Summary: The Song of Songs is a poetic love story between a King and a lowly country girl, which uses exotic and striking language. It celebrates love and affection between a man and a woman that cuts across class barriers. But what did God intend in including it
Personally I’m not much of a gardener; at best you could call me a ‘weed exterminator.’ But I certainly enjoy walking round a beautiful garden. What are the ingredients needed for a successful garden? I guess, the soil must be suitable, and needs to be plenty of water, sun and shelter. For a garden to look and smell good you need variety - different types and colours of flower, bush and shrub. But what lies behind every great garden is a knowledgeable dedicated gardener.
Now whether you look at that bit of ground at the back of your house and think ‘flowers and shrubs’ or ‘fence to fence concrete’, the Bible uses the picture of a beautiful well-kept garden to describe the spiritual relationship between God and His people. And In our passage Song of Songs 4:12-16 we’ve got a great example of this.
THE LOVER AND HIS BRIDE
Christ Jesus and the Church
The Song of Songs is a poetic love story between a King and a lowly country girl, which uses exotic and striking language. It celebrates love and affection between a man and a woman that cuts across class barriers. But what did God intend in including it in the Old Testament canon? The great key to understanding it is to see that it describes the spiritual relationship between Jesus, the Bridegroom King, and the Church, the peasant girl Bride. Looked at in that light it’s a truly amazing piece of writing that is very instructive.
In 4:12-16 the Bridegroom, Jesus, speaks of His Bride to be, the Church, in terms of garden imagery that reflects vital spiritual truths. People who attack the Bible often say: ‘Look, these fundamentalists keep saying you’ve got to take the Bible completely literally.’ But that’s to get hold of the wrong end of the stick. As Bible-believing Christians we simply say that the Bible is without error and perfect in all that it says, but it says what it says in different literary forms. Some of the Bible is straightforward history, so we take it as history; some is highly symbolic like parts of Daniel and the book of Revelation, some is in poetic form like the Psalms and the Song of Songs, and so on. But it all conveys real truth that God wants us to know about Himself, about us and the world we live in.
Harold Lindsell wrote: ‘All that is meant by saying one takes the Bible literally is that one believes what it purports to say. This means that figures of speech are taken as figures of speech. No evangelical takes figures of speech literally. Nor does any evangelical suppose that when Jesus said, “I am the door,” that He meant He was a literal door.’
The Church Secure
(12) ‘You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride!’ It’s important to realise what sort of garden we’re looking at here. It’s not your little patch behind an inner city town house; rather it’s an expansive, fertile, fruitful piece of land in the ancient middle-east that supplied the vegetables, roots and fruits that made up most of the householders diet; it was the source of medicines too. There was typically a well together with a place to bath too.
People try hard to stop intruders getting onto their property. Set broken glass sticking up out of concrete on top of a wall or daub the wall in anti-vandal paint; put up warning notices. One (on the grounds of a Public school) is reported to say: ‘No trespassing without permission’. Or another example is: ‘No trespassing: violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again!’
Very importantly, the garden here was enclosed or walled round, firstly, to protect it from intruders – people and animals. Hence the reference in (12) to the Bride being, ‘…a garden locked up.’ As the middle-eastern gardener put a wall round his garden, so the Lord Jesus puts a secure wall around His bride, the church, to protect her from invaders. It’s a wall of grace and mercy that can’t be climbed over or breached. Neither can the door be broken down, by would be intruders.
(1) The question is often raised as to whether a true Christian be finally lost for eternity through sin and disobedience. I recently heard Jill Briscoe in a broadcast message recount a useful little illustration. Someone asked her once whether a true believer can ever fall out of God’s love? She took a penny and balanced it upright in her palm. Then she pushed it over and the penny fell flat in her hand. And she said: the true Christian can fall over in God’s hand, but can never fall out of God’s hand. Praise God for His sovereign almighty love!
The Church Set Apart for Christ