Let’s turn this morning to the book of the Song of Solomon. Find the beginning of Isaiah and work backwards: Song of Solomon chapter 2. We have been going through this book for our communion meditations. Helping us in consideration of our Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for us as we remember him at the table. Our study in 1 Thessalonians, at times, is much more practical and your mind is drawn on a certain topic. Then to come around you’d nearly need another meditation in preparation for the table.
By doing it in the fashion we are, which is every first Lord’s Day of the month, in the morning, as we observe the Lord’s Table, we come to this book and just work our way through it for the help and direction we need in how we should think as we come to the table of the Lord on any given occasion.
We are in chapter 2. That’s as far as we are at present. We are going to read the opening 7 verses of this. I trust the Lord will help us as we read the word and then as we consider it together. So let us hear the word of God. Let us even consider the tremendous privilege we have in the fact that the word is here before us in our mother tongue. May the Lord, by His Spirit, instruct our hearts.
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
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.
Amen. We will end our reading there at 7th verse. Let’s still our hearts momentarily in prayer and let’s all seek the Lord:
Our Father, we simply want to be prepared to sit at the table with the frame of mind that we ought to have; a frame of mind of worship and adoration of repentance, of privilege, sensing all that has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus and being brought to adore Him and praise Him and consider Him. We pray that as we have the word open before us and we give consideration to the things that are here, that Thou wilt be pleased to open up the Scriptures and truly bless our hearts and just cause our minds to be directed to those things that are conducive to praise and adoration. We want to sit at thy feet and hear thy word and we pray that it might please thee to just come alongside and help each one of us. Bless them, those that will hear the word. Bless the preacher. I pray for Thy help. I ask Lord, for Thy promised Holy Ghost for He has given to aid preachers, to aid those who declare Christ. We ask that His aid will be very evident and known by us all that we might be fed upon the finest of the wheat. So come, Blessed Spirit of God. Condescend, saving and restoring and blessing all that are gathered here this day we pray in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
As we have said on the various occasions that we have been looking at this book coming to our communion seasons, I have made it clear that we are taking the classic Reformed and Puritan understanding of the Song Of Solomon. We say that again, just briefly, at the outset this morning so that if you are here and you have been taught another way, or have read some other book that takes this as a manual for marriage or human relationships, that you’ll not be completely confused when I begin to expound the passage from a completely different perspective; that you’ll see we are taking it in the form of the allegory that those before us took it as they sought to understand the teaching of this portion of the word of God. We made arguments for our reasons in relation to that already and I’ll not go over old ground. But John Owen, the English puritan, tremendous theologian of the past, he said concerning the Song of Solomon, “This WHOLE book, is taken up in the description of the communion that is between the Lord Christ and His saints.” That simple quotation from John Owen highlights and drives home the point that we are making and the application of understanding of this passage of the word of God as we come to it each time we approach the table of the Lord. It is a unique look in some ways, at the depth of communion between believers and their Lord. As such, it ought to drive home to our hearts, the experience of communion with the Savior. The importance of that depth of communion that it is not enough for any one of us to be content merely with some profession of faith, but that there is a deep communion between each one that professes faith in Christ as they live out their lives before the Lord. That there is a communion, there’s a connection, there is his Word coming to you, him sending his Spirit to you and you in turn, having relationship with him, communing with him, sharing your heart with him, magnifying Him for all that He has done for you in the sending of his Sson. It’s a two way communication that is going on with every born-again believer and their savior and their God. We have to lament far too often however, that that communion is not what it ought to be. Indeed that deep sense of lamentation, that sense of something not being right in terms of communion with God, is, in fact, an indication of the root of the matter being there within your life. One who has never been born of the Spirit who knows nothing of genuine saving grace, tends to go through life with little concern over the fact that they do not have communion with the Lord. They don’t have fellowship with God. But even if we come and we are found this morning in the house of God in a poor state of communion, where there isn’t an ongoing experience and fellowship with the Lord where we must admit that, I’m really not where I ought to be. The fact that you’re bothered by that is an indication of the fact that you do know the Lord. It is one of the evidences. When people come to me sometimes for counsel and this is their problem, the lack of assurance or things that relate to a lack of assurance, they’re concerned about what is going on in their lives and their lack of interest in the things of Christ. It’s a common conversation that happens regularly. We have these discussions with people, one of the things that I try to help them to see, the fact that you’re bothered by this is strong evidence of the need not to worry about what you’re worrying about. Because the worry is, do I really know the Lord? Am I really saved? The fact that you are concerned about that, because there is an absence of fellowship, certainly is one of the evidences of the fact that you know the Lord. The Lord has done a work in your heart. The fact you’re then, concerned about that is a work of his Spirit within your life. So as we sit at the table of the Lord, it is about communion. It is about fellowship. It’s not just sitting here going through it. It’s about fellowship. It’s a reflection of that fellowship that we have, that we enjoy in Christ. It is the Lord calling us aside from our normal duties of life. And he is saying,
“Look, fellowship with me. This is a reminder to you because you’re apt to forget. You’re apt to drift through life and not be aware of the deep sense of fellowship that you are to enjoy, but I want to enjoy that fellowship. I desire that fellowship with you, so I am calling you. Remember me in this appointed way. Sit down and participate in the fashion that has been appointed”.
So, as we come to the opening verses of chapter 2, we are just continuing this theme. This is what the book is about. It’s about communion. It’s about the Lord’s fellowship with his church, with his people, individually, corporately. The application is there both ways but it’s about fellowship between the Lord and his church. We are considering then:
The Love between Lilies
We are just drawing from the opening language there as we consider first in this:
1) The imagery of love
2) The imagery of fellowship
3) The imagery of security
1) The imagery of love Let us see first of all, the imagery of love in verses 1 and 2, “I am the rose of Sharon,” it is recorded, “and the Lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” These first verses have divided opinion. In fact, many modern translations, you may have one before you, will reflect the fact that verse 1 really belongs to the preceding verses of the end of chapter 1. So in verses 16 and 17, you have the church essentially, the bride, communing with the Lord in that sense, and verse 1 is put in along with that, so this is the church saying “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” Here is what the believer is reflecting to the Lord; a statement by the bride. This has not been the normal understanding of verse 1. In fact, the very hymn we sang last indicated that it is the Lord that said He is the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley. That has been debated. It has been opposed and some have said, “No, this is the language of the bride.” But again, most Reformed and Puritan commentators of the past regarded verse 1 as the language of the bridegroom. It’s the Lord Himself speaking here and drawing attention to himself. As usual, I side with the older scholars. I think they had it right. The Lord is saying in verse 1, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” He draws attention to himself, likening himself in these ways. Then, in verse 2, he draws attention to the church, where he says, “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” He uses here, an “I AM” statement. At least it is how it is recorded for us in sense of what the Lord is. And when we read that, again, we understand the Lord Jesus was never shy to use terms of what he is and draw from the world in making statements of what he is. So when we read through the gospels, we know that he claimed to be the light of the world, the bread of life, the good shepherd. He preceded those statements with “I am”. I am these things. Here, in the Old Testament Scriptures we have another statement that is essentially drawing a similar idea I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. Here is what I am. Their truths are being communicated through the imagery being put here before us.
Now what is the rose of Sharon? The rose of Sharon is that beautiful plain in the Mediterranean coast. It was imagery that would be familiar with those reading this, originally, and they would understand. It is a scene of beauty. A scene of beauty is being painted before us. Christ elevates his own beauty in using this language. “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys “ He is drawing our minds to see the beauty of himself, depicting himself as the most beautiful flower in the most beautiful plain. The rose of Sharon and then the lily of the valleys as well. He is also that; one of the most attractive flowers in all of nature. I know there is argument over the type of lily and so on, but there is certainly a sense in which the Lord here is drawing out something beautiful, not going into the various aspects of the horticulture of it all, in terms of what lily it was and what it looked like and what color it was. I see our brother Mr. Pinkston smiling in the back. This is maybe some area where he would have some expertise but the sense of the idea is beauty. It is beauty and the Lord is drawing out and drawing attention to his own beauty. Of course, I find it interesting that Solomon is recording this, at least in terms of the translation anyway. If the lily is the same lily that the Lord referred to, that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” that here, Solomon is recording that very thing that the Lord Jesus Christ is as the lily of the valleys but Solomon wasn’t. Solomon himself, did not have a beauty like that but the Lord Himself in this portion shows that he has the beauty that supersedes the beauty of all the glorious things of the world, even that Solomon had and all of the glory of his own achievements and attainments in this world. You see, Jesus Christ is the most glorious thing in the world. He is. He draws attention to himself here in this way. He wants us to see the beauty in it. We stand, at times, at least some of us, we like to appreciate nature, some moreso than others. I‘ve lamented this in the past, that I don’t have that poetic strain that looks at nature and really can see as the poet sees the world. I wish I had more of that. Maybe it is something that can be cultivated and I should put more effort into it. I appreciate that sense that people that have when they look at the world, they see something far more than perhaps the average person sees, just in terms of the life of what exists before them and what they can see, in terms of color. They see more deeply than that and the hymn writer brings this out, does he not, when he talks about something lives after Christ comes into the heart. Something lives in every hue that Christ-less eyes have never seen. That even creation itself takes on more glory and more beauty whenever we have a genuine converted experience, when we are born of the Spirit of God. So it is for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is lamented by the prophet in Isaiah 53 that there is no beauty in him that we should desire him. Again, like the unconverted heart or like those that cannot see the beauty of creation, they look at the world and plainly just see it for the life that it is, but they see no real beauty in it all. In fact, the whole philosophy of our day, the driving influences of our generation are seeking to help people, and encourage people and make people believe that all of this is by chance. That everything before us is just randomly put together and there is no creative glory in it at all! In fact, when you come to that logic, when you remove God from the very establishment of the world, when you remove the fact that He made everything and everything is random chance, then essentially, there is no such thing as beauty itself anyway. It’s all again, it’s purely in the eye of the beholder and even there, the beholder has to question whether or not it is as beautiful as he really perceives. Because it is random, it’s just the product of chaos. He cannot be assured that anything has that real sense of beauty in the fact that it has been ordered in a certain way and made in a certain way and the colors come together, particularly in the fashion that is designed to reflect beauty and glory. You remove God even trying to have any, even art itself doesn’t really exist in any meaningful sense. Art has meaning and has sense because we know God made all things beautiful and glorious in the way that he made them. All forms of art: musical, whatever, all forms of beauty find their sense of beauty because we know God made it in that way. The Lord Jesus Christ is aware of beauty. He has no problem with the fact that certain things are beautiful. Drawing from nature he says, “I am the rose of Sharon. I am the lily of the valleys” and as a person would look upon the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys and marvel at their beauty there, so it is for the child of God, they ought to be encouraged by this portion to look at Christ and see the beauty of the Son of God. We are to be a people that are attracted to Him that see the beauty in him that we should desire him. His observation then of us, what the Spirit of God records, in terms of what the Lord would say to his church is “as the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” They take on a certain beauty that the Lord himself has. As the lily among thorns he is the lily of the valleys, there’s the lily among thorns. Again this is not uncommon. The Lord Himself says, “I am the light of the world”, but then he also says “ye are the light of the world. There are aspects of me and what I’m about that can be seen in you and ought to be seen in you.” So the beauty of the lily ought to be seen in the people of God as well, in the church, in those that love him and adore him and know him. There’s something of his beauty that can be reflected by them and ought to be reflected by them as the lily among thorns.
Of course, they are among thorns, thorns speak of the curse don’t they? Genesis 3:17-18 the lord says there, “cursed is the ground for thy sake. In sorrow shall thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” Thorns. Every gardener knows the thorns and the thistles know that constant battle of the world. In fact, I have said to people when they talk about weeding and so on. Just remember every time you go out to weed, you are being reminded of the fall, and of our need for Jesus Christ. Every time! Every time you lament the fact that you’ve made it all perfect and proper and have been very particular about everything and edging everything and putting everything in its place, then of course the monsters of weeds come up and try to ruin your work and the artistic endeavor you’ve sought to apply and showing the beauty of the things that you’ve planted. Every time you get involved in that, there’s a message that’s coming to you. Again, it’s not clear enough for the ignorant to understand it, but for you that know the word of God when you’re battling with the weeds, as it were, with the thorns and thistles, you are being instructed again that you live in a fallen word and that you need the Savior. You need the Lord, Jesus Christ. So parents, when you send your kids out to do the weeding, and they complain, you remind them, “Well, this is communicating the gospel to you. You need the Lord Jesus Christ. You need to go out there and weed so you are reminded that you live in a fallen world and you’re fallen as well and you need the Lord.” You can blame me then, for suggesting that and for me putting it in your mind if you haven’t used that argument already.
Yes, we are among thorns. There is the church in verse 2. What an apt description, in fact, even as we come to the Lord ’s Table. This is not that final supper, is it? We are awaiting the marriage supper of the Lamb when we sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and feast there with all the church and all the ransomed. But here, it is not as it will be then. Here, there are thorns. The curse is all around us. Indeed, something of the influence of that curse is even in us. Thorns. The world you see, that’s really what the thorns are. As the earth brings forth the thorns against everything that man seeks to do and all that is good and right. God made the world and said it’s good. It’s all very good. Man falls and then thorns come up and it’s not good. It is not good. So among the lilies which is good are these thorns that grow up and they’re seeking to choke the life out of the lily. This is what life is like in this world. For the church militant, for the church upon the earth, we are battling constantly. In fact, is it not true the Lord uses this imagery of thorns even in one of his most famous parables: the parable of the sower, as we know it recorded in Matthew 13. It refers to that certain ground that is choked by the thorns he says also that receives seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and he becometh unfruitful. You see, the thorns and the world being pulled together. The image is of thorns choking out the life, but the application in terms of the church is that those thorns of the world and that world chokes life out of the seed that has been sown. Thorns, the world, they are brought together there most powerfully in Matthew 13 by our Lord Jesus Christ and that then us the imagery we see in verse 2. The lily is among thorns. The church lives in a world that is seeking to choke the life that the Lord has put with in it. The beauty of Christ that exists in every genuinely redeemed child of God, that beauty is under constant pressure. You know it within your own soul. There a beauty in the church. Of that, there is no doubt. The Lord redeems us, sanctifies us, changes us, transforms us. We are not what we once were, by his grace. But it is not an easy road. It is not without its conflict. The conflict of the child of God of the church is described here in terms of thorns. “As the lily among thorns so is my love among the daughters.” My love, that chosen, particular love the Lord has for his church, for his people. That love for that particular lily. Yet that lily exists among thorns. The Lord keep us among the world. He spoke of this in John 17, did he not? In verses 14 and 15 the Lord Jesus records in his high priestly prayer “I have given them Thy word and the world hath hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” And here is what he prays, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” What a prayer! The Lord ultimately, and you read on in the prayer and you see his desire that they be with him where he is that they may behold his glory. That’s the end, the destination where it is going. But presently his prayer for his church is “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” In other words, the Lord is praying even now that the lily would not be taken from among the thorns. The lily has an existence and purpose among the thorns. Beloved, you have a purpose in your existence here in the world, among the thorns. Those thorns of unbelievers that are around you and in your workplace, in your neighborhood and those that despise you and hate you, even within your own family. You have a purpose being a lily among those thorns. There’s a reason the Lord has you in amongst those particular thorns. We look at the day in which we live. The thorny experience of living in the 21st century in NA; we look back to other days, days that seem brighter, days that seem better for whatever reasons, and they may be better in some ways but they’re worse in others. I always like to keep myself humble as I look back and see something of the climate that others lived in; times of revival and God coming down and you kind of wish you were there and had a taste of it, but if you go back too far, there are other things that benefit. This maybe shows my carnality, but I immediately think of maybe having an needing a root canal or something and being very, very glad I live in the 21st century where you can get anesthetic and be numbed from the pain and appreciate some of the advancements in science. There’s a reason why we live now. We are not to look back to other days and kind of wish away our lives and our existence. We are to realize the Lord has the lily among these thorns now. You’re existing now among thorns, you don’t desire or delight or even like the thorns very much, but you’re there in the thorns. You’re in the prickly experience of your life, your existence ere and now. That’s where you are in God’s perfect providence for your life. So, we come to the table of the Lord today and you have the thorns. Let’s just put it this way: you have the effects of the curse and the fall surrounding you. Yet the Lord would still call the lily to come and sit and dine with Him. Psalm 23 sums it up so well when it’s put in these words: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” In the midst of the thorns, he prepares a table for me that I may sit and commune with him.
I don’t know what particular aspects of the thorny world in which we live that you are under at present; certain unpleasant experiences of the fall that you’re in this morning, but there’s one thing we can certainly be thankful for: that we are lilies among thorns and not the thorns themselves. Whatever goes on in life, at least we are the lily. We have something of the beauty of the Lord Jesus that is upon us. As a lily among thorns, so is my love among daughters. Distinct. Different. not like the rest not like the world in which she lives and exists. This is you, child of God. This is you. Christ set his love upon you that you might be a lily among thorns. Embrace it. Don’t embrace the thorns, necessarily. Don’t do that. Don’t become part of the thorns but embrace the fact that you are a lily among thorns. That’s where you are. That’s the life the Lord has appointed for us, until he calls us into glory.
Spurgeon noted that “God uses Lilies to turn thorns into lilies. That’s the power of Christian testimony. The lily among the thorns can be used to transform the very thorns themselves by evangelism, by personal life and testimony to the gospel itself. Secondly then, look with me not only the imagery of love, but
2) The imagery of fellowship. There’s an imagery of fellowship here. While the Lord shows his love towards his people and reflects that love by identifying the distinguishing mark they have, taking on his characteristics and being a lily among thorns, there is then fellowship that develops in verses 3 and 4. In verse 3 we read, “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” We’ll get to v 4 in due course. These thoughts are of the bride concerning the bridegroom. She is now reflecting her heart concerning him. Note with me in the fellowship:
a) The place to consider the fellowship: as the apple tree among the trees of the wood. Now again, I’m no expert in horticulture, but apple trees don’t generally belong in woods, but in orchards. It would be a very strange thing usually, to go through a wood and find an apple tree in the middle of it. Usually it would have no place there, but this is what she says concerning him, “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.” As he has reflected what she is (a lily among thorns), now she in turn, reflects what he is in the midst of the world..as the apple tree among the tree of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. The place of fellowship then, is this place of the wood, of darkness, of difficulty and yet, and yet he is there in the midst of the darkness of the wood, where we would expect all of those trees that make up the wood, all the evergreens and so on, whatever it might be would cut out all the light and remove all life at all. There is this apple tree that stands there in the midst, and that is what he is to her; as an apple tree. It stands out again. Again, like a lily among thorns, your eye is drawn to the lily, and as an apple tree in the midst of the wood. She sees the beauty of him and where this fellowship will take place. One would expect, again, the apple tree to be in an orchard. That’s the image of heaven. It’s the perfect environment. It’s walled. Not that the defiled will enter in, but that’s not where this apple tree is. It is in the wood. Again, it’s a picture of the world and its darkness, and Christ, you see, came into this world. He condescended. He didn’t have continually in his existence, this walled orchard staying up in heaven. In order to redeem his people, he had to come to the place of darkness. He had to come into the heart of the wood, as it were, to address the needs of his people. What wonderful imagery there is here. There is not only the place to consider in this fellowship. There is also:
b) The person to consider in this fellowship. Woods, as we said already, tend to be dark and shadowy areas. Just like this world cursed by the fall. One apple tree in the midst of the woods is conveying the sense of uniqueness. There’s nothing else like it. It is one apple tree in the midst of the wood. No other like it. It’s standing there on its own, unique in the world. This is our Lord Jesus Christ: unique in the world. Yes, he took on flesh. Yes, yes, he became man and dwelt among us. Yes, people looked at him and did not understand there was any distinction. “Is not this the carpenter’s son”, as it was sometimes put. Is he not just one of us walking amongst us living his life? But again, to those eyes that have had the scales removed, and the Lord has stepped in and given his redemptive grace, and their hearts have been transformed and scales taken from the eyes, they begin to see in the wood of this world there was an apple tree! An apple tree. So unique. So distinct. There is also then,
c) The provision to consider in this fellowship, because she sat down. Do you see that in verse 3? “I sat down under his shadow”. Sat down under his shadow. Of course, she is speaking in terms of the past. This is something she did. This again, is like the believer who, for the first time sees that there is salvation in the Lord and they turn to Christ and they call out for him to have mercy upon them. Christ, for the first time in their lives, becomes that apple tree in the midst of the wood. They’ve been running around through their lives trying to find salvation here there and yonder. Trying to find peace happiness and contentment and they didn’t find it, no matter how hard they looked. They can say with the Scriptures and the hymn writer that they tried the broken cisterns but ah, the waters failed. Time and time again, there was no genuine satisfaction. But she looked back. She considers the past and sat down under his shadow with great delight. Oh, Beloved, when you think back to what the Lord did for you in saving you, I trust there’s a measure of delight! No matter what you’re facing today, no matter what providence is bringing across your path, when you hearken back if you were to get up and give testimony to what the Lord did for you, it would not be a miserable testimony of the Lord’s grace in your life. There would be a sense of joy. Some of God’s people go through many sorrows. Indeed many, if not all of God’s people go through many sorrows. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. But when they look back to the time and hour when they were saved, is there not a joy? Is there not a joy associated with that moment you believed? We sing the hymn and understand what it means. “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart.” We understand what the hymn writer is communicating there. This change brought joy, so she looks back, “I sat under his shadow with great delight.” There is delight and joy. Provision again under his shadow. The provision can be seen in different ways of course. It’s refuge, isn’t it? Under his shadow there is refuge there. She is hiding there. She comes for refuge under him. Of course, why would she be seeking refuge? Well, maybe there is a clearing in this wood, as it were, or maybe it’s some other aspect of the world that is pressing upon her but the point is this, she can come and sit under his shadow. Under the shadow of this tree, there is safety. Under the shadow of this tree there is all sorts of provision, in terms of refuge. This is why the Lord’s people run to him and stay there and look back on that moment at that time, “I ran under him and sat down under his shadow. There is great delight. I ran to him for refuge.” If you think of the idea of what the tree does when people hide under trees, again, it is often from the burning heat from the sun. That’s why they sit under a tree in the first place. They go to the trees to be protected by what is coming from above, even the burning heat of the midday sun. If we can just pull out of that, even the position of men before they hide under this apple tree. That there’s a burning sun that’s pressing upon them. Yes, don’t ever ignore the reality of it. There’s a burning sun that presses upon the head of every unbeliever. They roam around the world and have no refuge or safety from this burning sun because it’s a judgment of God that hangs upon their head. It’s the wrath of God they deserve for their sin. The moment they sit under the apple tree, they get the provision they need. There’s refuge for them. Instead, the apple tree takes all of the heat of the sun. That’s substitution. That’s Christ standing in our place, bearing on our behalf. That sun coming upon Him instead of upon you. If you have not run to Christ, if you have not got under the branches and the shadow of the apple tree, even Christ himself, that’s where you need to get to this morning. If your sins are still upon you, if the wrath of God is still upon your life because you haven’t sought mercy, and you’re still in your sin and condemned and unclean, you need to run to Christ and you see it in your mind’s eye, this person seeing the apple tree in the midst of the world and running there for safety and for refuge, that needs to be you running to Christ. Provision is not only refuge, but rest, is it not? Because she sat down. “I sat down under his shadow with great delight.” There is the rest. The rest that Christ promises in Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heave laden and I will give you rest. Come to me for rest. Come and sit down under me. Have my protecting sovereign arms over you. Know what it is to be one of mine, to be my people. You’re in my hand and none will pluck you out of it, ever!” Just complete rest. I’ve indicated already there is rejoicing here as well. It is with great delight. They look back and rejoice, she does, that they sat under the apple tree under the shadow with great delight.
You know you don’t know the joy of salvation until you have it. There’s no way of expressing it. As one old Scottish or Ulster-Scots person put it, I’m not sure where they were from, but it’s “better felt than telt.” That’s very true. This happens all the time when we have our suppers. You go downstairs and there are particular things set before you and some people will say, “Try that. You have to try that. That’s Mrs. So-and-So’s (whatever it is). You have to try it.” What they understand is that it’s not until you actually taste it that you can really experience how delightful it is. All their explanation all their trying to explain, they know the fastest way for you to understand and really grasp how wonderful it is, is for you to taste it for yourself. Salvation, in a certain sense, in a crude sense, is very similar like that. You can never know what it’s like to have your sins forgiven, and the burden lifted, and sit under the apple tree in terms of this imagery. You won’t know what it’s like until you actually do it. You run around the world trying to find joy in everything but Christ, and you’ll be miserable. At the end, you’ll be miserable.
Of course, there’s also refreshment here, isn’t there? “His fruit was sweet to my taste.” Refreshment; taking of the fruit refresh your souls. Taking of Christ himself. Yes he is as the apple tree and there’s fruit that is borne on that apple tree. Wonderful fruit. I want you to see that fruit there. There are certain doctrines that are right there hanging on that fruit; doctrines such as justification. Yes, that’s a piece of fruit you want to pluck from that tree and taste what it is to be justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ. You take that piece of fruit and then you take another piece of fruit: adoption. Yes, I will take that piece of fruit and you taste that, what it’s like to be adopted into the family of God, and you meditate and it’s sweet to you and it nourishes and you go through all the doctrines of what Christ has done. Sanctification: the fact that God is working in you, as well as you giving yourself to him. “He is working in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”. And you take glorification: and what it will be like as David puts it, “I will be satisfied when I wake with thy likeness.” You consider these things. You take of those fruits and you ponder them, and they build you up, and they strengthen you, and they help you in life. “His fruit was sweet to my taste.” All the benefits of the gospel. Sins forgiven, yes, I’ll take that. I will take that. Forgiveness. I’ll take that piece of fruit. I will ponder over it, and cause it to be refreshing to my soul. Ah Beloved, make sure you’re taking of the fruit of the apple tree today. Make sure you’re doing it all the time.
Do you have that saying over here “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” You know that? There’s a funny story about that concerning myself. When I was very young. My grandfather quoted that saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I think he was trying to encourage me to eat more fruit. My quip in response to him was, “A garlic a day keeps the girlfriend away.” I don’t know why my little 8- or 9-year old mind was thinking along those lines I shouldn’t be thinking there, but that was my response at that time. But you know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, in other words, every day, consistent healthy practice does benefit and will keep the doctor away. That’s the idea. So it is with the Lord. It cannot be that we simply say of the past constantly,” I sat under his shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet with delight all in the past and not doing it today!” Do you know what happens then? Malnutrition! What happens then is you get yourself in a state and condition when you’re not really going on with God and you’re not growing and advancing in grace. You’re left malnourished and wondering why you’re depressed and why you’re not going on with God and why the joy seems to be so distant! It’s all in the past just joy way back then! The reason is you’re not taking of the fruit of the apple tree. You’re not meditating on Christ and taking yes, taking the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins and adoption and sanctification and glorification and so on and so forth. You’re not taking of those doctrines and tasting them regularly. You’re not in the word, seeking to be nourished in the things of Christ. Of course this is partly my job isn’t it? There are some apples that you can’t reach! You struggle to reach them. Maybe you read this passage and wondered “What’s he gonna’ say? What’s he gonna’ preach from this passage?” My job of the preacher even the job of parents to children is to be in that apple tree, climbing and reaching up into the apple tree, taking of the fruit and handing it to others. Seeking for you to be nourished up to reach those apples down to your soul. To nourish you in the things of Christ to help you feed upon the things that are good for you. That’s why the Lord has appointed preachers. I hope it’s sweet to your taste.
“He brought me,” verse 4, “to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love.” The house of wine, as it can be translated. House of wine: wine symbolic of the blood of Christ of sacrifice, of the offering made by Jesus upon Calvary. He brings me into that place where the wine flows. His banner over me is love. Banner often is used in military terms. But here it’s a banner of love, of peace, of acceptance. Christ brings his people in. Look at verse 4, child of God, look at it. He brings me into his house of wine and reminds me that the blood has been shed, that the sacrifice has taken place, that the once for all offering for sin has been presented before the Father and accepted by the Father and so you can come into the banqueting house and the banner, rather than being one of aggression one that condemns you is one of love, one of acceptance. Wonderful! Thirdly, very quickly,
3) The imagery of security In verses 5-7, she says, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. 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.”
There is a petition that she offers here. Stay me with flagons. Comfort me with apples. What is she saying here? What are flagons? Well, it’s something that’s made of the grape, basically. Again, you have this imagery of grapes just as we’ve seen before. Grapes are through this passage, back up in chapter 1:14, particularly. There is this emphasis on the grape and here it is again. It is like a cake made with grapes, something of that nature. She is wanting to be kept by that. Stay me with that. In other words, help me to know security with that. If you can see this sense of security in the language of her petition. I want to be stayed with the sense of what it is you present me, which is this cake of grapes. Again, it’s indicating the sacrifice of Christ the blood that’s shed, pointing forward to the Lamb offering his blood. Comfort me with apples for I am sick of love. She senses her powerlessness. She is so in love that she is without power. I am sick, I am weak, overwhelmed trying to grasp what you’ve done for me. Overwhelmed. When I read this, I just think again of that woman in Luke chapter 7. She comes to mind so often when I see someone overwhelmed with the sense of the love of Christ. There she is being criticized, being overly emotional and Simon of course, criticizing because you know, if the Lord Jesus really was a prophet he would know what manner of woman this is. The Lord knows everything about it. Instead of her being driven away she is encouraged. She is called to stay. She has the sense that her sins are forgiven. That’s what the Lord says. She is comforted with the sense of the gospel. Here, the church is looking for that comfort and for that sense of security with the gospel. It’s depicted in verse 6 in this language: “his left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me.” Do you see the closeness the Lord holds his church? How he holds his people?
Beloved, when it feels like you’re alone. When it feels like you’re going through life and the Lord is not paying attention to you, it’s not true. Scripture is replete with references some are explicit: I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Others are more graphic in terms of imagery, like this that his left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me. Language again like was quoted already that even the very hairs of our head are number. Not a bird falls from the sky but our Father knoweth; the Lord’s attention toward us. So here she is seeking for this and she enjoys it and experiences his left hand is under my head. His right hand doth embrace me; The security of the believer. You can draw out in terms of eternal security. We will never fall. Ever! Once in Christ, once under the apple tree, once you’ve tasted of the fruit of the gospel, you will never be driven away. You’re his. You belong to him. He has called you unto himself. As the lily among thorns so is MY love among all the daughters…MY LOVE That’s what he says. You are my love! We love him because he first loved us. When you come to the table it’s NOT, it’s not about the lord saying first and foremost, “What are you going to offer me?” There’s part of that involved. There’s part of that that we reciprocate but is the reciprocity from us because of what he has first done? The table of the Lord reminds you not of what you need to be and do, but what HE has done. The table is a reminder of the fact that his left hand is under your head and his right hand embraces you. It’s a reminder of your acceptance; the fact that you are known you are loved you are cared for. You are saved. You belong to him. You will never perish. Neither will any pluck you out of his hand. You belong to Christ!
Her only fear is that he would be driven away. I think that’s the sense of verse of 7. I charge you, the church would say to those that observe, “O ye daughters of Jerusalem by the roes and the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up nor awake my love till he please.” Don’t drive him away. The roes and the hinds are very sensitive creatures. If they sense the slightest threat, they are gone. If I’m understanding it right, her charge to those that are around, she is saying do not in any way drive away my love. Don’t drive him away. As much as we are secure, as much as we belong to him and we’ll never perish, there can be as already was experienced by her, a distance that is created between her and the Lord. She is desperate for that not to occur. “Don’t drive him away.” Paul feels the same thing does he not. This is why he exhorts, “Quench not the spirit.” Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t do anything to hinder the sense of the activity of the Spirit of God in your life. Don’t be ignorant of the fact that you can drive away the sweet influences of the Spirit that Christ would send for your benefit and for your good. You can drive that away. If we need any evidence of that we need only read the letters of the churches in Revelation 2. The Laodicean church. Christ outside the door. He had been driven away. He even starts to knock at the door after having been driven away, he comes and stands at the door and he knocks. He’s calling out to those that profess love for his name, he’s calling out to them, “Come back. Come back.” But they are so headstrong. They are so steeped in the folly of their ways in the church this is, they can’t even hear the knock of Christ. They don’t hear it. If they are hearing it, they are ignoring it. I like to think rather they didn’t hear the knock but if they did hear it, they’re ignoring it. So he has to send a letter. He has to get John to send a letter to the church at Laodicea to tell them, “First, you’ve driven Christ out and you’re ignoring his knock. You don’t even hear him knocking. You’re not even listening as he beckons, If any man hear my voice, open the door. I will come into him and sup with him and he with me.”
Where are you spiritually this morning? I trust that you are sitting under the apple tree with great delight, enjoying the fruit of the gospel. That’s ideal. You’re a lily among thorns. You’re in this world, but you’re sitting under the apple tree. You’re there for refuge and for rest and for refreshment and you’re enjoying the gospel, and you have all the right and privilege to come to the table and enjoy the gospel. Enjoy what Jesus Christ has done for you.
But is that the case for everyone this morning? I do not know. The encouragement is, if you know the Lord, if you’ve tasted of the fruit of the gospel, you belong to him, even though you may have gotten away and you have run and neglected the Lord, You’ve not been tasting of the sweetness of the fruit of the gospel. You’re not reading the word. You’re not praying. You’re not doing anything. It’s nearly a miracle that you’re even here today, given how you’re living at present. I trust you will come and you’ll flee under the apple tree. Let the table be what it is designed to be: a reminder. It reminds you today that Christ has lived and died and rose again. A reminder that it is not about what you can do. It’s about what he has done. It’s a reminder that to receive the benefits of the gospel, they are received by faith. What are you doing when you participate in a meal that you did not prepare? You are reaping the benefits of someone else’s labor. Jesus Christ gives you the bread. He gives you the cup and simply says, “Taste and enjoy the benefits of my work. No matter how sinful you are, no matter how sinful you have been. No matter what your history, checkered as it might be, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Come to Christ this day and seek his mercy. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Again, the fact that we are observing the Lord’s table does not mean that any of you should feel the need to leave or depart. Even if you’re not saved, only caution I give you is that you’re not in fellowship with Christ not in a position where you want to fellowship with Christ, then don’t participate. Just sit there and think about your soul. Think about eternity. Think about the fact there is but a step between you and death. None of us is sure of even seeing the next communion season. It’s time to seek the Lord.
Father, we are thankful for imagery given to us in this portion that paints for us the scene of Thy love shown toward Thy people. We pray that Thou wilt help our eyes to see Christ as the lily of the valley and as the rose of Sharon. We pray that we might see him for the glory and the wonder of who He is and what He has done; that our appreciation would be heightened every day. Help them, each one of us that participate in this table. Encourage us, O Lord, and grant that our hearts may be drawn out afresh to love Thee, knowing that Thou hast first loved us. Draw near in Jesus’ name. Amen.