W. T. Whybrow.
Christian Friend vol. 15, 1888, p. 216.
The soul is led, I believe, in Solomon's Song, into three principal states of experience; first, the possession of blessing; then, the response of love; and lastly, association as to place. The first few verses state these subjects distinctly, and the remainder of the book develops them at length. Verse 2 presents Himself and His love - that love which is better than wine, inasmuch as the Giver is better than the choicest of His gifts. Verse 3 is the response to the revelation of that which is in Himself, "Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love Thee. Draw me, we will run after Thee;" verse 4, association with the King in His chambers. The first part closes with the second chapter. The Bride rests satisfied (Cant. 2:6) with His shadow, His fruit, and His love. (vv. 3, 4.) This, however, does not satisfy the Bridegroom; but He allows her to rest, knowing that the time will come for re-awakening the energies of the soul. Observe here that verse 7 should read, "till she please,"* instead of "till he please." It is not the Bridegroom that sleeps, but the Bride.
*This rendering is doubtful. See note on Cant. 2:7 and Cant. 3:5 in J. N. D.'s French Translation, also the Revised Version. - Ed.
His mind is set upon winning her out of her place into His. He therefore arouses her with the repeated call, "Arise, My love, My fair one, and come away." (vv. 10, 13.) For this, however, she is not prepared; her heart is more occupied with the blessings than the Blesser, though the blessing be Himself. Her gain is in view, "My Beloved is mine," etc. Conscience tells her that something hinders the power and fruitfulness of her soul. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines" (v. 15); but she cannot persuade herself to follow Him. It is one thing to have the Saviour, and quite another to follow Him. "Not yet," as it were, she says. "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains" (v. 17), but I cannot yet go with Thee.
But the Beloved is not deceived. The time of her awaking comes. She finds if love is sweet to the taste, it is imperative in its claims. She seeks "Him whom her soul loveth." First, at her ease, in an indifferent and drowsy way (Cant. 3:1), but found Him not. Then in the energy of her own strength she rises and goes about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways. She sought, but found Him not. (v. 2.) At length, in the power of testimony - the watchmen's testimony she finds Him. True affection, doubtless; but how feeble the sense of the dignity and glory of His person, and what is due to Him! She brings Him into her mother's house, the place of mere nature, and rests satisfied with that. (Cant. 3:4, 5.) This second part of the subject, viz., the response of love, is presented to us from chapter 3 to chapter 7:9. It is no longer, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His," but, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine." (Cant. 6:3.)
There is a real response in chapter 3, as we have said, but no appreciation of His dignity, for she brings Him into her mother's chamber. She is satisfied with that, and He lets her rest, for He knows the time must come for her to arouse even from this. He says, "Stir not up, nor awake my love, till she please." (Cant. 3:5.) It must come, though long and painful be the process of awaking; for to be satisfied with one's response, surely induces a more lethargic state than to rest in one's blessing. The mother's house, the place of nature, is not suited to Solomon in the clay of his espousals. (Cant. 3:6-11.) Again, therefore, in the energetic accents of affection, He addresses the bride. Repeating her words, He says, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get Me to the mountain;" but not alone. "Come with Me, from Lebanon, My spouse, with Me from Lebanon." (Cant. 4:1-8.) Surely it is a difficult and dangerous path - of lions' dens, and mountains of the leopards - but it is "with Me."
How difficult to arouse the soul when content with the place of nature, wishing to have the Beloved on our own terms - as it suits us, and not as it befits Him. Not willing to go out to Him in the wilderness, she says, "Let my Beloved come into His garden" (Cant. 4:16), and is moreover ready to endure any rude blasts of trial in order that there may be something for Him there. It cannot be. Again He appeals, the demands of love are peremptory. He waits without, and has waited, through the long dark night, while slumber drew its pall around her - a living death. Deep in the heart the affections live, and recognize the traces of that hidden excellency proper to Himself. (v. 2-5.) Often we call upon the winds to blow, that there may be an answer to His grace; but what is it pleases Him? "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me;" "Where I am, there shall also My servant be." It is to follow Him, attracted by the moral glory of His person. The "myrrh," which told of His presence, was the "myrrh," sweetly-smelling, which dropped from His lips. (See vv. 5-13.) Through deepest exercise of heart and conscience, and often severe discipline (v. 7), we learn to turn away even front those affections which the Spirit works in us, in order to be occupied solely with the excellency that is in Christ.
Once outside the house, she is able to describe Him as well known to her heart, from the highest point of glory first - "His head of the most fine gold." (vv.10-16.) What more is needed then to win her for wholehearted separation to Himself, and association with Himself in rejection and in glory? Only to hear Him tell her perfect suitability to Him, measured by the glory revealed to her - a glory which is in and of Himself. This He does; and if her heart recognized Him according to the glory of the head, He begins with her at the lowest point first: "How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter:" This is grace - grace which makes its first care that wherewith we come in contact with a defiling world. Service is sweet to love; and if He thinks first of our feet, His regard rests at last upon our lips. For whom now is our mouth to be? The Bride answers, "For my Beloved." (Cant. 7:9.)
The work is done; she understands and accepts association now. "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is toward me." (Cant. 7:10.) No longer "He is mine." All is on His side, and self is forgotten. No longer has He to say, "Rise up, My fair one, come away;" she invites Him. "Come, my Beloved, let us go forth into the field." True interchange of affection and communion are known only in the wilderness; there she rests in company with her Beloved, and from thence comes up leaning upon His arm. (Cant. 7:11-13; Cant. 8:1-5.)
Well may we echo the wish that concludes the book; not, as before (Cant. 2:17), "Until the day break . . . turn, my Beloved, and be Thou... upon the mountains;" but, "Make haste, my Beloved, and be Thou . . . upon the mountains of spices."
Applying, as it does, to Jerusalem's restoration in the coming day, through repentance and exercise of heart, the book has a very powerful and practical application to present individual exercise of soul. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." W. T. W.
* * *
As Christ is always at the right hand of God, so we are uninterruptedly before God. There is never a moment that the believer is not the righteousness of God standing in Christ.