Open

Jesus seeks entry into the lives of all who will welcome him in

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Read: Song of Songs 5

[She] I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.” (Songs 5:2)

I have taken off my robe –
must I put it on again? (Songs 5:3)

I opened the door for my beloved,
But my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure,
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called for him but he did not answer. (Songs 5:6)

Reflect:

At first glimpse, this chapter seems out of place in a book of courtship and marriage. The bride is visited by her groom at night but she is unready to receive him when he knocks. After dithering around putting on clothes and washing her hands in perfume, she finds he has left by the time she opens the door. Looking for him in the streets, she is set upon and her wedding robe is stolen by policemen. Yet she still searches for her beloved and entreats others to join her in the search.

In order to understand this passage, I contemplate several allusions to this story and amplifications of it in the New Testament. Jesus himself takes up the idea of a groom/master knocking at the door and an unready bride/servants several times, in Matthew 22 and Matthew 25 and also in Luke 12. In his letter to the church at Laodicea, transcribed by John (Revelation 3:20) Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Jesus is ready to enter in to the lives of those who are willing and ready to receive him. The question is, are we ready to receive this royal guest?

Many will be taken by surprise when Jesus returns in glory and they find themselves unprepared – without the robe or wedding clothes necessary for the Bride of Christ. Over-reliance on religious rites will be of no benefit either, just as washing her hands until they dripped with myrrh did not help the bride in Songs to be ready.

If we try to force our way into his presence, we will find ourselves excluded completely.¬†Unready people shall be like the Jews to whom Jesus said (John 7:34, in a paraphrase of a line from Songs 5:6), “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

How many hearts will sink on that day! How many faces will be downcast at the coming of the King! By the grace of God I shall be ready, willing and waiting for Jesus when he returns and knocks once more.

Crux:

Jesus seeks entry into the lives of all who will welcome him in.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I recognise Jesus Christ as the King who stood at the door of my life knocking for many years. Thank you for your grace in opening my ears to hear Jesus’ request to enter in to my life. Thank you for prompting me to open that door. May it remain wide open all the days of my life!

LORD, I pray for those who are not yet ready to open their door to Jesus. Please open their ears to hear his words. Open their eyes to see his majesty. Open their hearts to receive him.

I pray also for the workers who go in Jesus’ name as his ambassadors to ‘knock on doors’ for the sake of your glory in the gospel. I pray especially for Suichi & Elaine, Nathan & Shawna, Ben & Bec, Glen & Liz, Ross & Jill & Hazeen. Give them words to speak. Open doors to them. Allow them to share the blessings of Christ’s wedding banquet with many.

Amen.

Flawless

Jesus is sanctifying me, making me his flawless bride

Read: Song of Songs 4

[He] You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you. (Songs 4:7)

You are a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water
streaming down from Lebanon. (Songs 4:15)

Reflect:

Flawless beauty. Absolute perfection. That is what this groom sees when he looks at his bride. It’s what every bride wants her groom to see on their wedding day. It’s certainly not what my husband sees when he looks at me.

Our marriage is almost 18 years old (I joke it’s almost a mature adult) and over that time my physical beauty, such as it was, has deteriorated. More significantly, no-one can hide their sinful nature from a spouse for 18 years, and so Jeff is now far more aware of my lack of spiritual beauty than he was when we married. I’m more aware of my spiritual ugliness as well. My need for Jesus Christ is plain to both of us.

Yet Jeff loves me despite all this, and he persists in drawing water from my fountain, as I am delighted for him to do Рand as Scripture advises him to do (in Proverbs 5 and 1st Corinthians 7, for example).

As with Songs 3, I am drawn to consider this passage also in a different light: the light of Christ. I can see in this passage hints and a foretaste of the marriage of Christ and his bride, the Church. Now the Church (like me) is certainly not flawless at present; news headlines tell us that. But one day, the day Christ returns to claim her, he will make her entirely perfect, without blemish, sanctified. Even now, streams of living water flow from her (from me!) because Jesus Christ made his Spirit dwell within his bride, as Jesus promised in John 4 and John 7.

Crux:

Jesus is sanctifying me, making me his flawless bride.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for washing me clean, cleansing me from within with your living water which you have made to well up within me as if I were your fountain.

Please sanctify me. Please continue to strip away my spiritual ugliness.

Please take my selfishness, my lack of compassion, my pride and vainglory, my lust, my sloth and laziness, my dissatisfaction, my wilfulness, my self-aggrandisement, my competitive spirit, my ignorance, my disorganisation, my quick tongue and quicker temper.

Please remake me until I form a clearer image of your Son. Please make me flawless, full of your attributes which are true beauty.

Please make me loving, kind, gentle, peaceful, caring, patient, humble, submissive, joyous, self-controlled, diligent, disciplined, winsome, good. Please make me like my Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Surpassing

No human king’s glory can compare with the surpassing glory of the King of kings

Read: Song of Songs 3

I looked for the one my heart loves…
I will search for the one my heart loves…
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”…
I found the one my heart loves. (Songs 3:1-4)

Who is this coming up from the wilderness
like a column of smoke? (Songs 3:6)

Look! It is Solomon’s carriage.
escorted by sixty warriors. (Songs 3:7)

Look on King Solomon wearing a crown
the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
the day his heart rejoiced. (Songs 3:11)

Reflect:

The juxtaposition of characters in this chapter is intriguing. The bride yearns and searches for “the one my heart loves” and the reader assumes this is her groom. But upon finding her “one”, she immediately describes the appearance of King Solomon in his royal carriage.

King Solomon is accompanied by 60 warriors, twice as many as King David’s famed chief warriors of 2 Samuel 23. He drives a carriage made by himself, which is replete with royal materials like purple cloth, gold and Lebanon cedar. Furthermore, it seems King Solomon wears his wedding crown.

So, is King Solomon the bride’s groom? Or is she just favourably comparing her beloved groom to King Solomon, wisest and richest and most powerful of Israel’s kings? I’m not sure.

But there is another comparison at play here in the text as well: King Solomon in all his splendour is seen coming “from the wilderness like a column of smoke”, a clear reference to the LORD who went before the people of Israel through the desert as a pillar of fire by night and a column of cloud by day.

King Solomon may be twice as mighty as his father King David, but here he is compared to the LORD himself, the King of kings. This King shall one day return rejoicing to claim his bride (the church) who yearns for him and searches for him eagerly.

Crux:

No human king’s glory can compare with the surpassing glory of the King of kings.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the King of kings, majestic in glory.

Your coming will be like that of a great king riding his carriage, made from the finest materials, draped in royal purple. All will see you coming on the clouds.

Your attendants are too numerous to count: the vast hosts of heavenly angels who serve you, the countless descendants of Abraham who shared his faith, the multitude of saints who believe in your Son.

You wear a crown, a crown of thorns, which was placed on your head by your own mother, Israel herself. On that day they celebrated your death on a cross, but you celebrated your union with your bride, the church.

It is not King Solomon, still less any human husband (including mine), who displays your glory in all its magnificence. These are but pale imitations. It is in Jesus the Christ, your Son and Heir, the Messiah, that the radiance of your glory shines fully.

May Jesus ever be praised; may he be forever exalted as the King of kings!

O how my heart loves him!

Amen.