In the storyline of the bride, here in Song of Songs 4:1-6, she is at a really good place in the grace of God. Leading up to this point in the story of God that He is writing with her life, the bride encountered the tender presence of God, she had lost His presence and was reunited with Him in Chapter one. In Chapter two she was enjoying His presence until He came to her in the secret place, calling her out and up to the mountains with Him in the place of ministry. This is the place to which she refused to go, when she decided to stay in the secret place. Chapter three had her on her bed, separated from her Beloved, because of her disobedience to ascend up the mountain where He was calling her. But half way through, after seeking for Him, she found Him and they were reunited once again. Then in the middle of Chapter three, she received another mind-blowing revelation as she saw her Beloved having ascended from the wilderness, fully able to protect that which she had committed to Him and His loving plan of salvation that He has made for her. This revelation empowered and strengthened her to call out to those lukewarm believers around her, who were serving Jesus at a distance, to close the gap with the present reach of intimacy. It’s here, in her present condition, that the bride experience’s yet another stunning series of revelations about His love for her.
Chapter four starts with the weak, struggling, yet maturing bride having done nothing more than get up off her bed and start searching for the One that she recently said no to. And it’s here in this current state of struggling, yet reaching, that Jesus is going to share secret information about what she is internally longing for. In this chapter I will cover Jesus’ affirmation of the bride in her current condition, eight budding virtues that she is reaching for internally, but doesn’t possess externally, and her agreement to go her way and start the ascension up the mountain of God. Song of Songs chapter 4 is such a dramatic portion of the Song as it sets the stage for expedited growth in the bride’s journey of maturity in Christ. Buckle up, because what He has to say about her in her current condition of weakness and personal struggle is not what I expect Jesus to tell me when I’m stumbling.
Jesus’ Affirmation of the Weak but Maturing Bride (SOS 4:1a)
In Song of Songs 1:5, the bride said that “she was dark but lovely.” Being dark in ancient Israel wasn’t something beautiful like it is considered today. Being dark on the outside meant that you worked outdoors for a living and were among the “blue collar” workers of the day. The opposite of being dark would be to be “fair” which meant that you worked and lived your life indoors, in the palace or somewhere of affluence. But here in Song of Songs 4:1a Jesus says to her “behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair.” That word that He uses there is a word that’s translated into the word “beautiful.” Jesus was speaking to her and telling her something about herself that she didn’t personally see. This is the truth in our relationship with Jesus; we are in constant need of Him telling us things about our lives that we ourselves don’t know. Although she considered herself to be dark, He considered her to be fair. This would be the 7th time He has called her “fair” in the past three chapters.
Jesus is about to blow her mind with His deep prophetic insight about what she is currently longing for internally, but prior to Him saying anything to her, He first says “you are beautiful…you’re the one I love…did I already tell you you’re beautiful, because if I haven’t yet, I will say it again, you are beautiful to Me.” All of us as humans have a deep longing to be called beautiful by someone whose opinion matters and we value. A total stranger could say that you are beautiful, but it doesn’t mean nearly as much as when your parents, or your loved one, or a close friend says it about you. Many children that are now adults have been deeply wounded and damaged by words that were said to them from their parents. As children we so value our parents or those raising us, that hearing negative words from them about us does more damage than we could ever know. Before Jesus shares anything with the young bride, He first tells her what He thinks about her and how He feels towards her. This is a fascinating study to follow throughout the Song of Songs as He does it every single time. It doesn’t matter if it’s an affirming word, a challenging word or a corrective word, He first tells her what He thinks about her and how He feels towards her.
Jesus Identifies Eight Budding Virtues within the Life of the Weak Bride (SOS 4:1-5)
After Jesus first tells her how He sees her and what He feels about her, He then goes into a stunning description of what she is internally longing for and begins to touch her heart in a way that nobody else can. Jesus is a Prophet which means that He knows all things about us. In Revelation 2:23 He comes to the Church of Thyatira as “…the One who searches the minds and hearts…” Jesus is going to start talking to her about what she is reaching for internally even though she hasn’t possessed any of it externally. At the close of Song of Songs 4:5, you will see the powerful impact that His recognition of her internal longing has on the weak, but reaching, bride.
Jesus is addressing her here in these five verses much in the same way that He visited Gideon in Judges 6:11-24. In this passage of scripture Gideon is hiding out from the Midianites, threshing wheat down in a hole so that he isn’t seen by the enemy. It’s here, in this hole, that Jesus visits Gideon as the “Angel of the Lord.” As soon as Jesus stands before Gideon He says to him “the Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor…go in this might of yours…you shall save Israel…” This phrase really throws ole Gideon off because he’s not feeling all that valiant or like someone who is going to deliver the children of Israel. Gideon responds to Him by saying “Oh Lord, how can I save Israel.” Gideon continues in this chapter by stating all the reasons why he isn’t the one to be used as a deliver. Gideon’s problem is much like both our problem and the brides problem, what we possess externally isn’t anything great. But thanks be to God that He doesn’t look at us and address us only by what we possess externally, but what we are longing for internally. God knows that deep down within Gideon’s heart he longs to be courageous, filled with passion, and used by the God of heaven and earth. And because God knows this (remember He’s a Prophet) He comes to us and calls out what we’re reaching for internally, and in due time it manifests itself externally. He is calling out what Gideon is longing for internally, even though Gideon is far from possessing it externally, because Jesus knows that the external possession will be the fruit of his internal longing. This is exactly how Jesus is approaching the bride in this passage of the Song.
In Song of Songs 4:1b-5, Jesus starting identifying these eight budding virtues that He sees within the life of the young struggling, but reaching bride. Firstly, Jesus says to her “…you have dove’s eyes behind your veil.” Doves represent purity in the Bible and that’s seen specifically with Jesus’ baptism as He came up from the Jordan River in Matthew 3:16. In the natural world doves have some special qualities that help us also understand this metaphor that Jesus is currently using. Doves have no peripheral vision so they have to turn their entire neck to see from side to side. They also will only mate one time and if their mate dies with will remain single until death. For our allegory it’s clear to see the three main things that Jesus was saying to her; you possess an internal cry for purity, you have a single eye for Me and you are faithful to Me. Wow. What powerful truths about a young, weak bride who has recently disobeyed Him.
Secondly Jesus says to her in Songs of Songs 4:1c “Your hair is like a flock of goats, going down from Mount Gilead.” In ancient Israel for the Nazirite’s long hair was a symbol of dedication and consecration to God. In Numbers 6, Moses was instructed by God to make something called a Nazirite vow which they would take as a season of consecration and in it they were required to not cut their hair. This is best seen in the life of Sampson which you can read about in Judges 13:5. And on the side of Mount Gilead you were able to see the goats on the hillside feeding in plush areas, and awaiting to be broken and used for the temple sacrifices. God is clearly praising her for her internal longing to fully belong to Him. Thirdly, He says to her in Song of Songs 4:2 “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep which have come up from the washing, every one of which bears twins, and none is barren among them.” This may seem like a funny way to compliment someone, but once we look through clear Bible interpretation we will see how powerful this word of affirmation is. The Bible most often uses teeth in reference to one’s ability to chew up the Word of God (Bible). The question isn’t “is there meat in the word of God?” But rather “have you developed teeth to receive from it?” There is ample meat within the Bible but due to most people’s lack of spiritual exercise they haven’t developed teeth and therefore they don’t receive much from the Bible (1st Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14). Jesus is praising her for her ability to not only chew up the Word of God but she is also putting it into practice and it is producing life within her. Many also read the Bible and hear sermons preached, but because they fail to personally apply it to their lives, it doesn’t produce any life within them. Her teeth are internally developing and He not only sees it, but He also praises her for it.
It’s important as we continue to look at these eight budding virtues within the life of the young bride that we keep in mind all of these are just budding virtues. They aren’t full grown grapes, but rather, as she said in Song of Songs 2:15, “there tender, budding and growing grapes.” We must keep in context where the bride is at, because if we lose track of that, we miss out on the reality that God is talking to her in a place of weakness, not in a place of strength. Beloved, God has much to say about you in your darkest moments, not mainly when the sun is shining in your summer seasons. It’s His words of affirmation in her dark spot that’s going to cause passion and resolve to arise within her and empower to move on with Him. He surely knows what He is doing!
Okay, back to the budding virtues. Fourth and fifthly He says to her in Song of Songs 4:3a-b, “your lips are like a strand of scarlet…and your mouth is lovely.” When He makes the statement about her lips being like a strand of scarlet, it is a reference to the words of redemption that are flowing from her lips. In Joshua 2:21, we see the story of how Rahab the harlot was kept alive because of the strand of scarlet that she hung from her window. This was a type of Christ’s blood (Scarlet) which was a shadow of that which was yet to come. We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and the bride’s words, because of what she is reading and reaching for internally, she is speaking words of redemption. Her mouth on the other hand speaks of the words that she is sharing with Him in their communion. In Song of Songs 1:2, she asked for “the kisses of His Word” and it’s here that He is now telling her that He enjoys the words from her mouth that she speaks to Him. Though she first asked for the kisses of His word and said that His love is better than wine (SOS 1:2) later on in the Song, and even more than right here in Song of Songs 4:3, He is going to turn and tell her what she originally told Him. Moving through the Song of Songs is such a powerful journey of maturity in Christ.
Sixthly here in Song of Songs 4:3b He says to her “your temples behind your veil are like a piece of pomegranate.” That word “Temples” is translated much better in the NLT and various other translations as the word “Cheeks.” If you think for a moment about another person’s facial cheeks you can tell so much about what they are feeling. You can tell if that person is happy or mad based on what’s taking place with their cheeks. Her cheeks were starting show the internal life of the Holy Spirit through her. He uses a pomegranate as the illustration for two reasons. First, because pomegranates are bright red and secondly because they are one of the only fruits that you can eat the seeds. Deep within her, through the life of God inside she is producing much joy on her face, it’s showing externally what God is doing internally. Oh the joys of growing in the grace of God. Seventhly He says to her in Song of Songs 4:4, “your neck is like the tower of David, built for an armory, on which hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of might men. The neck throughout the Bible speaks of our will in both a positive and negative way. God often referred to His people as being “stiff-necked” (Exodus 32:9; Acts 7:51). They were stiff-necked because they would fight against Him, resist Him and refuse to go with Him. The neck speaks of submission both to God and to others. The way we posture our neck is speaking of how we are going to follow those that God has set over us and even more so, how we are following God Himself. Many people I meet have serious rope burn around their necks because of how hard they fight and go against the grain of where God wants to lead them. The tower of David was a large tower set up to see if an enemy was coming, and because it stood tall they could see into the far distance, helping them better prepare for the battle that was coming. God is able to use us in a much greater degree when our necks are in agreement with His leadership over us. We become strong warriors who are able to endure much difficulty and hardship as good soldiers of the cross. This was speaking to her internal longing to fully follow Him wherever He lead her.
And lastly He says to her in Song of Songs 4:5, “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, which feed among the lilies.” For us men this is a hard one to swallow because we can’t relate with the historical terminology that God the Holy Spirit was using to describe what was going on within the life of the bride. But once again, basic Bible interpretation helps us understand that her breasts are speaking about her ability to feed others, much like they do in the life of a new mom with her child. 1st Peter 2:2 says “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.” Although the commentators have a few different thoughts about what’s being said here, I think it’s safe to see this in our allegory as the double portion of God. Frank Damazio in his series “Receiving the Mantel of God” speaks about the double portion ministry throughout Church history. What he says is that we have usually only seen a ministry possess a single portion. Meaning that they are either deep in God’s word, or they are powerful in the Spirit. But rarely have we seen the solid Bible teaching group simultaneously possess a grace to move in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is in need of ministries that possess both a depth in the sure Word of God, while moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. And I believe that’s what’s going on in the life of the bride through this metaphor. She possess both the milk of the word to feed those who are far from God and the new ones, but she also possess the meat of His word and is able to feed the mature ones also. It’s not a milk or meat ministry, but a milk and meat ministry that God is looking for.
Jesus has just broken in and shared things deep within the internal life of the young, struggling, yet reaching bride that just caused her head to spin. I so love the prophetic nature of God and the prophetic ministry of the Church. Good, healthy prophetic ministry in the New Testament Church era is a prophetic that’s not so much directional as it is conformational. If you have ever been underneath a healthy prophetic ministry, then you have felt your heart leap when the prophecy over you speaks beyond your external circumstances and touches the deep places of your heart that you have no words for. In my personal opinion, having experienced healthy prophetic ministry, this is exactly what’s happening in the life of the young maturing bride. The reason I am so confident to say this, is because of what we see her do in the following verse. These words in Song of Songs 4:1-5 have set off something so powerful within the young bride that it’s actually going to cause her to abandon all things to Him who knows her better than she knows herself. Okay, let’s look at Song of Songs 4:6, before I get ahead of myself.
The Bride’s Agreement to Go Her Way up the Mountain (SOS 4:6)
I must say, that this verse is one (among many) of my favorite verses within the entire Song of Songs. What happens here is so powerful and life changing, not only for the bride, but also for you if you also follow this same pattern into the destiny of God for your own life. Here, in Song of Songs 4:6, after hearing these previous five verses and eight internal budding virtues that were emerging within here she says this to Him “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, I will go my way up the mountain of Myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.” Now if you’ll remember, this is the second time she has said nearly these exact words. In Song of Songs 2:17 she said “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn my Beloved and be like a gazelle or a young stand upon the mountains of Bether (Separation). In Song of Songs 2:17, she was answering His emphatic request to come away with Him up to the mountains when she told Him no. She basically said, “Until all these shadow areas of my life are worked through and the light of day comes to me, I am going to stay here, in the secret place. But You my Beloved, turn and go do what you must without me, in the mountains of separation.” Now coming back to Song of Songs 4:6, though it sounds like the same statement as Song of Songs 2:17 it’s totally different. In fact it’s a complete 180 degree turn from Song of Songs 2:17. What she is saying here in Song of Songs 4:6 is “I won’t stay here and be separated from You again. I am going to get up and start ascending the mountain to be with You where You are. I’m not going to ascend for only a little while, but I am going to climb until all these shadow areas of my life are worked through and the light of day comes to me. I am going my way up the mountain.” This is the introductory turn that the bride makes to ensure that come chapter eight her heart will be fully engaged with her Beloved and they will be in full bridal partnership.
As we have covered already through this Song of Songs series, Myrrh speaks of death or difficulty or that which is challenging, and frankincense speaks of that which is lovely, praiseworthy or full or worship (Jn. 19:38-39; Rev. 5:8). The mountain that she is finally agreeing to start ascending is a mountain of difficulty (Myrrh). The reason it’s called a mountain, as opposed to the hill of frankincense, is because it’s larger, more challenging and filled with lots of difficulty. The mountain that God calls you to ascend is not small thing. It’s a time where we lose the comfort of our secret place and the things that we have come to know. It’s the place of serving others, where we encounter those who are happy with us and those who are downright angry with us, as we work to Shepherd them in the same way that Jesus is shepherding us. It’s the glass house idea where the eyes of many are turned from themselves and placed on you. It’s difficult and perplexing. But what’s so amazing about this mountain is that although it’s challenging and rugged, when we worship just a little bit, or go up the hill of frankincense we are empowered to endure anything that would come our way. Mike Bickle often says “If I could see what Paul saw, I could endure what Paul endured.” He is right. Because Paul saw the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ in his spiritual encounters, he was well equipped to endure such hostility. Beloved, just a glimpse of Jesus will empower you to ascend an entire mountain of difficulty.
The other thing I find interesting about this mountain and the hill is that we often choose one or the other. We either choose to be with that group of people who learn to love relational conflict, difficult decision making and high caliber leadership situations which are all things involved with ascending the mountain of Myrrh. But so often this group who loves the difficultly of the mountain doesn’t invest much time into the hill of frankincense by going deep into the place of prayer, worship, Bible study and the other spiritual disciplines. And the like can also be said. The group who embrace the hill of frankincense can often be a people who don’t know how to handle relationships or possess any people/leadership skills to advance the ministry in a healthy fashion. What we need are people who see the importance of first clinging to the hill of frankincense or putting the first commandment into first place, as we like to say, and then also work to start ascending up the mountain Myrrh which is done through leadership, working through relational conflict, or putting the second commandment into second place. We must do both. We must ascend the mountain and the hill, not separately, but at the same time. Loving God and loving people as we move forward under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Again, it’s obvious that what Jesus said to her in Song of Songs 4:1-5 had such a dramatic impact upon the life of the bride that it caused her to rise up and say “I’ll go with You…I’m saying yes to You…I know that there is great difficulty ahead, but I am going both my way and with You up hard places!” Beloved, just like the young maturing bride, there is a tailor-made plan for you, a way that God has specifically created for you. Though this path has hardship, it’s only for a moment and then for all of eternity we will enter into the rest of faith and reap the reward of following Jesus in faith here in this present evil age. You must hear what Jesus feels about you and then know that He sees what you’re reaching for internally. If you hear how He feels and know that He sees what you’re reaching for internally, it will empower you to follow wherever He goes. Don’t shrink back from following Him up the mountain of Myrrh because it’s filled with difficulty. Send forth a little worship and some prayer on the hill of frankincense and you will be startled how far it will send you up the mountain. He is waiting for you to engage Him, don’t delay!