The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
The Song of Solomon is the closing book of the poetical section of the Old Testament. It is probably censured more and read less than any other book. Critics have said it is indecent, and it may appear to be so to the unspiritual mind. Remember, however, that the Eastern people were a passionate people, both in love and hate.

The highest affection known to man is a husband's love for his wife. Jesus spoke of this devotion when He said, ''For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh'' (Matthew 19:5).

Some people say that the Song of Solomon is just a love song and therefore has no place in the Bible. A superficial reading of the book might lead to this conclusion. But when you consider the tremendous truth found in Ephesians 5-- that the union of a husband and wife is an earthly illustration of the heavenly relationship between Christ and His church-- then the Song of Solomon takes on a new meaning. The child of God sees the love of Christ for His church portrayed through the love of a man for his wife. One of the greatest needs of the church today is a deep, personal love for Christ.

G. Campbell Morgan said, ''The song should be treated first as a simple and yet sublime song of human affection. When it is thus understood, reverently the thoughts may be lifted into higher values of setting forth the joys of communion between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God, and ultimately between the church and Christ. Therefore, I can sing the Song of Solomon as setting forth the relationship between Christ and His bride.''

The key word of the Song of Solomon is ''beloved.'' The key verse is: ''I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine'' (Song 6:3). Let us consider the teaching of the book by looking at several important facets of the love-relationship between the bride and the bride-groom.

The betrothed said of herself, ''I am black, but comely.'' This appears to be a paradox. How can both be possible at the same time? She describes her appearance as black as ''the tents of Kedar.'' Is this not a picture of the human heart? The intense rays of the oriental sun had darkened her (v.6). But if she exclaims, ''I am black,'' her lover responds, ''Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee'' (4:7). Likewise, Christ desires to look upon the church whom He loved so much that He gave Himself for her.

The bride exclaims, ''I am... comely... like the curtains of Solomon'' (1:5). What beauty this must have been! Although she did not see much in herself (v.6), she had a beauty that was not her own. This is a picture of the righteousness of Christ given to the church.

The book contains numerous expressions of mutual affection and admiration. Yet it also has several confessions of failure on the part of the bride. In spite of our shortcomings, the love of the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, does not change. The first four chapters of the Song of Solomon show the lovers basking in each other's love. This is like the early church-- how she loved her absent Lord!

In chapter 5, the mood changes. The bridegroom still loves, but the bride is drowsy. ''I sleep, but my heart waketh. It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh'' (5:2). Her bridegroom has been out in the night, and his head is wet with dew. He has been gathering precious myrrh. He returns to find her drowsy, so he goes away.

In this present age, Christ is away. The risen Lord gave this message to the church at Ephesus: ''Thou hast left thy first love'' (Revelation 2:4). This may also be translated, ''Thou hast ceased loving Me first.'' Notice the bride's strange condition-- she is half-asleep, half-awake. Neither is beneficial. This is a fore-runner of the complete sleep.

The bride finally realized that her lover was at the door, but she was too sleepy to open it. He had been diligently working in her behalf, yet she failed to respond to him. Today, Jesus Christ is at the throne of God. He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). Night and day, He is our Advocate, warding off the accusations of Satan. Were it not for Christ, where would we be? He says to the Father, ''I pray for them.'' And what does He desire of us? The same as He requested of His disciples: ''Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation...'' (Mark 14:38).
The bride was foolish to say, ''I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?'' (5:3). A backslider usually doesn't need much of an excuse. A very weak alibi serves the purpose when a Christian is out of fellowship with God.

People who are absorbed in the business world, meeting the public, handling thousands of dollars, and engaging in commerce, are often too preoccupied to serve the Lord effectively. The bride had put off her coat and washed her feet. She was concerned only for herself. Why should she be disturbed by a knock? The apostle Paul wrote of some Christians in his day, ''For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's'' (Philippians 2:21).
''I opened to my beloved'' (5:6). One version translates verse 4, ''Her head moved when she saw his hand put in by the hole of the door.'' But she did not move until ''her heart was moved'' (v.4). But when she went to open the door, he was already gone. Backsliding always begins with the heart. If there is even a pinhole of disobedience in the door, His searching hand will find it. When she finally responded, he had left. Christ sometimes withholds His blessing so that we will seek Him all the more. Christian, do not trifle with the things of God. ''Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap'' (Galatians 6:7).
''My soul failed when he spoke.'' We know that the bridegroom had spoken to her (v.2). But instead of obeying immediately, she began to make excuses. Now, like Peter would do centuries later [Mat 26:75], she mournfully remembered her guilt and failure. She knew exactly what the sin was; she had chosen selfish ease over obedience to him. What a miserable condition resulted! (v.6-8).

First, fellowship was broken. ''I sought him, but I could not find him'' (v.6). Sin always leads to separation. When the Spirit of God is grieved, our communion with Christ is interrupted. Please understand-- the relationship is not broken, but the fellowship is severed.

Second, her prayer was unanswered. ''I called him, but he gave me no answer'' (v.6). Our Lord said, ''If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you'' (John 15:7). This requires obedience. No Christian can expect his prayers to be answered if there is disobedience in his life. A striking association is made in the book of James between answers to prayer and the presence of sin. The failure to repent and confess short-circuits the process (Jam 5:15,16).

Third, the bride lost her testimony. ''The watchmen that went about the city found me; they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me'' (v.7). The bride was so changed that the city watchmen did not recognize her. Both sorrow and shame came upon her. Likewise, backsliders can expect correction from faithful Christians. Rebuke must be given; repentance and confession are required.

With repentant heart, the bride describes her bridegroom. She is not reluctant to acknowledge him now. Following this, he returns and their fellowship is restored. She increasingly experiences his deep and unchanging love. At the beginning she could say with an abounding heart, ''My beloved is mine, and I am his'' (Song 2:16). But now, she can declare with complete trust: ''I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me'' (7:10).

Across every page of the Song of Solomon could be written these words of the apostle Paul: ''This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church'' (Eph 5:32).

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

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