Union and Communion
Cant. viii. 5-14.
We have now reached the closing chapter of this book, which, as we have seen is a poem describing the life of a believer on earth. Beginning in Chapter I. (Cant. i. 2-ii. 7) with the unsatisfied longings of an espoused one—longings which could only be met by her unreserved surrender to the Bridegroom of her soul--we find that when the surrender was made, instead of the cross she had so much feared she found a King, the KING of LOVE, who both satisfied her deepest longings, and found His own satisfaction in her.
The second chapter (Cant. ii. 8-iii. 5) showed failure on her part; she was lured back again into the world, and soon found that her Beloved could not follow her there; then with full purpose of heart going forth to seek Him, and confessing His name, her search was successful, and her communion was restored.
The third chapter (Cant. iii. 6-v. I) told of unbroken communion. Abiding in Christ, she was the sharer of His security and His glory. She draws the attention, however, of the daughters of Jerusalem from these outward things to her KING Himself. And, while she is thus occupied with Him, and would have others so occupied, she finds that her royal Bridegroom is delighting in her, and inviting her to fellowship of service, fearless of dens of lions and mountains of leopards.
The fourth chapter (Cant. v. 2-vi. 10), however, shows again failure; not as before through worldliness, but rather through spiritual pride and sloth. Restoration now was much more difficult; but again when she went forth diligently to seek her LORD, and so confessed Him as to lead others to long to find Him with her, He revealed Himself and the communion was restored, to be interrupted no more.
The fifth chapter (Cant. vi. II-viii. 4), as we have seen, describes not only the mutual satisfaction and delight of the bride and Bridegroom in each other, but the recognit of her position and her beauty by the daughters of Jerusalem.
And now in the sixth chapter (Cant. viii. 5-14) we come to the closing scene of the book. In it the bride is seen leaning upon her Beloved, asking Him to bind her yet more firmly to Himself, and occupying herself in His vineyard, until He calls her away from earthly service. To this last chapter we shall now give our attention more particularly.
It opens, as did the third, by an inquiry or exclamation of the daughters of Jerusalem. There they asked, "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, etc.?" but then their attention was claimed by the pomp and state of the KING, not by His person, nor by that of His bride. Here they are attracted by the happy position of the bride in relation to her Beloved, and not by their surroundings.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness,
It is through the bride that attention is drawn to the Bridegroom; their union and communion are now open and manifest. For the last time the wilderness is mentioned; but sweetly solaced by the presence of the Bridegroom, it is no wilderness to this bride. In all the trustfulness of confiding love she is seen leaning upon her Beloved. He is her strength, her joy, her pride, and her prize; while she is His peculiar treasure, the object of His tenderest care. All His resources of wisdom and might are hers; though journeying she is at rest, though in the wilderness she is satisfied, while leaning upon her Beloved.
Wonderful, however, as are the revelations of grace and love to the heart taught by the HOLY SPIRIT through the relationship of bride and Bridegroom, the CHRIST of GOD is more than Bridegroom to His people. He who when on earth was able to say, "Before Abraham was, I am," here claims His bride from her very birth, and not alone from her espousals. Before she knew Him, He knew her; and of this He reminds her in the words:--
I raised thee up under the citron-tree;
He takes delight in her beauty, but that is not so much the cause as the effect of His love; for He took her up when she had no comeliness. The love that has made her what she is, and now takes delight in her, is not a fickle love, nor need she fear its change.
Gladly does the bride recognize this truth, that she is indeed His own, and she exclaims:
Set me as a seal upon Thine heart, as a seal upon Thine arm:
The High Priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his heart, each name being engraved as a seal in the costly and imperishable stone chosen by God, each seal or stone being set in the purest gold; he likewise bore the same names upon his shoulders, indicating that both the love and the strength of the High Priest were pledged on behalf of the tribes of Israel. The bride would be thus upborne by Him who is alike her Prophet, Priest, and King, for love is strong as death; and jealousy, or ardent love, retentive as the grave. Not that she doubts the constancy of her Beloved, but that she has learned, alas! the inconstancy of her own heart; and she would be bound to the heart and arm of her Beloved with chains and settings of gold, ever the emblem of divinity. Thus the Psalmist prayed, "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar."
It is comparatively easy to lay the sacrifice on the altar that sanctifies the gift, but it requires divine compulsion—the cords of love--to retain it there. So here the bride would be set and fixed on the heart and on the arm of Him who is henceforth to be her all in all, that she may evermore trust only in that love, be sustained only by that power.
Do we not all need to learn a lesson from this? and to pray to be kept from turning to Egypt for help, from trusting in horses and chariots, from putting confidence in princes, or in the son of man, rather than in the living GOD? How the Kings of Israel, who had won great triumphs by faith, sometimes turned aside to heathen nations in their later years! The LORD keep His people from this snare.
The bride continues: "The flashes of love are flashes of fire, a very flame of the LORD." It is worthy of note that this is the only occurrence of this word "LORD" in this book. But how could it be omitted here? For love of GOD, and GOD is love.
To her request the Bridegroom replies with reassuring words:
Many waters cannot quench love,
The love which grace has begotten in the heart of the bride is itself divine and persistent; many waters cannot quench it, nor the floods drown it. Suffering and pain, bereavement and loss may test its constancy, but they will not quench it.