fulness of joy and the pleasures for evermore, there to find His banner over us is love. The banner tells of the conqueror and of victory gained. The love of Christ has conquered. And what a victory has Christ gained for His people! Not a victory such as the poor clay kings of this world gain, who wade to their thrones through the blood of millions of their fellowmen, this mighty Conqueror gains His victory by the shedding of His own blood - by Himself becoming the Victim. And having gained His victory He unfurls His banner, and His banner is love. Love made Him the willing victim; love held Him on His way as He descended into the valley of thorns; love held Him on the cross - no nails of man's forging could hold the Christ of God upon the cross - love that the many waters could not quench or the floods drown held Him there. Love divine, eternal, unquenchable, all-powerful, has gained the mighty victory, and the banner that declares His victory is inscribed with His love.
5. Stay me with flagons,
Refresh me with citrons;
For I am sick of love.
The ecstasy of the house of wine is more than the Bride can sustain. There are spiritual experiences too deep for these weak vessels of clay. Was it not thus with the Apostle when caught up into the third heaven? He heard unspeakable words, not possible to utter. Little indeed may such experiences be the common lot of the Christian life, but at times the Lord grants to His people such an overwhelming sense of His love that we are constrained to cry out in such language as a dying saint once used, "Lord, hold Thy hand; it is enough, thy servant is a clay vessel and can hold no more." One of the later Puritans well expressed such an experience when he wrote:
"The love, the love that I bespeak,
Works wonders in the soul:
For when I'm whole it makes me sick,
When sick it makes me whole."
6. His left hand is under my head,
And his right hand doth embrace me.
This is the answer to the bride's call for sustaining power. The banner of love is over her, and the arms of love are around her. She has attained the longing of her heart expressed in the opening of the canticle. She has reached the assurance and enjoyment of the Bridegroom's love. How happy when the saint finds every longing of the renewed nature satisfied by the love of Christ.
7. I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem,
By the roes, and by the hinds of the field,
That ye stir not up, nor awaken love, till it please.
The canticle closes with an appeal to the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb the rest of love. The slightest movement would disturb the timid and sensitive roe or hind of the field. With the banner of love over her, and the arms of love around her, the bride dreads the slightest intrusion that would mar the enjoyment of love. And well may the saint, in the enjoyment of the love of Christ, dread any intrusion that would break up or mar that intimacy of love that may exist between him and his Saviour.
Canticle 2 . Son_2:8-17 ; Son_3:1-5 .
The Awakening of Love.
8. The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he cometh.
The first canticle presents a day scene with the King sitting at his table: in the second canticle the enjoyment of love in the presence of the King is past, and it opens with the bride reposing in her home in the plains, with its latticed windows. In the absence of the Bridegroom, she has turned back to her own home, in her own land; like Peter, in a later day, who said, in the absence of Christ, "I go a-fishing." He turned back to circumstances that once he had left to follow Christ. Others follow him, only to find on "that night they caught nothing." The bride is aroused by hearing the voice of her beloved, which tells that he is coming. Then in the distance he is seen approaching over the mountains: a little later he stands behind the wall of the house, then he shows himself through the lattice.
How often, in the history of the Lord's people, a time of great joy and blessing is followed by a season of spiritual torpor. The banqueting house of the King gives place to the latticed home of the bride. Communion with the King at his table is followed by the solitary longings of the bride in her own home.
How soon the early freshness of the church passed away. When "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul"; when the saints were marked by "great power" and "great grace"; when they continued daily with "one accord," "breaking bread from house to house," and "did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart," may we not say, they were in the banqueting-house, with the King at his table. But when this early freshness passed away, when all sought their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ, must we not admit that spiritual night had fallen upon the saints, that they had lost all sense of their high calling, and settled down in their own homes in the plains of the world?
And what is true of the church as a whole is often true, alas, of the individual. After the early freshness of first love how often the young convert settles down at a low spiritual level, in which, though the outward routine of service may be kept up, yet the constraining love of Christ - the true motive for all service - is lacking.
Such are the conditions portrayed in this second canticle. But further, we see the way love takes to meet this condition, how the King reawakens bridal affections in the heart of the bride. And herein there is rich instruction for our souls, to which we do well to take heed.
The affections of the bride are first awakened by the voice of the Bridegroom. Drowsy though she may be at once she recognizes the voice of her beloved. So with the Lord's sheep: they may wander from Him, but it ever remains true "they know His voice" ( Joh_10:4 ). Peter, and those who follow him, may turn back to their poor fisherman's life; but when recalled by the visit of the Lord, at once they discern "it is the Lord."
The voice proclaims that he is coming. Could anything awaken the affections like the news that he is coming? What would so quicken the affections of a wife as the knowledge that at last her husband from overseas is coming? What will quicken the affections of Israel's godly remnant, in the day to come, like the glorious announcement, "The King is coming"? "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh" ( Zec_9:9 ). So, too, the affections of Christ's waiting church are awakened by the truth that He is coming. All the majestic unfoldings in the Revelation, by elders and angels, of solemn events, of coming glories and eternal blessing, are heard with calm if rapt attention; but when every other voice is hushed, and we hear Jesus Himself saying, "Surely I come quickly," then, at last, the affections of the church are aroused, and the cry goes back, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
8. Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills,
9. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart.
With the energy of a gazelle or a young hart, leaping from rock to rock on the mountains and the hills, so the earnest desire of the King, to claim his bride, is presented as overcoming every obstacle. The bride may sleep, but not so the King. Israel may sleep, but "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Four times over does the Lord say to His church, "Behold I come quickly"; and does not this word "quickly" bespeak the earnest desire of the Lord for that great day when "the marriage of the Lamb is come"?
9. Behold, he standeth behind our wall,
He looketh in through the windows,
Glancing through the lattice.
Not only does the King awaken the affections of the bride by the sound of his voice, but, in patience, he stands waiting at the wall of the house; and then, showing himself through the lattice, attracts her by the beauty of his person. Was it not thus that Christ dealt with those two disappointed saints on the way to Emmaus? He first made their hearts burn within them as He talked with them by the way. Then He stands at the threshold of their house as a wayfaring man, and at last He reveals Himself to them - just a glance, as it were, through the lattice - and He is gone. And in like manner He deals with His beloved people to-day. He awakens our drooping affections by making His still small voice of love to be heard in the secret of our souls, and in wonderful patience He often stands at our doors, even as He stood at the door of the poor Laodicean, waiting to show Himself and attract our hearts by His excellencies.
10. My beloved spake and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Hitherto the bride could only catch the sound of his voice, but now she hears the words of his mouth, and gladly repeats what her beloved says. The King would no longer be without his bride; he would call her away from the dark wintry plains to fairer, brighter scenes. His first word would arouse her from her circumstances: "Rise up." His next word proclaims how precious she is in his sight: "My love, my fair one." And lastly, she hears the clear, definite call: "Come away" - telling of the longing of his heart.
And is it not thus the Lord is speaking to His people to-day? Can we not hear His voice saying to us, "Rise up," as He seeks to arouse us from the spiritual torpor that overcomes us and holds us down to earth? Is He not saying to us, "Arise ye, and depart: for this is not your rest"? And again we are reminded by the Apostle, "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
But further, does not the Lord remind us how precious we are in His sight when He tells us how He loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church? Should it not move our hearts to their very depths to hear Him still call His bride, "My love, my fair one," in spite of all our coldness, our wanderings, and our breakdown?
Moreover, do we not hear Him calling us away from this poor world, as He says, "Ye are not of this world, but I have chosen you out of the world"? And shall we not very soon hear His voice saying, "Come away," as He calls us to meet Him in the air?
11. For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing is come,
And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land..
13 The fig-tree melloweth her winter figs,
And the vines in bloom give forth their fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!
The King not only calls the bride from her home in the plains, but he unfolds to her a new world of blessing, where neither storm nor winter's blast can ever come, where all is beautiful to the eye, sweet to the ear, and pleasant to the taste - the land of flowers and singing, the land of green figs and the new wine. The presence of the bride is all that is lacking to complete the blessedness of that scene, and therefore the King concludes with the call, "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!"
When the Lord gathered His sorrowing disciples around Him, on that last sad night before He left the world, He poured comfort into their troubled hearts by unfolding before them another world, a home that He was going to prepare, beyond this world's wintry night. The storm that was over our heads was about to burst on His Head, and He can look beyond the darkness and the judgment and open to our vision a new home, where faith will be changed to sight - the flowers will appear; where the time of weeping will be past, and the time of singing will be come; where the voice of the dove will be heard, as the saints join to sing the new song of glory to the Lamb. There indeed we shall feed on heaven's fruit and drink of the new wine. And to complete the blessedness of that scene there only wants the presence of the bride, the Lamb's wife. Long has been the waiting-time - the patience of Christ - but ere He went He said, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself," and soon, very soon, the winter-time will be past, the waiting-time will be over, He will come to fetch His bride, and we shall hear His call, "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!" Well may we sing, with such a prospect before us -
"Beyond the storms I'm going,
Beyond this vale of tears,
Beyond the flood's o'erflowing,
Beyond the changing years,
I'm going to the better land,
By faith long since possessed,
The glory shines before me,
For this is not my rest."
14 My dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the covert of the precipice,
The King has told the bride of a land of sunshine and song, when the winter will be past and the rain will be over and gone; but in the meantime she is yet in the land of winter and storm. But the one who is coming for her is the one who protects her. He likens his bride to a dove hiding in the cleft of the rock, and finding shelter from the storm in the covert of the precipice. And even so to-day, while waiting for the Lord, His people have enemies to oppose, and storms to face; but grace has provided a hiding-place and a covert from the storm. As we read, "A Man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of waters in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" ( Isa_32:1 ; Isa_32:2 ). In the cleft of that Rock - the Man Christ Jesus, with the pierced side - how safe from the storm are the Lord's poor people, who may truly be likened to a timid dove. Well may we sing -
"O Lamb of God, still keep us
Close to Thy pierced side,
'Tis only there in safety
And peace we can abide."
14. Let me see Thy countenance, let me hear thy voice;
For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Through the lattice of her home, the King had revealed Himself to the bride, and spoken to her; but this will not satisfy his heart. He would fain see her countenance, and hear her voice. To his ear her voice is sweet, and in his sight her countenance is fair. May we not say the Lord is not content to reveal His glories to His people and converse with them? He longs for the day when His people will be presented to Him all-glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing - perfect through the comeliness that He has put upon them. And He longs to hear them unite in saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
15 Take us the foxes,
The little foxes, that spoil the vineyards;
For our vineyards are in bloom.
The King has expressed His longing to see the face of His bride, and to hear her voice; but as the foxes, with their young, spoil the vineyards as they break into bloom, so oftentimes evils, of a secret and subtle nature, may be at work which hinder the bride from yielding refreshment to the heart of the King.
Christ longs for the company of His people, His desire is to sup with them and they with Him. To sit at His feet and hold communion with Him, is the "one thing needful." Our busy service He can dispense with, but our company He will not be without. Mary yielded this pleasant fruit to the Lord, but not so Martha. For the moment a fox had made her unfruitful. And how often our case is like Martha's. Some fox - it may be, as nature counts, a little fox - is allowed to work unheeded in the secret of our hearts. Pride, covetousness, lust, unkind and bitter thoughts, murmuring and discontent, irritability and impatience, jealousy and envy, or vanity and levity, may be allowed unjudged, and communion is hindered, and the life becomes unfruitful. We need to keep a sharp watch against the inroads of these foxes, and expel them with ruthless hand if they appear.
(16 - 3: 5).
16. My beloved is mine, and I am his.
The King had paid a brief visit to his bride and was gone; but in that short interview he had awakened her affections, even as in a later day - a resurrection day - the Lord, at another short interview, could turn "slow hearts" into burning hearts. The King had revealed himself to the bride through the lattice: He had poured into her ear the report of a land of sunshine and flowers, a land of rest and song, a land of joy and plenty: He had called her to arise and come away to that happy land: He had disclosed the longings of his heart to see her face and hear her voice, and as she listens to these wonderful unfoldings, her heart is stirred, her love is awakened, and in the realization of his love and devotion, she exclaims, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." He becomes the absorbing object of her heart, through the realization that she is an object to him. And thus it is that Christ deals with His own to-day. He reveals Himself to us; He unfolds to us all that His heart has purposed for us; He tells us how He longs to have us with Him face to face, and to hear our voices as we raise the new song, and thus once again, as He talks with us by the way, He makes our slow hearts burn, and gives us the deep consciousness that He is ours and we are His. And thus, not through the bare statement of a truth, but, through the experimental realization of His love He speaks to our hearts in such wise that each one is compelled to own with great delight, "My beloved is mine, and I am His."
16. He feedeth among the lilies.
17. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.
The King has already likened the bride to the lily, and has unfolded to her all the thoughts of his heart, and thus she is brought to realize that his food and his delight is in herself. During the night of his absence and until the marriage-day, "He feedeth among the lilies." During the night of Christ's absence what is there to minister to His heart save His beloved people? It is still true, "He feedeth among the lilies, until the day break and the shadows flee away." He would indeed have us with Himself in the glory where He is according to His prayer, "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am," but, during the time of shadows, He delights to come to His own, according to that other sweet word, "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." How true are the words of an old divine, "The believer hath a heartsome life, and a rich inheritance, Christ here, and Christ hereafter."
17 Turn, my beloved: be thou like a roe, or a young hart'
Upon the mountains of Bether.
The bride expresses the longing of her heart for other visits from the King even as the roes and the harts come down from the mountains by night to feed in the plains. So, indeed, may we welcome every occasion on which the Lord comes into the midst of His people as they pass through this dark world.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". "Smith's Writings". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany