As you begin to look at Song of Songs 5:6-16 it is going to cause you to wrestle with many things concerning the activity of God in our lives. As we saw in the previous chapter, the bride was being called into a place of suffering, separation from her Beloved and the scorn of man by Jesus Himself as He is knocking at her door and calling her outside (SOS 5:2). And it’s here in Song of Songs 5:6-16 you will see the outworking of this call, in real time suffering all under the leadership/Lordship of Jesus. I, along with many commentators, refer to this portion of the Song of Songs as the Dark night of her soul.
It’s here in this chapter that I will cover Song of Songs 5:6-16.In this chapter you are going to see the first part of her great two-fold test —the loss of His presence (SOS 5:6) and the second part of her great two-fold test —the loss of her public ministry within the body (SOS 5:7).It’s in the midst of the bride’s hardship that she responds with humility and love (SOS 5:8) causing the lukewarm believers around her, the daughters of Jerusalem, to ask why she the bride loves Him so much (SOS 5:9). Song of Songs 5 ends with one of the most climatic, beautiful and stunning descriptions of Jesus in all of the Word of God (SOS 5:10-16). Each chapter within the Song of Songs has powerful truths to be found, but Chapter 5 presents a marvelous picture, in my opinion, of what the Church at the end of this age will endure. The Church will be faced with the greatest pressure in human history from the judgments of God, the wrath of satan, the sin of man and the groan of creation. The bride, the Church the ecclesia of God, will emerge from this wilderness leaning upon her beloved. The bride’s life in Song of Songs 5 paints the picture that life will get worse before it gets better. But the better that God will usher in will be a better that lasts forever, eclipsing our temporary hardship, suffering and separation in this fallen age.
The First Part of Her Great Two-Fold Test—the Loss of His Presence (SOS 5:6)
Song of Songs 5:6 begins with the bride having already risen off her bed and answering the door/invitation from her Beloved. As soon as she steps outside the door she is unable to find Him whom her ears heard calling and Him for whom her heart leaped up when He spoke. She says in Song of Songs 5:6,“I opened for my Beloved, by my Beloved had turned away and was gone. My heart leaped up when He spoke. I sought Him, but I could not find Him; I called Him but He gave me no answer.” It’s here as the bride is responding to His call, in what I believe to be 100% obedience, that she is unable to find Him anywhere. This is a brand new experience for the bride in the grace of God. The second time she had lost His presence and the intimacy they were sharing she was in a place of disobedience, but in her place of disobedience she arose and started searching for Him and eventually found Him (SOS 3:1-5). But here in Song of Songs 5:6, the Shulamite (bride) and Solomon (Jesus) are sharing intimacy between one another and she has risen in 100% obedience but she’s unable to find Him. This is something brand new for her.
It’s my belief that the Church today and throughout history struggles to help those who are in Christ but have lost Jesus’ presence on their heart. Most seem unable to instruct those that are under a closed heaven and often times our (Christians) default answer is ‘sin.’ Unfortunately, we Christians become more like Job’s friends than we do those who are compassionate and understanding. Now the reality is that often times we become separated from the Lord’s presence because there is un-confessed sin, or disobedience in our lives much like the bride in Song of Songs 3:1, but that’s only one side to a two sided coin. The other side of the coin is that God is doing something we don’t understand and may not ever fully understand. It’s true that closed heavens over our lives, tell us more about what’s really living within us than an open heaven does. When the heavens are closed in my life, I become depressed and filled with guilt, shame and condemnation. I assume I have done something wrong so that Jesus has withdrawn Himself from me. And because my personal identity is still being formed into the image of Christ, I begin to think that maybe He doesn’t really love me; maybe He’s not all that concerned with me and I start to believe the accuser more than the Word of God. I tell you, these closed heavens help us in ways that we will never fully understand. And although we don’t long for the heavens to be closed and our proximity with Jesus to be separated by distance, we will come to love that separation when we see the fruit it will produce within us, if we allow it.
In Song of Songs 1:4 the bride opened up the entire book by laying out her two-fold life vision which says “Draw me away, and we will run together.” To simply break this apart so that you can see the two-fold life vision, we look first at the statement made singularly and then at the statement made in the plural. She first said “draw ME” away. This first phrase is in direct connection with the first and great commandment to “love God with everything.” We love God primarily on our own. It’s something that we do in the privacy of our own heart. And then “WE will run together.” The second phrase has everything to do with serving the nations and working in the harvest in community, which is directly connected to the second commandment “loving your neighbor as yourself.” We are never called in the scriptures to express our love on our own, like a lone ranger but rather with others and in the midst of community. So we cultivate intimacy with God on our own and we serve the body of Christ and the nations with others in community.
If you notice here, the bride is entering into the first part of her great two-fold test (the loss of His presence) in the same exact way that she had originally longed for her two-fold life vision. First His presence is gone (draw me away) and as we will look at next she loses her place of ministry among the body (and we will run together).
The Second Part of Her Great Two-Fold Test—the Loss of Her Ministry (SOS 5:7)
As we continue throughout Song of Songs 5:7-16 the bride is going to remain in the midst of divine testing, not because of disobedience but because of obedience. She has already lost His presence, meaning she no longer feels Him and now she is about to be endure pain at the hands of those who are supposed to be leading her. In Song of Songs 5:7 the bride says “The watchmen who went about the city found me. They struck me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took my veil away from me.” It’s okay to say ouch, this is extremely painful. These watchmen that the bride is encountering are what are called the Saul watchmen. They are vastly different from the David watchmen. The David watchmen are helpful to those that are reaching for maturity and the Saul watchmen are those that are jealous of others who are reaching for maturity. They see the reach of a weak heart as worthless or competition for their current position.
Because the bride is in a place of desperation to find her Beloved she is out looking for Him and this is where she encounters these watchmen. The first thing they do to her when they see her is to strike her. That word strike literally means to punish, to hit, to smite, to attack, to destroy and give stripes. After they have struck her, they also wound her. That word wound literally means to bruise, split open and to deeply wound. I believe it’s safe to say that the wounds of a friend are far more painful than the wounds of an enemy. It’s not that these shepherds are specifically her friends, but rather they are supposed to be safe people that she can trust, but this wasn’t the case with them. It’s also true that the wounds from words are often far more painful than the physical wounds from injury or externally inflicted pain. It’s often the deeply painful words that were spoken against us that we carry around with us for life. And lastly, these Saul-styled leaders take her veil away from her. The word used here for veil, is the word shawl, cloak or mantle. It’s the same idea as when Paul was speaking to women of the Corinthian Church in 1st Corinthians 11 and said that women should wear a covering over their head when they pray (1st Cor. 11:10-12). It’s here that the Saul watchmen don’t help the bride find her Beloved, but rather have struck her, wounded her and taken away her place of ministry within the body which was her veil/mantle. She is now without His presence and now without her function within the body or what we call the local Church. She has now lost her two-fold life vision in the same order that she originally prayed for it. She asked for nearness, and then lost His presence. She asked to serve in the harvest with others, and then she lost her function within the body. It’s important throughout this entire chapter that we keep in view it is Jesus who has called her into this entire crisis (SOS 5:2).
The Bride’s Response of Humility and Love (SOS 5:8)
The bride is now in the midst of full blown crisis. She has lost His presence and now she has lost her function within the body. She’s suffering under the leadership of Jesus and it’s at the hands of those she has trusted and loved deeply. In this place of extreme difficulty the bride calls out to the daughters of Jerusalem and asks them this in Song of Songs 5:8, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem; if you find my Beloved that you tell Him I’m lovesick.”
This is a stunning display of humility and a beautiful declaration of where her heart is. It’s a stunning display of humility because the daughters of Jerusalem throughout the Song of Songs represent lukewarm believers who are in relationship with Christ, but are serving Him at a distance. Because of her hunger to find Him she is willing to do anything to be near Him, even asking those who are in relationship with Him but living at a distance from Him. This is true humility.
But then the bride says to them, “if you see my Beloved, tell Him that I’m lovesick.” Wow! She just ratcheted it up a few notches. It’s amazing to express humility in the midst of great personal suffering and hardship; but it’s something totally different to make clear that your heart is un-offended at Jesus’ leadership over your life in the middle of this kind of hardship. The bride is responding to what Jesus has invited her into, with an un-offended heart concerning His leadership over her.
The Lord is watching how she is handling the loss of passions and internal longings. He is watching and wanting to know who she is in this thing for. Is she in it for ministry? Is she in it for the accolades of man? Is she in it to be rich and famous, to validate within her that which didn’t get validated through her parents, as a child? Or is she in it for Jesus. There are times in my (Patrick) life that I have to remind myself why I signed up for Christianity to begin with. I didn’t originally sign up to be in ministry, to hold positions of influence over others and strive for dreams that have been deeply seeded with me. I signed up for Jesus Christ because I was lost and He reached out to me. It wasn’t hell that kept me in Christ, but rather intimacy with Jesus through the Holy Spirit that so moved me towards Him. What the bride doesn’t know is that the chapters that follow chapter 5 are chapters filled with a fruitful ministry. The Lord is working to prove her in it right now, to make sure she’s in it for Him.
Beloved, what do you do when you’re pressed on every side and things look dark around you? What do you do when you find yourself in the midst of personal suffering and pain? Do you look to those things that are harming you, those people who are miss-treating you and those situations that are hurting you? Or do you set your eyes on Jesus? Do you find yourself accusing Jesus’ leadership and assuming that He should be doing something that He’s not? It is in this place of a closed heaven that we come to understand what’s really alive within us. Often times when we are under an open heaven it’s easy to assume that our hearts are right, but when heaven closes up we come to know who we really are!
The Response from the Lukewarm Believers around Her (SOS 5:9)
The daughters of Jerusalem have been watching the passion of the bride ever since Chapter One. They have seen her journey and have watched her throughout the ups and downs of loving God. There have been several times that they have talked and she has challenged them to get off the sidelines and join in wholeheartedness with the King. But it’s here in Song of Songs 5:9 that they respond to the bride’s inquiry about her Beloved by asking her a question. This is what they say to her, “What is your Beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved that you so charge us?” These ones around her are very confused as to why she is so committed to a Man who is seemingly mistreating her so badly. It doesn’t make sense to them.
The bride has been filling her lamp with oil throughout the Song, all the way back in Chapter One up until now. It’s not that she has been perfect throughout her journey, but rather in her immaturity she is reaching for maturity. She doesn’t want to stay where she is, but rather to grow and to enter into the plan of God for her life; because of this the Lord has been moving her along. But now, while she is under pressure from all sides and she has asked the daughters for help finding her Beloved, they now ask her what’s so special about Him. In reality they are saying, “Why should we love this One who is seemingly mistreating you so badly? Why should we leave these other beloveds to go after your Beloved? What makes Him so special?”
I believe that the Church has many beloveds. If you made a list of the top ten most important things to the local Church, Jesus would most definitely be in the top ten, but He wouldn’t be number one. We might say that He is number one, but by the way we live our lives and lead our ministries shows we are doing something far different from what we are saying. There are many beloveds in the Church, and what is so challenging is that people love their beloveds as much as their Beloved Jesus. So when we start taking things away from the Church, and begin working to set their gaze back on Jesus and Jesus alone, things get a little dicey. Mike Bickle says “When the first commandment (loving Jesus wholeheartedly) is restored to first place in the body of Christ worldwide, there will be more bloodshed in the Church than in any other time in history.” I have seen a little bit of this as I have worked in a small way to call people to love Jesus wholeheartedly. People have resisted, fought against it and it’s all in the name of God. As I have asked people to read their Bibles, pray, spend time fasting and fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit, it’s often like herding cats. People are just unwilling. And it’s not because they don’t love Jesus; it’s not because they have sin and are mean people; it’s because we have a western paradigm that we are looking through, and it often hinders us more than it helps us.
The goal of Christianity is that our passion for Jesus be so great, and our knowledge of Him from the scriptures so clear, that we are able to give a clear witness and response to His beauty when we are asked by others. Often times as Christians when we are asked about Christianity, we respond by talking about our Church. Now that’s not entirely a bad thing, but before we speak about our kids ministry, our worship program, our modern buildings and the things we offer for families, what about speaking of the worth, majesty and beauty of Christ Jesus? What about telling people how Jesus has changed your life, how you were once lost and now you’re found; about how your marriage was falling apart but through the Church you met Jesus and He healed your marriage and family? What about making Jesus the center and not the many other things we do.
The Bride’s Glorious Response to the Daughters Question (SOS 5:10-16)
These last 6 verses in Song of Songs 5:10-16 are a beautiful response to the question that was asked by the daughters in Song of Songs 5:9 about why they should leave their other beloveds and chase the bride’s Beloved. Before we jump into this verse, I must remind us that the bride is still in the middle of her great two-fold crisis, the dark night of her soul. It’s not until the following chapter that God is going to break the silence and speak over her. Until then it’s still raw suffering, hardship and rejection. I am going to write out the entire passage and then I will break it down piece by piece. Song of Songs 5:10-16 reads, “My Beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousand. His head is like the finest gold; His locks are wavy, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves, by the rivers of waters, washed in milk and fitly set. His cheeks are like a bed of spices, banks of scented herbs. His lips are like lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His hands are like rods of gold set with beryl. His body is carved ivory, inlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of fine gold. His countenance is like Lebanon, Excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, yes He is all together lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” I will now break open each part in order to see the whole.
In the bride’s response to their question she starts by giving a physical description of the beauty of Christ Jesus. Beloved, He is far more beautiful than we could ever imagine. She starts out by saying “My Beloved is white and ruddy.” The white literally means glaring, dazzling, bright and sunny. And the word ruddy literally means red. She was describing Jesus’ dual nature as being fully God and fully human. When John saw the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:22,he said that there was no temple in it, because the Lamb is its light. This is speaking of Jesus divinity and His humanity. He’s a Lamb (humanity) and He’s a light (Divinity) and they are both dwelling together in perfect harmony. Secondly, she says “He’s chief among ten thousand.”She is declaring Jesus to be the head of all things. She is saying that He stands head and shoulders above the rest. Even in the midst of ten thousand people, He is still the Chief among them all. And Paul gives one of the most shocking descriptions of him in Colossians 1:15-18. Thirdly she says “His head is like the finest gold.” Here the Shulamite is speaking about His head, or the place from which He makes decisions. That word fine or finest literally means to be refined as through a furnace and to come out in its purist form. Beloved, Jesus has passed through a furnace of affliction and He was found pure. It’s from this place that Jesus makes decisions which are based on what’s best for us. In the Chronicles of Narnia the question is asked, “Is He (Aslan, which was a type of Christ in the movie)—quite….safe?? Safe? (said Mr. Beaver)…who said anything about being safe? Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good! He’s the King I tell you.” Jesus is anything but safe, He’s a wild untamed lion who sits in the heavens and does what He pleases. He’s not safe, but He’s good. His head has passed through a furnace and it hasn’t changed His love for us and the way that He thinks about us.
Fourthly she says “His locks are wavy and black like a raven.” In this statement she is describing His youthful zeal. His hair isn’t dead, decaying, brittle and broken, but rather long, strong and jet black like a raven. Jesus is youthful, full of zeal and well able to accomplish the things He starts. Fifthly she says “His eyes are like doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set.” His eyes are pure and filled with equality. When Jesus looks at a situation He sees rightly, regardless if it’s about people, nations or situations, He sees rightly. In Revelation 19:11, it is said of Jesus that “…in righteousness He judges and makes war.”Many people don’t think about Jesus leading a holy war, but it’s totally true. This war that Jesus will lead will be a war led in truth and equality. Jesus will slay His enemies and those that oppose Him and it will be done in righteousness, truth and justice. As we continue through these descriptions we must keep in view that the bride is making these various statements about Jesus’ leadership while she is under his severe testing. It’s Jesus who has placed her into this season of divine testing and it’s also Jesus’ eyes or what He sees that she says is perfect. It is one thing to talk about the qualities of Jesus’ leadership but it’s another thing to speak highly of Him while you’re under intense pressure that He Himself has placed you in.
Sixthly, she says, “His cheeks are like a bed of spices, banks of scented herbs.” This is speaking about Jesus’ disposition or the emotions His cheeks express towards those who reach for Him. Hebrews 1:9 says Jesus “has been anointed with the oil of joy more than His companions.” Jesus’ cheeks declare to us that He is mostly happy and not mad, and mostly glad and not sad. He’s the glad heart happy God. Seventhly, the bride says, “His lips are like lilies, dripping liquid myrrh.” The Shulamite is saying that Jesus’ words are full of purity and empower us to embrace suffering, hardship and pain, just like what is going on in her life currently, within the Song. She is under the hand of Jesus’ suffering from the Saul watchmen around her; it is Jesus’ voice which compelled her to rise up and answer the door, following Him into His sufferings. She knows firsthand that His words empower humanity to embrace whatever might come their way. Eighthly, she says that “His hands are rods of gold, set with beryl.”She is saying that Jesus’ hands are separated from His head, like ours. What I mean by this is that often times our minds think about doing nice things for others, but our hands never follow through. But this isn’t the case for Jesus. His hands follow through with the thoughts of His head. With Jesus’ hands He creates things, heals things, and sacrifices them for the sake of those that were far from Him. His hands are fine gold, safe and trustworthy.
Ninthly she says that “His body is carved ivory inlaid with sapphires.” Ivory is different from the various elements because it’s not mined out of a mountain of gathered from the depth of the sea, but only comes from death or great pain. You have to either kill animals while they are alive, or wait for them to die before you can get their ivory. In the same way Jesus body was pierced on the Cross, as the executioner came to Him and saw that He was already dead. So instead of breaking His legs, they pierced His side where water and blood flowed out from Him. The word here for body, in the King James, is actually the word bowels. It was there that He was pierced for the freedom of humanity (John 19:34).Tenthly, she says “His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of fine gold.” This is speaking to the reality that Jesus is upheld by that which is pure, strong and eternal. Pillars speak of strength, leadership and orderliness. And marble is something that is forged under great pressure. Jesus is upheld by strength, eternality and a sure foundation that will never fade away. As sure as the rising of the sun unto its setting, so also is the faithfulness of Jesus. It’s hard to image the pain that the bride is in when she makes such a statement about the stability of His leadership. She realizes that just because the season in her life has changed, that doesn’t mean the foundation that He is seated upon has changed. His is eternal, solid and firm throughout the tests of time.
Eleventh, the bride says that “His countenance is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.” Lebanon was a place of elevation, or height which made it possible to see many things from this vantage point. And combined with the cedars which speak of stateliness, security and strength we get the idea that she is speaking about His heavenly position. Jesus doesn’t look at us from only up close and personal, but also through the whole of our lives. He sees the end from the beginning. And it is in the oversight of our lives that we come to trust Him in such a way that we give our lives, our money, our time, our family, our future, our past and our present to this Man. He stands above all things and sees what’s best for me, therefore I won’t worry. It’s here that the young maturing bride brings the descriptions of Jesus to a close by saying/summing up all things with “His mouth is most sweet, yes, He is all together lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” We, like the bride, love the many things that Jesus does for us and who He is as a person, but it’s the words which proceed from His mouth that move us the most. This is a huge statement from the bride concerning what He says, how He says it, and who He is saying it to. Yes, His mouth is most sweet, or the words which come from His mouth as we wait upon Him! And she brings the chapter to a close by saying that this is her Beloved and her friend. If you look back at these descriptions she just gave of Jesus, you will see that she starts with His head then goes to His hair, His eyes, His cheeks, His lips, His hands, His body, His legs and His overall countenance.
I long for the day when the Church realizes that they have a God who is far greater than the production of man and the ingenuity of humanity. As we have just read, He is stunning, glorious beyond description and yet so approachable. Look, I (Patrick) know that life is going to be very hard and it’s going to present many challenges, but beyond all of this I want to know that there is something worth my time, my energy, my affections, my personality and all of my heart. I want to live for Him in the same way that He lived for me. Beyond dying for Jesus, I want to live for Jesus even when others assume He is miss-treating me and should be taking better care of me. I want to side with the reality that He knows far better than I do and I can trust Him through all things. Beloved, don’t get hung up on the hardship, let it go and cling only to Christ. This is your security, everything else is shifting sand.