I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone (6).
In the first verse of chaper 5 we read the bridegroom’s immediate response to the bride’s invitation to enter his garden. This verse really belongs to the previous chapter. She no sooner says, “Come,” than he replies, “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (1).
The scene closes with rapturous communion. And when you look up to the Beloved of your heart and say, “Come into Thy garden and eat Thy pleasant fruits,” He will immediately respond, “I am come.” You will never have to wait; you will never have to give Him a second invitation. If you have any time for Him, He always has time for you.
The rest of Song of Solomon 5 is a part of a longer section that concludes with the fifth verse of chapter 8. In that entire portion we have traced out for us in a very wonderful way the interruption of communion and its final restoration. We have already had one similar picture in this book where the bridegroom’s absence produced a temporary sense of estrangement (chapter 3). We have that dealt with more fully in this section, where the bridegroom’s advances are coldly spurned. Remember that the bride represents any regenerated soul and that the bridegroom is our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. If we keep this in mind we should have no difficulty in getting the spiritual lesson of these chapters.
We have all known such periods of glad joy in the Lord as those described in Song of Solomon 4. But how often have we found that, following almost immediately on a period of great blessing and delightful fellowship with the Lord, there may come a time of spiritual dearth and broken fellowship? We have all experienced interrupted communion. You recall that in Israel’s history they were scarcely through rejoicing over the wonderful victory at Jericho before they were wringing their hands in despair because of the defeat at Ai. Often in our Christian lives we have similar experiences. Perhaps you go to an edifying meeting where your whole soul is stirred by the singing, by the prayers, and by the ministry of the Word; you feel as though you would never again lose sight of your blessed Redeemer’s face. Yet the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and within a very short time you find yourself inquiring, **Where is the blessedness I knew / When first I saw the Lord?” Everything seems dark and cloudy and you no longer discern your Savior’s presence. Is there any one who has had uninterrupted communion with the Lord throughout all the years? I am sure there is not. Even if we imagined so, it would simply be because we lacked the sensitivity to recognize that our behavior has grieved Him.
As we continue our narrative we see that the bride has retired and she is just about asleep, yet a bit restless, when there comes a knock at the door. It is the knock of the beloved one who has returned from a distant journey. He cries, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (2). This is a wonderfully beautiful picture. We have the same picture in the New Testament in the third chapter of the book of Revelation. We see the Lord Jesus waiting outside the door of the Laodicean church. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (20). But what lethargy there is! How few respond to His gracious request! And so here the bride exclaims, “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (3) There is a fretfulness in her response: Why am I disturbed at this hour? Why did you not come at some other time? I have taken off my coat; why should I put it on now? I have washed my feet; why should I dirty them? This refers to the eastern custom of washing the feet before seeking repose, for in that land they wore sandals and the upper part of the foot had no covering. In other words, she did not want to bestir herself even so much as to open the door to him.
Have you ever known similar experiences? Have you ever been so much concerned with your own affairs, with seeking your own self-pleasing ease, that when His voice called you for an hour of communion and fellowship with Him, you really repelled His advances? Instead, you should have gladly thrown open the door and said, “Blessed Lord, nothing else is worthwhile but to enjoy the sunshine of Your smile, to enjoy fellowship with You.”
In this instance, we see in the bride’s behavior evidence of this lackadaisical attitude. But then, as she lies there dozing, neither actually asleep nor awake, she discerns something that moves her heart. She says, “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door” (4). We will not understand the simile unless we are familiar with those eastern doors and locks. The lock was on the inside of the door. There was an opening where the owner, if he had the key, could reach in and use the key from the inside to open the door. The bridegroom comes, but he does not open the door in that way. He has asked admission and wants her to rise and open for him. She sees that hand come through the opening. The moment she does so, her heart is stirred and she cries, “Oh, I must let him in.” Then she rises and hurries to the door.
As she lays hold of the lock, she exclaims, “My hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock” (5). That refers to another eastern custom. When a lover came to visit the one who had won his heart and found she was not at home, or though at home she refused his advances, he covered the lock of the door with sweet-smelling ointments and left flowers as a token of his affection. And so the bride says, “My hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh.” It was not a dream then; he had really been there and had gone. She threw the door open to enable him to hear her cry, “Come, come in!” but there was no answering response. “My beloved,” she said, “had withdrawn himself and was gone” (6).
Love is very sensitive. The trouble with many of us is that we fail to recognize this. We have an idea that the beloved one should be ready whenever we are for a time of gladness together, but that is not always so. Sometimes when He comes to the heart’s door we practically say, “No; it is inconvenient. I do not want to drop things right now.” But later when we would enjoy His presence we find He has gone. Have you ever had such experiences? Has He come to you and said, “I want you to sit down with Me over My Word; I want you to spend a little time in prayer, to dismiss other things from your mind and commune with Me.” Have you said, “Oh, but I have so much to occupy me; I cannot do it now”? Plenty of time for self but very little for Him. And then some wonderful token of His lovingkindness came to you, and you said, “Oh, I must respond to His heart.” You threw open the door as it were and called, but He was not there. And did you ever know what it was to go on for days and weeks without any real sense of His presence? “My beloved had withdrawn himself.” If you do not respond to His voice when He comes to you in tender grace, you may seek Him for a long time before you will enjoy fellowship with Him again. Such is the sensitiveness of love. He wants to make you feel that His love is worthwhile. He wants to test you as to whether you are really in earnest when you profess to desire fellowship with Him.
As the story goes on, the bride leaves the house and goes out into the city seeking after her beloved. She makes her way from street to street, calling his name, looking here and there and wondering where he has hidden himself. She says, “The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” (7). You will always have to suffer if you refuse obedience to the voice of Christ when He calls you. You will always have to be tested before communion is restored.
There is a word in the New Testament that has troubled some believers. In 1 Corinthians 11 we are told that a Christian woman, when she is engaged in worship with the people of God or in public prayer or testimony, is to cover her head. People ask, “Why the covering?” The Bible says that the covering is her “power” (10, kjv). Does that seem like a strange word to use? I believe Song of Solomon 5:7 sheds some light on this. The covering on the head of the bride was her power. In what sense? Look at it this way. As long as her head was veiled she was considered a chaste and modest wife or maiden and that was her power. But when the keepers saw her going about the streets at night, they misunderstood her motive and character, and they took away her veil. The unveiled woman was marked out as one who was unclean and unchaste.
Years ago I was a Salvation Army officer. I remember that our Army girls could go anywhere with those little blue bonnets. I never knew but one in all the years I was connected with them, who was insulted by any one in any place as long as she wore that little bonnet. I have been seeking the lost in the lowest kind of dives on the Barbary Coast of San Francisco and have seen the Army girls come in with their literature and go from one rough ungodly man to another. Ordinarily no one ever said an unkind or a wicked word to them. But once a drunken sailor dared to say something insulting to one of them, immediately practically the entire crowd jumped on him. They knocked him down and gave him such a trouncing as he had never had before. Then they threw him into the street for the police to pick up. The little blue bonnet was the power of the Salvation Army woman, as was the veil that covered the head of the woman in that oriental land.
The uncovered head indicated an immoral woman, while the covered head was the power of the moral woman. The covering marked her as one seeking to live a life of goodness and purity. So here, in the Song, because the bride has lost the sense of her bridegroom’s presence, she is branded as though she were impure and unholy. This shame has come on her because she did not immediately respond to her bridegroom’s call.
She turns for help to the daughters of Jerusalem as the morning dawns and she sees them coming down the street. “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love” (8). In other words, “Tell him my heart is yearning for him; tell him I repent of my indifference, of my cold-heartedness and my unconcern, and want him above everything else.” Christian, is that what your heart says? Are you a backslidden believer? Do you remember times when you enjoyed communion with your Lord, when life with Him was sweet and precious, but that fellowship was broken, and you are saying with Job, “Oh that I knew where I might find him”? (Job 23:3) Does your heart say today, ‘Tell Him that I am sick with love, that my whole being is yearning after Him; I want to be restored to Him, to the sweetness of communion”?
The daughters of Jerusalem say, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” (5:9) In other words, “This one that you say means so much to you, why is he more to you than you might expect another to be to us?” The world says, “Why is Christ more to you than any other? Why does Jesus mean so much more to you than the things of the world? Tell us that we may seek Him with you.”
Then at once the bride begins to praise her bridegroom. From verse ten to the end of the chapter in wonderful oriental imagery she extols his kindness, his graciousness, his aptness to help, his strength, and his tenderness. She cries, “My beloved is… the chiefest among ten thousand” (10).