The Bible’s Song Of Love
Verse by verse through the Song of Songs
Part 4a Chapter 5:2‑5
All references RV unless otherwise stated
Perhaps it is significant that Part 3 did not close with the Bride at rest as was the case in Parts 1 and 2. Her closing words at the end of Part 3 were words of exhilaration and spiritual delight but they did not bring her into His rest. How often does that experience lead to a condition of complacency: and so whilst at the end of Parts 1 and 2 she slept, resting in Him, in the opening verse of part 4 she is found talking sleepily to herself.
5:2 "I WAS ASLEEP, BUT MY HEART WAKED."
Here this happy, blessed season closes. We know no uninterrupted communion yet. By reason of the frailty of our nature, we cannot always stand upright…and it frequently happens that the great enemy makes his most successful attempts upon us immediately after seasons of peculiar enjoyment. It was thus with the Bride on this occasion…here just like the disciples who, the very night on which they had partaken of the Lord’s supper and when they so especially ought to have been watching, were asleep.
She is no longer with Him or even seeking Him. She has relapsed into the contentment obtained from the knowledge of Him rather than from the rest that is found in close communion with Him.
Once more the theme of our Lord’s second presence is revived for, as Paul puts it, "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night…Therefore let us not sleep…" (1 Thess.5:1‑8 KJV) This association of thoughts continues as she says "IT IS THE VOICE OF MY BELOVED THAT KNOCKETH, SAYING, OPEN TO ME, MY SISTER, MY LOVE, MY DOVE, MY UNDEFILED: FOR MY HEAD IS FILLED WITH DEW, MY LOCKS WITH THE DROPS OF THE NIGHT." But her lapse is not without hope for "He has not ceased to be her Beloved, nor has she lost ability to recognise His voice and His knock. There is true affection for Him, but it has ceased to be an energetic motive… "I slept." [C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs]
The words of this verse call to mind our Lord’s words in Rev.3:16‑20 but in this setting. He is not "outside a great worldly profession like Laodicea, but He is seen out in the cold when His true lovers are very comfortable without His company." [C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs]
"Now God may have been very gracious to us, He may have conferred spiritual gifts and graces upon us, He may have led us into a path of separation, and given us the enjoyment of many privileges that are peculiar marks of His favour. He may have enabled us to serve the Lord faithfully and with blessing. And yet in all this, Christ Himself may not have the place that is due to Him… We may be wrapped up in what we have, and what we are, without realising that it is a subtle form of self‑sufficiency…" But He would have us make "Himself the one object of our desire and delight." [C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs]
There seems to be a particular application to the period of the Lord’s second presence—at the close of the Gospel Age ("the night is far spent") and a solemn warning to those who have heard the "knock." In Rev.3:20 our Lord implies that it is possible to hear the knock yet fail to open the door to intimate personal fellowship and communion. How possible it is for the Lord’s people to secure themselves behind "walls" and to become self‑satisfied in their appreciation of scriptural truth. Here we see a condition between sleeping and waking. She hears "the voice" and seems satisfied because her heart is awake and there is an awareness that "the Lord is at hand."
What grace there is on His words. No rebuke as she awakes but a loving appeal that she shall open her heart to Him. He calls her "sister" because she is a child of God—He calls her "love" because she is betrothed to Him—He calls her "dove" because she is indwelt by the holy spirit—He calls her "undefiled" because she is cleansed from all unrighteousness but He has to remind her that He is out in the cold as far as her love is concerned.
When we have lapsed into spiritual self‑sufficiency do we not tend to answer His pleas with excuses for not putting Him first in our lives? In these verses we can see a picture of such an occasion for the Bride has turned away from the energetic spiritual life, the evidence of which earned His praise. (v.4) She has lapsed into lethargy, behind doors which she closed and bolted–doors which she thought would shut out the defilements of the world but which in fact shut out the Lord. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt.5:16 KJV) This is our Lord’s guidance to us when we seek to take ourselves "out of the world" for our Lord only wishes us to show that we "are not of the world." (John 17:15‑16 KJV)
5:3 "I HAVE PUT OFF MY COAT;" she says "HOW SHALL I PUT IT ON?"
In these words the Bride reveals that she has withdrawn from the service of her Lord and lapsed into spiritual complacency. We have confirmation of this understanding from the fact that almost every other use of this Hebrew word "coat" in the Old Testament refers to the High Priest’s garment, without which the High Priest was unable to perform his priestly service.
Then the Bride goes on to say "I HAVE WASHED MY FEET; HOW SHALL I DEFILE THEM?"
True believers "soil their feet" symbolically because the feet are the part of the body which comes in contact with the earth.
"By my own works," she seems to say "I have bathed my feet—surely I must not defile them again by earthly contacts with those who have not merited the privilege of sitting with Him in heavenly places."
Jesus said to His disciples "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet." (John 13:10) So we may realise that all who are justified and consecrated members of His body have already had the bath, the washing of regeneration, and we are already clean through the word spoken unto them. (John 15:3) Nevertheless, although thus cleansed and sanctified, so long as we are in contact with the world we are liable to a certain degree of earthly defilements.
In chapter 4 verse 12 (KJV) she is described as "a garden inclosed"–His garden, for God enclosed her–sanctified or set her apart so that she might produce fruit. Now, however, she is in a new type of enclosure of her own making, not for the development of graces of the spirit but for sleep. Spiritual pride and complacency are here shown to shut out the Lord.
How easy it is after enjoying the rich pleasure of intimacy with Christ to want to feed on the delight itself without recognising that it was reached through spiritual activity. How easy to close a door in our spiritual life to those other believers who have not yet reached that blissful stage in their spiritual development, and how possible to be occupied with Christian affairs whilst the Lord is outside the bolted door of our hearts.
Does this not warn us that complacency and exclusiveness are special dangers to those who, like the Bride, are spiritually mature? If, in a desire to preserve the sanctity of our new life, we isolate ourselves from those who are still out in the dark night, we shall find ourselves separated from Him also. Our Lord revealed the divine purpose for us when He prayed to the Heavenly Father "not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." (John 17:15 KJV)
5:4 But our Lord has compassion on us because of our weakness. His patience is longsuffering and so He sees the stirring of her conscience even in her excuses. The Bride still has the sleep in her eyes as she continues "MY BELOVED PUT IN HIS HAND BY THE HOLE OF THE DOOR, AND MY HEART WAS MOVED FOR HIM."
Commentators, acquainted with the customs of the East, explain that "Oriental houses are still made with a hole in the door, or rather, door post, by which the master and domestics open the locks by putting in their hand, while strangers neither dare nor know how to do so, the locks being variously made: at night additional bolts and bars fasten the door so that it cannot be opened from without." (Weiss) "The finger inserted into the hole could move the bolt and open the door; at night a pin was passed before the forepart of the bolt to prevent...being opened on the outside." (De Rio) In verse 2 we are told that the setting is in "the night" and thus we see that the closing and bolting of the door was definite and deliberate although she did not intend to shut Him out.
There are times in Christian experience when the fervency of "first love" has cooled and a condition of sleepiness has overcome the heart. Then ofttimes there is a manifestation of the Lord’s love for His own—He does not reveal Himself in the intimacy of former days but His constant love is manifested during some "night‑time" experience—He puts in His "hand by the hole of the door" and our love is reawakened and our hearts are moved for Him.
5:5 The Bride responds to His persistent love, "I ROSE UP" she says "TO OPEN TO MY BELOVED; AND MY HANDS DROPPED WITH MYRRH, AND MY FINGERS WITH LIQUID MYRRH, UPON THE HANDLES OF THE BOLT."
History tells of a custom that throws light upon this verse. In the East when a young woman had refused the addresses of her lover he visited her home during the night, hung garlands around the door and strewed the threshold with flowers. He also anointed the locks and handles of the door with choice perfumes. By this means he told the whole family that his affection, though slighted, was genuine.
We observe that the Beloved does not open the door Himself but stirs her into spiritual activity. It is as though she were experiencing the thought expressed by the Apostle Paul "Your having sorrowed with a godly sorrow—what earnestness it was called forth in you, what…longing affection…" (2 Cor.7:11 Weymouth) for the child of God knows more of true happiness in seeking Jesus with many tears, than in idly keeping at a distance from Him.
True penitence is a sweet sorrow. Myrrh, bitter to the taste, is sweet to the smell. The myrrh mentioned here is the liquid form as used in the preparation of the holy anointing oil. (Exod.30:23) Her hands dropped with myrrh for it was her anointed hands which drew the bolt of her heart when His suffering love had touched it.