Christ’s Call to the Drowsy Church.

THE CHURCH AROUSED FROM SLEEP. — V. 1. I am come into My garden, My sister, My spouse, this being the King’s answer to Shulamith’s invitation, chap. 4, 16; I have gathered My myrrh with My spice; I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey; I have drunk My wine with My milk, all expressions showing the measure with which the King enjoyed the fruits of His singular garden. Eat, O friends, the wedding-guests being addressed; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved, partaking to repletion of the rich gifts provided by the King’s bounty and by His garden. The reference is plain. When the heavenly Gardener comes into the garden of His Church, the enjoyment is mutual, since He rejoices in her faith and in the works of her faith, and the Church, with all her members, is refreshed by the rich blessings of His grace.

The next paragraph pictures a period of spiritual depression, together with a merciful visitation of the Lord, the bride herself relating the events in their order. V. 2. I sleep, but my heart waketh, unable to shake off the half-conscious drowsiness which came upon her; it is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled, the one of whom He is sure that she is wholly devoted to Him in love, as His terms of endearment show; for My head is filled with dew and My locks with the drops of the night, the fall of dew being very heavy in Palestine. V. 3. I have put off my coat, the tunic or undergarment, which served as a covering in the night; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, as custom requires it where only sandals are worn; how shall I defile them? She had become so indifferent to her Bridegroom that she eagerly adopted the slightest excuse, as though she no longer relished His company. V.4. My Beloved put in His hand by the hole of the door, through which the bolt could be reached from the outside if no other locks were employed, and my bowels were moved for Him, she was greatly excited, or agitated, in sympathy for Him, she began to repent of her indifference. V. 5. I rose up to open to my Beloved, once more thoroughly aroused in love and longing; and my hands dropped with myrrh, best token of her reawakened love, and my fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh, whose perfume was sure to please the King, upon the handles of the lock, as she eagerly attempted to push back the bolt. V. 8. I opened to my Beloved, ready now to appreciate His visitation of love; but my Beloved had withdrawn Himself and was gone, apparently tired of waiting, ready to extend His merciful call to some one else; my soul failed when He spake, when He had spoken before, this also explaining her long inaction. I sought Him, but I could not find Him, He had withdrawn His gracious presence; I called Him, but He gave me no answer. V. 7. The watchmen that went about the city found me; they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls, whose business it was to protect the inhabitants of the city, took away my veil from me, an act which was an indignity offered to an Oriental girl at any time, and here doubly so, since the veil was the bride’s greatest pride and the sign of her exalted state. V. 8. I charge you, 0 daughters of Jerusalem, adjuring them most earnestly, if ye find my Beloved, that ye tell Him that I am sick of love, her longing had now become overwhelmingly great, due to the very indifference professed by the Lord.

This paragraph correctly pictures the spiritual sleep which sometimes falls upon a single congregation or upon a whole section of the Church. There may still be some feeling of duty and a corresponding battling against the benumbing influence of sleep, but in the eyes of God such a community is dead, even while it has the name that it is living, Rev. 3, 1. When the Lord comes to such a church to admonish and incite her to true watchfulness, she is often unwilling to be disturbed. She would prefer to go her lukewarm way, without true life and spirituality. And so the Lord, after an urgent call and attempt to arouse the Church, withdraws His merciful presence. Meanwhile the Church arouses herself to the remembrance of the many evidences of grace and love which she has received at His hands, and so she, on her part, now tries to hold Him back from leaving her. She is again filled with the sweet savor of good works flowing from true faith; her heart eagerly seeks Him; she realizes that His condemnation Rev. 3, 17-19 applies to her. Having been deprived of His presence, she searches most diligently. But the very men who should have aided her in finding the Bridegroom now abuse the Church, while she loudly protests her love for the Bridegroom. Compare the words of the Lord, John 7, 33. 34: “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me. Ye shall seek Me and shall not find Me; and where I am, thither ye cannot come.” If at such times the individual congregation or the Church as such relies only upon the grace of the Lord, there is the best hope for the future.

THE CHURCH PRAISES HER BRIDEGROOM. — V. 9. What is thy Beloved more than another beloved, to place Him so high in praise, O thou fairest among women? so the “daughters of Jerusalem,” introduced for the sake of the liveliness of the presentation, ask Shulamith. What is thy Beloved more than another beloved that thou dost so charge us? namely, by admonishing them to assure Him of her lasting love and devotion. And the bride answers, v. 10. My Beloved is white and ruddy, fair and with the color of health, the chiefest among ten thousand, distinguished above a myriad, an unequaled Champion. V. 11. His head is as the most fine gold, not only from the red luster of His crown, but by reason of preciousness, His locks are bushy, like the waving fronds of the date-palm, and black as a raven. V. 12. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, full of lustrous brightness, washed with milk, to enhance their beauty, and fitly set, literally, “sitting in fullness,” like a precious gem in the setting of a ring. V. 13. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, or balm, in the luxuriant growth of the beard, as sweet flowers, elevated beds or mounds of spice plants; His lips like lilies, the red lilies of Palestine, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. V. 14. His hands are as gold rings, each finger being a cylinder of gold, set with the beryl, or encased in turquoises; His belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires, or, “his body a figure of ivory veiled with sapphires,” so spoken of either from the delicate blue veining or from the girdle studded with these precious gems. V. 15. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets, or bases, of fine gold, the references probably being to the costly sandals worn by the King; His countenance is as Lebanon, His entire appearance and bearing is majestic, excellent as the cedars, choice and stately as the finest trees of the forest. V. 16. His mouth is most sweet, literally, “His palate is sweetnesses”; yea, He is altogether lovely, literally, “lovelinesses,” the plural indicating the excess of pleasurable qualities. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

This is the ecstatic description which the Church gives of the Bridegroom with whose love she is ravished, she herself being once more addressed with the honoring name of “the fairest among women,” since the Church is, by virtue of His grace, without spot, or blemish, or any such thing. Her praise of the King is in the same strain which caused the inspired writers to call out: “Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured out into Thy lips; therefore God hath blessed Thee forever,” Ps. 45, 2. The entire description shows Christ as true man, but at the same time, in the fullness of His divinity, with majesty and stateliness in His entire appearance, and loveliness and sustaining power in His words. Beauty and strength, delicacy and might, are combined in His person, and therefore the sight of Him does not cause fear and terror, but inspires love and confidence. The entire description fits only Him who, while indeed true man, is at the same time God over all, blessed forever. It is the indescribable majesty of His deity which is here set forth in pictures and parables, in order that we might know Him with the eyes of faith, until we shall finally see Him as He is and be with Him in everlasting joy and happiness.