The Bible uses the picture of a beautiful well-kept garden to describe the spiritual relationship between God and His people. And In our passage Song of Songs 4:12-16 we’ve got a great example of this.
THE LOVER AND HIS BRIDE
Christ Jesus and the Church
The Song of Songs is a poetic love story between a King and a lowly country girl, which uses exotic and striking language. It celebrates love and affection between a man and a woman that cuts across class barriers. But what did God intend in including it in the Old Testament canon? The great key to understanding it is to see that it describes the spiritual relationship between Jesus, the Bridegroom King, and the Church, the peasant girl Bride.
In 4:12-16 the Bridegroom, Jesus, speaks of His Bride to be, the Church, in terms of garden imagery that reflects vital spiritual truths
1. The Church Secure
(12) ‘You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride!’ It’s important to realise what sort of garden we’re looking at here. It’s not your little patch behind an inner city town house; rather it’s an expansive, fertile, fruitful piece of land in the ancient middle-east that supplied the vegetables, roots and fruits that made up most of the householders diet; it was the source of medicines too. There was typically a well together with a place to bath too.
Very importantly, the garden here was enclosed or walled round, firstly, to protect it from intruders – people and animals. Hence the reference in (12) to the Bride being, ‘…a garden locked up.’ As the middle-eastern gardener put a wall round his garden, so the Lord Jesus puts a secure wall around His bride, the church, to protect her from invaders. It’s a wall of grace and mercy that can’t be climbed over or breached. Neither can the door be broken down, by would be intruders.
Lesson: We are protected by our Lord Jesus.
2. The Church Set Apart for Christ
The gardener put a wall around his garden, not only to protect it, but also to ensure his privacy. It belonged to him, and he desired to enjoy it and benefit from its produce. In a similar way, the Church is walled round because she is dedicated for Jesus Christ. This isn’t out of place when you take into account that the chief imagery of the poem is that the church is Christ’s bride. Jesus Christ is committed to His bride; there’s room for no other in His heart. EPH 5;25-27 ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church…’
(1) If Jesus Christ is so devoted to His church, so we as His Bride should be totally dedicated to Him. There should be no room in our hearts but for Him. There’s always a danger that we can be drawn away from that unique relationship with Him. 2 COR 11:2-3 ‘I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I premised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’
(2) This also highlights the key nature of true marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ mustn’t simply go with the flow but stand firm for true biblical marriage and life-long commitment because that is the ideal and pattern that God has shown us.
3. A PRODUCTIVE GARDEN
3. A PRODUCTIVE GARDEN
The Church And Her Fruits
(13) ‘Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices.’
Here the Lord Jesus talks about His Bride to be as a kind of paradise. In fact the Hebrew word translated ‘orchard’ corresponds exactly with our English word ‘Paradise’ and brings to mind the pleasure parks and gardens around the great residences of Persian monarchs. In Christ’s garden there’s a tremendous variety of trees, plants, fruits and spices which please His eye; satisfy His taste and smell sensational.
So here we have pictured the spiritual character of the church. It underlines the fact that where there is life there is fruit – has to be! The church having the life of Jesus must produce fruit that lines up with the will of Jesus. That way she pleases Him. EPH 5:8-10 ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what please the Lord.’
(1) Our aim then should be to please Christ our bridegroom; to display those varied spiritual graces in our personal lives and as a church. What are those fruits? GAL 5:22,23 ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’
The Source of the Fruits
These characteristics aren’t natural to us because of our sinful nature.
So what then is the source of fruitfulness for the church? The Lord Jesus also describes the church as (15) ‘…a garden fountain, a well of flowing water…’ This is a picture of spiritual life; water flowing and springing up from within. But wells and fountains don’t spring up from no-where. They have a source themselves. (15) ‘…a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.’
The heights of Lebanon in Syria were renowned for the cedar trees that grew in the region. But also for their snowy peaks and very high rainfalls each March and November. As a result many streams made their way down from the snowy heights bringing cool and invigorating water to the thirsty lowlands. The prophet Jeremiah (18:14) spoke of ‘the snow of Lebanon’ and its cool waters’ that were ever constant. These cool snow waters set our focus firmly on the Lord Jesus Christ. As the life giving refreshing water flowed down from Lebanon’s snowy peaks, so it’s through the Lord Jesus that the waters of eternal life flow down to us from the heights of glory itself.
(1) Let’s be so thankful that Jesus laid down His life for us at the cross to bring us life from above.
4. A GARDEN ENJOYED
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry
(16) ‘Awake north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad.’ It’s now the Bride’s turn to speak. What’s so clear about her is that her one desire is to please her lover. What’s just as clear is that she’s deeply aware of her need of the God to work in her life. So she speaks a prayer, as it were. George Burrowes: ‘Without [the Holy Spirit’s] influences there can be no spiritual life, no fragrance of piety, no fruits of holiness.’
So what about the winds affecting Christ’s garden? One bible teacher explains what the weather in Palestine was like then: ‘The east wind is…generally whithering and tempestuous; the west wind brings from the sea [Mediterranean]clouds of rain, or dark, damp air; the north wind is cooling and refreshing, it’s power being broken by the mountain-chain of Lebanon; the south wind, though hot, has its heat mitigated in the uplands regions, and is never stormy.’
So how do the north and south winds reflect the work of the Holy Spirit? The north wind, clear, cool and bracing, sweeps away spiritual gloom and unbelief. The south wind, gentle, warm and moist, Christ awakens the life of grace. C H Spurgeon spoke of it like this: ‘…that blessed Spirit can come as the north wind, convincing us of sin, and tearing away every rag of our self-confidence, or he may come as the soft south wind, all full of love, revealing Christ, and the covenant of grace, and all the blessings treasured for us therein.’
(1) How we need as the church today for the north and the south wind to blow over us; to know the fresh, living breath of God to awaken and challenge us.
5. Christ Walks in His Garden
(16) ‘Let my lover come into His garden and taste its choice fruits.’ The Bride here makes what might be thought a rather bold and forward statement. She invites Him into the garden to enjoy what it has to offer. Now she’s not being boastful here. She recognises she’s not worthy of His attentions in herself, but also knows that she has a beauty is from Him.
The Bride’s attitude to herself is summed up in Song of Songs 1:5 ‘Dark am I yet lovely.’
So in this garden analogy she recognises that her lover can enjoy the spices, fruits and smells of the garden that He owns and planted. He’s elevated her to His class so to speak through His transforming love.
(1) You and I can look at ourselves as the church and wonder: ‘How can Jesus take any pleasure in me.’ There’s so much that must displease Him – that awkward temper I give in to; those selfish thoughts I battle with; the coldness of my heart at times . But learn to declare: Jesus Christ has made a difference to us and in us; we belong to Him, are the church, His people, and have that special relationship with Him. Learn to say: ‘Dark am I yet lovely.’
Why should we spent priority time on our relationship with the Lord? Because if we’re wrong at this point, we’ll be wrong everywhere else, in worship, service, in relationships with others and so on. As A W Tozer put it: ‘The Christian is strong or weak depending on how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.’’
Lord Jesus, we ask for the grace to give our lives totally to you. We repent of all of our self-centeredness and sin that separates us from you. We desire to gaze on your glory with unveiled faces
and be transformed from glory to glory. We want to be intimate with you. We give you permission to do whatever it takes to bring us to this intimacy. Amen
***** JESUS IS LORD *****
This is a bible study on Song of Solomon 4. I leave it to you to journal using SOAP.