Within Song of Songs chapter 5 you are going to see the bride walk through the “greatest two-fold test” of her life, as she will be tried by fire and all under Jesus’ leadership. One preacher said, “If you’re walking through hell, don’t stop!” Though this is a funny one-liner, it’s exactly what the bride will do. Many things will come her way, but through Christ and His great love for her she is going to be more than an overcomer in the end. It’s important that we remember, when reading the story of the Shulamite, we are looking at a divine pattern of how God raises up His friends. What I mean by this is that her life experience into maturity in Christ is the same story that God is writing with our lives. So what’s true for the bride is also true for you. Her experiences become our experiences.
It’s common when studying the Song of Songs that many people find themselves in the story and often in more places than one. For instance, when I am reading through and looking at different parts of the Song, I might find myself in chapter one but also in chapter eight. I might feel like I am “dark but lovely” (SOS 1:5) but I also might see myself as coming up from the wilderness leaning upon my beloved (SOS 8:5). In this chapter we are going to cover several very important topics as we look at the bride’s maturity in Christ. We will see how Jesus enjoys His inheritance in the bride (SOS 5:1); Jesus’ invitation for the bride to join Him in the fellowship of His sufferings (SOS 5:2); and the bride’s response of 100% obedience to His difficult request (SOS 5:3-5).
Jesus Enjoys His Inheritance in the Bride (SOS 5:1)
Here in the start of Song of Songs 5 we see Jesus has much to say about whom the bride belongs to. If you remember what the bride prayed in the previous verse, Song of Songs 4:16, what He has to say to her will make much more sense. In Song of Song 4:16 the bride said to Him “Let my Beloved come to His garden and eat its pleasant fruits.” So here in Song of Songs 5:1 the Lord is responding to her prayer from the previous verse and this is what He has to say to her, “I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends! Drink, yes drink deeply, O beloved ones.” Wow, what a powerfully packaged response from Jesus to the bride. Within this one verse Jesus says 9 times to the bride “you’re Mine!” He is making it clear to Whom she belongs.
When we talk about Jesus coming to our lives, much as He did with the bride, it’s common for us to assume that the things we have, we have generated on our own. The bride realized in Song of Songs 4:16 that her life was no longer hers, which meant that the fruit she had acquired in her own life wasn’t actually hers but His. The bride, because of her passion to follow the Lamb wherever He goes, had reached a certain level of maturity in Him, but even in her growth she rightly understands that everything she had attained was actually a gift from Him. Remember “love, joy, peace, long-suffering kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” are the fruit of His Spirit, not ours (Gal. 5:22-23). Now, with all that being said, it’s important that you live in the dichotomy of being diligent to produce something more with what you have been given, while always understanding that everything we have been given and everything we receive in this age is a gift from God. It’s easy to get caught up in the false truth that it’s because you have worked hard that you have what you have. When in reality although you have worked hard and produced something more with what you have been given, it’s still a gift from God to you.
Many of us are praying for things all day, every day, and we are also reaping the harvest of those prayers. The question is: Do you love your harvest? Beloved, Jesus is listening to you and even more than listening He is the One who searches the minds and the hearts (Rev. 2:23). My assumption is that many of you have never made the connection between the current harvest in your life and the seeds that you have sown. Think about it this way, your prayers are seeds and your harvest is the fruit of those seeds coming to fruition. Do you love your harvest? If you’re just now making the connection between the many things that you say in your mind (and the meditations of your heart) with your current harvest, this could be either really good or really depressing. Many people don’t realize that our prayers aren’t just the few things we say to God in our secret place, but the many things we think about all day. For people who spend the majority of their time stewing over offense, bitterness and anger; the harvest of their lives is evident. Now, the good thing about all of this is: if you don’t like your harvest you can change it. Change it by changing what you think about and what you say in the majority of your life. Just as here in Song of Songs 5:1, where Jesus says “I have come to My garden” so He also does with our lives. He answers our prayers whether we want Him to, or not.
The first half of the Song of Songs (SOS 1-4) is all about the bride’s inheritance in God, but the second half of the Song of Songs (SOS 5-8) is all about God’s inheritance in the bride. Many Christians know they have an inheritance in Christ (Romans 8:17) but I find few Christians who understand Jesus also has an inheritance in them (Ephesians 1:18). It’s not either or, but both. It is both the reality that I have an inheritance in Christ, and that He also has one in me. This means that what Jesus has belongs to me, and what I have and am also belongs to Jesus. Just like a marriage. The Bible says that my wife no longer has authority over her own body because I do, and I no longer have authority over my body because my wife does (1st Cor. 7:4). This is what it means to be in a marriage covenant with someone, just as our relationship with Christ is likened to. If we fail to understand this, our life in Christ becomes selfish and self-centered. Just as much as I am called to enjoy my inheritance in Him, so also is Christ looking to enjoy His in me. As much as I am looking for something in Him, He is also looking for something in me. The bride is starting to understand that He is coming to take ownership over her life and have the bride as an equally yoked partner with Him in the Gospel mission throughout the nations.
Jesus Calls the Bride into the Fellowship of His Sufferings (SOS 5:2)
It’s here in this sweet interchange of intimacy between the Shulamite (bride) and Solomon (Jesus) that He comes to her in a most surprising way. In Song of Songs 5:2 the bride says this “I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my Beloved! He knocks, saying open for Me, my sister my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is covered with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.” As the bride is asleep in the rest of faith, she hears a knock at her door. This knock isn’t just a knock; it’s also accompanied with a voice that is calling for action on behalf of the bride.
Some commentators see the bride here as sleeping the sleep of death and that she’s disengaged with the Lord, but I don’t see that to be true. The reason for that isn’t from these few verses but the entire context of the story. I believe that though the bride might be sleeping deeply, she is in the rest of faith. She’s doing something that is common for all of us, sleeping, but even in her sleep she is awake at the heart level. This is clearly very different from where the bride was in Song of Songs 3:1 when she was on her bed at night separated from Him. In Song of Songs 3:1 she was separated from Him because of her disobedience to Him in Song of Songs 2:17; but here in Song of Songs 5:2 she is joined together with Him in the most powerful communion. I mean she has just prayed in Song of Songs 4:16 that He would do whatever He needed to do in her life, so that she would become fully His. This isn’t a place of separation and compromise but rather, in my opinion, it is the rest of faith. She’s sleeping but her heart is awake, or as I like to say it, “She’s satisfied with being unsatisfied.” She is content to be where she is, yet all the while longing for more of Him. It’s the tension of every hungry disciple. We enjoy our present moment without neglecting our future depth in Christ.
I love that even though this voice is very disruptive, challenging and different; she recognizes that it’s the voice of her Beloved. Often times, as we discussed from Song of Songs 2:8, the voice of the Lord comes to us in very disruptive ways. It is not disruptive because it’s mean or rude, but because it most often catches us off guard and unaware. And it’s also disruptive because of what He asks of us, or says to us when He comes. But as we sort through the difficulty of His request or statement we are unable to shake the reality that what we have heard is the voice of our Beloved, and this causes us also to rise up and go after Him.
She hears Him knocking at her door and asking for her to open up to Him. I believe that this is the same knock as we see in Revelation 3:20-22. Many preachers use this passage from Revelation 3 to compel non-believers to come to Christ which is totally fine, but that is not the context of this verse. The context of this verse is that Jesus is knocking at the door of His Church asking for entrance to His own people and His Church. Jesus is doing the same thing with His bride in Song of Songs 5:2. Because Jesus so loves and honors the freewill that He gave to humanity, He refuses to violate it. Jesus doesn’t have to knock at the door of His own Church, but He chooses to operate within the boundaries of what He set in motion in the first 3 chapters of Genesis. Instead of barging in, He entreats us from a knock followed by a tender voice beckoning for us to open the door. Mike Bickle calls this “affection based obedience.” What this means is that the best kind of obedience to Jesus is based in affection. Jesus could demand us to serve Him, but He wants us to serve Him because we want to, not because we have to. So, instead of breaking down the door and pointing a gun at us, forcing us to obey Him, He knocks. There has never been a Man who has knocked on as many doors as Jesus has, or who has been rejected as much as Him.
As the young maturing bride hears Him knocking at the door of her heart and listens to His voice she notices that “his head is covered with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night.” Jesus is coming to her in a very unusual way. It’s my belief that He is appearing to her as the suffering Servant of Gethsemane, the Man who endured the long night of prayer under the cover of night prior to His public betrayal. This is the fifth revelation of Jesus that the bride has seen. If you remember we talked about Jesus being like a Diamond with not just one facet but many. So He is here spinning the Diamond of Himself. In SOS 1:7 she saw Him as the Shepherd. In SOS 2:8-9 she saw Him as the King who possess all power. In SOS 3:6-10 she saw Him as the safe Savior who will protect her through His loving Kindness on the Cross. In SOS 4:9 she saw Him as the ravished Bridegroom God; and here in SOS 5:2 she is seeing Him as the suffering Servant who poured out His soul unto death.
She is seeing Jesus when His hair was wet from being out through the long agonizing night of prayer where His sweat became like great drops of blood prior to His crucifixion (Luke 22:44). Jesus was called the suffering Servant by Isaiah in Isaiah 53. That passage of scripture is where the prophet Isaiah saw a Man who was marred beyond recognition, who was assumed to be smitten and rejected by God Himself. Isaiah of course saw this vision of Jesus some 750 years prior to Jesus’ birth. You have to image that the bride is not only in a good place with Jesus concerning their intimacy together, she is also sleeping. She is startled not only by His request, but by the way that He came to her. This is all very difficult for her to understand, much like it would be for you and me.
The Bride Responds with 100% Obedience (SOS 5:3-5)
Jesus has just called out to her, he has knocked on her door and presented Himself as the suffering Servant who endured the long dark night of His soul. And it wasn’t enough that Jesus wanted her to hear His voice, but He also wanted her to respond to His request. In Song of Songs 5:3-5 she replies to His request by saying “I have taken off my robe; how can I put it back on again? I have washed my feet how can I defile them? My Beloved put His hand by the latch of the door, and my heart yearned for Him. I arose to open for My beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the lock.” As I said previously, many commentators assume that the bride is being self-indulgent right here. They say that she couldn’t get up and answer the door because she didn’t have time to get all dolled up and looking in tiptop shape. I don’t believe this to be the case at all. It’s important that we don’t look at the bride in the moment only, but in the entirety of her journey. We have to judge the bride as Jesus does: on an average, not on a moment. Jesus looks at all the good and all the bad that we do in our lives. He is able to evaluate us based not on our bad moments, but on the whole of our lives –though we struggled we were yet reaching for Him. This is where I see the bride, struggling with His request yet reaching for Him nonetheless. To say she’s self-indulgent and lazy is to take away from her progression over the past four chapters, as she has overcome such huge obstacles in her life and continued on her journey towards maturity.
The bride is struggling with the connection between a life of suffering under Jesus’ leadership and intimacy with Him. Would you say that this is something that you struggle with? I would assume you answered yes. And it’s no different for the bride. What He is asking of her is dark, foreboding and challenging; to reconcile all of that with her Beloved is difficult. She is saying to Him “I have already endured hardship and suffering (“I have taken off my robe…I have washed my feet how can I defile them?”) Why would You be calling me into more? I have already been rejected by my fellow man and the leaders around me, why would You be calling me into more?” It’s this question that she is wrestling with in her mind. It’s crucial that we understand it’s not sin to wrestle with God’s requests of us. It is sin if we wrestle with His requests and come to the conclusion that we know better than Him and don’t trust Him. But to question what He’s asking you to do is normal. The hope is that the more we get to know Him the quicker we say yes, because when we come to know Him, we also come to trust Him. Jesus is asking something of the bride that doesn’t fully make sense to her.
The bride is in a much better place here in Song of Songs 5:3 than she was in Song of Songs 2:15 when Jesus called out to her to come away with Him and her response was for Him to catch the little sin areas of her life. Here the bride is clean, as opposed to dirty or defiled. She’s resting in Him as opposed to being separated from Him on her bed in the night, as she was in Song of Songs 3:1. It’s here in the midst of her confusion and internal wrestling match that Jesus touches her and helps her to arise and follow Him. Song of Songs 5:4 she says “my Beloved put His hand by the latch of the door and my heart yearned for Him.” As God touches her heart or places His hand upon her heart it causes such internal passion to arise within her and reach out to Him. It takes God to love God, and it takes God to enter into these dark seasons that He calls us into. We don’t move into a place of suffering in the Gospel without Jesus’ leadership over our lives and without His hand coming upon and helping us. It’s not something that we do on our own or in the power of our will, but through Christ and through Christ alone. Even the suffering that Jesus went through, He didn’t do on His own, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of the Father. He cried out to the Father many times in His pain and suffering and it’s no different for us. The Holy Spirit is coming upon the bride’s heart to help her make the decision to follow Jesus into the fellowship of His sufferings and God’s plan works perfectly.
As Jesus touches her heart she says in Song of Songs 5:5 “I arose to open for my Beloved, and my hands dripped with Myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the lock.” The empowering touch of Jesus’ hand upon her heart caused her to arise and open the door to Him. As soon as she opens the door her hand is covered with a large amount of Myrrh. Just as for the bride, our crisis of faith in Christ comes suddenly. She didn’t really have time to prepare for this crisis that she was being called into, but rather she suddenly found herself in the midst of it. Just arising from sleep and touching the door caused her hand to be covered with Myrrh (burial spice or connected to suffering). It’s here that the bride is up and moving into the fellowship of His sufferings. As you will see in the next chapter, this suffering is two-fold and it’s a dark painful night that the bride is about to endure. The important thing for us to understand is that everything she is about to experience is under the leadership of Jesus. He has overlooked nothing and is actually empowering her to walk through, not to take her out of it.
Some of us have known the power of the Cross to destroy the old man, but it seems few within the Church have understood the power of the Cross to embrace suffering, shame and rejection. The idea of being happy, healthy and wealthy isn’t something that Jesus promised to those that follow Him. Jesus promised that though we might die physically on the journey, He will surely keep our souls for the age to come. Beyond that, many things might come our way and many things might leave our way, but His faithfulness and leadership over our lives in the process is perfect and not to be accused.
Beloved there is a stigma attached to following Christ that the Church isn’t currently helping people understand. Being connected with Christ will alienate you from relationships, from careers, and from family, but He is worth it. Jesus’ words to us were “If they’ve done this to Me in the green wood, what will they do to you when the wood is dry” (Luke 23:31). Right now the Holy Spirit is raising up a people that will embrace the stigma attached to following Christ more than they will embrace the praise and affirmation of man. It’s time for us to rise up and follow Jesus outside the camp, to embrace a life that is faithful to Him and countercultural to that which is around us. Will you embrace His call to join Him in the fellowship of His sufferings?