“Myrrh”… A Picture of the Lord Jesus
The Song of Solomon is difficult of interpretation. Many godly men have differed in their exposition of it, but upon one thing all are agreed, that it speaks of Christ. It abounds in similes and metaphors setting Him forth. One of the most beautiful of these is myrrh, a metaphor used eight times in the Song. Three times does the Shulamite use it to describe her beloved, in whom the Holy Spirit portrays for our appreciation the Lord Jesus Christ.
Myrrh is an oleo-gum-resin, fragrant, sweet-smelling, and in Old Testament times a costly commodity. It was obtained from a low, thorny, ragged-looking shrub in Arabia. Botanists tell us that the best varieties exude from the tree without the necessity of making incisions into the bark. The tree itself is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in His humiliation. He was the meek and lowly One; so poor that He had nowhere to lay His head, and no money wherewith to pay the temple tribute. He was Jehovah’s Servant, Who did not strive nor cry, nor did anyone hear His voice raised in noisy argument, for when He was reviled He reviled not again. Yet from Him exuded the fragrance that gave perfect delight to God, Who from heaven testified of the great pleasure He had found in His Son. This fragrance was also appreciated by men, for when He taught in their synagogues He was glorified of all (Luke 4:15).
Let us look then at the three occasions on which the Shulamite employs myrrh to set forth her beloved. Let us examine these that we might appreciate more of what Christ means to us.
The Fragrance of His Abiding Presence
Note the Revised Version rendering of verse 13, chapter 1, “My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh, that lieth betwixt my breasts”. The picture presented to us here is the Eastern woman’s custom of keeping a sachet of perfume or spices tucked away in her bosom. This sachet gives forth a fragrance that to her is sweet-smelling, particularly in the lonely watches of the night, when sleep is denied her. The contemplation of her beloved produces the same delight to the Shulamite, especially when she feels the loneliness of being separated from him.
So is Christ to the believer. In times of trouble he feels lonely, and no one can comfort him. Even his brethren, in their desire to share his burden, are unable to help. They seem to say the wrong things. His experience is like that of the Psalmist when he cried, “I am shut up, I cannot come forth” (Ps. 88:8). But in such a plight the child of God knows the nearness of Christ. As he experiences the comfort and succour and help of his Lord he appreciates the fragrance of Him Who dwells in his heart by faith. This was Paul’s lot in his final trial. All had forsaken him, but the Lord stood by and strengthened him. How fragrant to him was the presence of the Lord in the loneliness of the prison cell!
At such times the closer we have been walking with Christ the sweeter becomes His presence, and more and more we realise the fragrance of His love and sympathy. It gets better every day.
“Jesus’ love is sweeter,
Richer, fuller, deeper,
Sweeter as the days go by.”
The Fragrance of His Words
To the Shulamite the words of her beloved were such a delight that she felt as though they dropped from his lips like sweet-smelling myrrh (5:13).
This is how we feel when we read the words that Jesus spoke when here among men. This is what the people of that day felt as they listened to Him. The worshippers in the synagogue “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22). Those who heard His “Sermon on the Mount” realised that “He taught them as One having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). Even the officers sent to apprehend Him came back without Him, and reported, “Never man spake like this Man” (John 7:46). How fragrant were His words to Mary on that resurrection morn, as disconsolate she stood weeping outside the sepulchre! The Lord dispelled her tears, and brought joy to her heart when He called her by her name in the old familiar tones. None else could have said it so sweetly.
The Lord’s words continue to live for us in the Scriptures. We still hear them today, fresh from His lips—“Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,” peace I give unto you,” “As My Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you. Continue ye in My love.” How such words, and many like them, have thrilled our hearts! We feel like saying with the Psalmist, “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps. 119:103).
The Fragrance of His Works
In ch. 5:2-7 the Shulamite is recounting an experience she had with her beloved. He came seeking admission to her house one night after she had retired to rest. At first she was reluctant to get up, and dress herself that she might suitably receive him. While waiting, he sought to admit himself by putting his hand through the hole in the door. He caught the handles of the lock, but apparently failed to open the door. When the Shulamite eventually rose to admit him she realised that he had gone. Instead of seeing her beloved she found the handles of the lock covered with myrrh, where his hand had touched them. The imprint of his hand had left a fragrance behind. As she considered this fact she was reminded of the beauty of his hands, and of all his works.
How eloquently does this incident speak of the fragrance of the hands and works of Christ. His hands adorned everything they touched. His hand touched the leper, and gave him healing; His hand touched the eyes of the blind man, and gave him sight; His hand took the damsel’s, and gave her life. All these acts left a fragrance never to be forgotten. The last glimpse we get of His hands was when He lifted them up in blessing at Bethany as He was parted from His disciples. How beautiful!
But at Calvary most of all do we appreciate the fragrance of the work of Christ. There He did a work for God, so successfully, so perfectly, so completely. God smelled a sweet savour of it, and highly exalted Him. There He did a work for sinful man, and laid the basis of his justification, and redemption, and glorification. There He did a work that finally “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”. No wonder we exclaim with Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
On the cross we see His hands in all their fragrance, pierced but powerful, torn but triumphant, bleeding but beautiful. This vision of the hands of Christ on Calvary is the greatest antidote we have for indifferent service for the Master.
“Lord! when I’m weary with toiling,
And burdensome seem Thy commands:
If my load should lead to complaining;
Lord! show me Thy hands:
Thy bleeding hands; Thy cross-torn hands;
O Saviour, show me Thy hands!”
May we learn from this study to appreciate more of the sweetness and fragrance of Christ, that from our hearts may continually flow worship, adoration and love.
“Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel’s name,
All her hopes my spirit owes
To His birth, His cross, His shame.”
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Companionship with Christ is essential to effectual service.