Turn in the word of God to the Song of Solomon this morning: the song which is Solomon’s. Find, perhaps, Isaiah then work back from there. You will come to the Song of Solomon.
We will pick up in our study in 1st Thessalonians next week, God willing, but I thought for communion, we would direct our attention elsewhere, maybe, maybe we will just take a message from this book for our communion seasons which are ahead as the Lord would lead and guide, but my mind wasn’t settled on the text thought about here. I began to consider what we might do minds directly toward the Lord and what he has done for us.
Every time I sing that last hymn, “Draw Me Nearer”, and I think of that last verse, there was a brother, is a brother, dear brother;was as if he’s gone, but he’s continuing on to walk with the Lord, but I’ll not correct Fanny Crosby, but he liked to change it this way: “There are depths of love that I STILL can know before I cross the narrow sea; there are heights of joy that I STILL may reach before I rest in peace with thee”. It’s a more positive frame of mind there. There’s truth in what she says, of course. There are great things of experience and knowledge that we will never know of love and joy that await us and when we go to glory, but there’s also experiences of love and joy that we still may know before we go to Glory. May we ever be pressing onward with the Lord.
Song of Solomon. We want to read the opening seven verses this morning before we come to the Table of the Lord. Communion time is a very precious time. All that we do in our services are very deliberate. The singing that we offer to God, corporate worship, our participation in that are encouragements. That everyone would sing unto the Lord is desired by me, by the elders of this church, by the Lord Himself; that we would be a singing people, singing joyfully, coming before the Lord with gladness, not standing with the hymnal, looking around, gauging the weather outside, pondering over the affairs of tomorrow or yesterday, but that we actually have a heart that is fully engaged in worship. That is something I struggled with for years when I began to preach, where my mind would constantly be on preaching and thinking about the preaching and the sermon and I realized at one point that I’m not worshiping. I am so caught up with what I’m about to do and not applying myself in what I am meant to be doing. And I prayed that the Lord would deliver me from that and give me the joy of worshiping as if I didn’t carry any real burden about preaching ahead of me, but the freedom just to enjoy singing with the Lord’s people. And so generally, that is the case I am able to just think about what I’m singing and rejoice in the words. Sometimes things come to your mind and we get distracted, but it’s good to apply ourselves in worship and in prayer, as well. I know it’s very common in churches today to pray basically a few sentences. In and out of prayer in a minute, two minutes, maybe three minutes, but that is not my practice. It’s not generally the practice of any of our ministers. The pastoral prayer, especially in the morning service as we’re all coming, some of us, fresh into the Lord’s house for the day. It is preparatory. It is preparing the way. It is bearing the entire burden of the people of God and preparing for the needs, confession, adoration, and bringing the needs of the congregation in prayer before the Lord. It is instructive and helpful, and we want to not be the kind of people that are looking and thinking, you know, he prays for 10 minutes, whatever, and thinking that is some negative thing. It’s not at all. We need to be a people that learn to bear one another’s burdens even, and that way to pray together as prayer is being offered. And the word of God, then, that is being read and preached is very deliberate and the Lord has purposed to use the preaching of His word to extend His kingdom.
Here, this morning, we come to the Song of Solomon. I trust you’re there by now. Let’s read from chapter 1, verse 1 through verse 7. Let’s hear the word of God. How privileged we are to hear it here today:
“1 The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.
2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
3 Because of the savor of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
4 Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
5 I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
6 Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?”
The Lord bless his word to us. Let’s still our heart momentarily in prayer Let’s all of us seek the Lord:
Father, give help in Thy word today, that Thy name may be glorified. We want to be truthful. We want to be correct in our utterances, but beyond that, we want a word from the Lord. The needs of men are great. The needs of the souls before me are manifold, so plenteous that no man could begin to even of himself try to address them all, even if he was aware of them all. So we are praying for the ministry of the Spirit of God. We ask that Thou wilt come, oh blessed Spirit of God. Come, come because Christ’s blood has been shed for us. Come, because it is Thy purpose to help us. Come, because it is only Thy ministry that truly can cause Christ to be exalted and glorified in our midst. He would witness to him and to make much of him is our desire. So Father, come and send the help that we desire. Cause our hearts to be knit together. Let there be unity and joy in this place in the hearing of the Word. Let us be attentive to every line and blessed by what we consider. Come then. Deal with hearts. Extend thy kingdom as Thou dost see fit. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Sometime last year, when I was here, I brought a message on the Song of Solomon, and I began then after bringing that message, to begin a study in it in the evening time in Calgary. I was gripped by the truths that were contained on that occasion when I preached it, just as a single independent message and thought at sometime, I would like to preach through that book and so I began last year. I didn’t get very far. I think I managed to finish chapter 2 and maybe begin chapter 3. I’m not too sure, but whatever the case, I didn’t get too far. And as I was thinking about the privilege of sitting in communion is one that that we should feel when we gather around the table of the Lord. That there are countless millions that have no knowledge of the privilege of communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, and they don’t know what it’s like to sit at the table and know that as they participate in the emblems, their sins are all forgiven. Even various parts of Christianity itself, various segments of the Christian faith, broadly I use that term, Roman Catholics, even the Orthodox church, and some of their understanding about communion, these souls very often still come and they participate in communion, and they still don’t know the freedom of what is symbolized and what it points to. But we are taught, we are instructed; we know as we gather here today that when we take of the bread and take of the cup, that we are having put before us the full, complete and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. So what we want to be doing, when we gather for those occasions basically every time, but especially on those occasions, is to have our hearts drawn in, to desire to commune with the Lord, to enjoy fellowship with God, and perhaps there are few passages in the word of God that focus so predominantly upon these themes. Themes of fellowship and communion.
I’m not particularly poetic, I confess to you and it’s not that I don’t appreciate it. Our girls do it. They are instructed somewhat in poetry. They probably know more about poetry at this stage of their lives than I do at my stage of life but I was just never really exposed much to it and have never brought myself to study in any significant way to gain a knowledgeable appreciation of it. You know what I mean, that someone who has the knowledge of art can appreciate, can really appreciate art because they know it and they’ve studied it and they can see what is good and what is bad. I know in some ways it is subjective, but there is an element of knowledge that helps the appreciation; same with music, same with many things and poetry is similar. Once you gain a kind of knowledge, you become more acquainted with it, you can read a passage and say, “That’s wonderful!” and really even gain an understanding of the nuances of everything. Well I don’t have that, but when I come to Song of Solomon, I realize that the Lord is communicating a wonderful message of the relationship between Himself and His people. And if I can see that, I will be blessed. I may not grasp being so far removed from the culture and from the things that went on in those days. I may not understand every single nuance of expression. I may not grasp every context with clarity in my mind’s eye seeing it for what it truly would have been like in those days, but if I can see that the Lord is communicating His love for His people and their reciprocal love to Him, then I can rejoice in that, and I can enjoy the message that is being brought to us.
Now, when I preached last year, I did quickly say to you that there are those that come to the Song of Solomon and see it basically like a manual for marriage or human relationships, and I’m just amazed that those within the reformed camp can actually come down on that side. I just don’t get it. I said it then. I say it again. They miss the essential heart of what is here. According to 1st Kings 4:32-33, Solomon wrote 1005 songs and yet this is the only song that has been preserved, and, well, in this format anyway. There may be a Psalm or two here and there, but the song here and the way it was portrayed and with all the hundreds of songs he wrote, here is not just perhaps the only one in this kind of format that he would have written, but it is the chief one. Verse 1 tells us that. The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s, and that term is elevating what the song really is as it is viewed amongst other songs. You know the term “the holiest of holies”, in other words it’s “the most holy place” is another way of describing it. It’s more holy than any other place. Or when we talk about the Lord Jesus Christ being the King of Kings. He is King above every other king. There’s no king like him. And whenever He begins this song, the Spirit of God has recorded the Song of Song which is Solomon’s. This song is chief among all songs. Then to consider that being the case, to come to the word of God, the message of redemption, and then begin to tell ourselves well of all that scripture conveys to us of all that it teaches us, even all the Psalms we were given that we come to this song that it is chief of all songs but it deals with a human relationship. That the Bible that deals with the Divine, that tells us about God’s love for man, now when we come to the chief song it deals with MAN’S love for a woman and a woman’s love for a man? I mean it doesn’t make any sense! I wonder do they think at all when they read the Word of God and they come to these conclusions. The book is an allegory. It is expressing the relationship between Christ and His church. All faithful men down through the years have taken it that way and I do as well. If the Lord has put it on my heart that every communion to come back here and look at this portion of his Word, and if he leads in that fashion, then we will see the glorious truths that are here that really help us to understand, not just in the sense of, I know that God loves me, but the feeling of it; the affections in it; that there is a genuine drawing out of the heart of Christ toward his people and then they, in turn, are drawn out to love Him.
This book is a wonderful tonic for the one whose love for Christ has grown cold. And when we come to the table of the Lord that’s always the danger, isn’t it? I come to the Lord’s table and my affections for him are not what they once were and I don’t love him as deeply as I once did and we will leave the service having participated in the emblems and if we were just to stop for half a second and ask ourselves “Was that really fellowship today?” We might be horrified to have to admit, “My heart was anywhere but right there in the presence of God.”
So as I thought about the need for us to always be kind of encouraged and prompted into an intimacy with the Lord before we sit at his table, I was drawn here, and I trust the Lord will encourage us. And what we have before us in these opening verses is really what you might call, “The Waking Up of the Backslidden Church.”; the church waking up to realize her condition of being away from the Lord. Verse 7, perhaps, presents that most clearly: “Tell me, Oh, Thou whom my soul loveth”, look at the text. Follow us now, please follow in the word of God when we point out each verse so you can see it for yourself, “where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon. Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?”
In other words, she is admitting right here: “I don’t know where you are and I need to know where you are. I don’t want to go to another, to one of your competitors, really is the way that last word in verse 7 could be translated. I don’t want to go to anyone else. I want to be where you are. Where you make your flock to rest. There is where I want to be, so tell me, Thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest. Where are you?” And by this is the confession that there’s distance. The acknowledgement that he has moved away and she is not there. Therefore, she is wondering, “Where can I find you? Where can I meet with you? I need to be there.” Perhaps, before we go any further, that is the condition of your heart. The question needs to be asked, “Where is the Lord? Where is the Lord in my life? Where is He as I read His word? Where is He when I pray? Where is the Lord when I worship?” If we have gotten away, I trust this message you will feel as being tailored for your heart.
Matthew Henry says, concerning this portion, he says “Turning aside from Christ after other lovers is that which gracious souls dread and deprecate more than anything else.” We dread it. We dread turning aside from Christ to seek after anyone else. And this is where she is, and verse 7 reveals that. She’s not there where she needs to be. Now there are many competitors many things that come in and compete for our attention. We will see that but today we want to be drawn toward the Lord.
So let us consider this morning:
The Backslidden Bride.
Note with me, first of all, in verse 2, the backslider still has an admiration for Christ. The backslider still has an admiration for Christ.
Now, let me just stop for a moment and talk to you about the backslider. The backslider is a term that is used to identify those that know God, know the Lord, but have removed themselves from Him. They have created distance between themselves and the Lord. The prophet speaks on behalf of the Lord, “Return thou backsliding Israel” and it’s a call to the nation as they’ve turned their back on God; as they’ve wandered away from the God that they’re in covenant with. As they turned away, there is this appeal to “return thou backsliding Israel. Come back to God whom you worship, YOUR God. So we use that term here because the bride finds herself in a place of distance from the Lord and as the church of Jesus Christ, sometimes we find ourselves there. There is distance between us and we are backslidden and we need to get back to where the Lord would have us to be. So let’s see this. The backslider still has an admiration for Christ, even though they’ve gotten away, even though there is distance.
Verse 2 says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for thy love is better than wine.” Now, there are different kinds of kisses. You will know that; of course, this is speaking of the intimate kind. But there are other types of kisses. Even the New Testament talks about greeting one another with an holy kiss. Therefore, there is the kiss of friendship; there’s the kind of kiss that you might use when you see a little child and you kiss him upon the head. There are various kisses. But as I say, this is the intimate kind. This is the kind that reflects an intimacy of love and a deep longing to be near another person. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of my mouth.” Scripture even talks in terms of our worship before the Lord as being reflected by kissing, that we honor him by our kisses. Think of Psalm 2, for example, where the kings and rulers are told to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” Again, it’s not really a kiss of affection, but it’s more of a kiss of recognition of who he is as an authority.
Here, it is more of affection, intimacy, a desire to be near. “Let him kiss me”, she says. In other words, I need to know an intimacy. I need to know the affections, and of course she says let him kiss me. She is sensing perhaps here that there is a sense of unworthiness. That she’s not worthy to get near him but “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” Of course, it’s plural. She doesn’t want one. She wants many: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” The intimacy is reflected by the plurality of the affections being shown in this way.
But the question, of course, when we come to a verse like this is, “Well what on earth does it mean?” What does it mean to the church. If the church is to say (and this really is a prayer) well in what way does the Lord kiss his church? You think of what comes from the mouth of the Lord to his people. It is his WORD. Indeed, in some ways you could say everything comes from the mouth of the Lord. In Genesis chapter 1, at the creation of all things, what are we told?: “And God said, ‘Let there be light.” Everything; the existence of all things comes from his mouth. It is the spoken word. It is God’s will revealed through that which is spoken, through that which is said. And as the people of God, how do we know the affection of God toward us? How do we know the affection of our Lord Jesus Christ toward us but by his word? I mean, I can tell you the Lord loves you all day long, but if that is not rooted in the context of the authority of Scripture, you would say to me, “How do I know he loves me?” You’re telling me…it’s like counseling a couple and saying to one party “He loves you” and she’s sitting there going, “Well, I don’t see it. I don’t know. I don’t hear it from him.” You can’t really speak authoritatively in that condition, in that place. I need to hear it from him. It’s not the preacher standing up and telling you, “The Lord loves you. The Lord Jesus loves you.” But coming to the Word, coming to the Word that he has spoken, that which has come from his mouth. And we come as his people and we are encouraged to know that the relationship we have with him, by that which comes from his mouth.
Think of the gospel promises. Think of all that has been said to us. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” There, the lowly sinner who may be rejected by the entire world and may have no relationship with anyone whatsoever, hears from the Lord Jesus Christ, “If any man thirst, anyone at all, if you thirst, come to me and drink.” It’s an invitation; an invitation to be received, accepted, to be loved. Think of what the people of God enjoy this morning, in terms of, again, the gospel promise, that there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. That’s a word from God to your soul. You come here today, your mind filled with your sins. You sit there in the place where you’re meant to be worshiping. But your heart is not engaged. You’re not drawn out. You’re not really fellowshipping. You’re not enjoying the Lord and perhaps the question comes up in your mind, “Does God accept me at all? Have I any acceptance with him?” What does he do? He kisses you with the kisses of his mouth, with a word from his lips: “There is no condemnation. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” He comes and says the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Does he not kiss the soul of the believer this morning with words like that? Is that not true? I’ve sat there, just as you, beloved, to sit in the house of God and feel the distance between you and the Lord. Then, to have the Word proclaimed, or to be in my home and my heart be distant or my soul be depressed and discouraged to open the Word and to have the Lord kiss me with his Word; my soul is thrilled! It is encouraged and brought to be enlivened by the affection the Lord shows through his Word.
“Thy love is better than wine.” The sweetest thing known by the taste of man is superseded by that which comes from the lips of the Lord. This is why it is so discouraging to see people go away from the Lord. And while I think it is true, it has been said often, that there’s no person on this planet that is more miserable than the backslider. They have heard from the Lord. They have walked with him. They have been encouraged in their souls. They have known the enjoyment of fellowship and freedom of having the burden of sins forgiven and taken away and then they walk away and go on for perhaps weeks, months, maybe even years. Perhaps for a season, it is fine and they can bear the burden; the burden of walking away. There is a little bit of a guilty conscience there. There’s a sense in which you know you’re not living up to the light that you have. You’ve gone away from the Lord and you move and you drift but it becomes easier. It becomes easier. You miss one Sunday. You miss two Sundays. Before long, you can never think about missing the house of God on the Lord’s day. But then you begin to enter into another pattern, another experience where the burdens of life begin to heap upon your shoulders and things are just not going according to plan and life gets more difficult. The burden becomes heavier until you get to a point of despair and you’re nearly crushed by the weight of it. That is the backslider. And they need to find their way back to the Lord.
I’m telling you now, if you’re in that condition here today, there are promises from His word. There are promises. Listen, there are promises for you that beckon you to return. The Lord is not looking at you today saying, “You got yourself into this mess. You can stay there. You can figure your own way out.” He’s not saying that. He’s beckoning you. He is encouraging you. As you go on down through this passage, you will see the encouragement that comes from Him. At this stage, we are just seeing that this sense of Backslider knows there is distance and she longs afresh to know the affection of the Lord. There is still this admiration for the Lord; still a longing to go out after Him.
2) Secondly, We see here that the backslider still wants the aroma of Christ, not just the admiration, but the aroma of Christ is desired by the backslider. Verse 3, “because of the savor of thy good ointments Thy name is as ointment poured forth therefore do the virgins love Thee.” Now Solomon has said in his other book before this, Ecclesiastes, he talks about a good name. Ecclesiastes 7:1 “A good name is better than precious ointment” and it’s very true. The parallels between a good name and a precious ointment. You can’t think of someone’s name without considering what you know about them. When I say your name, when I think your name, I almost automatically begin to think about what I think about you or what I know of you. Try it. Think about someone and immediately you begin you will consider what you feel toward them, depending on their character and how you know them and your experiences with them and your history. Or you can put it in terms not just of ointment and the smell and the aroma. You can put it in terms of music: Character, I once said this and I thought about it again as I prepared this message, character is the music others hear at the mention of your name. The life you live gives a tune in the mind when someone hears your name mentioned. And if you’ve a good character, then it is a sweet sound to the ear, it is pleasant, and that’s the picture here. That is in terms of ointment because of the savor of thy good ointment, thy name is as ointment poured forth. Thy name is as ointment poured forth. In other words, thy name spreads its influence. It has this aroma that fills the whole place. It is as ointment poured forth. Therefore do the virgins love thee. In other words, there is a drawing attraction by that ointment that reflects the name and so the name of our God, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ as that names goes abroad to the people of God at least, to the church, it draws us and we love Him. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear. Just to hear the name; hear the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is what we see here.
You think of the various names that are given about God. Think of how the Lord revealed himself to Abraham as El-Shaddai-the Lord God Almighty, or how again to Abraham in Genesis 22:14-Jehovah-Jireh, or in Jeremiah chapter 33-Jehovah-Tsidkenu. You think about what has been revealed there and you read that: the Lord God Almighty. Abraham is being taught that God is completely in control. Or when he is told Jehovah Jireh-the Lord will provide. (Now let me just say as an aside, some of your homes may have “Jehovah-Jireh” in your home. I have been in many homes that had it up there. I sometimes wonder, what does that mean to you, really mean to you, when you bought or you received it or someone bought it for you, and you put it on the wall and you see Jehovah-Jirah? Most of what I hear from people is this sense of, especially when a couple gets married and someone gives them something that says, “Jehovah-Jirah”, the young couple is being told, it is being communicated to them, “The Lord will provide for you as you set out in life, God will provide for you. Everything you need, He will give. Just trust Him and He will provide.” And yet, I just wonder, I wonder whether they’ve ever read the context in which God reveals himself as Jehovah-Jireh. Many of you here know the context, don’t you, in Genesis 22, where Abraham brings Isaac, takes him up Mount Moriah to be sacrificed and God reveals himself there as what? Jehovah-Jireh. And what is the context, Beloved, this is just an aside by the way, what is the context? The context is this: in the deepest need of man, in his need for his soul to be reconciled to God, in the heart longing, not for material things, but for the spiritual, God provides. God provides! There he is having portrayed before him, a wonderful image of the gospel truth of a substitute for sinners and there’s this lamb caught in the thicket that he’s able to take and sacrifice rather than Isaac. In other words, God provides a lamb in place of, as the sacrifice on behalf of man. The substitute is being symbolized there and it’s then at that point in that place where God says Jehovah-Jireh! And so it is almost blasphemous when we begin to say to ourselves that the Lord provides for my material needs when the whole point of the revelation of that name is the spiritual. It is man lost and undone in his sin with no way back to God, no hope of salvation – Jehovah-Jireh. The Lord provides. And it’s in the gospel we see the real meaning of the name and we rejoice in it and we delight in it and even as I’m preaching it, every believer here who has never considered it in that way, their hearts are leaping for joy over the thought that, yes, it’s not the material, it’s in Christ. I look to the cross, not to my house, and see Jehovah-Jireh! It’s there I see the provision for men. It’s there I see how he is this: The Lord Provides. Even when we consider Him the Lord God Almighty is El Shaddai in the gospel and you see it there. It just flourishes into something more meaningful than merely seeing that God is all-powerful. When you come, for example, to John chapter 10, and Jesus says that He’s going to lay down his life for the sheep and he says, “I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it again.” That is El- Shaddai! That is the revelation of power in a way that exceeds anything else. I have power to lay down my life and power to take it again. I can stand in awe and wonder at the creation of the world and I can be amazed at all the way God has created this wonderful world in which we live, but it does not humble me and lay me low like the thought that the Son of God took on flesh and yet still is El-Shaddai: I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it again. And this, when we think of these things, when the church meditates on these the savor of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth. Even as you preach these truths and the names of God and you begin to grasp them in context of gospel provision, it begins to flow into our hearts and our homes. “Therefore the virgins love Thee” in other words, they are drawn out after Him.
You know, This is what the world needs to hear as well. They need to have the aroma of Christ put before them. Every believer has an obligation to pour forth the ointment of His good name. You go into your workplace, into your school, wherever God has you, even in your home. You go there and you want the aroma of the name of Christ to be poured forth and that is done by speaking of Him, talking of Him, making much of Him and being joyful, being joyful for all that He has provided.)
3)Thirdly, the backslider still has an attraction to Christ. There’s an attraction that’s still there, revealed in verse 4. “Draw me. We will run after Thee. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in Thee. We will remember Thy love more than wine. The upright love thee.” Draw me. In other words, bring me closer . Again, it’s another confession of distance. There’s distance. I’m not walking close to the Lord. That need to be nearer. That need to be in a place of enjoying his presence. This is where the Lord wants us to be. This is written for our learning, Beloved. You are sitting here today and the distance from the Lord- this needs to be your prayer as you realize the distance. It is Draw me. Draw me, and we will run after Thee.
The believer’s closeness to the Lord affects others. See that? Draw me. If you draw me WE will run after Thee! Your nearness to the Lord has an impact on the lives of others and their nearness to the Lord. There’a a sense in which we all are independently walking with the Lord. We have our own personal responsibility to walk with God and stay near to Him. You have that. I do as well. Have you ever been in the presence of a Christian that’s walking closely with the Lord; really closely? Have you ever been there and felt your heart being drawn closer to the Lord just being in conversation with them? Have you? I have. Thank God, many times. And you’re there and you feel, you come away and you’ve just been lifted up closer to the Lord just being in their presence. And this is what she realizes. If I’m close to the Lord, Draw me WE will run after Thee. Oh, even just for a few believers in this congregation, a few of you, to really be praying this and longing for this in your own life to get really close to the Lord. Draw me and you know what will happen? You’ll begin to affect others. Your life, your testimony cannot be hidden. It will begin to impact others, so we will run after Thee. The whole church will be moved in the direction of seeking after the Lord. So YOU have a responsibility for the spiritual climate in your community. You have a responsibility for the spiritual climate in your family, in your home, yea, even to some degree perhaps in your workplace. You have an influence there. If you’re walking close with the Lord, it will be having this permeating influence upon others.
To have Christians who are walking close with the Lord coming into the prayer meeting, and the way they pray, just the intimacy that is there that draws the hearts of others closer to the Lord. This is reality, Beloved. This can be known. If we would stop, kind of, pointing the finger and looking and saying, “Everyone is dead” and the problem is out there. It’s all external. The problem is always over there; always yonder. Never here. But to realize that if I was walking with the Lord, if I was in the place where I was drawn, then that will have a knock on effect upon others. I want to be a blessing to others. So, rather than say, “Lord, let me be a blessing to others.” You can simply summarize it in this: “Bring me closer to Thee, Lord” and inevitably, I will be a blessing to others. You see, even at a distance, we long to be closer to the Lord. If you’re saved here this morning, and you’re away from the Lord, even if you’re close with the Lord, is there not still that little desire Oh to be closer? Oh, for a closer walk with God. You just want to be nearer. This is the need; the need of the day. It’s the need of this congregation. It’s the need of the church.
You know I read sometimes the older writers; some of my friends that are dead: Puritans and others like them. Then I read modern books and they’re good and they have their place. I’ve struggled trying to figure out, was it just that they had a better grasp of language and they could put it on paper in a way that was more deep and profound and poetic, expressive, through their similes and so on, or did they just know the Lord more? I don’t know. I’m not even in a position to answer that question, but I do wonder. And you read and say, “it’s a good book”, but then you read Watson and there’s an intimacy and you read some sermons by some of the old saints and you think, what a difference between just, here’s what the text means and here’s a man living it, and sharing it.
Revivals often begin with one person. They certainly can. Usually there’s one or two that come alongside them, but this is what we need. Draw me and we will run after Thee.
“The king hath brought me into his chambers.” What’s this? This is a case where others have no access, isn’t it? There’s no other access. People can’t just glibly walk in here, but the king has brought me in here. I’m here even though others have no access here. Is this not even like what the Lord taught us in John 14:7, where he talked about us having the Spirit and giving us the Spirit but the world won’t receive the Spirit but we have it? And he said even the Spirit of truth and the world cannot receive because seeing Him not nor knoweth him but Ye know Him for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you and there is the believer enjoying the spirit of God brought into the king’s chambers, into the place of intimacy with God and the world can’t receive Him. The world doesn’t know anything about it. If you’re not saved this morning you don’t know anything about intimacy with God and that’s why Communion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you. Prayer seems like a give-or-take practice and exercise. Intimacy is known by those who have the Spirit. There’s life within them so they know they are drawn into the king’s chambers. They’re there in a place of intimacy with their God and the world looks on and says they’re crazy. It doesn’t make any sense or it’s all kind of religious piety and weirdness. Of course it’s weird because you don’t have the Spirit. The world hasn’t and can’t receive the Spirit of Truth, but ye know him, child of God. Ye know him for he dwells with you and shall be in you and you’re brought into the kings chambers to fellowship.
Of course then, what’s the result of this? He will be glad and rejoice in thee. We will remember Thy love more than wine. The upright love thee. We will be glad and rejoice. We come into the place of intimacy with God. We come into the place where the Lord makes himself known. We come out of the place of prayer with gladness and joy. We leave the Table of the Lord today with gladness and joy because it wasn’t lost on us. It doesn’t bounce off of us and reflect and ricochet, but it embedded itself into our hearts. The Lord loves me. He has beckoned me to sit at his table. He has drawn me into his chambers. He wants me to have fellowship with him and he is communicating afresh to me his love. I see the cross. I behold the blood. I know I am his child and my heart is drawn out after him. Yes, the child of God has an attraction even though he may be backslidden, even though he may be away from the Lord. He wants drawn that I may run and brought into the king’s chambers and when he’s there in that place of fellowship, near to God, we will be glad and rejoice in Thee.
This is my desire for this church more than anything else. Gladness and joy and fellowship with God; not just the kind of outworking of the expansion of the Kingdom. But the actual heart of the issue that God is in fellowship with His people and the people are fellowshiping with their God. Therefore there is joy and gladness and their lives do not hinge in terms of their happiness based upon what they earn or what they have or what they don’t have or whether they’re sick or healthy and all the other changing experiences of life. It hinges on this: I am in the king’s chambers. He has brought me into that place of affection and intimacy and I will be glad and rejoice in Him and remember his love more than wine. Remember. Again, remembering the cross and his work on my behalf more than any other sweet experiences of this life.
4) Fourthly, the backslider has an admission to all. There is an admission she makes as well. Look at verses 5 and 6. “I am black, but comely oh ye daughters of Jerusalem. As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me because I am black because the sun hath looked upon me. My mother’s children were angry with me. They made me keeper of the vineyard, but my own vineyard have I not kept. Here is an admission, is it not? We have no idea who this woman was; only that she was of lowly estate and because of her lowly estate she had to go outside to work. She had to work under the heat of the sun. and that sun left its impact upon her. She can’t hide her poverty therefore. The low station of life is visible to all so she neglects herself: “mine own vineyard have I not kept.” I haven’t been able to. I have labors. I have been out under the heat of the sun. I’m not able to look after my own vineyard. Again this is in some way how the backslider may address their experience and speaking to the church, verse 5, ”I am black but comely Oh daughters of Jerusalem.” It’s not to him she speaks. It’s to the daughters of Jerusalem and she makes confession to them: “I am black but comely.” It is an admission of her state and condition. Her blackness speaks of how the world impacted her. As the sun beats upon her skin that made an impact and as she had been away from Him, as the distance had been created, and made and formed and produced by her moving herself away from him, a nearness to him therefore she finds herself out in the world and the world began to leave its mark on her. That is the material issue here. And so she finds herself in this condition where she is still comely because she has a righteousness that is not her own. She still has a right into the king’s chambers. She can come as a child of God, as one in fellowship with the Lord Jesus, but in moving herself away, the distance created by her sin, by her moving away from him, she is black but comely. The world has had its way upon her life.
If you get away from the Lord Jesus Christ, then the world will begin to impact you. It’s inevitable. You can’t stop it from happening. You’re being influenced one way or the other: either by the aroma and word of the Lord Jesus, of the King to your soul every day or you’re being moved away from Him into the world and being impacted by it. You may feel like the same person, but Christians can see the difference. It’s one of the sad things you observe in the lives of people sometimes, when you know they’re not where they once were, you can see it, feel it when you’re around them. And when they talk, sometimes you can discern the philosophy of the world rather than of the word of Christ. Who are they listening to now? Where are they spending their time? With whom do they fellowship? You can always tell when a Christian has gotten away from the Lord. You can always tell. They may stand there like Peter trying to warm themselves by the fire, but there is a distance and you know it. And if only the Lord would graciously just look your way, and you sense the distance that has been created, not just physically, not just in terms of yards but in the sense of your own soul; it’s now at a distance. Peter realized that himself. He turned and wept bitterly.
The world has a powerful influence. My question to you, Beloved, as you come to the Table of the Lord: Has the world been blackening you? Has it had its way with you? You put yourself out there. You put yourself under its power, but it’s done nothing but blacken you, hardening your heart, affecting your mind and your soul and yet here’s the thing: if you’re truly a backslider, you’re still comely. So you make this admission: I am black but comely O ye daughters of Jerusalem as the tents of Kedar and curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me because I am black because the sun has looked. In other words, don’t perceive me for how the world has impacted me. Sometimes that’s the backslider. They feel the looks of others of God’s people and they look on and they wonder what they are thinking. They‘re thinking, “That person is not a Christian.” Now you can get sensitive about that or you can admit, well there has been no evidence of it of late. But don’t get too sensitive. Don’t be too much worried about it. Realize that this is the desire of your heart. While you may be black because the sun has had its impact on you, the world has impacted your life, you can still get back and that’s the whole thrust of this. This is why she goes on in verse 7: “Tell me, Oh Thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest” I need to get back there. Being involved in the world, what has she done?. My own vineyard have I not kept. I haven’t looked after that which I am responsible for: my own soul. So I’m not reading his Word. I’m not praying. This is how we enjoy fellowship with God today. It is reading the Word. It is prayer. It is being amongst God’s people. It’s singing praises to Him. It’s by this that we keep our vineyard. We wall up ourselves against the world. We create walls that God has provided for us. We thought a little bit about it on Wednesday night. These walls God provided, like the church. It keeps out the blast of the midday sun and we come into God’s house and we hear His Word and we begin to cultivate the garden of graces. We grow in love and joy and peace and long-suffereing as we hear the Word, spend time with His people as we sit at His Table, as we enjoy all the means of grace that He has given. And the garden begins to be kept. We keep our own vineyard. We look after it and then the fruits of grace begin to show. Maybe you have to say, “Mine own vineyard have I not kept.” This brings us to the final point.
5) The backslider still has an aspiration for Christ. Verse 7, “Tell me, Oh Thou whom my soul loveth.” See the verbs? See the desire expressed in verse 2, where she says, “Let him kiss me.” Then she says in verse 4, “Draw me”, verse 7, “Tell me. Kiss me. Draw me. Tell me: all reflecting fellowship and the desire to be near to the Lord.
She sees him, of course, as the shepherd of the flock and she wants to be where he brings his flock. That’s what verse 7 says, isn’t it? “Tell me, oh Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.” Where have you brought them? Where you brought them, there is where I want to be. I want to be where you feed. I want to be where they feed. So she aspires to be in the right company, doesn’t she? To be with Thy flock. If you’re here today, you’re in the right company. It’s a wonderful thing to be amongst the Lord’s people, to sit in the company of those that are redeemed by sovereign grace and know the love of God in their hearts and be part of fellowship with them and all that they enjoy. But she doesn’t just aspire to be in the right company. She aspires to be in and under his care, doesn’t she? Oh Thou whom my soul lovest, where thou feedest, where thou madest thy flock to rest at noon. Makes them rest at noon. The noonday sun as it beats in upon her, as it threatens to again impact her life, she wants to rest at noon. She wants to be away from the heat of the world. She wants to be there where God protects his flock, in the midst of the stresses of life.
See it, Beloved! See it for yourself. Noon. That part of the world where the sun would beat heavily and powerfully upon them zapping them of their energy, removing from them any ability to perform their tasks. This is what happens when you stay out in the world, when you are away from the flock of God and away from the shepherd of the people of God. You’re out there and the midday sun beats down and eventually you’re zapped of spiritual energy and all the graces that you have cultivated and grown in your life begin to wither and die. No longer are you that vibrant Christian witnessing of the love of God, telling others about Jesus Christ, being an encouragement to others. You’re no longer there. You’re far away from there. You’re completely dried up. There’s no life within your soul at all. And she has been there. She wants to get away into the protection and care of the shepherd where he makes his flock to rest at noon. For why? Here’s her argument: why should I be as one that turneth aside to the flocks of thy companion? Why should I look to another? Why should I look to another? Why should I consider another religion? Why should I consider another so-called savior, philosopher? Why should I try and find rest when the real shepherd of the people of God is here. I want to be where he is.
As we come to the table this morning, have you come here today as a backslider? Have you? Your heart’s away, away from the Lord. In all truthfulness, if you’re coming to the table the way you came into church, you probably shouldn’t participate at all. You’re coming in harboring sin and all sorts of things that the Lord has no time for; and you’re making excuses for it. Or maybe somewhere along through this message, there has been that sense that the Lord is calling you out to Himself, that today he has come and kissed you with the kisses of his mouth. His Word, His Word this very day has drawn you into fellowship afresh. You’ve no need to worry about whether or not the Lord will receive you. He will receive you. He will accept you. He will forgive you. May the Lord give grace and repentance this very day. Let’s bow together in prayer.
And if you’re here today and you’ve been away from the Lord, there’s no need to go on in that path. I earnestly appeal to you. Begin to set things right even this very moment. Know the Lord is drawing you out after Himself. He desires you to be near to Him.
Lord, give grace, that grace to come. May they hear not merely the words of a preacher, but may all Thy flock hear the words that Thou hast uttered: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.