Assurance of Christ’s sustaining grace
The Song of Solomon is called the Song of Songs because it is the greatest, the highest, and the most glorious song. The whole book is a description of the communion between Christ the Lord and His saints. The book uses imagery and symbols of marital love to convey to us the riches of Christ’s love.
Chapter two begins with Christ first describing Himself (verse 1) and then His redeemed people (verse 2). In verse one we hear, “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley.” The prophet Isaiah described the beauty of Sharon as majestic and heavenly. We find the same transcendent language describing Christ in Psalm 45, which says He is “The most handsome of the sons of men. Grace is poured upon (His) lips. Therefore God has blessed (Him) forever.”
We may not often think of the beauty of Christ, but we should. His beauty is His being, His holiness, glory, and pre-eminence in all things. He is also a “lily of the valley.” Christ is the white lily, the unblemished, pure Lamb of God who became accursed to take away our sins and dress us in white. The valley is an emblem of the fallen world, the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord describes Himself in these transcendent ways that we might seek after Him. He is worthy of our pursuit.
Verse two says, “As a lily is among brambles, so is my love among the young women.” Here Christ describes His “love” for His redeemed people. They are among the brambles or thorns. Thorns represent fallen humanity under the judgment of God. Those who come to Christ have left the life of a thorn to become the beloved of God. They have become the particular objects of Christ’s love.
The church holds out Christ’s redeeming love to others. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Christ can make a lily grow among thorns until the thorns around him become lilies.” You have to ask yourself if you would rather be an accursed thorn or a beloved lily. If you have Christ, not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed as richly as you are. To have Christ is to have all.
In verses 3-7 we see how the redeemed of Christ love Christ. He has given them eyes to see His glory and riches. He is “an apple tree among the trees of the forest” (verse 3). His fruit is “sweet to my taste.” Christ is the tree of life, who has brought all things needful for us to have eternal life. When we hunger and thirst for His righteousness and salvation, our souls are filled.
Verse four conveys the joy of Christ’s love: “He brought me into the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” The banqueting house means a joyous occasion, like a marriage feast. Jesus turned water into wine, the best wine, at a wedding feast (His first miracle). It pointed to the inauguration of the new covenant of God’s love, giving Christ as the Savior for sinners.
The banner of Christ is “love.” When a king raises his standard, it means he is going to war. Christ came into this world as a conqueror. He destroyed the works of the devil, sin and death. Jesus tells a parable about the Great Banquet to convey the foolishness of those who hear of His redeeming work and are invited to the joy and life of salvation, yet value the things of this world above Him. Jesus said of such people, “They will never taste of my banquet.” It is a tragic condemnation.
To taste of His banquet is eternal life. It is not simply eternal existence or escape from judgment. It is the abundant life of knowing God, the incomparable blessedness of the soul that knows the love of Christ. We read in verse five of the redeemed soul saying, “I am sick with love.”
This is not a sickness unto death, but unto life, a sickness that we all need. Its end is comfort and satisfaction. The soul is overwhelmed by Christ’s love. This is an emblem of contrition, a soul that is poor in spirit. The happiest hours on earth for a Christian are when our contrition is the deepest and most tender before Christ. You can’t just know about Christ, you must know Christ.
Verse 6 is an assurance of Christ’s sustaining grace, His everlasting arms underneath His people: “His left hand is under my head and his right hand embraces me.” The apostle Paul often wrote of Christ strengthening him in distress. Paul knew the Scriptures. The truth of the imagery in Song of Songs is found in many places in Scripture. The Lord is urging us to seek Him while He can be found, to call upon Him while He is near. Are you neglecting such urgings or drawing nearer to Christ?
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.