By J. Hudson Taylor
Cant. iii. 6-v. 1
O JESU, KING most wonderful,
Thou CONQUEROR renown'd,
Thou sweetness most ineffable,
In whom all joys are found!
Thee, JESU, may our voices bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.
WE have been mainly occupied in Sections I. and II. with the words and the experiences of the bride; in marked contrast to this, in this section our attention is first called to the Bridegroom, and then it is from Himself that we hear of the bride, as the object of His love, and the delight of His heart. The daughters of Jerusalem are the first speakers.
Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness
like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all powders of the merchant?
They themselves give the reply:--
King Solomon made himself a car of state
Of the wood of Lebanon.
He made the pillars thereof of silver,
The bottom thereof of gold, the seat of it of purple,
The midst thereof being paved with love (love-gifts),
From the daughters of Jerusalem.
Behold, it is the litter of Solomon;
Threescore mighty men are about it,
Of the mighty men of Israel,
They all handle the sword, and are expert in war:
Every man hath his sword upon his thigh,
Because of fear in the night.
In these verses the bride is not mentioned; she is eclipsed in the grandeur and the state of her royal Bridegroom; nevertheless, she is both enjoying and sharing it. The very air is perfumed by the smoke of the incense that ascends pillar-like to the clouds; and all that safeguards the position of the Bridegroom Himself, and shows forth His dignity, safeguards also the accompanying bride, the sharer of His glory. The car of state in which they sit is built of fragrant cedar from Lebanon, and the finest of the gold and silver have been lavished in its construction. The fragrant wood typifies the beauty of sanctified humanity, while the gold reminds us of the divine glory of our LORD, and the silver of the purity and preciousness of His redeemed and peerless Church. The imperial purple with which it is lined tells us of the Gentiles--the daughter of Tyre has been there with her gift; while the love-gifts of the daughters of Jerusalem accord with the prophecy, "Even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour."
These are the things that attract the attention of the daughters of Jerusalem, but the bride is occupied with the King Himself, and she exclaims:--
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King
With the crown wherewith His mother hath crowned
Him in the day of His espousals,
And in the day of the gladness of His heart.
The crowned KING is everything to her, and she would have Him to be so to the daughters of Zion likewise. She dwells with delight on the gladness of His heart in the day of His espousals, for now she is not occupied with Him for her own sake, but rejoices in His joy in finding in her His satisfaction. Do we sufficiently cultivate this unselfish desire to be all for JESUS, and to do all for His pleasure? Or are we conscious that we principally go to Him for our own sakes, or at best for the sake of our fellow-creatures? How much of prayer there is that begins and ends with the creature, forgetful of the privilege of giving joy to the Creator! Yet it is only when He sees in our unselfish love and devotion to Him the reflection of His own that His heart can feel full satisfaction, and pour itself forth in precious utterances of love such as those which we find in the following words:--
Behold, thou art fair, My love; behold, thou art fair;
Thine eyes are as dove's behind thy veil;
Thy hair is as a flock of goats,
That lie along the side of Mount Gilead;
Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes that are newly
Which are come up from the washing.
Which are all of them in pairs,
And none is bereaved among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
And thy speech is comely, etc. (See verses 3-5.)
We have already found the explanation of the fairness of the bride in her reflecting like a mirror the beauty of the Bridegroom. Well may He with satisfaction describe her beauty while she is thus occupied with Himself! The lips that speak only of Him are like a thread of scarlet; the mouth or speech which has no word of self, or for self, is comely in His sight.
How sweet His words of appreciation and commendation were to the bride we can well imagine; but her joy was too deep for expression; she was silent in her love. She would not now think of sending Him away until the day be cool and the shadows flee away.
Still less does the Bridegroom think of finding His joy apart from His bride. He says:--
Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away,
I will get Me to the mountain of myrrh,
And to the hill of frankincense.
Separation never comes from His side. He is always ready for communion with a prepared heart, and in this happy communion the bride becomes ever fairer, and more like to her LORD. She is being progressively changed into His image, from one degree of glory to another, through the wondrous working of the HOLY SPIRIT, until the Bridegroom can declare:--
Thou art all fair, My love;
And there is no spot on thee.
And now she is fit for service, and to it the Bridegroom woos her; she will not now misrepresent Him:--
Come with Me from Lebanon, My bride,
With Me from Lebanon;
Look from the top of Amana,
From the top of Senir and Hermon,
From the lions' dens,
From the mountains of the leopards.
"Come with Me." It is always so. If our SAVIOUR says, "Go ye therefore and disciple all nations," He precedes it by, "All power is given unto Me," and follows it by, "Lo, I am with you always." Or if, as here, He calls His bride to come, it is still "with Me," and it is in connection with this loving invitation that for the first time He changes the word "My love," for the still more endearing one, "My bride."
What are lions' dens when the Lion of the tribe of Judah is with us; or mountains of leopards, when He is at our side! "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." On the other hand, it is while thus facing dangers, and toiling with Him in service, that He says:--
Thou hast ravished My heart, My sister, My bride;
Thou hast ravished My heart with one look from thine eyes,
With one chain of thy neck.
Is it not wonderful how the heart of our Beloved can be thus ravished with the love of one who is prepared to accept His invitation, and go forth with Him seeking to rescue the perishing! The marginal reading of the Revised Version is very significant: "Thou hast ravished My heart," or "Thou hast given me courage." If the Bridegroom's heart may be encouraged by the fidelity and loving companionship of his bride, it is not surprising that we may cheer and encourage one another in our mutual service. St. Paul had a steep mountain of difficulty to climb when he was being led as a captive to Rome, not knowing the things that awaited him there; but when the brethren met him at the Appii Forum he thanked God and took courage. May we ever thus strengthen one another's hands in God!
But to resume. The Bridegroom cheers the toilsome ascents, and the steep pathways of danger, with sweet communications of His love:--
How fair is thy love, My sister, My bride!
How much better is thy love than wine!
And the smell of thine ointments than all manner of spices!
Thy lips, O My bride, drop as the honeycomb:
Honey and milk are under thy tongue;
And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
A garden shut up is My sister, My bride;
A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Thy shoots are a paradise of pomegranates, with precious
Henna with spikenard plants,
Spikenard and saffron,
Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense;
Myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.
Thou art a fountain of gardens,
A well of living waters,
And flowing streams from Lebanon.
Engaged with the Bridegroom in seeking to rescue the perishing, the utterances of her lips are to Him as honey and the honeycomb; and figure is piled upon figure to express His satisfaction and joy. She is a garden full of precious fruits and delightful perfumes, but a garden enclosed; the fruit she bears may bring blessing to many, but the garden is for Himself alone; she is a fountain, but a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. And yet again she is a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters and flowing streams from Lebanon: she carries fertility and imparts refreshment wherever she goes; and yet it is all of Him and for Him.
The bride now speaks for the second time in this section. As her first utterance was of Him, so now her second is for Him; self is found in neither.
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south;
Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.
Let my Beloved come into His garden,
And eat His precious fruits.
She is ready for any experience: the north wind and the south may blow upon her garden, if only the spices thereof may flow out to regale her LORD by their fragrance. He has called her His garden, a paradise of pomegranates and precious fruits; let Him come into it and eat His precious fruits.
To this the Bridegroom replies:--
I am come into My garden, My sister, My bride:
I have gathered My myrrh with My spice;
I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey;
I have drunk My wine with My milk.
Now, when she calls, He answers at once. When she is only for her LORD, He assures her that He finds all His satisfaction in her.
The section closes by the bride's invitation to His friends and hers, as well as to Himself:--
Eat, O friends;
Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O Beloved.
The consecration of all to our MASTER, far from lessening our power to impart, increases both our power and our joy in ministration. The five loaves and two fishes of the disciples, first given up to and blessed by the LORD, were abundant supply for the needy multitudes, and grew, in the act of distribution, into a store of which twelve hampers full of fragments remained when all were fully satisfied.
We have, then, in this beautiful section, as we have seen, a picture of unbroken communion and its delightful issues. May our lives correspond! First, one with the KING, then speaking of the KING; the joy of communion leading to fellowship in service, to a being all for JESUS, ready for any experience that will fit for further service, surrendering all to Him, and willing to minister all for Him. There is no room for love of the world here, for union with CHRIST has filled the heart; there is nothing for the gratification of the world, for all has been sealed and is kept for the MASTER'S use.
JESUS, my life is Thine!
And evermore shall be
Hidden in Thee.
For nothing can untwine
Thy life from mine.