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Solomon's divinely given wisdom was expressed in many ways. The Queen of Sheba was entranced when she saw "The house that he had built, the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers . . . and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD" (1 Kings 10). He answered all her enigmas, confounded the evildoer with his judgment; "He spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five." Many of these proverbs have been left in the divine record, but of his many songs we have but one, called by the Spirit of God, "The Song of Songs." This remarkable composition, indited by the Spirit of God, though clearly bringing out the divine wisdom deposited in the vessel, is the expression of love, and of a love that transcends what is natural, because it presents to us the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and the response to that love from the hearts of those that God has enabled to discern and value the loveliness of Christ.
This precious song no doubt portrays Christ's love for His earthly people Israel, but it can also be applied to the church which Christ loved, and for which he gave Himself. Moreover, the individual saint of God knows Christ as his Beloved, and knows what it is to be loved by Christ, even as John could refer to himself as "The disciple whom Jesus loved," and as Paul could say, "The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me." There is no appreciation of Christ's love by the nation of Israel in this day, for "Praise waiteth for thee in silence, O God, in Zion" (Psalm 65:1), but there is a response from the heart of the church today, and from the hearts of the individual saints who have been redeemed to God by His precious blood.
The bride in the 5th Chapter of this book had charged the daughters of Jerusalem to tell her Beloved, if they found Him, that she was love-sick. On receiving such a charge, the daughters of Jerusalem give the repeated challenge, "What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?" What would our reply be to such a challenge? What have we discerned in Christ, the well-beloved Son of God, who came in grace to bring to us the knowledge of God, and who died to bring us into divine favour? Our reply could not surpass our appreciation of the greatness, glory and perfections of Jesus. Yet the Lord delights to have a response from our poor hearts, no matter how feeble it may be, even as Jehovah was pleased to accept the burnt-offerings of Israel, even if the offerer could only bring a turtle-dove or a young pigeon. We can express to others our appreciation of Him, even as exhorted by the Apostle Paul, "But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (2 Corinthians 10:17).
"My Beloved is white and ruddy."
Receiving such a challenge, the bride is not slow to tell out the perfections of the One she loves. First of all she gives a general description of Him, then enters into details in support of what she has spoken. Her opening words speak of His purity and freshness, and her heart delights to call attention to these choice features. As white, she discerns His unsullied purity, for He was the "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." In passing through this defiling scene He touched the leper, yet was not contaminated. The repelling power of His intrinsic holiness kept the polluting influence of sin far from Him, yet He could receive sinners and eat with them. Sin's ravages in this poor world brought grief to His holy soul, but its corrupting power, which had wrought in the nature of every other man, could not touch Him. What rest of soul for those who know Jesus to be engaged with the perfection of His holiness and purity. Naturally we shrink from what is pure, because of our sinful nature, but the divine nature within, through the new birth, delights and rests in chastity and holiness.
With His purity there was the freshness and beauty that marked Jesus in all His ways. The Spirit of God records that David was ruddy, when Samuel came to anoint him; it made him attractive in the eyes of Samuel, but because he was ruddy he was despised by Goliath (1 Sam. 16:12; 1 Sam. 17:42). The Nazarites of Zion "Were more ruddy in body than rubies" (Lam. 4:7); they were the choice of God's earthly people. There was an attractiveness about Jesus that drew men to Him, and a peculiar attractiveness that held His disciples, and bound them in true affection to Him. Mothers brought their children to Him; the erstwhile sinner kissed and anointed His feet in Simon's house: and the woman of Sychar said to the men of her city. "Come see a Man that told me all things that ever I did." None could hold the heart of Simon Peter like Jesus? When others turned back, he said "Lord, to whom shall we go?" It was the attractiveness of Jesus that brought John to lie in His bosom, and that made Mary Magdalene say, "If thou hast borne Him hence. tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." And how Jesus draws His loved ones now by the charm of His grace, and the attraction of His Person.
"The chiefest among ten thousand."
Supreme among men, because of who He is, and because of what He is in His deep perfections, there is none to compare with Jesus. When we recall the greatest and most remarkable of men, we remember the words of the Psalmist, "Verily every man at his best is altogether vanity" (Psalm 39). All have come from sinful Adam, from the man who is of the earth, but He was a Man out of heaven. The Son of God has companions, called in divine grace to this wondrous place, but "He is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." He is the Firstborn among many brethren, transcending all because He is the only-begotten of the Father's bosom, because of all He has accomplished for the glory of God and for the blessing of His own, and because of His Personal intrinsic excellence. Jesus is the Chiefest among those with whom God has surrounded Him; the great men of earth are not worthy to be found in His company; He is not compared with them, for He stands out in His supremacy in marked contrast to all who have been acclaimed by the men of this world. The great of earth have trampled on their foes and on their fellows, wading deep in human blood to achieve their ambitions and attain the fame and glory of this world; in marked contrast, the Son of God "humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," shedding His own precious blood for the sins of others. The world's philosophers, ignorant of God, and glorying in their independence. have spun from their hearts and minds theories and ideas for which they have received the adulation of their fellows; but the Lord Jesus came with the true knowledge of God, calling attention to the Father, and saying, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me" (John 7:16). Among men there is none to compare with Him; in the circle of His own He stands supreme, the admired object of every adoring heart that has the privilege to be there; and soon He will be surrounded by the heavenly hosts proclaiming His worthiness (Rev. 5).
"His head is as the most fine gold."
Three times in these verses is gold used in the detailed description of the Beloved. His head is the finest gold. His hands are gold rings, and His legs are like pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold. When it is His head, which brings His blessed Person before us, it is of the finest gold; where it is His walk, it is fine gold, and where it is His work, it is gold.
How aptly does the finest gold portray the supreme glory of the Son of God. The most glorious kingdom that was ever seen upon earth was given in a divinely sent vision as a "Head of fine gold," and to the great Gentile monarch, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel said, "Thou art this head of gold" (Daniel 2:32, 38). Here is One who will not only possess all the kingdoms of this world in a coming day, but of whom the Scripture says, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (Psalm 45:6). It was the delight of God's servants to present Jesus in His glory, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews showing Him as the brightness of God's glory, and the expression of His substance, proclaiming Him as creator and "Upholding all things by the word of His power." We can understand on reading the opening chapters of John's Gospel, and Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, that these two outstanding servants of the Lord rejoiced to show us, by the Spirit of God, some of the features of the "Head of finest gold." And if it was the privilege of the Apostles to speak of the glories of the Son of God, it is our privilege to be occupied with them, so that we can adore Him in whom they shine, and speak of them in praise and in worship.
"His locks are bushy, and black as a raven."
Christ's Manhood is seen in His flowing locks, and is emphasised by their being black. Long hair belonged normally to the woman, who had from God the place of subjection. The Nazarite, who separated himself "Unto the LORD" (Numbers 6:2) must needs "Let the locks of the hair of his head grow." How wonderful that the Eternal Son of God should come into Manhood, into the place of subjection, to be the True Nazarite, and to become "Obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." As God, He had ever commanded, as Man "Yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." Gladly did the Son come to do the Father's will; to do His good pleasure was His delight, even if it meant infinite sorrow and suffering to secure what lay in the counsels of the Father.
His Manhood was real, as Scripture is careful to safeguard. John, who in his Gospel records that "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," writes in his first epistle, "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." It was so real that it could be written, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same, wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (Hebrews 2:14, 17). Having come into the servant's place. He has chosen to remain in it forever, as pre-figured in the Hebrew servant who was to plainly say. "I love my Master, my wife and my children, I will not go out free." Therefore when we are brought in spirit to the threshold of eternity, when all things shall be subdued to God, "Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
The blackness of His locks is in marked contrast to what is revealed concerning Him in Daniel 7 where, as "The Ancient of days . . . whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool" He is seen as the One whose goings forth were of old, even from eternity. Now He is Man, no grey hairs are on Him; all the freshness and vigour that belonged to Him down here is unimpaired by all that He has passed through. Vigour and zeal characterized Him, but not in the bustling haste that marks the flesh, but in innumerable works of which the Spirit of God has recorded, "If they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25). Although Christ has become Man, and our souls delight in Him with His flowing locks as black as a raven, yet we remember who He is in the greatness of His Person, unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore when Jesus is seen by John in vision, "Like unto the Son of Man . . . His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." The Son of Man is still the "Ancient of days."
"His eyes as of doves by the rivers of waters."
What meekness and gentleness were expressed in Jesus! There is nothing harmful about the dove; it is the symbol of peace, and is without guile. Such were the eyes of the Beloved as He looked upon the one He loved. The eyes not only take cognisance of all that is without: they are the windows into the soul, and from which the soul looks out. Human character, disposition, and the deepest feelings of the heart may be clearly expressed and read in the eyes. How the Lord looks with love and tenderness upon the objects of His affections! His delight in them is not only expressed in words, but in the way He looks upon them; and nearness to Him enables us to understand and appreciate His thought of His own.
His eyes were not as doves when Jehovah "In the morning watch . . . looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host" (Exodus 14:24); nor when "He looked with anger" upon those who would accuse Him for His works of grace and power (Mark 3:5). Nor does the professing church escape the searching, penetrating gaze of the Son of Man whose "Eyes were as a flame of fire" (Rev. 1:14; Rev. 2:18). It is the same blessed Person, perfect in every situation, whether in the defence of His people against their oppressors, or angry because of the hardness of heart that would hinder His grace, or refusing all that is inconsistent with divine holiness in that which professes His Name, or looking in tender affection upon those for whom He has given Himself.
By the rivers of waters the doves would rest in quiet content, cleansed and refreshed. And can we not say that the look of Jesus brings rest, contentment, cleansing and refreshment to us. There is not only what His look tells us of the deep feelings of His heart, but what that look does to His loved ones. This is illustrated for us in the look He gave Peter after he had denied that he knew Him. Poor Peter was broken down! But what cleansing it brought to his soul. It was not a look of anger or accusation, but of compassion and pity.
"washed with milk and fitly set."
When anything enters the eye and causes irritation, there is an old remedy washing with milk. There was nothing of natural irritation about the look of Jesus. even when He looked with anger on those who despised His grace; nor is there when He looks upon His saints, even in their greatest failures. There is a calmness and serenity belonging to Christ that nothing can disturb. When about to leave this world, He said to His own, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." The look of peace gives us peace; it expresses what is in His heart — a peace that nothing can disturb; and it brings the sense of peace into our hearts.
We cannot think of the eyes that were washed with milk without thinking of them as once filled with tears. How deeply the Son of God felt the refusal by men of the grace He brought, and His rejection by His own people Israel. But His tears flowed for them, not for Himself. As He wept, He said, "If thou hadst known . . . the things which belong unto thy peace . . . ." He sorrowed over their great loss, for they had rejected the blessings of divine grace that God's counsels had prepared for them, and because of this an awful judgment awaited the favoured and guilty city of Jerusalem. Nor can we ever forget the tears of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus, when He sorrowed with the bereaved sisters, and His spirit was troubled by the ravages of sin in this world and among those He loved.
Looking upon His loved ones with eyes of love, the Son of God knows everything about them, for His eyes are "Fitly set" in the head of the finest gold. We have been brought into nearness to Christ, and into relationship with Him, where we can enjoy His perfect love, but we must never forget who He is in His Person, in all the greatness and glory that are His as the Eternal Son. The Queen in Psalm 45 was arrayed in all the glory of the King, and she was attractive to Him in her beauty, but while conscious of what she was to Him, she was not to forget who He was; "He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him." Christ's love for us is a divine love, and all His thoughts and feelings for His own are perfect and divine, and this infinite and eternal love, and all His desires concerning them, are expressed in the eyes that look out upon us from the head of the finest gold.
"He is altogether lovely!" No. 2.
When the Lord Jesus was upon earth, both at the waters of baptism, and on the glory mount, the Father's voice was heard declaring His pleasure in His well-beloved Son. Throughout the pages of Holy Writ, both in the Old and New Testaments, the Holy Spirit of God delights to engage us with the glories and perfections of Jesus. How great then is the privilege given to the saints of God to speak of Him, even as the bride speaks of her Beloved in the Song of Songs, describing His deep perfections under the influence of the Spirit of God. To the saints, there is no one like Jesus: He stands alone in His unique glory, and when seen among those God has given Him as companions, He is the Chiefest, "The Firstborn among many brethren." He is supreme because of who He is, and because of what He is; yet in wondrous grace He has become Man, and looks upon His own in tenderness and grace, loving them with a love that is divine.
"His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers."
Natural beauty, in its attractiveness and charm, is written on the cheeks; but the beauty of the Lord Jesus could not be discerned by men naturally. The eyes of the heart had to be opened to behold "His cheeks as a bed of spices." He grew up before the Father as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground, but the language of Israel was. "There is no beauty that we should desire Him." There was a little remnant whose eyes were divinely opened, and they beheld His beauty. The aged Simeon could say, "Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation," as he looked upon the Babe, Jesus, and "Anna . . . spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." They discerned the peculiar beauty of the "Tender plant."
The fragrance of the bed of spices delighted the hearts of the disciples, telling Peter, through the Father's revelation, that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But what was so attractive to those drawn to the Son by the Father, was hateful to the men of this world, so that the Lord had to say of them. "They have both seen and hated both me and my Father." There are beautiful features in natural character which, although defiled by sin, can yet be discerned. They were seen by the Lord in the man who had kept the law from his youth, and it is written, "Jesus beholding him, loved him" (Mark 10:21). The graces of Christ are of a higher order than the sweetest graces of nature; they are like "Raised beds of sweet plants." Meekness, lowliness and gentleness are beautiful to see in men, but how exalted were these features in Him, "Who being in the form of God, made Himself of no reputation . . . humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:6-8). The lovely traits of the divine nature are to be seen in the lives of the saints as they walk in the Spirit, but they were seen in their fulness and perfection in Jesus.
Although the Jews did not discern the divine glory of the Son or appreciate His moral perfections, yet He said to them, "Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am." Blinded by sin, they had rejected Him, the sweet fragrance of His grace being to them like "A savour of death unto death." Such was their hatred that they smote "The judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." But even the expression of their hatred brought out the perfections of His holy nature; for in His sorrows the sweet spices were most fragrant: human enmity and malice could not hinder the diffusion of the odour from heaven that belonged to the Man out of heaven. How richly were His sweet graces shed forth when He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheek to them that plucked off the hair (Isaiah 1, 6).
"His lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh."
The words of Jesus were altogether pure, being the expression of what He was Himself. When the Jews asked Him, "Who art thou?" He replied, "Altogether that which I also say unto you." The purity and beauty of the lily are not only to be seen when it is considered by itself; these lovely features often stand out in contrast to its surroundings, even as is written in Cant. 2:2, "As the lily among thorns." How different were the words of Jesus from those of the leaders of this world! Sometimes the Scribes spoke the words of Moses, but their works were in marked contrast: their words were not the expression of themselves: there was not the purity of the lily about them. When the Pharisees endeavoured to entangle the Lord in His talk, when they asked if it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, were their words not like thorns?
There were no thorns in His words when He spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth. for they "All bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth." Grace was poured into His lips from the inner springs of His being; His words were not only the revelation of God's grace, but the expression of His own deep feelings of compassion for men. How sweet the smell of the myrrh in the words of love spoken by the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." His words were not like those of men who had "The poison of asps under their lips"; nor like the false teachers of whom the Apostle Peter speaks, who would "Speak great swelling words of vanity" and "Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you."
Myrrh was one of the "Principal spices," found in the holy anointing oil of the High Priest, and on the garment of Jehovah's King in Psalm 45. The fragrance that belongs to Him as Priest in heaven now, and that shall be found in Him as King when He returns, is the same fragrance that came out in His words of grace as the Man of Sorrows on earth. Wine mingled with myrrh was given to the Lord on the cross; a mixture of myrrh and aloes was brought by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for the burial of Jesus, and myrrh was one of the gifts brought by the wise men from the East when Jesus was born. How fragrant was Christ in every circumstance down here, from His birth until found in death for the pleasure of God: fragrant to His God and Father, and fragrant to those who have learned, as taught of God, to appreciate His moral perfections. In the 5th verse of our chapter, the bride finds myrrh on her hands and fingers after touching the door where her Beloved had been. What had been found on the lock of the door she now discovers dropping from His lips.
"His hands gold rings, set with the beryl."
How blessed it is for us to contemplate the Son of God as loved of the Father, who has "Given all things into His hand" (John 3:35). Having received all from the Father, He wrought in this world to secure all that lay in the Father's counsels. With this before Him, He said. "I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). His was indeed a divine work, as signified by the gold; He wrought in divine righteousness, bringing glory to God and blessing to men. All His work was because of the Father, even as He said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). God's rest had been broken by the entry of sin into the world, and the Father commenced to work afresh, not to repair the damage done in the old creation, but to bring in a new creation that never could be marred or touched by sin. It was in relation to this great new creation work that the Son of God was found as a workman in this world.
Does not the ring speak of what has no end? All the works of the Son of God will abide for ever! When the Messiah of Israel was crucified, it seemed as if He had laboured in vain, and spent His strength for naught, and in vain (Isaiah 49:4): but that which appeared to bring His work to nothing was the very means that God used to secure His counsels of eternal blessing and glory. When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven, "He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thess. 1:7, 10). Christ is building His assembly, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail; and this same assembly is to be the vessel for the eternal display of the glory of God (Eph. 3:21). In the blessed hands of the Son of God we see all that God has committed to Him, all that is divine and eternal; but what He has wrought for the pleasure of His God and Father bears the same divine and eternal impress.
The gold rings were set with the beryl, a precious stone that is used in Daniel 10:6 to bring before us the glory of the Lord. In the workmanship of the Son of God there is that which reflects the light of heaven that was revealed in Him, and which sets forth His own glory. It is indeed wonderful that the saints take character from Christ: "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11).
"His belly — bright ivory overlaid with sapphires."
The feelings of Christ, His compassions and affections, are indicated by "His belly," or "His body." How wondrously did the compassions of Christ shine out in this world! He had compassion on the multitudes, feeding them and healing their sick. His heart was moved by the cries of the blind, by the appeal of the leper, and by the sight of the sorrowing widow of Nain whose son had died. In the parable of the Good Samaritan He delighted to tell of His compassion for the helpless: and in the parable of the Prodigal of the compassion of the Father's heart.
But the feelings of Christ for His own were different from His compassions for sinners: they were the love-gift of the Father to the Son. Of them, He said to the Father, "They were thine, and thou gavest them me." His love for them was expressed in His great care and watchfulness over them, and was particularly shown on the night when, "Having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end." It is a love that passes knowledge, and which has been measured in the infinite sufferings of the cross. In compassion He wept over Jerusalem, knowing all the sorrows that awaited the guilty city; but in sympathy, aroused by His deep love for the sorrowing sisters, He wept with Martha and Mary.
Ivory is durable and stable; and such are the compassions and affections of Christ. Not all the enmity and hatred of men could dry up the fountain of pity that welled up in the bowels of Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane He healed the ear of the servant that Peter's sword had smitten; and on the cross He listened to the plea of the dying thief, saying to him, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." His love remains the same on the risen side of death as when He gave Himself for His friends, and for His church upon the cross. Yes! "He loved them unto the end," and His love will not be satisfied until He presents the church "To Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." When the church is seen by John in vision, after the millennial reign of Christ, and entering into her eternal portion, she is "As a bride adorned for her husband." The love of Christ for His church is undimmed after the thousand years: His is indeed a stable and enduring love.
The blue sapphire stones with which the bright ivory was overlaid surely reflect the heavenly character of Christ's love and compassions. What heavenly light is brought to us in the manifestation of the feelings of the heart of Christ! Do we not realise in contemplating the movements of the Son of God in this world, in all His ways of grace and love, that He was actuated with motives and sensibilities that were divine? His thoughts and desires were so unlike those of the men of this world; every spring of action within Him took character from heaven, as did every movement of His life. He did not live for Himself, even as He said, "I live on account of the Father." There was no other reason for His coming down from heaven.
"His legs — pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold."
Christ's steps through this world engage the hearts and minds of those who love Him, and are here likened unto pillars of marble. The apostle Peter seems to have been contemplating the pillars of marble when he wrote, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps." Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar, and it served as a witness between him and Laban. The writing upon the pillars of the temple, Jachin and Boaz, witnessed that "He will establish," and "In Him is strength." And do not the steps of the Son of God in this world, left in the record of God's word, tell us of God's ways in grace, and of the unflinching devotedness of Him who knew what it was to be weary with His journey, and who set His face as a flint to go to Jerusalem?
Marble is both strong and beautiful, as were the steps of the Lord Jesus in all His ways. From the 9th chapter of his Gospel, Luke views the Lord as journeying to Jerusalem, "When the time was come that He should be received up, He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." Luke 9:51. And how strong was He, meeting all the opposition with a moral strength that was peculiarly His own; every step graced with rich beauty like the lines on marble. John Baptist saw something of the beauty of the pillars of marble when, "Looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God."
The fine gold shone out from the steps of Jesus as He walked upon the water, for who but a Divine Person could cross the Lake in this fashion? In this world He was The Word become flesh, and the disciples saw the fine gold as they "Contemplated His glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a Father." Thomas discerned the fine gold in the risen Christ when he said, "My Lord and my God." What a blessed occupation it is for us today to look upon the pillars of marble; to contemplate the moral strength that marked the way of Jesus here below, and to he engaged with the divine beauty of His every step, realising that we have been called to follow Him. While there is that in which we can follow Him, as having the divine nature, and as being indwelt by the Spirit of God: there is that which belongs peculiarly to Himself, set forth in the sockets of fine gold, that which we cannot imitate, but which we can admire. Although He walked as Man here below, He never ceased to be "The only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father."
"His countenance as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars."
Having described her Lover in the precious details that she discerned in Him, and that had attracted her to Him, the bride then speaks of His bearing, His mien, the dignity of His aspect. She beholds Him as lofty Lebanon, standing in its incomparable grandeur and elevation above all the surrounding mountains, noble and supreme, the source of streams of living waters (Cant. 4:15). And is not this how Christ appears to us as we behold Him passing through this world, and also in the place that God has given to Him at His right hand in heaven. See the nobility of His bearing when He "Entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when He had looked round about upon all things" (Mark 11:11), taking cognisance of all as the rightful heir. How supremely dignified does He appear when standing before the chief priests and the council, and before Pilate and Herod! — noble Lebanon towering above the mountains, the leaders of the world religiously and politically.
The cedars are noted for their excellence, and especially the cedars of Lebanon; they are tall, upright and stately, and are the chief among the trees of the mountains, their timber being both firm and beautiful. Solomon "Spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall" (1 Kings 4:33). The cedar heads the list; it has precedence, and is pre-eminent in the realm in which it is found. Is it not so with Christ? Not only in Manhood here, but in His present place, He is supreme. When His excellencies and glories are brought out by the Spirit of God in Colossians 1, He is presented as "The Firstborn of all creation . . . Firstborn from among the dead, that He might have the first place in all things" (verses 14-18).
"His mouth is most sweet."
"Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth" were the first words of the bride, and the opening words of this song of songs. There she was contemplating the delight of the expression of His love for her. Here she is still occupied with Him who loves her, and with the sweetness of His love. Wine brings joy to the hearts of men, but is not to be compared to the joy of love. Men may love in word and in tongue, but divine love is expressed "In deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). How surpassing wonderful is the personal love of Christ for His own! Contemplating it individually, we can say with Paul, "The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." As gathered together, even if a few of His own, we can say, "Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour," and as forming part of the church, the bride for which Christ died, we can delight in this that "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it." We need not, like the bride in our song, to long for the expression of His love, for He has expressed it fully and perfectly as a love "Which passeth knowledge." To be in the enjoyment of Christ's love we must be near Him, not content with the knowledge that He has expressed His love, but being in the deep sense of it in communion with Him; delighting in Him who has so loved us, and responding to His knowledge surpassing love.
"Yea, He is altogether lovely."
Having surveyed her Beloved from His head of the finest gold to His legs on sockets of fine gold, and having portrayed His glories and graces in charming detail, the enraptured bride exclaims, "Yea, He is altogether lovely." Natural beauty may be found in one in whom violence and corruption are most pronounced, even as we read, "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty; from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him" (2 Sam. 14:25). There was not only the absence of blemishes in the Beloved, He is altogether lovely. With regard to moral qualities, there is perhaps none to excel Daniel, in the Old Testament, yet in the presence of "A certain man . . . girdled with fine gold of Uphaz," he has to say, "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption" (Daniel 10:5-8). However comely a man may be, when brought into the presence of Him who is altogether lovely, his most excellent qualities are felt to be debased and impure.
"This is my beloved, and this is my friend."
It was with joy welling up in her bosom that the bride spoke of Him whom she loved, and at the close she declares the intimacy of her relationship with Him; He is her friend. When Peter was challenged by the Lord as to his love, three times he answered, "Thou knowest that I love thee." However solemn and great the failure of the saints, there is indeed love for Christ in their hearts; but this love did not originate with them. "We love Him, because He first loved us." He has made us His friends, and "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." We prove that we are His friends by obedience to His word. How blessed is this intimacy into which Christ has brought us, even as He said, "I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:13-15). The Son of God has brought us into wonderful nearness and relationship. We are His brethren as well as His friends, and through His death, He could say to Mary in resurrection, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Well then do we, like the bride of old, boast of Him who is our Beloved, and who has made us His friends.
Wm. C. Reid.