The Bible’s Song of Love
Verse by verse through the Song of Songs
4:4 "THY NECK IS LIKE THE TOWER OF DAVID BUILDED FOR AN ARMOURY, WHEREON THERE HANG A THOUSAND BUCKLERS, ALL THE SHIELDS OF THE MIGHTY MEN."
"The ‘neck’ in scripture would seem to indicate where the strength of purpose lies. We often read of men being stiff‑necked and having hardened necks. The purpose of man is always naturally to carry out his own will. God can put a providential yoke on man’s neck…But when grace comes in and produces its blessed effect, purpose takes on an altogether different form…When he (Paul) said ‘What shall I do Lord?’ he had really taken the yoke of Christ upon his neck and from that moment he was set in purpose to know God’s will and to do it. ‘The Tower of David’ reminds us that David was typical of Christ" of whom God said "a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will." (Acts 13:22 KJV) "What a triumph of grace that instead of the will of man dominating, and manifesting itself in stiff‑neckedness towards God the neck should become ‘like the Tower of David.’(C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs)
The context of these verses suggests beauty and strength. In Ezek.27:11 (KJV) the prophet makes a similar use of the illustration of hanging shields in the words "…In thy towers: they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect."
If the neck is stiff with self‑will it has the effect spoken of by the Apostle Paul when he referred to those who "preach Christ of contention, not sincerely…" but the others, he seems to say, recognise that his neck was "hung with shields" or, as he puts it "knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel." (Phil.1:16) "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might…above all, taking the shield of faith." (Eph.6:10,16 KJV)
In Chapter 1:10 we see that the neck is also the place for ornaments of honour in the sense in which Pharaoh put a gold chain about the neck of Joseph. (Gen.41:42)
4:5 We are quite rightly accustomed to compare and contrast every feature of our spiritual being with Christ but, in this illustration, the Bridegroom speaks of special maidenly features. This seems to remind us that we have some features that are special to the Church alone. "THY TWO BREASTS," He says, "ARE LIKE TWO FAWNS" (or young roes) "THAT ARE TWINS OF A ROE, WHICH FEED AMONG THE LILIES."
"The ‘two breasts’ speak of affections that are in even balance. Grace governing the heart would secure this…there would be no partialities as to the truth…We are apt to get one‑sided…Unbalanced affections are really a deformity because they are not the ‘counterpart’ of the affections of Christ…" The ‘two young roes’ "set forth symbolically the tenderness and sensitiveness of spiritual affections. These are timid creatures, sensitive to any molestation and ready to flee from it on swift foot. The Lord would have us to cultivate and exhibit affections that are delicately sensitive…This holy sensitiveness can only be preserved as it is nourished upon appropriate food. The garbage of the world is fatal to it. The fawns ‘feed among lilies.’ This...is where He feeds His flock." (Chapters 2:16; 6:3) (C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs)
What are these twin features of beauty and grace which distinguish the new creature? When God created Eve it was not only as a companion for Adam but also that they might "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." (Gen.1:28) The spiritual counterpart must surely be associated with the regeneration of the earth during the "times of restitution of all things." (Acts 3:21 KJV) These maidenly features, therefore, seem to speak of the spiritual affections of faith and love which, when given full expression in maturity, after the marriage of the Lamb shall help throughout the Millennial age to sustain the regenerated life given to mankind by the Lord Jesus.
4:6 These thoughts bring our minds back again to our Lord’s second presence and so we find it no surprise to read the Bridegroom’s next few words "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." (mar.)
In chapter 2:17 we saw the picture of His second coming in the same phrase as that which opens this verse. To that picture is added the thoughts of a kingdom of suffering (myrrh) and a spiritual elevation of praise (frankincense).
In our Lord’s parables of the Kingdom of Heaven He shows that the embryo kingdom originates in this Age. This verse, therefore, seems to remind us that in this age it is a kingdom of suffering but it is nevertheless more than that for, as the Apostle Paul expressed it in Heb.13:15, our sacrificial suffering with Christ is "a sacrifice of praise to God continually…" The spiritual foothills of the Mountain of the Kingdom in this age are the praises of the saints as they share in the sufferings of Christ. "Insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of His glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy." (1 Pet.4:13)
4:7 This next verse needs to be read with verse 8 for its message is almost in parenthesis. "THOU ART ALL FAIR" (or fair all over) "MY LOVE; AND THERE IS NO SPOT IN THEE." It is with these words for assurance that He extends the invitation contained in verse 8.
The Lord now recognises not only her special features but that she is "all over beautiful" and without blemish because she is clothed with His righteousness. It is not of our own holiness that Jesus speaks when he says "there is no spot in thee" for "Christ…loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph.5:25‑27) Like those of the Church at Sardis who "did not defile their garments"–had no spot–the maiden also is invited to walk with the Lord for she, like they, is worthy. (Rev.3:4)
4:8 "COME WITH ME FROM LEBANON, MY BRIDE, WITH ME FROM LEBANON:" He calls "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 from Lebanon" is emphasised in the original Hebrew text and suggests that it is the same message given in Rev.18:4 (KJV) "Come out of her, my people." The Lebanon of this verse seems to portray not that Lebanon associated with Chap.3:9 but one that had fallen from its original glory. This thought is strengthened not only by the fact that the Bridegroom calls her away from Lebanon but also by other passages where Lebanon seems to symbolise nominal Christendom. In Hab.2:17, for example, it was foretold of Lebanon, which was once renowned for its excellence, that it would become the habitation of "wild beasts." These symbolic words appear in a passage which contains messages that clearly point to the days of our Lord’s second coming. (See 2:3 & 14)
Lions are spoken of in symbolic scripture as agents of the devil out to devour the saints. "The mountains of the leopards" may be a further suggestion of the wild beast influences in the world or alternatively the kingdoms (mountains) of Christendom spoken of in Rev.13:2 "the beast …like unto a leopard." These peaks were referred to in Deut.4:48 as Mount Zion although they were nowhere near the real Mount Zion. It seems, therefore that these peaks represent the high places of Christendom which some wrongly believe to be Zion.
But the outstanding features of this verse is that the Bridegroom, having observed the evidences of her spiritual beauty, calls her for the first time "My bride." According to the custom of Israel she is now espoused to her bridegroom until the day when "the marriage of the Lamb is come." (Rev.19:7) In the last verse of Chapter 3 we are told of "the day of His espousals." In this chapter we are admitted into its intimate joy.
4:9 "THOU HAST GIVEN ME COURAGE, MY SISTER, MY BRIDE; THOU HAST GIVEN ME COURAGE WITH ONE OF THINE EYES, WITH ONE CHAIN OF THY NECK." (mar.)
Jewish writers have translated the opening phrase in five different ways: "Unhearted me," "overpowered my heart," "given me a heart," "ravished my heart," (KJV) and "enchained my heart." If we combine these then we can say of a surety "the love of Christ…passeth knowledge." (Eph.3:19) It seems impossible to grasp or express the wonder of it. This thought of our glorious Lord "enchained" by our hearts’ devotion to Him gives new life to the concept of the indivisibility of the Body with Christ its Head.
"…the spouse is also called ‘my sister.’ It reminds us that when Abraham would have a wife taken for Isaac he said to his servant, ‘Thou shalt go…to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’ Nothing could be united to Christ that was not morally of kindred nature with Him. There were those whom the Lord could recognise as His kindred when He was here. (Matt.12:50)" (C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs) We also see another close link, for the bride is spoken of as one of the same family as Christ. She is His "sister" for His Father is hers, His Mother (the Sarah Covenant of Grace) is hers. "Children of God," "Joint heirs with Christ." Here also we see a distinction in the family relationship of which she spoke in Chapter 1:6. Those who opposed her desire to cultivate her own vineyard were not referred to as her brothers but as "mother’s sons." "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother, and sister …" (Matt.12:50 KJV) "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb.2:11 KJV)
It is the look from one of her eyes that has captured His heart. "One of her eyes" refers to the old Eastern custom for a woman to unveil one of her eyes when addressing someone. This action would also give a glimpse of the ornaments worn round her neck. It is expressive of maidenly modesty —a symbol of Christian humility—before our Lord. But it is "the light of the eyes" (which) "rejoiceth the heart." (Prov.15:30 KJV) In Deut.32:10 we read that Israel was to God "as the apple of His eye." The original Hebrew word translated "apple" in that verse means "little man" thus giving us the pleasing picture of Israel looking towards God and being reflected as a miniature figure in God’s eyes. The deep expression in her eyes conveys her love but only because she is looking towards Him. She has in fact become the apple of His eye.
4:10 It is her loving look which has "encouraged His heart." Now He can speak to her with confidence, without fear that it will turn her head, and so He pours forth His loving thoughts "HOW FAIR IS THY LOVE, MY SISTER, MY BRIDE! HOW MUCH BETTER IS THY LOVE THAN WINE! AND THE SMELL OF THINE OINTMENTS" (anointing oil) "THAN ALL MANNER OF SPICES!"
This might be paraphrased "How much better are your beautiful expressions of devotion than the mere devotion to doctrine (wine). How much better is the fragrance of the Holy Spirit in you than the scent of any other virtues (spices)." Her love is fair because it comes from Him. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19 KJV)
"If we have the spirit of Christ ought we not to have ‘ointments’? Shall there not be fragrance for Him? …I suppose we have all been conscious at times that there is something about a truly spiritual person which it is difficult to describe? Something that gives a very agreeable impression to one that can appreciate it, and yet it is neither word nor act? That is fragrance." (C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs)
4:11 The look in her eyes told of her love because "the light of the body is the eye" but true love does not remain dumb for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matt.12:34) The maiden opened her heart and her lips and so the Bridegroom also says to her "THY LIPS, O MY BRIDE, DROP HONEY AS THE HONEYCOMB: HONEY AND MILK ARE UNDER THY TONGUE." (mar.)
As honey is the combined extract from many flowers so this peculiar sweetness of devotion which the Bride offers is the combined sweetness of all the graces in her, combined in every loving utterance to Him. Milk and honey were among the chief characteristics of the fruitfulness of Canaan. They thus have a special significance to the spiritual Israelite. Honey and milk suggest words of mildness, kindness and sweet tenderness like the "gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:22 KJV)
Over and over again the Bride or the Bridegroom speak of fragrance. How clearly this tells us that spiritual fragrance is inseparable from the spirit of Christ. This time He tells her that "THE SMELL OF THY GARMENTS IS LIKE THE SMELL OF LEBANON." Earlier He had called her away from Lebanon but the fragrance He loves is the true fragrance of Lebanon. This contrast is revealed in the history of the Church. The true Lebanon of the early days gradually fell from its former renown and became the habitation of wild beasts—the rejected church of Laodicea. Prophesying concerning the Church, the Psalmist foretold "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." (Psa.45:8) The garment is the robe of Christ’s righteousness which has the fragrance of the true Church. This contrasts once again with the rejected Church at the end of this age of whom our Lord said "Thou…knowest not that thou art…naked: I counsel thee to buy of me…white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself." (Rev.3:17‑18)
The apostasy pictured in that message was complete. It reveals a worldly organisation which believes that it is "increased with goods, and have need of nothing," (Rev.3:17 KJV) whereas it is "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind…" parading before the Lord in all the shame of its nakedness. There was no loving warmth to commend and so, in place of gracious words, come the biting words of rejection "I will spue thee out of my mouth." (v.16 KJV) What a contrast to the Bride.