The Song of Solomon - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
They made me keeper of the vineyards, But mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Song of Songs 1:6
There are those who treat this Book as a song of human love. There are those who consider its only value is that of its mystical suggestiveness. Personally, I believe that both values are here. If it has no mystical intention, it is invaluable as a song of love between man and woman. If it has mystical intentions, they are conveyed by the highest figurative vehicle, that of this very love. This is the language of the Bride to the attendant virgins. It is not that of apology in the sense of confessing failure. It is that of apology in the sense of defence. Note the whole movement. She is black, but comely. She is swarthy, the sun has scorched her; but that, while keeping the vineyards of others. The blackness, the swarthiness, are due to service; the personal vineyard unkept is of the nature of sacrifice in the interest of that service. The watching virgins might wonder at the love of the Bridegroom for this Bride, bearing certain marks of limitation or lack of what they conceived as personal beauty. The Bride declares that these marks are the evidences of that in her which her Bridegroom values. They become the symbols of the truest beauty. On the level of human love how suggestive this is. To a true man, the chief things of beauty in a woman are those which testify to her greatness of soul; oftentimes the apparent disfigurement of the superficial and external is evidence of greatness of character. In the realm of mystic interpretation, we here touch a profound truth. The Bride of Christ is beautiful in His eyes in proportion as she bears the marks of real fellowship with His sacrificial service. He Who emptied Himself, rejoices in those who, in their devotion to the vineyards of others, rise to the height of neglecting their own.
As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
Song of Songs 2:2
This is the language of the Bridegroom. In it, he adopts the description which the Bride has given of herself in the words immediately preceding, "I am a rose of Sharon; a lily of the valleys"; but adds to its impressiveness and beauty by the words "among thorns." The lily referred to was certainly a scarlet flower, and a not uncommon one; just as the rose of Sharon was the violet and white crocus which abounded. Thus the Bride's description of herself was really self-depreciatory, rather than otherwise. It was as if she saw that there was nothing in her beauty extraordinary or out of the common. Here the Revised helps us as it renders "a rose of Sharon," rather than "the rose of Sharon"; and "a lily of the valleys," rather than "the lily of valleys." To this the Bridegroom replies by accepting her description of herself as "a lily," but not as one among many, but as one in comparison with whom all others in his eyes are as thorns. This is the true outlook of love. To the man, the wonder in his beloved is ever that she is full of beauty, when others growing in the self-same soil are devoid of it. When we interpret the words as those of Christ, they are the more arresting, because the description is literally true. Those beloved of Him, flourish and become truly beautiful, in soil which produces thorns. The graces and beauties of the Lord's beloved ones are not those of plants nourished in hothouses; they are those which are developed in places of storm and frost and unpromising soils. Here, necessarily, the mystic interpretation carries us into a realm higher and more wonderful than nature can interpret.
When I found him whom my soul loveth; I held him, and would not let him go.
Song of Songs 3:4
This is the language of the Bride. It is part of her account of her memories of those days in which her lover was wooing her; and in particular it is the record of a dream. After the beloved had come (2:8-14); and passed (2:15-17); the night came; and, in her dreams, she thought she had lost him. Still in dreams, she rose and searched the city for him, inquiring from the watchmen. At last she found him; and then she held him and would not let him go. On the human level, as a story of love, this is very natural and very beautiful. Love creates a perpetual dread lest the loved one should be lost; and this dread, often only subconscious in the daytime, takes the form of actual experience in the dreaming of the night. Then follows the search, and the new grip upon the loved one when he is found. All of this is a poetic and true interpretation of the power of love when it masters a life. When we make the story figurative and interpretative of those highest relationships of the soul with God through Christ, it becomes a wonderful revelation of the sensitiveness of the life which is really in love with Christ, and so with God. We are only safe so long as the dread of the loss of our Beloved keeps us ever sensitive and watchful. When, either in a dream, or in reality we lose our sense of His presence, let us search for Him; and then in the finding, with new devotion, let us hold Him, and refuse to let Him go.
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 precious fruits. Song of Songs 4:16
In the section beginning at 3:6 we have the story of the betrothal; and in these words the response of the Bride to the proposal of the Bridegroom is recorded. It is the language of her yielding to him, of her acceptance of his call. It is highly pictorial, and poetic with the fine spirit of the East. In the first part of it, she thinks of herself, of her personality, that which is her garden. In the second part she thinks of herself as belonging to him, she is now his garden. Her desire for herself is that the fragrance of her personality may flow forth for his sake. Therefore she calls for the double ministry of the north and south winds; of that which is cold and health-giving, the spirit of principle; of that which is warm and comforting, the spirit of passion. Under this double ministry, all the beauty of personality is perfected, as principle is suffused with passion, and passion governed by principle. Then, to the garden, so prepared and perfected, let the beloved come, and cat his precious fruits. The dominant desire of the speaker is that of the satisfaction of the Beloved. This consideration rises without strain to the higher realms. The one overwhelming passion of the loved of the Lord, is to give His heart satisfaction, to provide for Him the precious fruits for which He in love is seeking. That we may do that, we call for the north wind and for the south; for adversity and prosperity; for winter and summer; in order that by their varied ministries, we may become to Him a garden of delights.
This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Songs 5:16
This is the language of the Bride, and it is the climax of her reply to the question of the daughters of Jerusalem. They had said: "What is thy beloved more than beloved?" I have omitted the word another, because while it does express the sense of the question, it is not in the Hebrew text, and to me the inquiry is more forceful without it. They said: "What is there in thy beloved, more than what any other woman sees in her own beloved?" It was a perfectly natural question. And yet there is more, for that woman. The Bride replies by describing him in all the wealth of oriental imagery. Yet any other woman might have used every figure in describing her beloved. But, at last, and as I think, half unconsciously, the truth is out as she said: "This is my beloved, and this is my friend." That is the truth, and no description of the beloved is satisfactory except to the one employing it, who all the while sees more than words are conveying to others. The application of this in the highest realms transcends the human level. No believer can describe the Lord, for every description breaks down. That is why, for instance, no artist has ever satisfied any other than himself, in portraying Jesus, and it is questionable whether he has done that. The supernal wonder of our Lord is that He is the altogether Lovely One to His Bride, and so to all the multitudes of souls which constitute that Bride. Every one of them can say: "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend"; and if each could portray to others what that means, the wonder of the revelation would be that of the many-coloured grace and glory of the Lord. And that is what they will do in the ages to come, when to principalities and powers they reveal the wisdom and love of God, and Christ comes to be admired in His saints.
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?
Song of Songs 6:10
These words are by some attributed to the women referred to in the previous verse. That is not my understanding of the movement. From the fourth verse of this chapter up to and including the ninth of the next one, we have the Bridegroom's musings upon the grace and beauty of his Bride. Having in those musings referred to the praising of the women, he breaks out into this ecstatic utterance. It is the highest note reached in all the descriptions, and can only be interpreted as referring to beauties of character, even on the level of earthly love. The terms are purely poetic. The word for moon means whiteness; and that for sun means heat. They are only used in poetry. Follow the stages of description. The picture is of the dawn moving to noon. First the freshness and beauty of the morning hour just as the night is passing; then the whiteness of the moon, the fairness of purity; then the clarity, and freedom from alloy resulting from the action of fire; and finally the irresistible majesty of an army marching under its banners. These are the ultimate things of beauty in the Bride, the things which capture and hold the love of the Bridegroom. This verse has been a great stronghold for those who have employed the mystic method of interpretation of this song, and justifiably so. Thus Christ sees His Bride, as she will be in that fair morn of moms when the triumph of His redeeming grace is complete in her. Let every member of that Bride ponder the vision, and by ever increasing submission to His grace, press toward the mark of His high calling.
I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.
Song of Songs 7:10
That is the voice of the Bride, following the musing of the Bridegroom. It is the full, final, ultimate word of love. It expresses complete satisfaction, absolute rest, the uttermost of contentment and peace. There are two elements in it. The first is that of complete abandonment; "I am my beloved's." The second is that of the realization that the beloved is satisfied; "His desire is toward me." There are no words in literature so completely, and perfectly, and yet simply, setting forth the highest experience of human love; and therefore they are words which justify the mystical interpretation of this Song to the full. This is the language of the soul when it has found its final rest and satisfaction in the love of God - both His love for the soul, and the soul's love for Him. This, of course, for us finds its fulfilment in and through Christ. To be able to use these words as defining the relationship between the soul and Him is to have found the highest joy, the profoundest peace, the complete experience of love. The contemplation of the ideal becomes an investigation. We can say without doubt, wonderful as the fact is, that "His desire is toward us." Can we say - each personally - "I am my Beloved's?" It is only as we can, that we begin to know the depth and richness of His love. His desire toward us found demonstration in His Cross. Our appreciation of that desire is in the measure of our abandonment of ourselves to His love.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awaken love, until it please.
Song of Songs 8:4
Let us go back and read 2:7 and 3:5. The similarity to this verse is at once recognized. In each case I omit in reading the "my" which is suggested by translators, and adopt the marginal reading "it," instead of "he." In each case there is identity in the call; the only difference is that in this last occurrence the illustrative words "By the roes, and by the hinds of the field" are omitted. When this great Song is carefully set out, it is found to consist in the main of words of the Bride and Bridegroom. To these are added certain words of the virgins addressed to Bride or Bridegroom. But on these three occasions it is yet another voice. This is the voice of Wisdom, uttering a warning, which is needed, and which is made powerful by the matchless love-story. What is this warning? That love is so sacred a thing that it must not be trifled with. It is not to be sought. It stirs and awakens of itself. To trifle with the capacity for it, is to destroy that very capacity. This is the evil of all philandering. Would that these words could be sung into the deepest soul of all youths and maidens. The tragedies of disobedience to the warnings are everywhere. Is there any application of these words possible in that higher realm which we have had in mind throughout our reading? I think there is. They warn us against the peril of endeavouring to force an experience of love to Christ and God in others. Our privilege is to introduce our loved ones, our children, our friends, everybody, to Christ; but they must fall in love with Him for themselves. Was not this in His mind, when He told His disciples to tell no man that He was the Christ? As He had said to Peter, that revelation comes, not of flesh and blood, but of the Father. We wrong the souls of the young, and indeed of any, when we endeavour to force an experience. Let us lead them to Him. He will awaken love.