Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Anticipating the fulfillment of love's desire … "

Day #355:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 18th

Scripture Reading:  Song of Songs 5 - 6 …

With graphic language Solomon writes of the anticipation of the "beloved,"  for her "lover."  God uses Solomon's illustration to continue to picture the desire of both the bride and the bridegroom for each other … pointing to Christ and His Church.  We have seen previously that God calls Himself Israel's "husband" and accuses Israel of committing adultery.  And the Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 5:22-33 that the marriage of a man and a woman is an illustration of Christ and His Church, His Bride.  Taken in that context, the expressions of love and desire in these chapters point us again to the intimate relationship that God desires with you and me, and with all who "open the door to Him" through the work of His Spirit within us.

The "friends" become a bit more prominent in these chapters, perhaps pointing out the truth spoken of in Hebrews 12:1-2:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on JESUS, the Author and Perfecter of our faith …."   Certainly the angels, and perhaps the saints who have gone before us in some way, urge the "beloved" to be intimately engaged with her "lover."  How little do we think of intimacy with Christ as we consider spiritual matters.  Too often our emotions and desires are set on other things, and then what is pictured next may happen.

Chapter 5, verses 2-8, appear to describe a time when Christ comes to the door, and while the "beloved's"  heart is awake, she is found sleeping, and by the time she answers the door her "lover had left; he was gone" (5:6).  Her heart sank at his departure.  In Revelation 3, Jesus is pictured as standing at the door and knocking.  In the context, Jesus tells believers not to be "lukewarm" … He says, "Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).  Only those who are moved by the Spirit will "open the door" of their hearts and receive Jesus Christ.

As those who know that we are "beloved," there can be those times when spiritual apathy can creep in and it is as though we are asleep.  In moments like that the best thing that can happen is that God will give us a "wake-up call."  I think of Jesus' parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25.  They take their lamps and go out to wait for the bridegroom.  Five of them take extra oil with them, the other five don't.    The bridegroom was a long time coming and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  Finally, at midnight the cry rang out, "Here's the bridegroom!" (Matthew 25:6).  The five virgins who had extra oil trimmed their lamps and filled them with oil, prepared to meet the bridegroom.  But the other five were not prepared and missed the wedding banquet.

How like so much of the human race!  People spend days, weeks, months preparing for weddings, and yet remain unprepared to meet the Bridegroom when He comes.  They do not know God's love in Christ and have no "desire" within them for Him.  How many in the church are "asleep," not caring if Jesus returns or not, simply claiming to be a Christian and offering the least they can and still soothe their conscience that it is enough, that if "something" should happen, they'll go to heaven??  And really, what do they care, except that if there is a hell, they don't want to go there!  These have no love for Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, the "Lover" of those who truly believe, who have been born again by His Spirit.

Reading these chapters is a reminder of the longing, the desire that we as believers must have for our Savior. Where is that longing as people think only of this life and cling to it as if there was nothing more to hope for?  Near the end of his life the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing" (II Timothy 4:7-8).  Doesn't that sound like the longing expressed in these chapters of Solomon's "Song of Songs"?

How do you describe Jesus to your friends?  How do you describe the Church to others?  Solomon's "beloved" describes her "lover" in Chapter 5, verses 10-16.  Such is the radiance and beauty of our "Beloved" One, the Christ, the eternal Son of God, majestic, radiant, perfect, pure, holy, righteous, just, good, faithful, merciful, compassionate … and more … so much more.  As He prays for His Bride, His "beloved," in John 17, Jesus prays, "Father, I want those You have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory You have given me because You loved me before the creation of the world" (John 17:24).  Jesus' love for us, His Bride, took Him to the cross.  Our Father's love for us sent His Son to bear the penalty for our sin.  How much do YOU love HIM?!

The "friends" ask the "beloved," "Where has your lover gone?"  The answer is, "My lover has gone down to His garden …"  Jesus uses the garden as an illustration in John 15 when He says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful …" (John 15:1-2).  So the "lover" says of His "beloved,"  "You are beautiful, my darling … my dove, my perfect one, is unique …" (6:4,9).  So is the beauty of the Church to Christ.  Those whom He has chosen have been made holy, perfect, in the Father's sight through the cleansing of the blood of Christ, our Savior.

Have you ever considered how you look to Christ?  Do you realize the perfection that is ours through our union with Christ?  All the guilt, the filth, the shame of sin is removed.  "By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:14).  Our holiness, our perfection comes through our oneness with Christ.  By faith we enter into this relationship of love that exceeds all other love, that is beyond our wildest imagination in its grandeur.  "I am His and He is mine!"

The "friends" ask, "Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession?" (6:10).  The answer to that question is, "JESUS!"  He is truly the only One who fits that description.  Jesus loves His Bride … and those who are truly part of the Bride love Jesus. Paul writes that "the greatest gift is love" because true spiritual love forms the foundation for our relationship with Christ, and then with each other as the Body of Christ.  Anyone can say they believe in Jesus, but only the heart transformed by the Spirit can begin to love Him, knowing that He first loved us!

Are you "in love" with Jesus?  Does your love for Him fill you with desire?  Are you "sleeping" and in danger of "missing" Him?  Jesus' love for His Bride is powerful and transforming.  Knowing you are loved by the One Who died, rose again and ascended into heaven, Who is seated at the Father's right hand and Who will come to gather His people together for the wedding banquet makes life worth living every day.  We sang it as children, but I pray now that you understand the depth of its meaning:  "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!"  And I pray that you are moved by the Spirit to love Him back!!

"My Lord and my God, Your love for me through Christ goes beyond explanation, and my heart's response seems so inadequate to express my love for You.  In Your grace to me You have forgiven my sins, You have washed me whiter than snow and have called me into Your presence.  Saying, 'Thank You!' is not enough, Father, so as I come to Jesus, my King, I say, 'I love You!'  Continue Your work within me so that my love for You may grow stronger and my life be used to point others to Your beauty and Your majesty!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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