The Church in the Present Age

The Church in the Present Age

I invite you to turn in the Word of God to Song of Solomon chapter 3. Thank you to the choir. I was very encouraged by that this morning. I am trying to find the words to express to the world how much the Lord means to us who know him, to whom he has made himself known and we come to Song of Solomon Chapter 3. I am going to read from v 6 through to the end of the chapter. I have been laboring much over this this past week. It’s not the easiest text. There’s not much uniformity in some of the thoughts, those that have written their thoughts down. May the Lord prepare us for the Table of the Lord, encourage our hearts and cause us to know the drawing near of the Lord by his Spirit.

Song of Solomon chapter 3 verse 6: “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant? Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords being expert in war: every man hath his sword on his thigh because of fear in the night. King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem. Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Amen. Let’s still our hearts in prayer. Let’s all be praying for the Lord to enlighten his Word, by His Spirit and feed our souls that we may come to sit at the table prepared to think about the Lord and what He’s done for us.

Lord, we are thankful for what we have enjoyed already of thy Spirit ministering to our hearts. Oh God, we pray that what we consider from Thy Word in these moments may take us a little further. There are those in our midst that are truly needing a work of thy Spirit in their hearts. This is thy work to do. We cannot do it. So, God, I pray for the infilling of thy Spirit in these moments. Give help, Oh God, from heaven and meet with the youngest to the oldest; to those that are on the mountaintop with Thee at present, to those that are in the valley, to those that are in the blackness of darkness of unbelief. Whatever the condition, whatever the need, come blessed Spirit. Exalt Christ in our midst and do good to this body. Hear our prayer, for we ask in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

We have been walking through the text of the Song of Solomon since the beginning of the year each time we come to the communion table, endeavoring to have our hearts encouraged and prepared to sit at the table in the right frame of mind and think about the Lord. There’s much debate about the book, its interpretation, its characters, its division, but what we have endeavored to do is to simply take what has been the classic way of understanding the book, going even before the time of the Reformers. I was just reading something of Clairvaux doing a series on the Song of Solomon. I’m not sure you could really say it was expositional or going through it in that way. He took his time to the degree, you might say, it was more topical than really going through the book, but this book has been one of a great attention to the church down through the years and by and large, with the focus that God’s people would be encouraged and understand the sense of intimacy that the Lord endeavors to have with his people. That its primary purpose, its primary goal in the canon of scripture is to deepen our understanding of the love of Christ for us and the reciprocal love that we have towards him. The book breaks in various parts and you will see that even where we have left off in chapter 3, verse 5 says:

“I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.”

Similar language you have in verse 7 of chapter 2 and also in chapter 8 and verse 4. This charge to the daughters of Jerusalem and at least you can see some measure of division with these repeated phrases. So, where we are coming to this morning is kind of a new image, a new picture, a new scene of the relationship there is between Christ and his people. Though we have read here of Solomon being mentioned on the number of occasions in these verses, I want you to realize that a “greater than Solomon” is here. It is not merely that king whose realm extended and had tremendous influence in his generation and day, but it is just like the Lord said in Matthew 12: 42, “Behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” Here in this passage, here in this portion, I want us to understand that; that a greater than Solomon is here and our view and our gaze is towards Christ and his people and the relationship they have and the truths that we may glean from the allegory that is here before us. It is not immediately obvious who is speaking in verse 6. This was part of the challenge of the past number of days. Where it says,

“Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?”

There is debate over who is speaking and to whom it is addressed and if you can’t get to the point of understanding who is speaking or even perhaps more to the point, who is being addressed, then you have a great struggle indeed. But the vast majority take the opinion that this is spoken by the daughters of Jerusalem observing the bride coming out of the wilderness. We are going to take it that way, based partly at least, on chapter 8 verse 5. We have a similar address, “Who is this that cometh out from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved.” So you have there very much the attention brought to the bride and similar language there in chapter 8 verse 5. So, we come to chapter 3 with this language which is very similar and take it in the same way. What I want us to see this morning is what I have entitled simply, The Church in the Present Age. Our main points will be to see the general character of the church, then we will see the given contenders of the church then the glorious chariot of the church then the greatest commission of the church.

The Church in the Present Age

1. The General Character of the Church
2. The Given Contenders of the Church
3. The Glorious Chariot of the Church
4. The Greatest Commission of the Church

I. The General Character of the Church

Note with me then, first of all, the general character of the church given to us in verse 6: “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” There are a few things to note here in how the church is characterized.

A. Her witness is remarked upon

Who is this who cometh out of the wilderness. She appears as one out of a place of obscurity. She comes onto the scene as one who is coming out of a place where life does not generally exist. The language reminds us of the condition of the Israelites in their wilderness experience; the place where God taught them, the place where they were to learn how to depend upon God, a place where they had great afflictions and trials where God was testing them and they would learn or ought to have learned to depend upon God and his grace. Such is the condition of the church. At times she has her wilderness experience. She comes out of the wilderness and that is where she is at times, even on this earth. Many of our experiences are wilderness experiences. We go through times and seasons where the Lord is testing us and trying us and purifying us and He has his purposes in all of that. But even, in the midst of this of course, we are to feast on Christ. Matthew Henry said, “As the sinner has always reason to mourn, notwithstanding his present prosperity, so good people in the midst of their manifold difficulties have reason still to rejoice and bless God.” You may this morning be in your own wilderness experience. You may be in a time where it feels like God is at a distance from you, that things aren’t going according to plan, that life isn’t really being scripted the way you would have it to be scripted and yet, yet, the Lord has us there. He led his people into the wilderness, and He led them out again, as is the case here. Here she comes forth from the wilderness. This is her witness. This is her experience. This is her testimony that she is one brought out of the wilderness. More than that, where was she before the wilderness but in the world, in a place where there was no life whatsoever; where there was only oppression and struggle and the tyranny of a master who had no mercy. Such is the condition of the people of God. They are there to begin with. They are in a place of death, a place of hopelessness, a place where there is no one to deliver, no one to recover, no one to help. But when they cry from that place, the Lord hears and He leads his people out and while he may bring them into the wilderness, there will they learn many things, they will not remain there and the church will not remain in her wilderness experiences, not even in this life. The Lord often has seasons of refreshment and grace and mercy and He comes and satisfies our soul and leads us into blessing and causes us to rejoice with a sense of vigor and freshness. ——That way not even waiting for the refreshments of this life. We will one day the marriage supper of the Lamb we will sit down at the place of everlasting peace, forever delivered from the wilderness. This is where the Lord is leading his people. Her witnesses remark upon her testimony of being brought out of the wilderness that this is where she comes from. This is where she is being led out of. This is the testimony and witness of the church.

B. Her warning is also remarked upon

Her warning. Because she is like pillars of smoke. Man, I labored over this. What exactly is this referring to? It has been taken many different ways. It reminds some of the pillar of the Lord’s presence in the wilderness. Others see the smoke that ascends from the sacrifice. Others suggest that it indicates the direction of the church ascending heavenwards. Others see it reflecting her love and devotion. Others take it further, that this is the churches imperfect love because it is more smoke than fire. Well, you can see how much help there was for me, and so you come back to Scripture itself. You will find the term “pillars of smoke” in one other place, in Joel chapter 2, verse 30. And that passage is quoted by Peter in Acts chapter 2. Rather than turning to the original statement in Joel, let’s turn to Acts chapter 2 for a minute to see the quotation that Peter gives on the day of Pentecost. Acts chapter 2. We will read from verse 16. They see them. They observe them speaking in various languages and they can hear them and there is a list given of the various groups and dialects and nationalities that are represented in that great crowd. The apostles though, they be Galileans, are able to communicate with them, so they put it down to drunkenness. There is lack of reason and logic in that, of course, but Peter begins to speak in verse 14 and verse 16 he says,

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;” He begins to quote Joel, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit and they shall prophesy.”

So he’s speaking, this is happening now and what you see is testimony to the fulfillment of what Joel said would happen, that in the last days there will be indications of fresh and unusual activity of the Holy Spirit. And he continues, again still quoting from Joel.
“And I will shew wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath; blood and fire”, and here it is translated, “vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, quoting Joel, he is indicating a change, a shift, a fresh movement of the Holy Ghost and the activity of God in the midst of the people with signs in heaven and on the earth. Indications of God’s activity. God working and mightily showing himself. Now you ask the question: “Well, what are these wonders in heaven above and signs on the earth beneath?” Well, we could ascribe it to many things and certainly as the coming of the Lord draws nigh, there will be more signs, more indication, more wonders, more evidence of God working. But it is not in a merciful sense. It is these indications of judgment; that is clearly the language, and it is language of terror, of judgment. You can see that from the language: “And I will shew wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath; blood and fire”, and here it is translated, “vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come”.

There are terrifying things going on and men and women are being brought to see God’s activity; such activity that strikes fear within their hearts, and this happened even in the generation of the apostles. God worked to terrify those that were present among the apostles as his Spirit was so working at that time. For example, in Acts chapter 5, where we have the occasion of Ananias and Saphira and they lied to the Holy Ghost, they lied to God. We are told in Acts chapter 5 verse 11, “And great fear came upon all the church” (and you could understand that.) These two have lied, and they are struck down in judgment instantly as a token, as an indication that God still works in judgment. The idea that is even propagated today that the God of the Old Testament is somehow different from the God of the New Testament is immediately addressed right here in the book of Acts, where he strikes individuals down amidst his church without hesitation! So, the church fears. But not just the church: “and great fear came upon the church and as many as heard these things”. People heard about it. The neighbors of Ananias and Saphira no doubt heard about it. One day they were going about like usual, the normal timetable, they disappeared, they went off but that night they did not come back home. They never returned. The question gets asked, “What happened?” God struck them down, one after another.

Acts 19, on that occasion, where the Jewish exorcists in Ephesus failed to cast out the evil spirit, we have a similar thing going on there. When they fail, we read in Acts 19 verse 17 This was known also to all the Jews and Greeks in Ephesus and fear fell on them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” Jews and Greeks dwelling in the city, hearing what’s going on. God showing His power, showing his judgment through the church. If you read through church history, you will come across occasions when God worked in such ways. It’s often in the midst of awakening and revival and tremendous activities of the Spirit of God that coinciding with that activity that we often most focus upon, the salvation of many souls and the quickening of the church, at times also you will find such activity where God is putting fear upon the hearts of those that are even in a condition of unbelief and dealing with them. Using certain signs and indications of his activity to put fear within the hearts and so this is how the church comes out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke: judgment. Smoke is judgment. And the church adorns the sense of the judgment of God, and Paul would have us recognize that; that judgment must begin at the house of God. There’s adornment of judgment that the church wears and when he is really working, when he is striving, when he is dealing in an unusual way, often that is even displayed to an unbelieving world, bringing fear into their hearts.

C. Her work is remarked upon

Going back to Song of Solomon chapter 3, we see her witness and her warning, also her work, because we are told she is perfumed with myrrh and frankincense with all powders of the merchant. These perfumes signify the glories of the gospel that the church wears. An imputed beauty that she shares with the world. We have dealt with some of this already, but just again to go over this: myrrh and frankincense. What do these things mean? What are they indicating? What is the symbolism that is here? Well, myrrh signifies the perfect life of Christ. How does it signify that? Well, first of all, it was part of the composition of the holy anointing oil in Exodus 30:23. It was also employed in embalming. We read that in John 19:39, embalming Christ. The work that was done there, maybe not embalming so much, but a preparation of the body that they would go through.

Speaking of Christ in Psalm 45 where we sang verse 8 where it says “All thy garments smell of myrhh.” So, it is an aroma of a life without sin. That is why, then, he is given myrrh at his birth because he was born without sin and while at his death there is myrrh there again in John 19, because there is no sin even at the end of his life. Born without sin. Died without sin. Myrrh signifies the message of the perfect life of Christ. Frankincense signifies the message of the death of Christ. Its perfume was not so experienced. Naturally, just by being in your presence, it was shared better by burning. So it was used in the grain offering and the aroma of the frankincense would be smelled there and you have from that, the aroma of Christ’s obedience being seen through his suffering. As you have his life going through the suffering period where it is joined together with the fire, then you have the aroma of the death of Christ and the glories of that. All the powders of the merchant: that is all the sense of the gospel; all the glorious truths of the gospel. As Spurgeon rightly notes “Wherever the church advances, she makes manifest of the savor of the knowledge of Christ in every place.” This is the scene. The savor of the knowledge of Christ and so where she goes, people learn of the message of the perfect life of Christ, the message of the death of Christ, and then all the other attributing factors of the gospel, the elements that make up of that which we rejoice in. All these truths get declared and shared to the world, and this is the church right here, reflected in this language. ““Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” It is the church. It is God’s people. Beloved, this is you right there in verse 6, the Bride, the Redeemed, the Children of God, those saved by sovereign grace, those transformed, those to whom there is an imputation of beauty that you now stand complete in Christ, able to rejoice in a full and free salvation. Who is this that cometh? It is all of us redeemed by the precious blood. So we have the general character of the Church.

II. The Given Contenders for the Church

Verse 7-8. “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords being expert in war: every man hath his sword on his thigh because of fear in the night.” The bed here is believed by most to be more like a palanquin. What is a palanquin? Well, it’s a form of a kind of chariot that would be born which royal figures would travel in. There would be pall bearers that would carry this chariot and that is the scene that you have here. Solomon’s palanquin, his couch, they could sleep in it, they could rest in, just sit up there, being all royal in it and they would be carried along and that’s the kind of carriage that you have here. It is surrounded by threescore and that’s 60 valiant men of the valiant of Israel and they all hold swords being expert in war. Every man had his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night. Here are the men appointed to protect, 60 of them all around this chariot of sorts. There they are, appointed to defend, to protect. To protect that which is most prized. As the bride comes in this fashion, there’s the appointment of those that will protect her, look after, care for her well-being.

This of course, are those appointed in relation to the church, those that are appointed to help the church and preserve the church; men that are given a particular weapon. It’s a sword here and of course when we read the Scriptures, we know the Scriptures themselves are the very sword of the spirit and that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword that it is likened in that fashion. So, we have a description of 60 men appointed to defend and protect the church of Jesus Christ. See, the Lord cares for his church, looks out for his church and appoints those to help her. Largely speaking, they are those appointed to preach, largely, but not exclusively. Often, they are the ones that come to the fore, those that God uses. Some of them in history rise very much to the fore and we still speak of them today. They are warriors who protected the church. We can go back as far as the apostles. We see Paul himself fighting for the church. When he sees error creep in, he does not ignore it. He goes after it to the preservation of the people of God. The whole book of Galatians is written in that context, preserving the truth. Running after the souls of them that did run well but now something is hindering them. We use the sword of the Spirit to do that very thing. We read it especially when we come to chapter 3 it is filled with OT scriptures. Chapter 4 again, imagery from the OT. He is taking the sword of the spirit to instruct, to teach, to preserve the truth.

We go on a little further, we might ask ourselves, what condition would the church be today if it was not for a man like Athanasius, a man who so championed for the church under fierce attack against the deity of Jesus Christ and who got himself into the Book and filled his heart with such truth and went valiantly into the battle to preserve the truth, to fight for the church. Through the centuries we have these men that come to the fore sometimes they are very prominent.

We’ve been thinking lately of Luther. Again, another one: He gets a hold of the truth, or should I say rather, that the truth gets a hold of him and he becomes a warrior for the Truth and he will stand and he will fight and he will become the greatest enemy of the Roman church. And destroys her power to the degree she has never regained such power as she had before. But all those appointed to handle the Word, to protect the church, elders and their respective positions selected and appointed.

Very few of us are Athanasius or Luther or men of renown, but again, we are not given the names of these 60, but they all matter. They are all relevant. They all do their work. They are standing on guard. Their exclusive weapon is the Word of God, and their sole purpose is to fight for the church and the cause of Christ sustained through the church. Why 60 of them? Why 300 with Gideon? Why 12 apostles? Why about 120 in the upper room? Often, really, the number doesn’t matter so much, but what strikes me is how God knows the number and he’s always aware of the number. We seldom are! We are like Elijah. We think we’re on our own fighting valiantly, the only one standing by the chariot, but the Lord knows there are 7,000 that have not bowed the knee to Baal. The Lord always knows the number. He always knows exactly those that are fighting for truth, standing for his cause. He knows exactly who they are and what they’re doing, and he sends his Spirit to give them encouragement and help and power, and he uses them. He uses men. He appoints them. Now, in one sense we may look at this and we may say, “Well there always is the right number”. There are always enough laborers because the Lord is sovereign, and he calls them. We may look at it from that perspective and acknowledge certainly the Lord is sovereign. The Lord Jesus himself taught us to pray in Matthew 9 and the recognition that the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. It says “pray ye therefore the lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” Do you pray that prayer? Do you pray for more laborers? Perhaps there is little that you can do to help the coming generation than praying for more laborers. Are you only concerned for your own generation? Now I understand. Like David, the best any one of us can do is serve our generation. That is the best we can do in terms of our activity, our involvement in what is going on. You cannot do better than serving your generation. What are you waiting for? If you are going to serve Christ, if you are going to serve Him and do something of significance, it has to be now. It has to be in this time. This season. Now, I know many of you have served for years and labored for years and you continue to the degree to which you are able to labor and I say, ”Keep going on, brother, Keep going on sister. Don’t grow weary in well doing.” If you come to the point where you can no longer because of ill health, because of infirmity, because of lack of energy, you are no longer able to labor the way you used to, at least labor in this way. Pray the Lord of the harvest to raise up the laborers. There is no doubt in my mind that Luther could not have done what happened in Europe on his own. He could never have done all of what was accomplished on his own, God was pleased to raise up man after man after man after man in an unusual way. Men who were like these depicted, holding their swords, expert in war, EXPERT IN WAR.

Now, I know we do not like war and there are many unjust wars that grieve our souls, but the Lord is a man of war. He is. He is a man of war as his own testimony and his people are called to wage war, not to sit back, not to look at the present experience of the church and look at the generation in which we live and just sit back and watch and let it all happen. The question in our minds should be what can I do? And we all have that awareness of the limitations of our power and influence. We are not great, mighty, well connected, the great influencers of the world. But the Lord does not expect us to be. But we are to be faithful where we are. You can see exactly the season in which they are ready. Look at it. Every man hath a sword upon his thigh. It is not sitting at home. You do not leave your sword at home. Do not leave it in a place thinking it is a time of peace and everything will go well. You do not go out into your labor thinking that I won’t need it. No, you always need to be ready. A warrior needs his weapon and needs to be ready at any given moment to wage war with the enemy. To wield the sword of the spirit and to bring the gospel with power to hearts. It is because of fear in the night. Scripture likens our present time both to being the day and the night. Certainly we can see the likeness of the night upon our present generation. What’s the need? Oh what do I hear many of God’s people say sometimes. No doubt sentiments that are felt. You know II just ought to disappear somewhere obscure up in Montana or maybe to Alaska and get away from it all and act like it’s not going on what’s happening today. Is that the response? Is it? You know, you never know, you never know when a Luther is at your feet. You don’t know. It’s often just one person; mother, a father we were hearing this morning about William the Silent who was so influenced by his mother. So it is down through the ages. You ask the great men, mighty men, the valiant men of the church. Who influenced you? Often it is predominantly one person. One insignificant, forgotten, unknown individual who is pouring their life into another. God, in his providence, takes those efforts and changes that heart, that life. That life goes on to wage war in ways that they themselves could never do. We need more contenders in the church. We do! We need people prepared to fight and wage war in the night; to take their swords, to know the Bible, to not be interested in entertaining.

It’s not about … again, someone was talking about Calvin’s sermons, not his commentary but his sermons. The comment they made about Calvin’s sermons was that the reason why they were so relevant and helpful today is because he didn’t use many illustrations. His sermon did not become dated by always focusing upon what’s on the news and entertaining the congregation with little stories of things that were going on. He wasn’t interested. Were there things going on in his day? Surely there were! Things he could have commented on all the time. Absolutely! But when he got up and stood before the people, he poured over the word. He gave them the Word because it’s the word that strengthens the soul. I learned that early on. I came to the conviction that this is the need. You don’t have to torment yourself and try to be entertaining with novel illustrations and stories. Just give them the Word, and if God is gracious enough to pour out his spirit, that’s what changes lives! This is the need of the day. Young men who have the sense of conviction. They’re not there to entertain. They’re not there to try and demonstrate their powers of oratory and carry people along in a story. No. Just to pour out the Word before souls to protect them, to defend them and to wage war with the enemy when necessary with nothing but the sword. It’s all you need. The Word of God. That’s what the church, (chuckle) Roman Catholic church, that’s what was such a problem to her. When a man gets up and said “Sola Scriptura”…the Word and he just focuses on the Word and he declares the Word and he keeps declaring the Word. It’s the Word that set people free. This is the scene of the church. There are these contenders and we need more of them. Beloved, pray for me. I’ll tell you, no man is sufficient for these things. You do not consider yourself valiant (chuckles). But you trust and obey.

III. The Glorious Chariot of the Church

We have seen the general character, the given contenders of the church. The glorious chariot of church is given to us in verse 9 and 10: “King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.”

This chariot, again, the vast majority of them, they see this as Christ being conveyed through the world. There is this chariot that carries the gospel, carries Christ to various nations. It brings him to the souls of men. The underlying materials of this chariot you can see Lebanon, silver, gold, covered with purple, paved with love. I mean, these are materials of permanence and purity and value. Some men go into the significance of the various qualities of these. The very least you can say is they are materials of permanence, purity and value. This is the framework of the chariot. The gospel that is declared is forever relevant. It’s like the cedars of Lebanon. The wood of Lebanon was used because of its distinct characteristic that it doesn’t rot. It will last the test of time. Gold and silver of the same quality. These things are pure, and they are permanent. They have immense value because of that. But again, most of all, if you are watching on as this chariot would move, you wouldn’t really see the wood and the silver and the gold because it’s all covered with purple. Purple is that color that reminds us of the very blood of Christ. (Purple and red are basically the same in terms of their quality and their significance.) That’s what men can see. So here you have the church going through the world, bearing a message of the gospel; a permanent, lasting message of value that can’t be quantified. There is no message like it. There is nothing that can replace it. But what men see, what men are meant to see, is the covering of purple. What is it that the church declares first and foremost? What is it that she focuses upon? What is it that is the summation of her message?: Christ crucified. As she goes through the world, she is not to get sidetracked into minor issues or perhaps important issues that are not particularly relevant to a lost and dying, perishing world. We can argue with a perishing world over various nuances of Scripture and what passages might mean, but we can debate and argue about things and never truly win the soul. What is it that the lost soul needs to see? What is it that the church needs to focus upon? It is the finished work of Christ! It is the message that the blood is able to wash away all sin. It is telling sinners amidst their sin and their deserving of hell that there is a message of hope through the blood of Jesus Christ and the blood of Christ alone. And this is on the surface of our work, is it not? Why do we do it? Why are we engaged in it? Why bother? Because the midst thereof is paved with love. Love! Why do we do it? The love of Christ constrains us. Why did Christ come in the first place? Because God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Love paves the whole direction. It is the very reason for the existence of the chariot, and it is the motivation of the movement of the chariot. It is the love of God in Christ. There is no higher motivation than this. Let us remember amidst all our activity, we all have 24 hours in the day. We all have our responsibilities. We are very good at trying to tell ourselves about the value of things we are doing but let us always remember what Paul confessed in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I’m become a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, though I have all faith as to remove mountains but have not charity, I am nothing. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

This is where the table of the Lord is a great help to us. The love of God for us. Why are you able to sit at the table of the sovereign? Have you earned it? Is it because you are willing to give your body to be burned? It is all meaningless. It does not have any real value. The same could apply to Christ himself. People say he came as an example to us. What significance is there in that? There is a true atonement being made, but it is not detached from the underlying motivation: love. See, Christ reflects this. Paul understood this. That Christ did not offer himself as a sacrifice merely in obedience, but because he loves his people. All that we are to do is to fall on the same example. We are so miserable at it. Doing everything out of love. Pride rises up. Serving the self. Arguments for comfort, for ease (sighs). It is a good job, the invitation. To sit at the table today does not come by our perfect reflection of the love of Christ.

IV. The Greatest Commission of the Church

We have then, finally, the greatest commission of the church in verse 11: “Go forth all ye daughters of Zion and behold King Solomon the crown were with his mother the day of his espousals and in the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Go forth. Here, there is a word spoken to the daughters of Zion. A word to them to behold King Solomon and this is the commission of the church; not to behold Solomon. Again, a greater than Solomon is here. It is to point to David’s greater son, Jesus Christ. Behold King Jesus. That is the greatest commission of the church. This is the primary work of the church and so as we see the invitation here: “Behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him”. There he was, crowned, rightfully crowned, but our eyes go beyond the surface of the text. Our eyes behold another King. They look to another Sovereign. They behold someone of greater significance. Especially as we as God’s people sit here today, we want to see further and understand, Have I truly beheld the King? Have you? Have you beheld the King? Are you beholding the King?

We read in John chapter 6 of the feeding of the 5,000; a very well-known miracle. Many, if not everyone here this morning knows about it, even the youngest of our children have perhaps heard of the feeding of the 5,000. And in John’s record of it, after the feeding of the 5,000 there is a move of the multitudes to make Christ …“Surely this is the prophet that Moses said should come. Let’s make Him king.” You read that and on the surface it seems somewhat commendable. The Lord moves away from that, sends his disciples away. He himself moves away. You come to the next day, John 6 still. You read on and the multitudes are roaming around trying to find where Jesus is. Eventually, they find him. Again, they have this craving, longing, and the Lord Jesus begins to unfold to them the significance of the miracle. “Are you not putting 2 and 2 together?” We might say. You saw me as the prophet Moses would say should come. Because you understood, there we are in the wilderness and we had nothing to eat and I, by my power and omnipotence provided bread for the multitude with more than enough to spare and you participated but you are only looking at it on the surface. The purpose is not that I am come once again to do what Moses did, but I am come to do what Moses could NOT do. I am here to satisfy the soul. I am here so that if a man eats of me, he will never hunger again. I am the bread of God, sent down from heaven. You go through John 6 you know it and you realize when you get to the end, many of them turned back and walked no more with him. The multitudes turned away, and the Lord says to the disciples standing, “Will you also go away?” But what was the fundamental problem? They were willing to have Christ as the king of the nation but refused to have Christ as King of their own lives and hearts. They would not come to him that they might have life.

So, when I ask you this morning, “Are you beholding the king” I am not asking you on the level to which the Jews were able to behold Jesus Christ as King. There he is. We want to make him King. Wouldn’t he be great? What a welfare program he can put on for us. We just follow him around and he gives us free bread! That is what people want today. Handouts. If Christ came to America today, and did the same miracle, it would be the exact same response. Multitudes would follow after him for the bread. The physical bread. There he is. He is able to provide my material needs. When you begin to drive home the real need of the heart: confession of sin. Christ to satisfy the soul, the need for Christ as King and Lord of your life. No. They will not have this man to reign over them. Is that you? Is that where you are? You will not have this man to reign over you? How do you crown him today? Child of God, we say “King of my life I crown Thee now”. But perhaps for some of you, the only crown you will give is just another crown of thorns. You have no love for Christ. You see no beauty in him. You see no glory in him. You are not lost in wonder, love, and praise. You don’t lament how little love Him. You don’t lament the gravity of your sin. You don’t lament the fact that you don’t know him. You just carry on carelessly and indifferently to the gospel. I wonder, I wonder what on earth is going to waken you up. I have watched…I have seen this past year, I have gone through the vast majority of my life. Very few family members, only one person close in the family excepting one that was stillborn, one close in the family passed away; my grandfather, 12 years ago. And this past year, three, into eternity. And the one this morning is the most difficult because I do not know where he is. He sat under, in his childhood days, a man of great eminence, in terms of his ability to communicate the gospel, Dr. Cairns. He sat under his ministry before you had the privilege of having him here. And I have no idea where he is. It grieves my heart more than the passing of any of the others. As we dealt with, very recently two weeks ago, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4: “We sorrow not as others who have no hope”. It is a very different story when your heart is not filled with hope. Where are you? In God’s name I ask you, where are you before the Lord this morning? May God have mercy.

Let’s bow together in prayer: Lord, we are thankful for thy Word. Many of us here this morning are part of the church, and we are thankful for thy grace that has joined us to Christ. We seek to show forth the aroma of his wonderful life and the significance of his glorious death. We pray that all the other glories of the gospel or the aroma of those things would be discerned by the perishing world in which we live. We pray for the raising up of those who will contend for the faith once delivered for the saints. God, even are some here this morning. Work in their hearts. We pray God thou wilt bless us as we come to the table. Help us to behold our King. Help us to see him in the beauty of his reign over life and over death. He is seated presently in his current session and all his enemies are put under his feet and we sit at this table, enjoying the peace he provides to our souls, though there are many enemies and a great adversary against us, peace reigns where Christ reigns in our hearts. Bless this time. Feast our souls. Do us good in Jesus’ name. Amen.