“Invest in the Best”

I. The Bride assumes a coy air with her husband and misses an opportunity for manifestation of love. 5:1-8

A. Their married relationship began with perfect unanimity and joy and mutual pleasure. She is called both sister and bride, not because there is a difficulty with consanguinity in the relationship but because he considers her as so fit for his needs that it seems as if she had familial sympathy with him all their lives. – 4:16-5:1

B. At some point she decided to engage in a bit of drama; losing that utter simplicity of sincerity, that unembarrassed delight in her husband. Rather than delighting in the vows that have sealed their relationship, his having set aside all other affections for her and having sought her for his own, she inserts a bit of histrionics into the relationship losing that pure transparency of unquestioned affection for each other.

1. She has isolated herself to see if he will come to find her; He does and evidently has been searching for her in the evening damp, finds her, and uses the language of pure love to get her to welcome him to her. Verse 2

2. She made flimsy excuses as to why she could not come to the door. It is cold and my outer coat has already been put away for the evening. I might get my feet soiled. This is such an inconvenient situation for I am all ready to go to sleep. Verse 3

3. He persists and seeks to open the door, which she had locked. It has worked; she is thrilled for she has made him labor to find her and now he shakes the handle of a locked door seeking to come in. verse 4

4. She arose from her bed, now disregarding both cloak and feet, putting on lovely perfume, and goes to unlock the door. All along she wanted him, but she made him earn the right to her, when in fact, that right already was settled and unquestionable. What was a game engineered by pride for her, was, in reality, a denial of the rights of the husband, a trivializing of his transparent commitment,  and a severing of the bond of union established by marriage.

C. She now realizes that her little hard-to-get game has backfired and has created a break in relationship and an emptiness in her life. Verses 6-8

1. When she reaches the door to open it, after having primped and put on perfume, she finds that he has left. Her soul sinks within her and she becomes desperate to find him. She veils herself, goes into the streets at night, calling him and looking feverishly for him. He plays no games, he is not there. Verse 6

2. Her irregular behavior gains the attention of the city watchmen and they capture her and treat her roughly because of her apparent disorientation and ultra-inquisitiveness. Perhaps she is a spy, seeking to find a weak spot in the defense of the city and will leave and report some vulnerability to an enemy. One cannot be too careful when one is on watch. Just because it is a female does not mean that she is not dangerous. Females had been deceptively deadly in the history of Israel. Her immature ploy left her without the protection and safety that was perfect and abundant with her husband and has led to her solitude in a city. Verse 7

3. She shoves aside all her pretentiousness and addresses the daughters of Jerusalem to help her find him with no uncertain assurance of her overwhelming love for him. Verse 8

II.  She expresses her confidence in his love for her and that he will receive her; Verses 5:9-6:3

A. When asked by those she has engaged to look for him as to why he is more to be desired than any other, she tells of all his perfections and closes with an acknowledgement of the perfection of the relationship “This is my beloved and this is my friend.” Verse 5:9-16

B. Having heard from her “what” he is, they now ask if she knows “where” he might be. – verse 6:1

C. Knowing his character and his consistency and the sincerity of his love, she answers that he is in the place where their love first was consummated, which she calls his garden. Verse 6:2

D. She indicates now a confidence, assurance, and sincerity that for a brief time she had forsaken by playing a silly game of hide-and-seek romance. She has no hesitance about his love for her nor her love for him and that they mutually belong to each other: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Verse 6:3

[Something of the real historical setting of this comes through in the following exalted expressions of exclusive commitment to each other and inexhaustible pleasure in contemplating the handsome and attractive features of each other. In verses 6:8, 9 Solomon points to the judgment of “sixty queens and eighty concubines and virgins without number” who see his beloved bride, admire her, call her blessed, and praise her. She is as impressive as an “army with banners” and is his “dove his perfect one.”

III. When real love unites the bride with her husband, nothing can separate them – 8:4-7

A. After exuberant expressions of love for one another and the manifestation of renewed pleasure and utter absorption in the beauty, well-being, and acceptance of each other, she expresses her reception of him in terms similar to those that he had used concerning her. She sees him as so perfectly adapted to her and that their hearts and affections are so conjoined that it is as if they had been born from and nursed from the same mother. She sees their relationship as if it was for her sake and upon her own provocation and encouragement and for their union that his mother gave birth to him– 8:1-2a and verse 5. [5a probably is a question posed by the chorus of other observers that have appeared throughout in order to move the narrative forward (1:4b, 11; 5:1c, 9; 6:1, 13; and now the question in 5a allows her to give this poetic expression as to why they seem so unalterably and inextricably entwined with each other’s joy and well-being. “I myself was involved in the labor that gave you (the king) birth.”]

B. Never again will she be coy, but always earnest and living with full knowledge that she is his, and he is unchangeably enchanted with her beauty and fully devoted to her pleasure and security. 8:2b, 3.

C. Given the ever-increasing delight and intensity of this relationship of love, again she warns the daughters of Jerusalem not to awaken love before it is time. 8:4 [At times in the popular genre this idea of unalterable love and the necessity of wise discernment before one gives oneself to love another emerge from deep within the ideals of the human soul, though as with Solomon the ideal seems to escape them: “When I fall in love, it will be forever, or I’ll never fall in love . . . Too many moonlight kisses disappear with the warmth of the sun.”

D. Solomon places within the perceptions and words of the bride the transcendent worthiness and spirituality of true love.

1. She is sealed in both the affections and the strength of the king, her husband, secured with a seal upon his heart and his arm. He loves her with an unbreakable love and will never allow harm to come to her but will exert all the power at his disposal to protect her. Verse 6a

2. With the certainty and inevitability of death, so certain is the strength and ardor, jealousy in the purest sense of the term, of love. In the way that Elijah was jealous for the Lord God of Hosts and the God is a “jealous God,” so jealous is love for its beloved. Verse 6b

3. A violation of love cannot be conceived of without an immediate sense of the wrath of God intervening, at some point either in time or eternity, with a vengeful display of his anger against this profanation of the highest of all gifts that he puts within the soul of man. 6c

4. Love that shares in the traits of divine intra-trinitarian love cannot be quenched or diminished in any sense; it cannot be smothered by any variety of contingencies for its origin is far above the changeable scenes of a fickle and corrupt world. Verse 7a

5. It cannot be purchased as if it were a commodity to be on the market. One that thinks his riches can purchase love for him is a fool and a laughingstock whose attempts both at giving and finding affection are to be pitied, if not ridiculed. Even the Beatles thought so, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” Look at Isaiah 55:1-3 [without money, without price]

IV. Applications to marriage and to Christ and the Church

A. The pursuit of this kind of devotion, joy, pleasure, and unalterable love in marriage is the goal set before us. The tragedy in Eden shows how it has been compromised and corrupted; but the divine purpose in giving the woman to the man as a help fit for him has not changed. If we are embarrassed by the frankness and intensity of this Song, it is because we still hide from one another with fig leaves finding it difficult to be so transparently self-giving and so unexceptionally engrossed in the sure love of the other.

B. Christ appears for his church as a strong and mighty king who does all for the salvation, protection, joy, pleasure, and eternal well-being of his bride, the church. “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

C. The church is engraved on his heart and his arm as a seal not to be broken. He Himself is the surety of our acceptance before the throne of God. His blood is the seal that established his ability to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” Jude 24.

D. His love prompted him to purchase us with his life-blood as the God-man, Messiah, not with “corruptible things such as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without spot or blemish” 1 Peter 1:8, 19

E. For our sake he was born into this world to bear witness to the truth, to serve the purpose of his Father unalterably, and purchase the ones given him by the Father before the foundation of the world. His incarnation was the result of a decree of love for us, our eternal pleasure dwelt alongside him in his conception and birth. (John 10:14-18, 36; 17:23; 18:37; Matthew 1:20, 21)

F. His love for the church is an everlasting love, not founded on the changeable contingencies of time and space, but on an affection and determination intrinsic to his nature from all eternity. “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” The Father loves his Son, and loves us in him, under the types of both children and bride.

G. His love for us transcends all earthly temporal contingencies. “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39)

H. It is expected that such love will dissolve our sinful fickleness and insincerity and prompt us to love him in purity and truth as the only sure foundation for a persevering faith in his redeeming work. ”If anyone has not love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22;) “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:24).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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