Text: – “Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” “Song of Solomon – 8: 5”
The Song of Solomon is an oriental poem which contains within it very graphical, sensual and explicit language. The language as such, to our “western sensibilities” and especially “Christian circles” may invoke a number of responses. We are going to consider – Leaning on our Beloved.
To some it is language that is frowned upon, to others it is to be avoided and yet to others considered to be enough to have it excluded from the 66 books of the Bible and not form the “Canon of Scripture”. It is though and should be considered as such to be “Inspired and God Breathed” by the Holy Spirit of God and thus should be looked at reverently and in the same light as any of the other remaining 65 books.
The Book is an expression of an “ardent and deep-seated love” and as the Scripture says, “To the pure, all things are pure” – “Titus 1:15”. The mature mind in contemplation of its context discovers marvellous and wonderful truths.
A brief synopsis of the book reveals through its poetic language Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church that you and I form as the Bride.
- Chapters 1 and 2 up to Verse 7 of Chapter 2 reveal the “spiritual communion” between the Bride and the Heavenly Bridegroom
- Chapters 2:8 to 3:5 speak of the Bride missing her companion (the Bridegroom) and seeking him.
- Chapters 3:6 to 8 shows the “ardent discourse” between the Bride and the Bridegroom on the mutual love they have for each other.
In this message we are going to unpack some of the wonderful underlying truths that are found in Chapter 8 beginning from Verse 5 which I have utilised for my text, let me re-read it again to you: – “Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?”
In the context it appears that the question originates from the “Brides of Jerusalem” who were gathered together with their Husbands the Shepherds. It seems, to have been invoked because of the apparent joy and radiant happiness that was seen in the life of the Shulamite Bride as she and her husband walked by.
It reveals to us some fantastic blessings that we have right now in our “present position in Christ” and shows that when we have got something in God, often it cannot fail to make others take note of it.
So, let’s unpack the story a little.
WHO IS THIS
This is the first question that is asked and the answer springs readily forth and it is “She is the Bride”.
The Bible speaks very clearly and reveals to us that each one of us here, who have received Jesus as Saviour constitute the Bride of Christ, individually and collectively we are the Bride.
In the Bible the Church is called many things: –
- “A Building” – “Ephesians 2:2”
- “The Body of Christ” – “Ephesians 1:23”
- “The Brotherhood of Believers” – “Ephesians 2:19”
The most precious to me is found however in “Ephesians 5:23-27” where it is described as the “Bride of Christ” and it is in this context of our thoughts together that the Brides of Jerusalem asked the question “Who Is She?”.
The question was posed as if the Bride was something of an “enigma and a mystery” and this portrayal of her is very accurate. The Church, Christ’s Bride is to the spiritually un-initiated and ignorant a complete and utter mystery. How can an un-believer ever hope to rationally understand the unification that has occurred between the believer and Christ?
There is an old saying that says “its better felt than telt”. The outside world looks at the Church as a Club, Society or Organisation, but in reality, it is an organism, vibrant with life, vitality and full of power.
In “1 Corinthians 2:14” it says that those who have not committed their lives to Jesus and experienced being “born again” are those who cannot understand spiritual things it utilises these words “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”. God’s Word translation put’s it like this “A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the teachings of God’s Spirit. He thinks they’re nonsense. He can’t understand them because a person must be spiritual to evaluate them”. Their minds are as a “closed book” to the unseen world in which they live and move on a daily basis.
The Church must seem very strange, we gather together on our days off from work, sing songs, we dance, we pray to a person we cannot physically see and to top it all we get so excited about it that the joy reveals itself in our faces and our daily lives. So, it was with the Bride in the Song of Solomon.
WHO IS THIS – She is the Bride coming up from the wilderness
The question that was asked continues “She is the Bride” yes “coming up from the wilderness”.
The Jewish Church, the people of Israel, came up out of the wilderness. In their case it was a literal wilderness in “Deuteronomy 32:10” it speaks of it as a “Desert and a howling wilderness”, in “Joel 2:3” it is called a “desolate wilderness”, but miraculously it was whilst they were there that the grace and love of God was encountered by them.
We may not have come up out of a literal desert, but spiritually we have been delivered out of a “desolate and howling wilderness of sin and shame”. We have been delivered from the consequences and the un-avoidable separation from God that this caused.
We, none of us deserve to know anything of God’s love and grace, let alone His forgiveness and freedom and yet as the song writer Ben Cantelon in his song Love Came Down puts it “Love came down and rescued me I thank You yes I thank You”. We have truly been blessed beyond the curse.
It is Jesus who has lifted us out of the mire of our sinfulness; it is He who has moved our lives out of the “quick sands of destruction “and set our feet on solid ground. It is He who has delivered us from the wilderness of our uncertain lives, delivered us from the uncertainty and provided us with a future. It is He who has brought us into a secure place and on a day by day basis sticks closer than a brother. And, it is He and only He that will one day return and remove us out of the wilderness of this physical world and take us to our heavenly home
WHO IS THIS – She is the Bride leaning on her beloved
The question that was asked continues “She is the Bride” Yes! “coming up from the wilderness but notice “She is leaning on her beloved”.
I believe this to be very significant. It is vitally important for us to recognise amid all our rejoicing over “who and what we were” and “what we are now” in Christ that we also need to learn to lean heavily upon Him.
An individual’s posture and body positioning say a lot about the person and his/her upbringing. They are a major part of a person’s body language and reflect their attitude towards things and people. The posture and body positioning of people differ if they are from different places.
A simple posture such as keeping one’s feet on the table can be considered as an offending act to a person belonging to the Arab countries whereas the same body posture and positioning is taken as very normal in America.
As a person grows up, his/her body posture and position become a reflection of their self-esteem and confidence. The interpretation of body positioning and posture differs from place to place. It’s common to see people sitting with their leg up or spread wide as a way of relaxing in the west, this posture is rarely seen in Islamic countries who consider feet to be the dirtiest part of one’s body and consider it uncivil and rude to keep it facing someone.
One’s posture and body positioning can say a lot about a person’s attitude. A backward or forward leaning posture indicates positivism. Speaking with one’s arm folded indicates that the speaker is disinterested, bored and doesn’t welcome suggestions and interruptions. It suggests closing entry to oneself or introvertness. The same attitude is reflected if a person is facing away from another person while talking as that suggests poor attentiveness or day dreaming.
Leaning is the posture we should adopt spiritually, resting the whole of our weight upon Him and having our confidence focused squarely on Him, But Why? Well! Because it is a fact that in an ever-changing world we have an un-changing God who will not be moved.
Photographer David Crocket of Seattle’s KOMO-TV knows that solid mountains can move. On May 18th, 1980, he was at the foot of towering Mount St. Helens when it erupted. For 10 hours he was nearly buried by the falling debris. As the atmosphere cleared, a helicopter pilot spotted him. He was dramatically rescued and flown to a hospital.
Writing about his horrendous experience, he said, “During those 10 hours I saw a mountain fall apart. I saw a forest disappear. . .. I saw that God is the only one who is immovable. . .. I feel somehow that I’m being allowed to start over – whatever is in His master plan for me.”
Nothing in our world, not even a mountain, is indestructible. God alone is absolutely unchangeable – “He endures forever” – “Psalm 102:12” also “He has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” We are told in “Psalm 103:19”.
When we trust ourselves to God’s keeping, we are forever secure. He removes our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” – Psalm 103: 12”. And “His mercy toward us is from everlasting to everlasting “verse 17”.
He holds us in His almighty hands, and nothing can pry us loose from that omnipotent grip “John 10:28-29”.
Let’s take a moment to ask ourselves “Why did she lean upon Him?”
1) She leaned because in herself she was weak
It may be unpalatable in a world that prides itself upon self-reliance to recognise but it is nevertheless an undeniable reality that the Church of Jesus Christ in itself and without Him the Groom is very weak.
We look at “Meetings, Numbers and perhaps Organisation” maybe even Church Prosperity and are very often fooled by the interloper into believing that we are strong, but you see we could not be further from the truth.
If we believe such a thing we are like a “natural Bride”, beautiful and captivating. She is viewed walking down the aisle all dressed in white and the glimpse of her by the Bridegroom is breath-taking. Everything else seems to fade into oblivion and colours become washed out in comparison. But, in reality as the old saying states “Beauty is only skin deep” and as time passes this becomes more and more of a reality. The origin of the Proverb is believed to have first been found in a work by Sir Thomas Overbury’s, 1613: “All the carnal beauty of my wife is but skin deep.”
The Hymn writer put it this way:- “Nor have we ought of prowess wherewith to make our boast” and we as the Bride of Christ need to recognise in a balanced manner that “when we are weak, then we are strong” – “2 Corinthians 12: 9-10” says “But he told me: “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So, I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It’s clear that when I’m weak, I’m strong” – God’s Word Translation.
2) She leaned because she believed He could and would support her
In “Jude 24” we read of the strength of God. It is spoken of as being the means of keeping us from falling from our position in Christ of grace. It speaks further of the Bridegroom’s ability to both keep us from sin and to present us faultless to God – “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy..”
This is speaking primarily of the spiritual realm, but it has an equal application to us in our daily lives, “Philippians 4:19” says “My God shall supply all your needs”. The supply is ours as we walk with Him daily. Walking is just one step away from falling. That’s why venturing out on two unsteady legs can be frightening to a very young child. Yet children keep at it until walking becomes second nature.
This is similar to learning to “walk” as a Christian. We put our faith into practice one step at a time. Our faith is strengthened because as we look to Him we discover His total commitment to us.
Pastor and author F. B. Meyer explains, “We received Jesus into our hearts by faith. . .. In the same manner we must live always and everywhere, receiving from Him, by faith, grace upon grace, and allowing what He works in to work out in all manner of godliness, tenderness, and Christlikeness. This practice of looking to Jesus for grace in every circumstance of life tends to become more and more habitual.”
The Scriptures tell us “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” – “Psalm 37:23″
We take a risk by depending completely on Him, obeying His commands, and putting His teaching into practice. Walking with Christ may sometimes be frightening, Yes! But it is the only way to make progress in our spiritual development. Are you leaning and walking with Him today?
3) She leaned because her journey was long and difficult
The Bible is constantly reminding us that as Christians we walk a difficult walk, a walk very often filled with hardships. I believe it does so because God does not want us to be under any misapprehensions. We are day by day in a spiritual fight, battling to walk in the Spirit and to prevent the enemy from stealing away God’s blessing. The Bible tells us that we fight “principalities and powers in heavenly places”. We also have our human nature to contend with and hence the Apostle Paul declared “Oh, wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death” – “Romans 7:24“
Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to life in recent years on film. In the second epic story, the hero, Frodo, reached a point of despair and wearily confided to his friend, “I can’t do this, Sam.” As a good friend, Sam gave a rousing speech: “It’s like in the great stories . . . . Full of darkness and danger they were. . .. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.” Which prompted Frodo to ask: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”
It’s a significant question, one that we all need to ask ourselves. Living in a fallen, broken world, it’s no wonder that sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the powers of darkness. When we are at the point of despair, ready to throw in the towel, we do well to follow Paul’s advice to Timothy. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” – “1 Timothy 6:12“
We should not however become despondent because the declaration of Scripture is “That none shall pluck us from His grasp” and also that “we are more than conquers” through Him and being more than conquers means that “we win with some to spare”.
Let’s not forget that “Spirit-filled living positions us to reflect, imitate and mimic God. We walk in love, walk in the light and we walk in wisdom
4) She leaned because she needed His wisdom and guidance
There are many people to whom we may go and many books we can read to try and find wisdom and guidance however, in the final analysis, especially in respect of our walk with Jesus it is only He that provides us through these tools the guidance and wisdom we require.
Jesus has wonderfully promised to give us wisdom. In “James 1: 5” it says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and it shall be given to him”, so if you need it ask.
In “Proverbs 3:6” it says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path” and thus we learn that the wisdom we need day by day, and the guidance we crave is all ours in Christ our Bridegroom, and the access to these things is ours as we allow Him access into every avenue of our lives.
An African proverb states, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.”
So “Who Is the Bride?” Yes! It is you and I and Christ is our Bridegroom. We have been brought up into salvation from a desolate place, and it behoves us to lean on Christ, but the question comes to us “Are we Leaning?”
- We Have Been Delivered from Death and Hell and Given A Sense of Immortality.
- We Have Been Given A Living Hope and An Incorruptible Inheritance.
- We Have Power and Victory Over the Devil.
- We Have Been Given Victory Over Sin.
BUT “Are we Leaning?”