Monday, October 31, 2011

1 Kings 5 - 8 & Psalm 127 - Solomon Builds the Temple

LINKS:
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I am posting six days of reading in one post today because it deals with one topic: Solomon's Temple.

Day 1: 1 Kings 5
Day 2: 1 Kings 6
Day 3: Psalm 127 (The Lord builds the house!)
Day 4: 1 Kings 7
Day 5-6: 1 Kings 8



1 Kings 5-8, originally uploaded by carolfoasia.

BACKGROUND

David was a warrior and not a peacemaker. Consequently, God did not want him to build the temple. Solomon enjoyed peace from all his enemies and could now employ all his wisdom and energy toward managing this God-ordained, grand undertaking. 

A key verse in these chapters is, "I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God" (1 Kings 5:5). The Hebrew root of this word "intend" means to "make visible." He wanted to make what was just something in his father's mind a visible reality. The King James Version says "I purpose to build a house." I like that! 

So, with this life purpose, he gathered the finest material and conscripted laborers. Four hundred and eighty years after the Israelites left Egypt, having built for Pharaohs who worshiped false Gods, Solomon started the project that would define his reign. The project took seven years and was completed in 959 B.C. It was beautiful on the outside with white limestone, cedar, and gold; much more elaborate than its predecessor: The tabernacle. For comparisons on the furnishings, you can look at our previous study of the tabernacle furnishings in Exodus 25 - 30. The furnishings for the temple were more elaborate, but the basic tabernacle was within the temple.

Here is a Jewish perspective on the Tabernacle and Temple:
The Tabernacle and the Temple are not two separate entities; in reality they are one and the same. This idea is emphasized even more emphatically by the commentators and scholars who point out that by comparison, the measurements of the Temple in Jerusalem reflect those of the Tabernacle. For example: the area of the Tabernacle was ten cubits by thirty; the Temple stood at twenty cubits by sixty. The idea is that although the Tabernacle's measurements were relatively small - small enough to enable it to travel conveniently through the desert - still, along general lines of comparison the two structures follow the same pattern of design. 
But once the Holy Temple was erected in its permanent, pre-designated location in Jerusalem, the era of the Tabernacle officially came to a close... and the Tabernacle, for all practice and purpose, became as ancient history for Israel. New factors came into being, which irrevocably altered the previous situation: The altar of the Temple was established on its designated spot, the place on which Isaac had been bound by his father Abraham. And the Sanctuary itself was erected on "shoulder" of Mount Moriah, in keeping with the verse "He shall dwell between his shoulders" (Deut. 33:12) This is the spot which had been chosen by God since the very beginning of time; it was David and Samuel who clarified that it was indeed this spot, the "threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite" (II Samuel 24:18) that God had chosen to rest His presence for all time. From the time that the first Holy Temple was built by King Solomon, there would be no going back to the Tabernacle. (http://www.templeinstitute.org/rebuild_the_tabernacle.htm)
It took Solomon thirteen years to build his palace. It took longer than the temple because it was one huge palace complex that housed several interconnected buildings that had civic functions. It included an armory (10:17; Isaiah 22:8) and barracks. It was 11,250 square feet compared to 2,700 square feet of the temple. It is thought to have been south of the temple but no archaeological evidence has been found.

In 1 Kings 8, the temple was dedicated during the Feast of Tabernacles which lasted eight days (September/October). In the case of the dedication of the temple, the celebration lasted for two weeks instead of just one. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says,"The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated Israel's years of wandering in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:33, 41-43). It was fitting that the temple should be dedicated at this feast since that permanent sanctuary now symbolized the end of Israel's wanderings" (1:505).

The final furnishing was the Ark of the Covenant, and when it was placed in the most holy place, the cloud filled the temple and represented the glory of God. This also happened at the tabernacle dedication (Exodus 40:34-35). The temple was not a "container" for God because God is everywhere, but it was a place where His presence and character would be evident.

At the conclusion of Solomon's prayer of dedication and the sacrifices, we learn in the parallel version of this story in 2 Chronicles 7 that the fire came down and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices overwhelming the priests and sons of Israel so much so that they bowed down with their faces to the ground and worshiped and gave the Lord praise saying, "Truly He is good, truly His loving kindness is everlasting" (2 Chronicles 7:3).

REFLECTION

Solomon's passion/mission was building a house for God. I love his intentionality in fulfilling that passion too. Once his kingdom was unified, secure, strong, and prosperous, he went to work on it! He had to wait a bit though.

I have this passion, and I am in a position of great peace on every side. A few more things need to fall into place, but I feel like God is leading me toward the next step of building on that passion. Now, I just need to pray in the resources. I want to be intentional. These chapters were a great encouragement to me to "purpose" in my heart to do it!

APPLICATION

What is your passion? Do you feel God is calling you toward something, and you need to "purpose" in your heart to move forward?

If you do not know your passion in serving the Lord, here are some questions that might help you understand it:
1) If I could snap my fingers and know that I could not fail, what would I do? 
2) At the end of my life, I’d love to be able to look back and know that I’d done something about: 
3) If I were to mention your name to a group of your friends, what would they say you were really interested in or passionate about? (Reminder: Ask those closest to you what they would say.) 
4) What conversation would keep you talking late into the night?

5) At this point, if you are able to describe your Passion in a brief sentence, skip to Item 10 of this assessment. If you would like more clarification, consider the following statements: 
6) What I would most like to do for others is: 
    The people that I would like to help most are (children, women, singles, single moms, college, teens, etc.) . .
7) The issues or causes I feel most strongly about are . . . 
8) What are the top five most meaningful experiences in your life and why were they meaningful? 
Once you write them down, do you see a theme throughout the experiences? 
9) I think the area where I could make the most significant contribution is:
If you need more help in identifying your Passion, look for patterns in your answers. For example, can you see any themes? Does a particular age group keep coming up? Is there a need that keeps surfacing? Are you serving in a similar role in different areas?
Can you prioritize your concerns? 
10) Based on my answers to the above questions, I sense I have a Passion for:
(From the SHAPE Network) 
PRAYER - 1 Kings 8 

1 Kings 8:23-53 will definitely be a shot in the arm to your prayer life! "Sit and soak" in this prayer and pray through it and personalize it for yourself! Observe Solomon pour out his heart to God in worship and adoration and do the same. Observe how Solomon recalls God's covenant promises, recall all the times God has been faithful to you, and thank Him! The prayer is full of specific petitions which may not apply to you, but they follow a pattern involving prayer for:
1) God's presence and protection, 
2) Forgiveness of trespasses and sins, and 
3) Victory in battle
I encourage you to "pour out" specific petitions to the Lord. God hears and answers your prayer when they are consistent with His promises! So, claim His promises and proceed in prayer. "If we ask anything according to His will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14).

Pray with confidence, my friend!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Book of Song of Solomon Can Go Back on the Shelf!

BibleBookcase

CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have completed the Song of Solomon! Hope you enjoyed it!

Song of Solomon 8:5 - 14: Unrestrained Communion

LINK: Song of Solomon 8

BACKGROUND

This section sums up the message with a final picture of the couple. The wilderness had two symbolic meanings in the Old Testament. First, it was associated with Israel's 40 year trial that we read about in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This couple had overcome trials that were a threat to their relationship, but they came out on the other side into the Promised Land! Second, the wilderness symbolized God's curse (see Jeremiah 22:6; Joel 2:3). This couple had come out of the wilderness and had overcome the curse of disharmony pronounced upon Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:16). The picture goes from the desert to the fruitful apple tree that was symbolic of love and romance in the ancient world. The lover had received a second "birth" through the love of his beloved.

In this passage there is a powerful explanation of love. The beloved asked to be her lover's most valued possession. Love is portrayed as exclusive, possessive, passionate, invincible, persevering, and priceless. It is the "very flame of the Lord" because the Lord is the Source of this powerful love.

In the epilogue (8:8-14), there is a flashback to hopes the woman's brothers had for her (some commentator believe it was the hopes that the woman had for a younger sister). If she was self-controlled and virtuous (a wall), they would give her freedom. If she lacked self-control and was promiscuous (a door), they would restrict her freedom. She was a wall and pure for her husband, Solomon. Thus, she gave him peace/contentment (There is a word play with Solomon's name and the Hebrew word for peace, Shalom). This flashback to courtship shows that their love had not lost its initial passion.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary sums the Song of Songs in this way:
[It] is a beautiful picture of God’s “endorsement” of physical love between husband and wife. Marriage is to be a monogamous, permanent, self-giving unit, in which the spouses are intensely devoted and committed to each other, and take delight in each other. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).

REFLECTION from Union and Communion

If you have not been reading along in this book due to lack of time, I heartily recommend reading this last section. It summarizes all the previous chapters!

Section 6: UNRESTRAINED COMMUNION

(Part of the reason I have used this book in the reflections was to expose you to quality devotional literature if you have never been exposed to any before. Besides the Bible, devotional classics have been a rich part of my growth in the Lord. May I also recommend Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret an inspiring biography of this author's life! It is one of my favorite books.)

APPLICATION

I hope this reading has encouraged you! 
The branch of the vine does not worry, and toil, and rush here to seek for sunshine, and there to find rain. No; it rests in union and communion with the vine; and at the right time, and in the right way, is the right fruit found on it. Let us so abide in the Lord Jesus. James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)
PRAYER

First Love

You are my first love,
Sweet and gentle as the night.
Just being near you now,
Is like a lullaby.
All that I have I give away to follow you,
I can't imagine having life
without you, oh....

When all these worldly battles,
Seem to never cease,
You simply lift me up,
And rest me in Your peace.
I heard some people say,
You're only in my mind.
I hope that someday, You'll
Choose to find them.

All other loves will slowly fade,
Like dying flame.
Tomorrow, now, and yesterday,
You're still the same.
I wake with a longing heart to
see you come again;
Your sweet and tender love will never end.

(Lyrics by Amy Grant)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Song of Solomon 6:11 - 8:4: Fruits of Recognized Union

LINK: Song of Solomon 6-8

BACKGROUND

The couple is reconciled and their love is flourishing like a fruitful spring orchard.

Song of Solomon 6:12 can be confusing. The best translation would be, “I became enraptured, for you placed me on the chariots of the people of the prince" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary 1:1022). In other words, she was full of joy because of his words of praise. The people begged this Shulammite to stay. The Hebrew word "Shulammite" is the feminine form of the name Solomon! It speaks to me of their oneness!

Throughout the rest of this section, we see the maturing of the couple's marriage with bolder images that express an increase in sexual freedom that is healthy for any marriage. In 7:1-10, the husband takes the initiative in lovemaking. In 7:11-13, the woman does. They have a healthy and intimate union.

The image of spring is used at the beginning and end of this section. It is the universal symbol for love. We see that their union has developed into fruitful mature love.

REFLECTION from Union and Communion

Section 5: FRUITS OF RECOGNIZED UNION

APPLICATION

Enjoy abiding and unbroken communion with your bridegroom, Christ, as you meditate on John 15 today!

PRAYER

Lord, we want unbroken communion. Help us to abide in You 24/7/365. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Song of Solomon 5:2 - 6:10: Communion Again Broken - Restoration

LINK: Song of Solomon 5 & 6

BACKGROUND

This section of Song of Solomon deals with the issue of indifference in marriage and the resolution. It is a dream. The bridegroom no longer addressed her as his "bride" indicating that they were no longer newlyweds. Time has elapsed since the wedding night (5:1) and indifference has set in. She did not open the door, revealing her apathy toward her husband. After he pounded on the door, she said, "My feelings were aroused for him/my heart began to pound for him." This expression is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to mean pity or compassion (Isaiah 16:11; Jeremiah 31:20) and should not be meant to mean sexual arousal.

Her compassion prompted her to open the door, but it was too late and her lover was gone. She found myrrh on the door handle (5:5). Myrrh was sometimes associated with lovemaking (Proverbs 7:17; Song 4:6; 5:13). She went out to look for him. In her dream in Song of Solomon 3, the watchmen helped her, but this time they beat her because they mistook her for a criminal. Some commentators believe it symbolizes her guilt in being indifferent and selfish in the marriage.

She charged the "daughter of Jerusalem" to help her, and they asked her what made her husband worthy of being sought after. In Song of Solomon 5:10-16, she launched into a soliloquy about his worthiness. This praising led to the reigniting of her feelings of love. I also love that she concluded it by saying "this is my beloved, and this is my friend." Friendship is SO key in a healthy marriage and in our relationship with Jesus.

The emotional distance in their relationship was overcome in Song of Solomon 6 by the woman seeking out the man, and they were reconciled. This led to a soliloquy on his part where he extolled the woman's beauty. He referred to Tirzah. This town's name means "pleasant." Restoration in the marriage was now complete.

REFLECTION from Union and Communion

Section IV: COMMUNION AGAIN BROKEN - RESTORATION

APPLICATION

Relating to Communion with the Lord

According to Taylor, the last time communion was broken it was because of worldliness on the bride's part. This time Taylor addresses the issue of broken communion because of "slothful self-indulgence" on her part after the couple had been married for a period of time. Have you become lazy about your intimacy with the Lord? The bride's cure was to focus in praise upon her husband's attributes and to move towards him. Why not spend some time in focused praise upon His attributes by meditating and praying through Psalm 145 and move towards Him today?

Relating to Communion with a Spouse

In middle-age, I am seeing long-term marriages go through deep trouble and some eventually ending in divorce. While there are often much deeper issues, sometimes is it because of indifference. It is nice to recall what things you find attractive and "worthy of praise" (Philippians 4:8) in your spouse. Then, it is good to go a step further and verbalize them to him or her. I have been trying to do that this week.

PRAYER through Psalm 145

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of  Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Song of Solomon 3:6 - 5:1: The Joy of Unbroken Communion

LINK: Song of Solomon 3, 4, and 5:1 

BACKGROUND

This section of Song of Solomon covers the wedding. Marriages in the Near East were usually only civil contracts and not religious ceremonies. For example, the marriage of Ruth and Boaz was before a court of elders and not before priests. (Ruth 4:10-11). Weddings did not take place in the temple but in homes.

Song of Solomon 3:6-11 covers Solomon's procession to the bride's house with his royal bodyguard, and 4:1-5:1 covers the wedding night when Solomon extolled the bride's beauty. This is interesting in light of the fact that the daughters of Jerusalem did not seem to regard her as a beautiful woman because her skin was dark. Fair-skin was a sign of beauty in the ancient world. In Solomon's eyes, she was beautiful, and it did not matter what the standard of beauty was in that society. She was beautiful simply because he loved her. (Husbands take note!)

The Bible Knowledge Commentary has an interesting comment about 4:1-7:
These verses include one reference to the first person (“I” in v. 6). His total attention was focused on his bride and her beauty. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that sex, when enjoyed properly within marriage, draws attention from oneself to one’s mate, to his or her needs and pleasures. (1:1018)
REFLECTION from Union and Communion 

J. Hudson Taylor continues by looking at Song of Solomon from the perspective of Christ being our Royal Bridegroom. He gives a picture of unbroken communion and being one with the King that leads to fellowship with Him in service. It is so important. I hope you can take the time to read it. It is the bedrock of foundation for ministry:

Section III: THE JOY OF UNBROKEN COMMUNION

APPLICATION

Taylor says, "She [the bride] swells with delight on the gladness of His heart in the day of His espousals, for now she is not occupied with Him for her own sake, but rejoices in His joy in finding in her His satisfaction."

Then, he asks some great application questions:
Do we sufficiently cultivate this unselfish desire to be all for Jesus, and to do all for His pleasure? Or are we conscious that we principally go to Him for our own sake, or at best for the sake of our fellow-creatures? How much prayer there is that begins and ends with the creature, forgetful of the privilege of giving joy to the Creator!
Don't you love that!

My application of Song of Solomon is to give joy to my Creator today! How about you?


"There is no room for love of the world here,
for union with Christ has filled the heart"

PRAYER

Lord, lead us to unselfish passion for You! For Your pleasure and glory, we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Song of Solomon 2:8 - 3:5: Communion Broken - Restoration

LINK: Song of Solomon 2 & 3

BACKGROUND

The setting for this section is the beloved's (woman's) home north of Jerusalem (perhaps as far as Lebanon). Solomon traveled to her house and beckoned her "come with me" because it is spring (and the spring of their love where everything was new). The beloved talked about "foxes" and some commentator believes this was spoken metaphorically. Foxes were destructive to crops, and she was asking Solomon to work out problems in their relationship.

In the beginning of Song of Solomon 3, the king returned to Jerusalem and his beloved had a dream that she lost him and sought to find him. When she finally found him, she brought him home to her mother's house.

The refrain in 3:5 marks the end of this section and the beginning of the wedding section. It is the same refrain observed in 2:7:
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,That you will not arouse or awaken my loveUntil she pleases.

This means that love cannot be forced but must be graciously (like gazelles and does) and patiently waited for (I frequently quoted this verse while I waited patiently for my husband to decide that he needed to marry me, and I have given it to many women anxious to find a man!).


REFLECTION in Union and Communion by J. Hudson Taylor

This section is much shorter than yesterday and so worth reading: 

Section II: COMMUNION BROKEN - RESTORATION

APPLICATION

If you read J. Hudson Taylor's reflection, he makes this statement:

"We have to take our choice: we cannot enjoy both the world and CHRIST."


Are you in love with the world rather than Christ? Talk this over with the Lord.

If you are married or in a courting relationship, another application might be to pray about the "foxes" in your relationship:


The foxes represent as many obstacles or temptations as have plagued lovers throughout the centuries. Perhaps it is the fox of uncontrolled desire which drives a wedge of guilt between a couple. Perhaps it is the fox of mistrust and jealousy which breaks the bond of love. Or it may be the fox of selfishness and pride which refuses to let one acknowledge his fault to another. Or it may be an unforgiving spirit which will not accept the apology of the other. These foxes have been ruining vineyards for years and the end of their work is not in sight. (S. Craig Glickman, A Song for Lovers, pp. 49-50)

If you are single, are you anxious about finding a spouse? Pray through Song 3:5 and dialogue with God about the waiting process.

PRAYER

Lord, help us to deal with the "foxes" in our relationships. Help us not to hurry love until Your time. Finally, help us to love You more than the world. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Song of Solomon 1:1 - 2:7: The Unsatisfied Life and Its Remedy

LINK: Song of Solomon 1 & 2

I have chosen Hudson Taylor's book Union and Communion for all the reflections and application for the next six days. It is a spiritual classic that is priceless. I hope you can take the time to read it. You can find different versions (including free ones): HERE

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK

The "Song of Songs" (one song out of many songs) is attributed to Solomon in 1:1. He wrote 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), and this was his finest and most holy. It is the romance and marriage between Solomon and a Shulammite shepherdess, following them through the highs and lows of their marriage.

There are many ways to look at this book with the four most popular ways being as: (1) an allegory, (2) an extended type of the relationship of Christ and the Church, (3) a drama, and (4) a literal event (1 Kings 11:3).

1. The Jewish tradition viewed it as an allegorical picture of the love of God for Israel. Church leaders like Origen, Jerome, Augustine, and Bernard of Clairvaux viewed it as an allegory of Christ's love for His bride, the church. For example, Origen saw the beloved's "darkness" (Song 1:5-6) as meaning the church ugly with sin but the "loveliness" (1:5) meaning spiritual beauty after conversion.

2. In the extended type of Christ and His love for the church view, Solomon is seen as a historical person, but also as a type of Christ. The rest of Scripture does not give an indication that Solomon's life was a type of Christ though.

3. Scholars who see it as a drama ignore the fact that dramas as a literary genre were not known among the Israelites.

4. Scholars also interpret it as a literal event during Solomon's reign between 971 and 931 B.C. Many disagree since Solomon did not quite affirm marital fidelity since he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3)! They explain that it may have been his first wife before he fell into the sin of polygamy.

Evangelical scholars interpret it as a lyrical poem that extols the love between a bridegroom (King Solomon) and his bride (perhaps his first). It affirms marriage with all its beauty and purity, giving elaboration to God's intention in Genesis 1:27; 2:20-23.

While we will talk about marital love, my main emphasis will be on our personal fellowship with Christ as it relates to the Song of Solomon. I will be using the excellent devotional classic written by J. Hudson Taylor called Union and Communion.

This is a very short book. Today I will include the excerpt for this section of the book within the post, but subsequent days will include a link for reading or downloading it. 

It is my hope and prayer that it will draw us all closer to our "first love."  Sit down, brew yourself some tea, and have a date with God!

BACKGROUND of 1:1-2:7

While visiting his royal vineyards in the north, Solomon came upon a beautiful peasant woman. Later, disguised as a shepherd, he returned and won her love. Later, he revealed he was the king. As the book begins, they were being married in the palace. The book is not in chronological order with the first "flashback" to their courtship occurring in 2:8.

The woman may have been from Shunem, a farming community about 60 miles north of Jerusalem or perhaps Lebanon. She was dark because she worked outside. Her vineyard was owned by Solomon but leased to her step brothers. She was made to tend it and could not care for her own vineyard. She was embarrassed by her tanned skin because the girls in Jerusalem were fair, but the King affirms her in this chapter.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION  

Union and Communion by J. Hudson Taylor:

There is no difficulty in recognizing the bride as the speaker in verses 2-7. The words are not those of one dead in trespasses and sins, to whom the LORD is as a root out of a dry ground—without form and comeliness. The speaker has had her eyes opened to behold His beauty, and longs for a fuller enjoyment of His love.
Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth:
For Thy love (Loves = endearments, caresses.)
is better than wine.
It is well that it should be so; it marks a distinct stage in the development of the life of grace in the soul. And this recorded experience gives, as it were, a Divine warrant for the desire for sensible manifestations of His presence—sensible communications of His love. It was not always so with her. Once she was contented in His absence—other society and other occupations sufficed her; but now it can never be so again. The world can never be to her what it once was; the betrothed bride has learnt to love her LORD, and no other society than His can satisfy her. His visits may be occasional and may be brief; but they are precious times of enjoyment. Their memory is cherished in the intervals, and their repetition longed for. There is no real satisfaction in His absence, and yet, alas! He is not always with her: He comes and goes. Now her joy in Him is a heaven below; but again she is longing, and longing in vain, for His presence. Like the ever-changing tide, her experience is an ebbing and flowing one; it may even be that unrest is the rule, satisfaction the exception. Is there no help for this? must it always continue so? Has He, can He have created these unquenchable longings only to tantalize them? Strange indeed it would be if this were the case. Yet are there not many of the LORD’S people whose habitual experience corresponds with hers? They know not the rest, the joy of abiding in CHRIST; and they know not how to attain to it, nor why it is not theirs. Are there not many who look back to the delightful times of their first espousals, who, so far from finding richer inheritance in CHRIST than they then had, are even conscious that they have lost their first love, and might express their experience in the sad lament:
Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Others, again, who may not have lost their first love, may yet be feeling that the occasional interruptions to communion are becoming more and more unbearable, as the world becomes less and He becomes more. His absence is an ever-increasing distress. “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth: for Thy love is better than wine.” Would that His love were strong and constant like mine, and that He never withdrew the light of His countenance!”

Poor mistaken one! There is a love far stronger than thine waiting, longing for satisfaction. The Bridegroom is waiting for thee all the time; the conditions that debar His approach are all of thine own making. Take the right place before Him, and He will be most ready, most glad, to “Satisfy thy deepest longings, to meet, supply thine every need.” What should we think of a betrothed one whose conceit and self-will prevented not only the consummation of her own joy, but of his who had given her his heart? Though never at rest in his absence, she cannot trust him fully; and she does not care to give up her own name, her own rights and possessions, her own will to him who has become necessary for her happiness. She would fain claim him fully, without giving herself fully to him; but it can never be: while she retains her own name, she can never claim his. She may not promise to love and honour if she will not also promise to obey: and till her love reaches that point of surrender she must remain an unsatisfied lover—she cannot, as a satisfied bride, find rest in the home of her husband. While she retains her own will, and the control of her own possessions, she must be content to live on her own resources; she cannot claim his.

Could there be a sadder proof of the extent and reality of the Fall than the deep seated distrust of our loving LORD and MASTER which makes us hesitate to give ourselves entirely up to Him, which fears that He might require something beyond our powers, or call for something that we should find it hard to give or to do? The real secret of an unsatisfied life lies too often in an unsurrendered will. And yet how foolish, as well as how wrong, this is! Do we fancy that we are wiser than He? or that our love for ourselves is more tender and strong than His? or that we know ourselves better than He does? How our distrust must grieve and wound afresh the tender heart of Him who was for us the Man of Sorrows! What would be the feelings of an earthly bridegroom if he discovered that his bride-elect was dreading to marry him, lest, when he had the power, he should render her life insupportable? Yet how many of the LORD’S redeemed ones treat Him just so! No wonder they are neither happy nor satisfied!

But true love cannot be stationary; it must either decline or grow. Despite all the unworthy fears of our poor hearts, Divine love is destined to conquer. The bride exclaims:
Thine ointments have a goodly fragrance;
Thy name is as ointment poured forth;
Therefore do the virgins love Thee.
There was no such ointment as that with which the High Priest was anointed: our Bridegroom is a Priest as well as a King. The trembling bride cannot wholly dismiss her fears; but the unrest and the longing become unbearable, and she determines to surrender all, and come what may to follow fully. She will yield her very self to Him, heart and hand, influence and possessions. Nothing can be so insupportable as His absence! If He lead to another Moriah, or even to a Calvary, she will follow Him.
Draw me: we will run after Thee!
But ah! what follows? A wondrously glad surprise. No Moriah, no Calvary; on the contrary, a KING! When the heart submits, then JESUS reigns. And when JESUS reigns, there is rest.

And where does He head His bride?
The King hath brought me into His chambers.
Not first to the banqueting house—that will come in due season; but first to be alone with Himself.

How perfect! Could we be satisfied to meet a beloved one only in public? No; we want to take such an one aside—to have him all to ourselves. So with our MASTER: He takes His now fully consecrated bride aside, to taste and enjoy the sacred intimacies of His wondrous love. The Bridegroom of His Church longs for communion with His people more than they long for fellowship with Him, and often has to cry:
Let Me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice;
For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Are we not all too apt to seek Him rather because of our need than for His joy and pleasure? This should not be. We do not admire selfish children who only think of what they can get from their parents, and are unmindful of the pleasure that they may give or the service that they may render. But are not we in danger of forgetting that pleasing GOD means giving Him pleasure? Some of us look back to the time when the words “To please GOD” meant no more than not to sin against Him, not to grieve Him; but would the love of earthly parents be satisfied with the mere absence of disobedience? Or a bridegroom, if his bride only sought him for the supply of her own need?

A word about the morning watch may not be out of place here. There is no time so profitably spent as the early hour given to JESUS only. Do we give sufficient attention to this hour? If possible, it should be redeemed; nothing can make up for it. We must take time to be holy!

One other thought. When we bring our questions to GOD, do we not sometimes either go on to offer some other petition, or leave the closet without waiting for replies? Does not this seem to show little expectation of an answer, and little desire for one? Should we like to be treated so? Quiet waiting before GOD would save from many a mistake and from many a sorrow.

We have found the bride making a glad discovery of a KING—her KING—and not a cross, as she expected; this is the first-fruit of her consecration.
We will be glad and rejoice in Thee,
We will make mention of Thy love more than of wine.
Rightly do they love Thee.
Another discovery not less important awaits her. She has seen the face of the KING, and as the rising sun reveals that which was hidden in the darkness, so His light has revealed her blackness to her. “Ah,” she cries, “I am black”;—“But comely,” interjects the Bridegroom, with inimitable grace and tenderness. “Nay, ‘black as the tents of Kedar,’” she continues. “Yet to Me,” He responds, “thou art ‘comely as the curtains of Solomon!’” Nothing humbles the soul like sacred and intimate communion with the Lord; yet there is a sweet joy in feeling that He knows all, and, notwithstanding, loves us still. Things once called “little negligences” are seen with new eyes in “the secret of His presence.” There we see the mistake, the sin, of not keeping our own vineyard. This the bride confesses:
Look not upon me, because I am swarthy,
Because the sun hath scorched me.
My mother’s sons were incensed against me,
They made me keeper of the vineyards;
But mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Our attention is here drawn to a danger which is pre-eminently one of this day: the intense activity of our times may lead to zeal in service, to the neglect of personal communion; but such neglect will not only lessen the value of the service, but tend to incapacitate us for the highest service. If we are watchful over the souls of others, and neglect our own—if we are seeking to remove the motes from our brother’s eye, unmindful of the beam in our own, we shall often be disappointed with our powerlessness to help our brethren, while our MASTER will not be less disappointed in us. Let us never forget that what we are is more important than what we do; and that all fruit borne when not abiding in CHRIST must be fruit of the flesh, and not of the SPIRIT. The sin of neglected communion may be forgiven, and yet the effect remain permanently; as wounds when healed often leave a scar behind.

We now come to a very sweet evidence of the reality of the heart-union of the bride with her LORD. She is one with the GOOD SHEPHERD: her heart at once goes instinctively forth to the feeding of the flock; but she would tread in the footsteps of Him whom her soul loveth, and would neither labour alone, nor in other companionship than His own:
Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth,
Where Thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou makest it to rest at noon:
For why should I be as one that is veiled
Beside the flocks of Thy companions?
She will not mistake the society of His servants for that of their MASTER.
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women,
Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,
And feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.
These are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, and give a correct reply to her questionings. Let her show her love to her LORD by feeding His sheep, by caring for His lambs (see John xxi. 15-17), and she need not fear to miss His presence. While sharing with other under-shepherds in caring for His flock she will find the CHIEF SHEPHERD at her side, and enjoy the tokens of His approval. It will be service with JESUS as well as for JESUS.

But far sweeter than the reply of the daughters of Jerusalem is the voice of the Bridegroom, who now speaks Himself. It is the living fruit of her heart-oneness with Him that makes His love break forth in the joyful utterances of verses 9-11. For it is not only true that our love for our LORD will show itself in feeding His sheep, but that He who when on earth said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me,” has His own heart-love stirred, and not infrequently specially reveals Himself to those who are ministering for Him.

The commendation of the bride in verse 9 is one of striking appropriateness and beauty:
I have compared thee, O My love,
To a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.
It will be remembered that horses originally came out of Egypt, and that the pure breed still found in Arabia was during Solomon’s reign brought by his merchants for all the kings of the East. Those selected for Pharaoh’s own chariot would not only be of the purest blood and perfect in proportion and symmetry, but also perfect in training, docile and obedient; they would know no will but that of the charioteer, and the only object of their existence would be to carry the king whithersoever he would go. So should it be with the Church of CHRIST; one body with many members, indwelt and guided by one SPIRIT; holding the HEAD, and knowing no will but His; her rapid and harmonious movement should cause His kingdom to progress throughout the world.

Many years ago a beloved friend, returning from the East by the overland route, made the journey from Suez to Cairo in the cumbrous diligence then in use. The passengers on landing took their places, about a dozen wild young horses were harnessed with ropes to the vehicle, the driver took his seat and cracked his whip, and the horses dashed off, some to the right, some to the left, and others forward, causing the coach to start with a bound, and as suddenly to stop, with the effect of first throwing those sitting in the front seat into the laps of those sitting behind, and then of reversing the operation. With the aid of sufficient Arabs running on each side to keep these wild animals progressing in the right direction the passengers were jerked and jolted, bruised and shaken, until, on reaching their destination, they were too wearied and sore to take the rest they so much needed.

Is not the Church of GOD today more like these untrained steeds than a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot? And while self-will and disunion are apparent in the Church, can we wonder that the world still lieth in the wicked one, and that the great heathen nations are barely touched?

Changing His simile, the Bridegroom continues:
Thy cheeks are comely with plaits of hair,
Thy neck with strings of jewels.
We will make thee plaits of gold
With studs of silver.
The bride is not only beautiful and useful to her LORD, she is also adorned, and it is His delight to add to her adornments. Nor are His gifts perishable flowers, or trinkets destitute of intrinsic value: the finest of the gold, the purest of the silver, and the most precious and lasting of the jewels are the gifts of the Royal Bridegroom to His spouse; and these, plaited amongst her own hair, increase His pleasure who has bestowed them.
In verses 12-14 the bride responds:
While the King sat at His table
My spikenard sent forth its fragrance.
It is in His presence and through His grace that whatever of fragrance or beauty may be found in us comes forth. Of Him as its source, through Him as its instrument, and to Him as its end, is all that is gracious and divine. But HE HIMSELF is better far than all His grace works in us.
My Beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh,
That lieth betwixt my breasts.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna-flowers
In the vineyards of En-gedi.
Well is it when our eyes are filled with His beauty and our hearts are occupied with Him. In the measure in which this is true of us we shall recognize the correlative truth that His great heart is occupied with us. Note the response of the Bridegroom:
Behold, thou art fair, My love; behold, thou art fair;
Thine eyes are as a dove’s.
How can the Bridegroom truthfully use such words of one who recognizes herself as
Black as the tents of Kedar?

And still more strong are the Bridegroom’s words in chapter 4:7:
Thou art all fair, My love;
And there is no spot in thee.
We shall find the solution of this difficulty in 2 Cor. 3. Moses in contemplation of the Divine glory became so transformed that the Israelites were not able to look on the glory of his countenance. “We all, with unveiled face (beholding and) reflecting as a mirror the glory of the LORD, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory (i.e. the brightness caught from His glory transforms us to glory), even as from the LORD the SPIRIT.” Every mirror has two surfaces; the one is dull and unreflecting, and is all spots, but when the reflecting surface is turned towards us we see no spot, we see our own image. So while the bride is delighting in the beauty of the Bridegroom He beholds His own image in her; there is no spot in that: it is all fair. May we ever present this reflection to His gaze, and to the world in which we live for the very purpose of reflecting Him.

Note again His words:
Thine eyes are as dove’s, or
Thou hast dove’s eyes.
The hawk is a beautiful bird, and has beautiful eyes, quick and penetrating; but the Bridegroom desires not hawk’s eyes in His bride. The tender eyes of the innocent dove are those which He admires. It was as a dove that the HOLY SPIRIT came upon Him at His baptism, and the dove-like character is that which He seeks for in each of His people.

The reason why David was not permitted to build the Temple was a very significant one. His life was far from perfect; and his mistakes and sins have been faithfully recorded by the HOLY SPIRIT. They brought upon him God’s chastenings, yet it was not any of these that disqualified him from building the Temple, but rather his warlike spirit; and this though many of his battles, if not all, were for the establishment of GOD’S Kingdom and the fulfilment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Solomom, the Prince of Peace, alone could build the Temple. If we would be soul-winners and build up the Church, which is His Temple, let us note this: not by discussion nor by argument, but by lifting up CHRIST shall we draw men unto Him.

We now come to the reply of the bride. He has called her fair; wisely and well does she reply:
Behold Thou art fair, my Beloved, yea, pleasant:
Also our couch is green.
The beams of our house are cedars,
And our
rafters are firs.
I am (but) a rose of Sharon,
A lily of the valleys.
The last words are often quoted as though they were the utterance of the Bridegroom, but we believe erroneously. The bride says in effect, Thou callest me fair and pleasant, the fairness and pleasantness are Thine; I am but a wild flower, a lowly, scentless rose of Sharon (i.e. the autumn crocus), or a lily of the valley.

To this the Bridegroom responds: “Be it so; but if a wild flower, yet
As a lily among thorns,
So is My love among the daughters.”
Again the bride replies:
As the apple tree (the citron) 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.
The citron is a beautiful evergreen, affording delightful shade as well as refreshing fruit. A humble wild flower herself, she recognizes her Bridegroom as a noble tree, alike ornamental and fruitful. Shade from the burning sun, refreshment and rest she finds in Him. What a contrast her present position and feelings to those with which this section commenced! He knew full well the cause of all her fears; her distrust sprang from her ignorance of Himself, so He took her aside, and in the sweet intimacies of mutual love her fears and distrust have vanished, like the mists of the morning before the rising sun.

But now that she has learned to know Him, she has a further experience of His love. He is not ashamed to acknowledge her publicly.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
And His banner over me was love.
The house of wine is now as appropriate as the King’s chambers were. Fearlessly and without shame she can sit at His side, His acknowledged spouse, the bride of His choice. Overwhelmed with His love she exclaims:
Stay ye me with raisins, comfort me with apples:
For I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head,
And His right hand doth embrace me.
Now she finds the blessedness of being possessed. No longer her own, heart-rest is alike her right and her enjoyment; and so the Bridegroom would have it.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the roes, and by the hinds of the
field,
That ye stir not up nor awake My love,
Until she please

(The pronoun here and in chapter iii. 5, and viii. 4, should not be “he” as A. V., nor “it” as R.V., but “she”.)
It is never by His will that our rest in Him is disturbed.
You may always be abiding,
If you will, at Jesus’ side;
in the secret of
His presence
You may every moment hide.
There is no change in His love; He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. To us He promises, “I will never leave thee, never fail thee, nor forsake thee," and His earnest exhortation and command is, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”

PRAYER

Lord, You are our love. Help us to remain in Your love. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 50 - Loving God and Others

LINK: Psalm 50 

BACKGROUND 

This didactic psalm (designed for and intended for teaching) was written by Asaph, a Levite singer (1 Chronicles 16:4-5 and 2 Chronicles 5:12). It is believed to be dated around the beginning of Solomon's reign. 

In this psalm, there is a "heavenly courtroom" scene where God speaks to the superficially religious people who only go through the ritualistic motions (50:1-15). Then, he speaks to the wicked who are evil in their words and deeds (50:16-22). Neither is acceptable to God, our worship needs to be from the heart and reflected in our actions. 

REFLECTION 

This psalm covers the two categories contained in the Ten Commandments and the foremost commandments that Jesus taught about: loving God and loving your neighbor (Exodus 20 and Matthew 22:36-40). This is the heartbeat of the drum I tap on a daily basis. Jesus said it was FOREMOST. We need to soak deeply in this!!! We cannot give to others what we do not have. Love of neighbor overflows from our love of God and is part of “ordering our way aright” (50:23).


APPLICATION 

Examine your heart in these two important areas:

Loving God: In what ways have you become ritualistic in your worship of God and not doing it from the heart? 

Loving Your Neighbor: Are there any ways that your actions toward others reflect hypocrisy? Do you love your neighbor out of the overflow of your love for God?

Take some time to talk to God about this. 


PRAYER

Lord, draw us into pure worship of You from our hearts, and let our hearts of love toward You overflow on to others. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.