Song of Solomon Part 4
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Song of Solomon
"An Hour of Truth"
We closed last time with the shepherd coming to the Shulamite. The story records:
2:9 “My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall; He is looking through the windows, gazing through the lattice.”
The walls and windows suggest man-made obstacles. Likewise, it is man-made barriers that are erected between the soul and the Savior. Notice, he does not come marching in like Solomon. He doesn’t come where he isn’t invited.
The Lord Jesus will never force Himself upon us. He is very careful not to override our will. So much so that He simply shows Himself, and leaves the next move to us. We are going to see that the Shulamite hesitates when she sees him and deeply regrets it.
But the shepherd says something to her before leaving. He had a message for her soul. Even though she had not come running out to him, he wanted to leave some words for her to hide in her heart.
The shepherd’s call was threefold. It appealed to her will, her mind, and her heart. His call beautifully summarizes for us the call of the Lord Jesus to our own lives.
First, his call was volitional, to the will. It was the call to recognize a new Lord:
2:10 “My beloved spoke, and said to me: ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’”
One thing is certain: the Lord Jesus does not force Himself upon us. To each of us is given a measure of volition and powers of choice. God has given us the right to choose. Otherwise, we would not be people but puppets.
If that isn’t so, then statements like, “Whosoever will may come” and “Wilt thou be made whole?” and “Choose you this day whom you will serve” are meaningless rhetoric. If we had no right to choose, then we are not moral agents.
The first call of the shepherd was to the will. “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” It was a call to be united with him, to leave the old way of life, and to have a new lord.”
Then next, the call of the shepherd was logical: to the mind, the call to receive a new life. It embraced all the dimensions of time—past, present, and future. First, it related to the past:
2:11 “For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” The storms of winter had ended. The harsh, barren pain of a lifeless past was gone. A new season was about to begin, summer suns were on the way. The past was the past. It was over.
This is the beauty of the gospel! It deals with our past. But the past cannot just be swept under the rug. It must be forgiven, and God alone can do that. Through Jesus He did just that. He died for our past sins, took our incalculable indebtedness toward God upon Himself, and paid it in full. “The winter is past…”
Having dealt with the past, the shepherd pointed to the present.
2:12 “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” In other words, our daily, present tense experience with Jesus is to be one of beauty, bliss, and blessing.
Flowers speak of spring with exciting new life, and they bring a wonderful fragrance that fills the air. Likewise, instead of the bleakness and barrenness of cold, stormy winter, Jesus wants to bring beauty and freshness.
And notice, He wants to fill our lives with song. “…the singing of the birds is come.” Satan fills our lives with tears and sorrow. He blights everything he touches.
But not Jesus. He puts a “new song” in our mouth. He said, “I have come that you might have life, and that more abundantly” (John 10:10).
And he even wants to fill our lives with bliss! “The voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.” The turtledove in Scripture is a beautiful symbol of the Holy Spirit. He brings into a human heart all of the blessings of God in Christ. What a blessing it is when the voice of the turtledove is heard throughout the land!
The shepherd’s call reaches into the past and the present, and also embraces the future.
2:13 “The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
Jesus talked about the vine in John 15. While national Israel had failed to produce the spiritual fruit God had desired, the Lord’s church would do SO. He said, “I am the vine…abide in Me and I in you, and you will bring forth fruit.”
So the vine is associated with the church age, where the fruit Israel had failed to produce would be produced by a people abiding in Christ Jesus.
The fig tree is associated with the end of the church age. Remember the time when Jesus cursed the fig tree because of its fruitlessness and deception? It looked good, but there were no figs on it. So it was deceptive in its appearance.
The fig tree Jesus cursed quickly withered to the astonishment of the disciples. This was Jesus’ only judgment miracle, and it was highly symbolic. It depicted the drying up of Jewish national life. The O.T. was passing away.
But in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He predicts that the nation of Israel will flourish again at the end of the age. In fact, the rebirth of the State of Israel would signal the approach of the end times, and of the end of the church age.
Jesus said, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32-33). The “fig tree” blossomed when Israel became a nation again in 1948.
The shepherd said to the Shulamite, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” The Shulamite must be ready for instant departure when the shepherd came to lead her out of her difficult circumstances into a new experience of life with him.
Likewise, the Lord Jesus will soon say to His church, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!” The church, the bride of Christ, is about to be delivered from its current restrictive surroundings. The Shepherd is coming to snatch us away!
The shepherd’s call was to her will, her mind, and finally to her heart, the call to realize a new love.
2:14 “O my dove, you are in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see your countenance, let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is comely.”
The shepherd longs for a response from her. Love is always reciprocal. Love will endlessly give, but to reach its highest bliss, love must be returned. He’s saying, “Come out into the open. Let me see you. Quit hiding. Let me hear from you. Don’t be so elusive. Come out from behind the rocks, from hiding behind the stairs.”
Jesus wants to hear from us, His bride. He wants an open, reciprocal relationship with us. No more hiding from Him.
In the story, the Shulamite is still talking with the court women. Her sole line of defense throughout has been to brag about her beloved shepherd. She has just been talking about his love for her; now she will talk about her love for him.
Before we read her statements, we need to point out that it is very clear the shepherd’s love for her was far greater than her love for him. He allows no obstacles to come between them, but leaps over them all.
She, on the other hand, allows hindrances to come between them from time to time. And once again it is true to type. We as Christ’s bride often allow obstacles to come between us and our Shepherd. Our love for Him is often weak, shifting, and easily turned aside.
Thus, the Shulamite speaks of her hindered love. Three hindrances, in fact, plague her. First, she is hindered by her protective family. Remember, her brothers did all they could to separate her from the shepherd.
Second, she is hindered by a prohibitive society, as represented by the watchmen we will soon meet.
Third, she was hindered by a permissive atmosphere. The company that surrounded her was not conducive to cultivating a vibrant love for her shepherd.
Starting in verse 15, she addresses her past problem by reminiscing about the hostility toward her beloved she’d experienced at home with her brothers. When they discovered she was meeting the shepherd in the fields, they took her away and placed her in a vineyard.
2:15 “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines,” they had said, “for our vines have tender grapes.”
Their goal was simple—to make it as difficult as possible for her to have any further liaison with her beloved shepherd. “A man’s foes,” said Jesus, “shall be those of his own household.”
Sharing this with the court women, the problem the Shulamite experienced now of being a virtual prisoner in Solomon’s pavilion, was nothing new. Her brothers had tried to come between her and the shepherd, and now she was separated from him by Solomon.
But persecution often backfires! Instead of intimidating the new believer, it often only serves to drive him closer to Christ. The Shulamite only gave herself more completely to the shepherd. She expresses her passion:
2:16-17 “My beloved is mine, and I am his,” she said. “He feeds among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.”
In spite of all the obstacles, the Shulamite expresses her undying loyalty to the shepherd. Their relationship is more real to her than anything else. He is also to her as royalty. “He feeds among the lilies…” The lily, said Jesus, was more beautifully clothed than even Solomon!
She also occupied herself with his return. “Until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.” Likewise for us, we look forward to the soon return of Christ, which will be like the “breaking of day” when all the shadows of death and sorrow will flee away!
She closes out verse 17 by expressing passionate longing. “…turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills.”
The mountains of “Bether” are rendered by some translators as “the mountains of separation.” The Shulamite saw her beloved as a deer at home upon those mountains and able to leap over their obstacles. The “mountains of separation” might stand between them, but they were nothing to him!
So, too, we long for the Lord to return. The “mountains of separation” may seem ominous to us. The passage of over two thousand years. All the tug and pull of the world.
And it seems so far from earth to heaven. We are here. He is there. We are imprisoned on a rebel planet, while He dwells in glorious eternity. We need to remember that these mountains are nothing to him!
So then, the Shulamite’s love was a hindered love, but it was a love that had learned to laugh at hindrances.
But hers was also a hungry love. The Shulamite is still talking to the court women in Solomon’s pavilion about the past. She recounts another incident that had also happened some time before.
She shares about a dream:
3:1 “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not.”
The Shulamite had dreamed of the shepherd. It was so real that when she woke up she put her hand out to touch him, but he was not there. It was only a dream.
But the dream had been so vivid that it had left her shaken, with her whole heart crying out for the absent shepherd. On awaking, she could hardly tell reality from her dream.
Next, she sets out on a frantic search. She said,
3:2 “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not.”
The Shulamite literally arose from her bed, dressed herself, slipped out into the night, and began to search the dark streets of that eastern city.
She explored the highways and the byways alone at night, driven by her longing for the shepherd. It was very foolish. Her loneliness, longing, and love drove her into a course of action that was totally unwise! For once she allowed her passion to overrule her prudence.
The lesson for us is simple. The Lord loves it when we love Him back. But the Lord will never ask us to do things that are foolish and that compromise our testimony.
Jesus understands a daring kind of love quite well, as well as Satan’s ability to try to capitalize on that love. The enemy urged Jesus in the wilderness to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to demonstrate His trust in God. But Jesus knew better.
We should be willing to do great things for God. But two principles should always guide our way. First, we should pray heavily and long about major decisions. Second, we should never act in a way is contrary to the known and revealed mind and will of God as found in His Word.
We should also remember to never act on impulse. Satan always pressures us to make quick, hasty moves. “You’ll never have an opportunity like this again!” he says. But God NEVER pressures us like that. He is patient and leads us gently.
The Shulamite acted hastily and stepped into danger. Thankfully, God overruled the whole mistaken expedition of the Shulamite. And thank God He often delivers us from unwise decisions! She testifies next about how she was overruled:
3:3 “The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, ‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
There she was, wandering the streets at night alone. The watchmen could very easily have thought her to be a prostitute. The Shulamite, at least, did a very wise thing when they apprehended her. She gave her testimony! “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
Apparently they let her go or escorted her back, but we can well imagine what they said after leaving her. “She’s crazy! She’s nuts!”
So the Shulamite had a hindered love and a hungry love. She carries on with her story in verses 4-5, which we’ll look at next time.