Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- IV. Christ in the Poetical Books
5. The Song of Songs -- [also known as ''Canticles'']
- In all ages, Christians have regarded this song as an allegory. It was in the Old Testament canon when the Septuagint version was made, 250 years before the advent of the Saviour; it has kept its place there ever since. Its mystic character has had the strongesst hold upon some of the most spiritually-minded men the world has ever seen, such as Samuel Rutherford and Robert Murray M'Cheyne.
Adelaid Ann Newton has left us a little volume upon this Song which brings us into the very presence of the Lord of Glory. In her Preface she says: ''The general character of this book, in contrast to Ecclesiastes, is very striking. Ecclesiastes from beginning to end tells of the vanity of the creature-- Canticles of the sufficiency of the Beloved... One verse in St. John's Gospel gives the contrast perfectly. Ecclesiastes is the first half of the verse 'Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again'; Canticles is the latter half of the verse 'Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst' [John 4:13,14]. Thus the book is full of Jesus. But it is Jesus in a special character. He is not seen here as 'Saviour,' nor as 'King,' nor as 'High Priest,' nor as 'Prophet.'... No! it is a dearer and closer relation than any of these-- it is Jesus as our 'Bridegroom'; Jesus in marriage union with His Bride, His Church.
''This is a great mystery, but it is one of most peculiar preciousness to 'all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.' It pervades every part of the Holy Scripture. It was first revealed in Adam and Eve in Eden. It was more fully brought out in the typical characters of the Old Testament; as, for example, in Boaz and Ruth; it was distinctly taught in the betrothment of the Jewish nation; and it is plainly declared in the spiritual language of the Epistles-- 'I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.' [2Cor 11:2]''
[The Song of Solomon compared with other Parts of Scripture, A.A. Newton]
- The Need of the Church Today.
- This characteristic makes the Song of Songs to contain a message which is peculiarly appropriate to the Church in our own day. In no age perhaps was Christ more the center of interest, both within and without the Church, than He is today. His nature, His character, His work, His kingdom are freely discussed on all sides. But what a chill often creeps over our hearts as we listen, for we feel how little some of those who are thus discussing Him really know Him with that intimate personal knowledge which comes from communion with Him. When any one speaks who really knows and loves the Lord, it awakens a response within us which no theoretical knowledge can do. The speaker may be an old country-woman in her cottage, or a policeman living amid the din of the London streets, but we feel at once ''Here is one who has audience of the King.''
Personal love to Christ is the greatest need of the Church today. A knowledge of sin forgiven and of our share in His redeeming work is the chief thing to draw out our love to Him. This is an age in which there is very little conviction for sin, so it is no wonder that love grows cold. For ''to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.'' Simon the Pharisee asked our Lord to his house by way of patronizing the Prophet, but he neglected to show Him any of the courtesies which civility demanded. The poor forgiven sinner drew near and lavished her love upon His feet. And the Master said: ''Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much'' [Luke 7:47].
- In the Song of Songs, the truth of Redemption is brought out in the beauty-- not her own-- with which the Bride is invested. She exclaims, ''I am black, but comely, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon'' [Song 1:5]. Black as the goats' hair tents of the Bedaween [sic.]; comely as the curtains of the Temple. ''Perfect through My comeliness which I had put upon thee,'' as the Lord said to Israel [Ezek 16:14]. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, but He hath clothed us with the robe of His righteousness [Isa 64:6; 61:10].
''O my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock,'' the Beloved says to His Bride [Song 2:14]. Hidden in the cleft Rock of Ages, ''crucified with Christ,'' and therefore dead to the world. ''Thou art fair,'' is His reiterated assurance; ''Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee'' [Song 1:15; 4:7]. ''For Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish'' (Eph 5:25-27).
- The Beloved.
- ''As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste'' (Song 2:3). There are four marks of the ''apple'' of our A.V. [the 'Authorized Version' which is the KJV Bible]:
- Pleasant and powerful perfume (Song 7:8);
- Dense and delightful shade (Song 2:3);
- Sweet and luscious fruit (Song 2:3);
- Golden color in the fruit, surrounded by a molten-silver setting of white flowers (Prov 25:11).
- All these, in the highest degree, meet in the glorious evergreen orange and in it alone. It is doubtless the ''apple'' of Scripture. Truly it is a very ''tree of life,'' and, above all other, a fitting image of the Saviour. [In Palestine Explored, chapter 7, Rev. James Neil, who says also ''Comfort me with apples'' should be translated ''straw me with orange,'' that is, with orange blossom. The strong perfume of the orange blossom, used to revive the Eastern bride, is the origin of our bridal wreath.]
''He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys'' [Song 2:1]. The Rose of Sharon is a highly perfumed and very valuable white variety of the Damascene rose. The Lily of the Valleys is the wild crimson anemone. The one images our Lord's spotless, sinless character, the other His blood shed for us. The Lamb slain corresponding with chapter 5:10: ''My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.'' The description of her Beloved, in these words and the verses that follow, is drawn from the Bride in response to the question of the daughters of Jerusalem, ''What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?'' ''He is the chiefest among ten thousand... Yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend.'' [5:10,16]
We can trace through the Song how the Bride's love deepens through communion. Twice in the account, that communion seems interrupted for a season, and this leads her to seek His presence more earnestly. These seasons, when communion seems withheld, may be the result of backsliding, or it may be that the Lord is leading her on into deeper fellowship with Himself. In either case, that result seems clearly to be accomplished.
''My Beloved is mine, and I am His'' (Song 2:16). Here the chief thought is that of her possession in Christ. He is mine, for He has given Himself for me. The secondary thought is, ''I am His'' -- bought with His own blood. [Eph 5:25; 1Cor 6:19,20]
''I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine'' (Song 6:3). Here the thought of His ownership of her holds the chief place [in her mind].
''I am my Beloved's, and His desire is toward me'' (Song 7:10). Here His ownership swallows up every other thought.
In these three verses, we have the double thought which is given in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: Christ the inheritance of the Church; the Church the inheritance of Christ. ''In whom also we have obtained an inheritance'' (Eph 1:11); ''The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints'' (Eph 1:18).
- Results of Love to Christ.
- This leads us to the consideration of what should be the result in the Church today of a deepened personal love to Christ. We are not left in any doubt about it.
- Keeping His Commandments.
''If ye love Me, keep My commandments'' (John 14:15).
Where there is a real love to Christ, there will be an intense sensitiveness not to grieve Him; a great desire to become in fact what He sees us to be potentially-- ''undefiled,'' ''all fair,'' ''without spot.''
- Feeding His Sheep.
Three times He said to Peter, ''Lovest thou Me? feed My sheep, feed my lambs.'' [John 21:15-17]
The longing to be of blessing to others comes out in various ways in this Song. In the Bride's care of the flock in chapter 1. In her care of the garden in chapters 4 and 6. In her care of the vineyard in chapters 7 and 8.
- Fruit-bearing to His Praise.
''Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit,'' our Lord said to His disciples [John 15:8].
In this Song the thought of fruit-bearing is brought to perfection. ''A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse; a well shut up, a fountain sealed'' (Song 4:12). In this fair picture of the garden, the Lord has given us an idea of His inheritance in the saints. A quiet spot where He can delight to dwell, enclosed for His use, full of all manner of precious fruits and flowers. ''Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits'' (4:16). His response is, ''I am come into My garden; I have gathered My myrrh with My spice; I have eaten My honey-comb with My honey'' (5:1). But He will share it with others: ''Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.'' His desire is that His fruitful Church shall be a blessing to others. The sealed fountain in the midst of the garden is first for the Master's use, for He says, ''Give Me to drink''; but it is also to flow out to others. ''A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon'' (4:15). How exactly this verse corresponds with the threefold description of the living water in John's Gospel.
- ''Whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst''-- the soul's thirst quenched at the Fountain [John 4:14];
- ''The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life''-- an unfailing supply in the soul of the believer [John 4:14];
- ''He that believeth on Me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water'' [John 7:38], ''streams from Lebanon,'' flowing through the believer to a thirsty world.
- Shining and Victorious.
- The Church which is really separated unto her Lord will be a power for Him in this dark world. ''Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?'' (Song 6:10). A glorious description of what the Church should be-- shining with the reflected light of her absent Lord, a witness for Him in the night. ''Terrible as an army with banners''-- an all-conquering, victorious Church, pulling down the strongholds of Satan with the weapons of her warfare, which are not carnal, but mighty through God [2Cor 10:4]. Oh, how different is the Church of today! The blot of worldliness is lying, like the shadow of the earth in an eclipse, right across her fair face, preventing her being a light-bearer to the world. Instead of leading a victorious campaign against the enemy, she is suffering [ie., allowing] her walls to be broken down by his advance!
''Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which have a most vehement flame'' (Song 8:6). With a jealous love, Christ yearns over His Church, that He may be able to present her to Himself a glorious Church.
- Looking for His Appearing.
- The Church that is really separated unto her Lord will be watching with intensity of desire for His appearing. With this thought the Song closes. ''Make haste, my Beloved, and be Thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountain of spices'' (Song 8:14). With the same thought, the last book of the Bible closes: ''The Spirit and the Bride say, Come... And He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'' [Rev 22:17,20]
Return to the Table of Contents for Christ in All the Scriptures.
For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in OT Reflections of Christ, by Paul Van Gorder.
Go to The Book opening page.