The Bible’s Song of Love

Verse by verse through the Song of Songs Part 2a
Chapter 2:8 – 2:13

All references RV unless otherwise specified

The second part portrays our relationship to the Lord from a new viewpoint. The first part was very much in the spirit of "Lo, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age." (Matt.28:20 mar.) Part 2 seems to tell of the signs of His presence at the end of the age. It would seem strange, in fact, if this glorious doctrine of our Lord’s return for His loved ones should find no place in the scriptures of the Old Testament for this, the dearest hope of every Christian, occupies such a prominent place in the New Testament. One verse in every thirteen refers either directly or indirectly to "this blessed hope" and in the Epistles alone it is alluded to once in every ten verses.

Of the Old Testament Scriptures Jesus said–These "are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39 KJV) and it is but reasonable to expect that the "Song of Songs" which, by common consent, Christian students accept as portraying the mutual love of Christ and His Church, should show forth the eagerness, the joyful anticipation and the realisation of the Christian’s hope.

2:8 "He that hath ears to hear let him hear" is our Lord’s recurring injunction. "Watch therefore–" is also the keynote of His message to those who "love His appearing." And so the maiden continues the Song with the words which suggest alertness, watchfulness and eagerness. "THE VOICE OF MY BELOVED," she cries, which reminds us of our Lord’s Parable "At midnight there is a cry, Behold, the Bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet Him." (Matt 25:6) "Remember therefore…if…thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief…" (Rev.3:3 KJV) Only the watchers discern the coming of the Beloved and hear His voice in "the signs of the times." The Hebrew word for "voice" has the meaning of "sound" in many passages, e.g.1 Kings 14:6. When we read it in conjunction with the rest of the verse it seems probable that this opening phrase is intended to emphasise the sound which heralds the coming of her Beloved. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." (1 Thess.4:16)

"BEHOLD, HE COMETH, LEAPING UPON THE MOUNTAINS, SKIPPING UPON THE HILLS." Mountains and hills are used in the Bible as symbols of the kingdoms and "high places" of the world. (Psa.30:7; 72:3) The Beloved leaps over them all for He comes to bring his loved one to the pastures which the mountains cannot provide. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself…" (John 14:3 KJV)

2:9 "MY BELOVED IS LIKE A ROE OR A YOUNG HART: BEHOLD, HE STANDETH BEHIND OUR WALL." Here is the unseen presence–He stands behind a wall—OUR wall. We cannot see Him in person but in the next verse we note that His voice is clearly heard and His presence discerned in many ways.

May not the maiden’s reference to "OUR wall" represent the enclosures of Christian organisations which have hitherto sheltered and enclosed the Lord’s people, but which can no longer be recognised by Him? This distinction is shown in our Lord’s prophecy of these times in the message to the Church at Laodicea. There He rebukes them in terms which picture our Lord as being outside the wall. "Behold" he says "I stand at the door and knock" "HE LOOKETH IN AT THE WINDOWS, HE GLANCETH THROUGH THE LATTICE." (mar.) the maiden adds. He whose eyes are as a flame of fire (Rev.1:14) observes the general condition within. The word "looketh" signifies in the Hebrew "to peep," "to glance sharply at." "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known." (Luke 8:17 KJV) The suggestions implied in "glancing through the windows" emphasises that this second half of the verse does not imply a self‑revelation as suggested by the A.V. but rather that He looks with critical scrutiny for His own, the "The Lord knoweth them that are His." (2 Tim.2:19) "I…know my sheep, and am known of mine." (John 10:14 KJV)

2:10 It seems that the Song is written in the past tense. The spiritual progress of the maiden is viewed by her from the position reached at the end of her earthly course. From the standpoint of spiritual perfection she looks back and recounts the varied experiences of the way. And so in recounting the past she says "MY BELOVED SPAKE."

To those who love each other dearly, the sound of a voice, the mention of a name, can bring a thrill of pleasure; words which appear as ordinary words of welcome and greeting seem to have a hidden depth of meaning and sweetness; the expression of a wish is law. In like manner, it may perhaps be thought not altogether out of place to suggest how the signs of earthly love may serve as teachers of the signs of heavenly love.

Then come His own words "RISE UP, MY LOVE, MY FAIR ONE, AND COME AWAY." For centuries God spoke similarly to Israel "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest…" (Micah 2:10) Here is seen the purpose of His coming–He comes for His own. (John 14:3) The returned Lord calls her away from within the "walls" of rejected Christendom to be with Him. "Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (Rev.18:4) "After centuries of waiting she shall hear the archangel’s trump, and it will be the call of her Beloved to rise up and come away." (F.B.M.)

2:11 "FOR, LO, THE WINTER IS PAST, THE RAIN IS OVER AND GONE." Winter is a time of seeming deadness and stagnation. This was the experience of the Church for the centuries covered by the prophetic messages to the churches at Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira and Sardis. (Rev.2:8 ‑ 3:6) But these wintry experiences were followed by the refreshing rains in the period represented in the message to the church at Philadelphia. This was a time of spiritual revival and refreshment, for God says "My doctrine shall drop as the rain…as the showers upon the grass…" (Deut.32:2 KJV) The Psalmist confirms that this is the Divine way with God’s people in the words "Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance." (Psa.68:9 KJV) or, as in Psa.72:6, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth."

2:12 When "the rain is over and gone," "THE FLOWERS APPEAR ON THE EARTH." It is a time of awakening and blossoming for the true believer and "THE TIME OF THE PRUNING OF VINES IS COME." (mar.) The Revised Version chooses "pruning" in place of "singing." (KJV) (The words "of birds" do not appear in the original.) The Revised rendering agrees with the Septuagint version (used by the Apostle Paul) and the Targum (the Aramaic Version of the Old Testament translated after the return from the Babylonian Exile). This suggests to us a time of cutting away of the branches which give no sign of flowers or fruit. Although the parable of the vine (John 15) is not restricted to the closing days of the age, the teaching of scripture is that this "harvest" period is to be especially distinguished as a time of "cutting off." (Rev.3:16) In the vine culture pruning is for the purpose of strengthening the entire plant. "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch…" (John 15:2‑6) The harvest at the end of the age is a time of separating the good from the worthless. (Matt.13:47‑49)

On the other hand, if the thought of the A.V. is correct, it carries us into His next few words: "AND THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE (DOVE) IS HEARD IN OUR LAND." How often the scriptures alone explain themselves. First we read in Genesis 8:11 how the dove was the first bird associated with the rain that was over and gone. This phrase is explained for us chiefly, however, in Jer.8:7 where the turtle dove (a migratory bird which comes to Israel in the spring) is referred to as a time keeper. Thus with His call of love we are reminded that it is God’s due time for those who love Him to "rise up…and come away." Have we responded to His call to "come" to Him away from any walls and enclosures which keep Him out or do we still choose to live in a spiritual home built by men–a fellowship which is apart from His intimate company?

The turtle dove is an apt illustration of the Lord’s people. In the Tabernacle sacrifices it was "the poor man’s lamb" and in Psa.74:19 the Psalmist pictures the Lord’s people as the turtle dove which is defenceless against those who prey on it, except the Lord protect it. But "God chose the weak things of the world, that He might put to shame the things that are strong." (1 Cor.1:27) When he comes the voice of His true followers are heard–like the turtle dove and the Wise Virgins they have recognised the time and have responded "Behold He cometh."

2:13 The great doctrines of the Bible are revealed throughout its pages in many ways but each scriptural picture bears unmistakeable hallmarks to guide the student of God’s word. At this point in the Song there appears one of these unmistakeable hallmarks of our Lord’s return in the words "THE FIG TREE RIPENETH HER GREEN FIGS." The green or unripe figs which grow slowly in the winter, begin to ripen early in the spring and by the summer are fully matured. This picture is associated with one of our Lord’s signs of His return given in Matt.24:32,33. "…the fig tree" (the Jewish Nation–see Luke 13:6‑10) "…when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors." Through the prophet Jeremiah God gave a striking prophecy of Israel’s restoration (Jer.24:5‑7) in which He also likened Israel to good figs. The fig and fig tree are the new symbols used after Israel, as God’s vineyard, had been laid waste. (Isa.5) From thenceforward Israel was derelict until the ROOT and the BRANCH of the true vine was to flourish. (Jer.31:5; Zech.6:12; Isa.11:1; John 15:1‑8)

The word translated "ripeneth" includes the suggestion of a perfume or spice intruding itself upon the notice of others. Israel’s return to the Land is doing this today to many who had previously ignored her national existence.

It is understandable that the picture of the fig tree should lead to that of the vine for it was to the nation of Israel that Christ first offered the privilege of a place in the heavenly calling–the mystery which our Lord typified in the parable of the vine. (John 15) Moreover in Palestine fig trees were allowed to grow in vineyards, thus giving an interesting picture of the close, though quite different, relationship of the faithful of God’s chosen nation–Israel, (the fig tree) to His elect of spiritual Israel (the vine). And so the Bridegroom continues "AND THE VINES ARE IN BLOSSOM, THEY GIVE FORTH THEIR FRAGRANCE." Towards the end of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, whilst Israel was beginning to develop, there was evidence of much spiritual fragrance amongst the followers of Christ, a promise of great fruitage of "the vine." In the life of the individual this "harvest" period has given great opportunities for blossoming, leading ultimately to the development of fruit.

But the "walls" and barriers of Christendom have hindered the discernment of these signs in the earth and so the call of verse 10 is repeated "RISE UP, MY LOVE, MY FAIR ONE, AND COME AWAY."

To be continue