Song of Songs 4:1-5:1
Song of Songs 4:1-5 (ESV) 1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. 2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young. 3 Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. 4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. 5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies.
Did you ever in your youth receive a love letter in which your lover described everything the person loved about you? Do you remember how it made you feel the first time you read it as you raced through the words to drink them in as quickly as you could? Do you remember reading it over and over and keeping it stashed safely away to read in the future? That is how I believe we are to receive this chapter (and the other two descriptions 6:4-7 and 7:1-5). These are the words of Jesus to His bride.
Men, you will have a more difficult challenge as the descriptions of Jesus’ lover are of a woman, but you too are a part of the bride. Remember that the physical is only an analogy of the spiritual. You don't have beautiful breasts, but you do have spiritual qualities the Holy Spirit is developing in you that cause Jesus to be drawn to those beautiful qualities. He made you in His image, and He is restoring that image.
I will not try to draw an analogy from each description. I think that would be missing the point. Remember our parallel psalm told us that if we want the king to desire us, we should forget our peoples and our father's house (Psalm 45:10). The beauty He sees in us is our passion for Him that far surpasses all other affections. He is the beautiful One (Psalm 45:2), for every attribute of His is perfection, like a flawless diamond with each facet illuminating others. So, if there is beauty in us, it is our resemblance to His glorious attributes, though not all of them are communicable. The ones that can be brought out in us are summed up in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
When I read the fruits of the Spirit, I focus on all those areas in which I have the furthest to go, not on the few that are already starting to develop by the grace of God. This chapter is Jesus seeing us after we have seen Him. The site of Him in His glory will finish what was not yet complete (1 John 3:2). But right now, we are a work in progress. It is helpful to see the current blemishes for by seeing them we see where the work needs to focus and appreciate the grace extended to us. But we also need to keep that in balance with appreciation for those areas we notice are changing for the better.
Remember that Jesus is in the timeless realm and when He looks upon you, He can choose to see that finished work. He loves who you are in Him, and who you are becoming. By describing it as a man would describe his young bride, the passage brings out the passion that Jesus has for us. What better way for us to relate to a passionate desire for us! God must use descriptions with which we can relate.
Consider that if instead the writer wrote something like, "I see the love and joy in you developing to be more like my own and it thrills me." It wouldn't have nearly the punch that this chapter has. Every description we make must relate to something we are familiar with and personally experience in romance with our spouse, for marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.
The woman will describe the man's body in 5:10-16, but only one third as much as the man describes her. Men are moved by sight as women are moved by words. There were certainly some kind of flaws in this woman. She even said she was too tanned. But love is blind. He sees only beauty in her. That is the eyes of grace with which the Lord sees us. But husbands and wives take note. Wives, let your spouse enjoy the beauty of your body and husbands let her hear the beauty you see in her. Husbands, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You should let her be your definition of a beautiful woman.
It is hard for us to fathom the beauty of the bride of Christ for she consists of evangelists in India, German Bible scholars, doctors in Bangladesh, teachers in Africa, missionaries in Peru, and so much more. There are so many features and body parts (1 Corinthians 12), but Jesus sees it all as flawless. The weeds within congregations are not part of the body and so they remain unmentioned.
We must keep in mind that this is sacred. The world so perverts sex and nudity that we think the married couples physical relationship must be somewhat tainted with all that filth. The Bible declares that it is sacred and even a picture of Christ and the church. Don’t let the world’s view corrupt God’s gift of the pleasure of married love.
Before Malcom Muggeridge was converted, he told his father of an experience that shook him to the core. While in India he could see the dark form of a naked woman on the other side of the river. He was overcome with lust and dove in to swim across to her.
I darted with all the force of swimming I had to where she was, and then nearly fainted, for she was old and hideous and her feet were deformed and turned inwards and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper ... [u]ntil you have seen one you do not know the worst that human ugliness can be. This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask, and the next thing I knew was that I was swimming along in my old way in the middle of the stream—yet trembling.... It was the kind of lesson I needed. When I think of lust now I think of this lecherous woman."
Years later, after Muggeridge became a Christian, he wrote these memorable words: “[N]o desert is so dreary, monotonous and boring as evil,” and “Nothing is so beautiful, nothing so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy as good.” (- from Preaching the Word - The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy.) What a contrast between the world's abuse of God's gift and the joy and unity found in a monogamous sacred relationship.
Song of Songs 4:6 (ESV) Until the day breathes and the shadows flee,I will go away to the mountain of myrrhand the hill of frankincense.
This is no quicky to satisfy an urge. He declares He will enjoy loving her throughout the night, until the breaking of dawn. Are our times in the prayer closet on a microwave setting of minutes, or will we stay longer if He so desires?
Song of Songs 4:7-8 (ESV) 7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. 8 Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.
This verse bowls me over. Will you hear Jesus say this to you? I'm all too familiar with my flaws, but Jesus sees His own righteousness in me and in all who are in Him. Again, it is the finished work He sees, but clothed in Christ is how you appear to Him now though you are still in the process of sanctification (Romans 13:14; Hebrews 10:14).
Song of Songs 4:9 (ESV) You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,with one jewel of your necklace.
This is another verse that just overwhelms me. I long to look into the eyes of Jesus, but He says His heart is captivated by one glance from our eyes. How can that be? Do we dare to believe it? We must keep returning to the cross where we see the extent He went out of love to make us His own. Men, we are supposed to love our wives like that. What a challenge!
Song of Songs 4:10-11 (ESV) 10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! 11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
“He again calls Shulammite his "bride," but he also refers to her as his "sister," something he will do no less than five times (cf.4:9,10,12; 5:1,2). We should understand the use of the word in its historical context. In the Ancient Near East sister was a term of affection and friendship. In addition to its literal meaning, it could indicate a close and intimate relationship that a husband and wife enjoyed.” (From Christ-Centered Exposition - Exalting Jesus in Song of Songs.)
How many times has He told her how beautiful she is? They have told their spouse that their kisses and love are intoxicating. Take the tip men and TALK! The way to her heart is through her ears.
Song of Songs 4:12-15 (ESV) 12 A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed. 13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices— 15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.
First the king praises her virginity. Then comes the foreplay in words of love, expressions of her beauty - preparation for intimacy. In this we also see the parallel of the physical with fruits and spices which we know are analogous to fruits of the Spirit. Where water flows there is an abundance of life.
Song of Songs 4:16 (ESV) 16 Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
Take me; I'm yours! Have we let His words of love capture or hearts so that we surrender to His will? The bride gives Him her body for love. We yield the members of our bodies to His sanctified service (Romans 12:1,2).
I'd like to close this chapter with an emphasis on the necessity to accept how God sees us. As we read this, we tend to think of it in an impersonal way. “This can't be Jesus talking about me. Maybe some super saint but not me.” Let us look at a few verses in the New Testament that reveal to us that it is indeed about you personally as well as believers corporately. We all know John 3:16, but do we put our name in that passage? For God so loved me, that He sent His beloved Son... Romans 5:8 God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, What kind of love? 1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 4:9,10 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the World, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins. (John 15:9) tells us He loves us like the Father loves Him! Try to get your heart and mind around that! He tells us that there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friends and then He did it (John 15:13).
This great love is so broad and all-encompassing that God describes it as the love of a Father for His children, of brothers in a family, and as we are studying now, of groom for His bride. It is too big to fit into one category. We experience more of the Fatherly love now, and that is because we are so immature. But remember that heaven begins with the wedding feast of the Lamb.
This love is so much a part of who God is that John describes Him as love (1 John 4:9). Since He is with us and in us, He expects the chief characteristic of our lives to be love (John 15:17). His new command is to love one another. We couldn't live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1) until Love empowered us with His loving presence. If God so loved us then we ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of love.
I know the old nature's response because I hear it often. He says, "But you know how selfish you are and the thoughts that pop into your head. God can't love YOU like that." If I listen to that lie, I am doubting that the work of Jesus on the cross for my sins was sufficient. I'm calling God a liar instead of Satan who is the father of lies. I'm basically saying that works count, and I haven't done enough good works for God to love me. I'm saying God's grace isn't big enough for me. When you put it that way, it gives you the conviction to tell the old nature to shut up and climb back in his or her putrid coffin. God says I'm a new creation in Jesus! Dare I doubt Him? And if I'm a new creation then this love we are reading about is a picture of God's spiritual assessment of ME - and my brothers and sisters in Christ. That is why I am to love them. I hope that is clear enough to help you change the way you see yourself. Yes, we all need to grow in sanctification, but the grace of God loves you to this extent NOW!
Song of Songs 5:1 (ESV) 1 I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!
This is the exact center of the Song and is the consummation of their marriage. Sounds like He really enjoyed the intimacy with His bride! Notice the use of the word "my" nine times! Can we accept the wonder that this describes how He feels about the sharing of our hearts in prayer, calling us His own? We know when He speaks to our hearts and we've had sweet communion with Him we are blessed. We also need to realize that He enjoys that fellowship as well.
The others sing an encouragement to enjoy the love we share. 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) In a marriage, the pleasure of sexual intimacy within the boundary of marriage is called pure. It is a gift from God. But if we love another it is adultery. This is how Jesus feels about His relationship with us. That intimacy of the prayer closet is our priority on Jesus alone and no other thing should compete for His place. While all types of things tempt us to be unfaithful and fix our hearts on them, they are not pure, and to set our hearts on them is spiritual adultery.
The Bride of Christ
(Brooks and Byers)
O Church of God, thou spotless bride,
On Jesus' breast secure;
No stains of sin in thee abide
Thy garments all are pure.
Of unity and holiness
Thy gentle voice doth sing;
Of purity and lowliness
Thy songs in triumph ring.
Thou lovely virgin, thou art fair,
Thy mother's only child;
Thy heav'nly music let me hear,
Thy voice is sweet and mild.
Thy cheeks adorned with jewels bright,
Thy neck with chains of gold;
Unfurl thy banners in thy might,
Thy graces rich unfold.
She stood attired in spotless dress
The early morning through,
And then into the wilderness
On eagle's wings she flew.
And nourished there from heav'nly clime,
She lived for many years;
Now, in this blessed evening time
Her glory reappears.
She leans upon an Arm of Love
No sin her garments taints;
They're made of linen wov'n above—
The righteousness of saints.
The marriage of the Lamb is come,
His bride all ready stands;
The Bridegroom soon will take her home
To dwell in heav'nly lands.
Do you struggle with these descriptions being about you as the bride of Christ?
What is the beauty He is developing in us?
Why does God use analogies?
Review the Muggeridge lesson.
What does verse 6 suggest about our time in prayer?
Can you receive verses 7 and 9?
How should we read “sister”?
What does the Bible say about His love for you?