Jesus Is Enthralled by His People (4:8-11)
8Come 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. 9You 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. 10How 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! 11Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
As we suggested in the previous meditation, these verses are the second section of a poem that runs from 4:1 to 5:1. In the first two sections, the king addresses the woman, whereas in the third section (4:12–5:1), they both speak. The king had detailed her beauty in the first section before leaving to go to the mountains of myrrh, which we suggested was a picture of Jesus living in heaven until the day breaks and the shadows flee.
Conversion to Jesus
The poem now returns to describe the communion that exists between the king and the one he loves. It opens with him asking her to leave the mountains of Lebanon (Shenir and Hermon are names of the same mountain), which were on the northern border of Israel. Being mountains, they were obviously places where a person could obtain a good view of the surrounding countryside, although the aspect of them that is stressed by the king is their danger, particularly from wild animals.
Given its location in the poem, it is likely that there is a contrast between the mountains of Lebanon and the mountain of myrrh. If the latter depicts heaven, then the former depicts the world. Where are the mountains of Lebanon? They are on the northern border of the Promised Land. Symbolically the mountains of Lebanon pictures the combined attractiveness and danger of the world. Solomon, in the poem, draws near and urges his love to leave that perilous location and come into the safety of his domains. In a far greater way, King Jesus comes to each of his people and urges them to come into the safety of his kingdom.
I suppose we can see this invitation in two ways. One is to regard it as the Saviour desiring the believer in his unconverted state to leave the world of danger. It is the case that there are many attractions in the world that we enjoy before our conversion, although we don’t see them as the location of danger because we cannot, by ourselves, see that all of them are trapdoors above the tunnel that descends to hell. It is only when Jesus draws near and opens our eyes that we see that danger is all around us.
Connected to this, we could say that it is not enough for a person to contemplate the view, as it were, of spiritual blessings but failing to enter in and enjoy them. It is possible, for example, for a person to understand Christian doctrine without enjoying its blessings, to be attracted to a Christian lifestyle without beginning to live it. To such, Jesus says, ‘Come with me.’
In the parable of the sower, Jesus mentions that the devil is active, determined to take the seed of the word out of the hearts and minds of listeners by any way he can. One way he does this is by distraction, by pointing out the pleasures and enjoyments of the world. Many a person has climbed high enough to get a view of Canaan but who never crossed into it.
The other interpretation is to see the situation as depicting a backsliding Christian. Backsliding often involves living on the borders of the Promised Land, the area over which Jesus reigns as King in a particular sense (of course, Jesus reigns over all things in a general sense but it is also the case that he reigns over the church in particular). Such believers often head off in the wrong direction down the mountain further away from the safety of Christ’s kingdom. If the unconverted view the glories of the Promised Land from these mountains, the backslider looks the other way and observes the attractions of the world. Any location of potential backsliding is a place of great danger and Jesus urges his disciples to keep away from them. To such, Jesus says, ‘Come with me.’
I recall an illustration I heard many years ago. It involved an important lady who wanted to hire a coach driver. Part of the road to her house went alongside a steep cliff. Therefore she asked each applicant how close they could drive to the edge without going over. One said a yard, another said a foot. The one that was given the job said he would keep as far away from the edge as possible. This should be our attitude towards the world. Backsliding begins when we prefer to do something else than think about Christ, when we take our eyes off his kingdom.
Contemplated by Christ
Verses 9-11 depict the way a believer, who leaves the borders of the world, appears in Christ’s estimation. Obviously he is delighted with such and gives to them great insight about himself and his plans for them. For example, Jesus reveals to them that he and each of his people are related to one another in a twofold manner. The poem uses a twofold illustration of a sister and of a bride to describe the relationship: sister depicts a tie of nature and bride depicts the tie of love.
Jesus, although he is fully God, is also fully man. Although there are many details that could be mentioned of such kinship, the one I would mention first is that of fellow-feeling. Because he is a man, he understands our frame. Think of the shepherdess in the poem. She was of a different class from King Solomon. Would he understand her needs? Whether Solomon could or not, it is clear that Jesus can understand the needs of his people. ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Heb. 4:15-16). He is able to sympathise with us.
Another aspect of a believer’s relationship to Jesus, which appears under the use of the term ‘sister’, is that of belonging to the same family. Jesus is the Elder Brother and he can say to each of his people, ‘You are my brother, you are my sister.’ In the poem, Solomon had taken the poor shepherdess into his royal family, a faint picture of the change of status that Jesus gives to each of his people when brought into the family of God. So Jesus draws near and reminds her that he understands her humanness and delights in her status as a member of the family of God.
The king also calls the woman, ‘my bride,’ which stresses another aspect of the relationship between Christ and his disciples, that of intimacy and love. Jesus says to each disciple, ‘You have ravished my heart.’ This is an extraordinary insight into the love of Jesus for each of his people. He is enthralled by every one of them. If we observe the progression of his esteem in the previous section of the poem, we see that he begins with her eyes and then mentioned other details. In this section of the poem he says that he is affected by one of her looks and by one chain on her necklace. What this image indicates is that Jesus is greatly affected by each of our graces as well as by all of them. One look of the eye of a disciple moves the heart of Jesus.
The king then says that he admires her love, saying that it is better than wine. Wine is a symbol of the highest of joys and Jesus states that he truly values the love of his people. As we think of our love for Jesus, in what ways can it be enhanced? First, we love him because he redeemed us; second, we love him because he forgave us (the woman who anointed Christ loved him much because she had been forgiven much); third, we love him because he restores us when we fall (as happened to Peter in John 21); and fourth, we love him because he is preparing a home in heaven for us. Loss of our love for Jesus cannot be counterbalanced by Christian orthodoxy or activity (as the church in Ephesus, in Revelation 2:1-7, discovered). A fearful estimation is made by Paul concerning those who don’t love Jesus: ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha’ (1 Cor. 16:22). There are many reasons why we should love Jesus, but it staggers us to know how much it means to him.
Along with the affections of her heart, the King is moved by the aroma of her fragrances. This is a common feature in the Song as a whole, with reference being made several times to the fragrances of the woman. These depict the influences of the Spirit that accompany love in the heart of the believer. They are listed in Galatians 5:22-23: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ Holiness is revealed in the life of one who loves Jesus.
In verse 11, the poem describes the external evidence, as it were. Her heart and her ointments would be hidden, although the effects were not. But her speech is also attractive to Jesus. ‘Here he would encourage us in communion with him by assuring us how pleasant to his heart is our language of prayer and praise’ (Burrows). Surely this is an encouragement to us to be often in personal contact with him. It is also the case that our words about him to others are precious to Jesus.
Her words are described as being like milk and honey. As we know, this was the description that was given of Canaan; it was the land flowing with milk and honey. Jesus says that his bride soon speaks like an inhabitant of his country, that her speech reveals that she is now a citizen of the better land. One has only to look at the penitent criminal on the cross to note the change of speech that happens to those who join the Saviour’s kingdom.
Even her garments are better than the best that the world can offer. Lebanon was renowned for its fragrances, whether that of the cedar, the wood of which was used for furniture, or of its other trees, some of which were sources of frankincense. She took care how she appeared in his sight. Obviously, it is not one’s literal attire that is in view. Clothes in the Bible often illustrate good deeds, as when believers are urged to put on the new man.