The road to maturity in Christ is often a much bumpier road than most people plan for. This isn’t because Jesus is difficult to follow, but because there is so much inside of us that Jesus is working out so that He can work in His kingdom. The goal in Christianity is to get over you as fast as humanly possible. Because once you get over you, there is something much more powerful waiting to be discovered and His name is Jesus. The young bride is being taken through a keyhole backwards. Or in another words, she is being taken through a series of circumstances that the Lord is using to bring her from a place of immaturity to maturity. As we are looking at the second half of Chapter one in the Song of Songs we are going to see how the bride encountered such shame from her brothers, her passionate cry of longing for her Beloved, the position of influence that she receives in Him, the divine interchange of love and their fresh and pleasant life together. Though there are many challenges awaiting us as we press on into the high calling of God, this life in Christ is most pleasant. The bride starts the second half of Chapter one in a very dark place, but she also ends chapter one in a wonderful place. This is the ups and downs of being in relationship with an all consuming fire.
The Bride’s Spiritual Crisis Of Rejection and Shame (1:6-7)
In the previous chapter we left off with the bride walking out of God’s chamber having encountered both her dark and lovely heart before Him. This was such a powerful revelation to her that gave her great insight into the reason why others have loved Him so much. But as she moves forward in her new life in Christ she encounters the others (brothers) inside the body of Christ (the mother) that have been they’re longer than she and they aren’t nearly as interested in the Beloved as she is. This creates internal conflict that’s actually been divinely designed by her Beloved. You can feel the tension building.
Song of Songs 1:6-7 “Do not look upon me because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keepers of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept. Tell me O You whom I love. Where do You feed Your flock, where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of Your companions?”
The bride is now pictured as being inside the palace, or at least walking out from His chamber and working alongside what the Bible calls her brothers or the sons of her mother. The easy interpretation on these two thoughts about the mother and brothers is that “her mother” or “the mother” is speaking of the Church. It was John Calvin that rightly said, “If God is our Father then the Church is our mother.” The Church is here being likened to that which gives new birth. Everyone who has come to know Christ has been birthed into the Kingdom of God through the Church. And her brothers are speaking of those other ones in the Body of Christ. They aren’t Pastors and leaders, but people who are a part of the Church and are also serving the King. The young bride was formerly a shepherdess and had worked for a living under the heat of the son. Her brothers on the other hand have lived inside the palace and haven’t needed to work outside. This means that her skin is darker than theirs and her cultural experiences are much different from there’s as well. Because these things are so contrasted between her life and theirs, her experience is very negative within the Church as she quickly finds herself in a place of burn out.
The young bride is at a place many Christians have both personally encountered and have witnessed other’s encounter. Because the life that she lived outside the Church is so different from the life that they have lived within the Church, they don’t know how to relate to her. Not to mention her intense passion for the Beloved. And because all the brothers that she encounters don’t have a vibrant love life with the Beloved, they are only able to give her what they have, not what they want her to have. So instead of teaching her how to love Jesus and pursue the first commandment first, they put her to work. This work soon overcomes her and leaves her in a place of burnout. The work of the ministry is exhausting, tiring and often draining. But with a vibrant, progressive and daily life with Christ we are able to endure over the many seasons of life and serve with Jesus. We know that she is overworked and separated from Christ because of what she says in Song of Songs 1:6-7 “…they made me the keeper of the vineyards but my own vineyard I have not kept…Tell me O You whom I love…” She says that she was made an overseer of many vineyards but her own she has not kept. She is at the classic place of burnout. Burnout isn’t the result of being busy; it’s the result of overseeing other’s vineyards and neglecting your own. Here the bride is at a place where she is working in many other places, and has become so busy that she’s neglecting her own heart before God.
Jesus tells us a story in Matthew 25 about 10 virgins, of which 5 were wise and five were foolish. This is what Jesus has to say in Matthew 25:1-13, “Then the Kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps…at midnight a cry was heard; behold, the bridegroom is coming…and the foolish said to the wise, give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.” If you look at this story closely you can see that the foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them. The wise, on the other hand, took both their lamps and oil. And under the pressure of the hour, when the Bridegroom is delayed in the middle of the night, the foolish start running out of oil and ask for some from the wise. In this story Jesus considers the foolish those that spend all their energy on the brightness of their lamps, but spend no emphasis on gathering oil for the lamp. And the wise, Jesus says, are those that take both oil and the lamp. This story is exactly what happened with the young bride. She has been made, by her fellow brothers in Christ, a keeper of many vineyards (bright lamp) but she has neglected her own vineyard in the process (personal oil). We must never get so busy working for God and that we don’t keep the first commandment in first place.
It’s here at this place of burnout, shame and rejection that the bride calls out to her Beloved and asks for help. This is what she says, “Tell me O You whom I love. Where do You feed Your flock, where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of Your companions?” In her shame and brokenness she calls out to the lover of her soul. This is the face of Christ as the good Shepherd that lays His life down for the sheep. It’s important to note that in her place of shame and brokenness she doesn’t go looking here and there for help from this and that, but she actually calls out to Him whom her soul loves. So often we can be in the same place as her, but instead of going to the right place for the right thing, we go to the wrong place and get the wrong thing. It’s not more work that she needs; it’s Jesus and Him alone. Her life is out of balance and He is the only one who can help her get back to a place of balance in Him. You must call out to the right person when you’re in a rough spot in life if you’re ever going to get out of it and get moving forward again. Sometimes in this place, it’s not the pastor that I need to talk to, it’s not ministry friends and it’s not other Christians, but it’s God and God alone. I need Him. And this is what she’s doing. She’s calling out to the One that her soul loves.
Jesus’ Response To Her Cry and The Bride’s Revelation Of Jesus (1:8,12-14)
Jesus really hears us. So often when we are searching hard after Christ it seems as if the heavens are like brass, but that doesn’t mean that His ears or His heart is. It just means that the heavens feel like brass. What’s challenging is to not assume that God’s heart and ears are like brass when we feel like the heavens are. God is listening to the bride and He is going to answer her right here, in the following verse where she just called out to Him. In Song of Songs 1:8 He says, “If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow in the footsteps of the flock, and feed your little goats beside the shepherds tents…” When we keep in context that the bride is at a place of separation from Him, she’s covered in shame and guilt and she’s lost her communion with Him and He still defines her as the one that He loves. This should cause your heart to come alive. He is saying to her “If you don’t know already. If I haven’t made it clear enough, then I will do it again. I like you! You look good to me. I so enjoy you and you’re weak, but so sincere passion for Me!” Jesus’ words must have surprised the bride beyond what is written in the actual book. How could a God with such power and wisdom, speak so tenderly to those who so struggle to love Him in the way that He loves them. This is beyond understanding.
Jesus’ words of affirmation always precede His word of correction and instruction. Jesus has three things that He needs the young bride to do to ensure that she doesn’t end up in the same place again. He first tells us to get back in the way of flock. Because of the pain that she had endured from life inside the Church she had pulled herself outside of the community of God. Many of God’s servants have done just this thing. Instead of seeing the trouble that she endured in the Church as a tool that God was using to shape her, she sees it as a weapon that was wounding her. Jesus doesn’t have any servants that are moving into the fullness of Him disconnected from the Body of Christ and Christianity community. This is why He calls her back into the way of the sheep. Then He tells her to feed her little goats. Jesus is telling her, “Don’t do all the things that everyone else asks you to do, but rather just do the things that I ask you to do.” It’s easy in our passion for Jesus to say yes to everything others ask us to do, but there are a couple things that Jesus would have us to do, and it’s those that we want to say yes to. And lastly, Jesus tells us to do both of these things (following the way of the sheep and feeding her little goats) besides the shepherd’s tents. We have a saying at New Life “that if you aren’t under authority, you don’t have authority.” Jesus also understands that He has set up an order and all those who are great in Him must follow that order, and it’s an order of authority. She has been hurt by the leaders that didn’t know how to handle her, but He is calling her back underneath them and to serve them.
The instruction that Jesus has to give her is something many of us would do well to heed. Listen, I have been hurt in the Church, I’ve been overlooked, I’ve have been neglected and mistreated. And although it’s painful at the moment, what I have come to understand is that God uses all of those situations to shape me. It’s like marriage. I tell people that if you want to grow, get married. Why? Because in marriage you have ample opportunities to work on yourself and you get hands on experience of resolving conflict without running away. What often happens when we get hurt in Church and in relationships in life in general, as Christians we close off our hearts to people because we don’t want to get hurt again. But what often happens is that we also close off our hearts to Jesus at the same time. And when we close our hearts off to Jesus, we end up stuck and are no longer able to move forward with Him and in our ministry calling. Take time to inspect your heart and ask the Holy Spirit if those relational wounds from the past or the present have caused you to close off your heart to Jesus and others. He’s able to break you free and He’s speaking tenderly to you right now, but you must respond and ask Him for help just like the young bride did when she called out to Him.
The Divine Interchange Between Jesus and The Bride (1:15-17)
After the bride sees that God has seated her at His table, she is overcome with passion for Him and passion for herself. That might sound odd to you to think about having passion for yourself. But when the bride is seated at His table, she starts to think about what it cost to send the Son to the earth and die for her redemption. When you see the death of Christ and the cost behind it, you must start to connect the dots to how much you are worth to God. God is passionate about humans and especially, not only, but especially you. He loves you, is ravished over you and longs to be together with you forever.
As the bride is seated at the table of the Lord, He speaks over her even more stunning words. In Song of Songs 1:15 he says “Behold, you are fair, My love! Behold, you are fair! You have doves eyes.” Again, the bride has only been reconnected with Him for a little while and she surly hasn’t done anything for Him to receive such gracious words from Him. He tells her that He loves her and that she has dove’s eyes. We will see the theme of doves and dove’s eyes continue to build throughout the Song, but here it’s the first time that it’s used. Something noteworthy about doves is that they don’t have any peripheral vision and when they mate, they mate for life. So if their mate dies, they won’t mate again. So the translation that we can easily make is that God is saying to the young, immature bride, that she has a single eye for Him and she’s focused on one thing.
When the bride hears these words from her Beloved to her in such a weak state, it causes what I call the divine interchange between He and her. He speaks and it sparks off passion in her and she is forced to respond to Him. In Song of Songs 1:16-17 the bride says to Him “Behold, You are handsome, my Beloved! Yes, pleasant! Also our bed is green. The beams of our houses are cedar, and our rafters of fir.” It’s important that we slow down a little bit when we look at this phrase to see all the truths that she shares with Him. She first has something wonderful to say about Him and then she speaks about their house. Often times in the Church and as Christians we can speak more about the House of the Lord than we do the Lord of the house. We tell people about all the great things our Church does, all the outreaches and kids ministries, but we tell them very little about Jesus. Who’s greater? Jesus or the house that Jesus is building? This is something that all of us are guilty of and it must be corrected. The bride states first that Jesus is beautiful and her Beloved and then she talks about their house. It’s important for us to move the first commandment into first place so that the second commandment can have its proper place among the body of Christ.
The bride speaks about the house that they dwell in as being pleasant, green and strong. It’s true that the house that God calls us into is a pleasant house, a green house and strong house. Many assuming that being with Christ is a burden and a struggle but it’s not that at all. It’s a pleasant life in Him as He leads us so tenderly! The greenness about His house is that the place of divine encounter between God and us is fresh and flourishing and coming alive. It’s not dead and decaying but growing and increasing.
God is calling His bride out from a place of working for Him to working with Him. This is why we are called the bride of Christ and not the workforce of Christ. He is looking for someone that is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. Jesus is calling out a bride that stands alongside Him and not ahead of Him or behind Him, but alongside Him. If you’re tired of living the Christian life apart from a vibrant encounter with Christ, then call out to the great Shepherd of your soul and be restored to Him. This is your inheritance in Christ, to be fully alive at the heart level and knee deep in partnership with Him.