The Bible’s Song of Love
Verse by verse through
All references RV unless otherwise specified
2:14 The first phrase of verse 14 has been translated both in the Authorised and Revised versions in a way that suggests a contradiction. It reads "O MY DOVE, THAT ART IN THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCK, IN THE COVERT OF THE STEEP PLACE, LET ME SEE THY COUNTENANCE." The words "that art" appear in italics telling us that they are not in the original. If we leave them out we can see that the Bridegroom is saying in effect "Let me see thy countenance in the clefts of the rocks etc…" In verse 9 He was "looking in at the windows" to see His loved one who was behind "our wall." In this verse He asks her again to come away from man‑made enclosures to the sheltering clefts and coverts which He provides, for that is where He desires to see her countenance.
Throughout scripture rocks are a symbol of refuge and protection and are used to illustrate Divine care and protection. For example the Psalmist says "the LORD is my rock, and my fortress…" (Psa.18:2) and the Apostle Paul also described God’s care for Israel in their wilderness experience as a spiritual rock and added "and that Rock was Christ." (1 Cor.10:4 KJV)
"…LET ME HEAR THY VOICE", the Bridegroom continues, "FOR SWEET IS THY VOICE, AND THY COUNTENANCE IS COMELY." How strange and sad it is that we should be so silent—so slow to pray, so slow to praise, when Jesus is saying to us–"Let Me hear thy voice…" To encourage us He adds "For thy voice is sweet." The secret of His delight in the voice of His people is simply this–"It is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." (Matt.10:20) For the same reason He sees beauty in their countenance; for the soul that is much in communion with Jesus reflects His beauty.
2:15 "And then the maiden responds in words of supplication, "TAKE US THE FOXES, THE LITTLE FOXES, THAT SPOIL THE VINEYARDS; FOR OUR VINEYARDS ARE IN BLOSSOM." Other translators strengthen her appeal by opening with the words "Seize for us the foxes."
In Eastern Countries these "little foxes" used to conceal themselves in great numbers under the luxuriant foliage of the vines. Thus do the symbolic "little foxes" hide wherever there is a profusion of the leaves of profession. In appearance they are the size of kittens, with eyes that appear kindly and intelligent, but they have very destructive habits. These characteristics are brought out in a description of an incident concerning one of these animals in captivity. Whilst lifting the straw in its cage the keeper found a hole which the animal had burrowed deeply under an adjoining wall. The "little fox" had not only covered the hole with straw to avoid detection but had licked its feet and claws clean of tell‑tale fragments of earth. Whilst the straw was being moved the animal slunk guiltily away with a drooping "brush."
Do not these characteristics illustrate the sly and apparently harmless intrusion of worldliness and sin, the little self‑indulgences, the small faults unconfessed and carelessly repeated which injure our new nature. This verse seems to have a special application to these days when, as a result of the increase of knowledge, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the intrusions of worldly affairs by wireless, press and even by ordinary contact with the greatly increased variety and tempo of modern life. The strain under which we live in these days also tends to encourage us to accept some of its apparently harmless and pleasant relaxations as a means of physical refreshment, plausibly assuring ourselves that we shall thus be fitted for greater spiritual activity. But let us remember the warning given to us in God’s word "How great a matter a little fire kindleth", "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (James 3:5; Gal.5:9 KJV)
It is interesting to note that the "little foxes" only injure the young shoots, not the mature branches. It is under the cover of our profession that our own "little foxes" can so easily shelter and so, if any part of our spiritual growth is still a tender shoot, we shall need to claim His watchful help to "seize for us the little foxes" which would cause us grave harm. "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God…" (Heb.12:15 KJV) praying always "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." (Psa.19:12 KJV)
2:16 We might wonder why the maiden has to ask Him to size the little foxes in "our vineyard." Is He not aware of their depredations without her plea? The answer is implied in the request itself, for in it the maiden shows her dependence on His power. Our Lord helps us in these problems by showing us how He lived a life unharmed by the "little foxes" of self‑will and self‑indulgence. As we consciously strive to follow Him, recognising Him as our Head in all things, His power will "seize for us the little foxes that spoil our vineyards." This will enable us to say with the Apostle "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil.4:13 KJV) and ensure that we can echo the maiden’s words "MY BELOVED IS MINE, AND I AM HIS."
Although she is now conscious of possessing the Beloved, the sentiment is not entirely selfless; she has yet to reach the point of development where she can say "I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine." (6:3) She knows that the joy of Christ is to be with His own (the lilies of verses 2) and so she can go on in confidence to say "HE FEEDETH AMONG THE LILIES" or, as our Lord expressed it: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt.18:20 KJV)
2:17 "WHEN THE DAY IS COOL," she continues, "AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY, TURN, MY BELOVED, AND BE THOU LIKE A ROE OR A YOUNG HART UPON THE MOUNTAINS OF SEPARATION." (mar.)
In the evening after sundown when in Eastern lands the cool evening breeze blows, then the shadows disappear. In the record of creation "the evening and the morning" was the order of each day as it still is amongst Jews today. Similarly the new Millennial Day begins with eventide and, passing through a night, leads on to perfect day. Here, once again, is the thought of our Lord’s presence during the time of the (antitypical) evening breeze at the close of "day" of the Gospel age.
The Hebrew word rendered "turn" conveys more correctly the meaning of "to compass round about." The maiden now recognises that she no longer needs the "walls," for Christ is her protection.
We have also observed that mountains are a symbol for Kingdoms. How appropriately this verse applies to the time of our Lord’s second presence, during which "the kingdoms of this world" are rent and divided. Nevertheless there are clefts in those rocks, in the high and steep places, inaccessible to the enemies of the Lord’s people and where He keeps them in perfect safety and peace until "the shadows flee away." These are the mountains of separation but not of separation from our Lord "For," the Apostle assures us, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom.8:38,39)
The next four verses describe very clearly the general experience of those whose hearts and affections are centred in Christ at this time. This period is represented by the condition of the Church of the Laodiceans described in Rev.3:14‑21. It is a time during which the Lord returns and rejects the "lukewarm", boastful and self‑satisfied systems of the professing church. This rejection has brought to the true and sincere lover of Christ a dissatisfaction with the condition in which she finds herself, a sense of restlessness and determination to find Him who is the Beloved of her soul.
3:1 It is helpful to remind ourselves at the point that the Song is expressed by the maiden in retrospect and so, looking back, she can say "BY NIGHT ON MY BED I SOUGHT HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH: I SOUGHT HIM, BUT I FOUND HIM NOT."
In Rev.2:22 the Resurrected Lord indicates the symbolic meaning of a "bed" where He declares that the antitypical Jezebel and those who commit spiritual adultery within the Church shall be cast into a bed of their own. In its fulfilment we can recognise that this means a creedal bed, for it is the unscriptural creeds which are the bed of spiritual adultery. Similarly when our Lord spoke of signs of His second presence He told of a separating work when "two men in one bed" shall be separated "the one shall be taken, and the other left." (Luke 17:34 KJV) This was one of the signs which Jesus said would tell us that our deliverance draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28) "Knowing the season," says the Apostle, "that now it is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed." (Rom.13:11) "So then let us not sleep, as do the rest" lest "that day should overtake you as a thief." (1 Thess.5:6,4)
The maiden is no longer asleep but her seeking has not so far extended beyond her immediate location–"my bed." Two other beds are spoken of in the Song "our bed" (1:16 KJV) where she rested with Christ; "His bed" 3:7 KJV) the only safe and satisfying resting place. But now is she on her own bed and there He is not to be found, for the command has gone forth –"Come out of her, my people…" (Rev.18:4‑9 KJV)
3:2 Now she arouses herself "I WILL RISE NOW," she says "AND GO ABOUT THE CITY, IN THE STREETS AND IN THE BROAD WAYS, I WILL SEEK HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH." She still expects to find Him somewhere in the great city of Christendom–amongst those church organisations which are the dwelling‑place of those who profess the Name of Christ. But assemblies of Christians are not necessarily gathered together in His name and it is only wherever two or three are gathered together in His name that He has promised to be found among them. "Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." (Matt.7:21)
But she soon confesses that "I SOUGHT HIM, BUT I FOUND HIM NOT." Nevertheless the promise is that "they who seek shall find." Thus the lesson of the maiden’s experience is that no measure of Christian fellowship can bring satisfaction to the heart of those who love Jesus unless He is found there.
3:3 Nor can those denominational leaders who devote their energies to regulating and keeping watch on the affairs of the "city" of Christendom be relied on to guide us to Him for He has disowned the city which professed His name. As the maiden tells us "THE WATCHMEN THAT GO ABOUT THE CITY FOUND ME: TO WHOM I SAID, SAW YE HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH?" The prophet foretold this experience in the words "His watchmen are blind…" (Isa.56:10,11)
The original text emphasises the last four words of this verse. This is the driving power which keeps her searching for close, personal communion with her Beloved because He is "Him whom my soul loveth."
3:4 "IT WAS BUT A LITTLE THAT I PASSED FROM THEM, WHEN I FOUND HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH."
Her restlessness was proof of her sincerity. Is not this the test of a true child of God as distinguished from one who merely professes to love the Lord? The true Christian can be satisfied with nothing short of direct and personal appropriation of Him. So "let us not be weary in well‑doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Gal.6:9)
Now, free from her old entanglement and associations; roused from her "bed" which had held her; no longer having confidence in the watchmen, she turns away from it all, for now she has "found Him whom my soul loveth" and, in a new intensity of affection, she says "I HELD HIM, AND WOULD NOT LET HIM GO." In every experience the maiden has seen that her Beloved responds only when she shows that quality and character of earnestness which He looks for in His own. In this experience we learn that, although He has "set His love upon us," He will withhold the manifestation of His love until we seek for Him as for hidden treasure. In other words—we must claim the relationship to which He has invited us.
"UNTIL I HAD BROUGHT HIM INTO MY MOTHER’S HOUSE." In the first part of the Song we read of His grace in bringing her into His chambers. In these words the maiden recognises that the basis of her relationship to Christ is the Covenant of Grace. As Isaac was, so is she, a child of promise. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ…and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye…heirs according to the promise." (Gal.3:16,29 KJV; 4:22‑28)
To emphasise the full depth of this statement the maiden repeats the thought "AND INTO THE CHAMBER OF HER THAT CONCEIVED ME." This is the basis of our relationship to Him in the Divine family and must be recognised and appropriated.
3:5 Once more the Bridegroom responds, this time to ensure the spiritual season of rest to which her searching has brought her as at the end of Part 1. He addresses the Daughters of Jerusalem: "I ADJURE YOU, O DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM, BY THE ROES, AND BY THE HINDS OF THE FIELD, THAT YE STIR NOT UP, NOR AWAKEN LOVE, UNTIL IT PLEASE." He does not deny them opportunity to share this same rest for, as the Apostle John declares, "that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us," adding the important distinction that "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3 KJV) All who seek the Lord from amongst the daughters of Jerusalem are hereby encouraged to follow in the maiden’s steps but warned not "to stir up" or disturb the spiritual rest of those who have found Him.