‘Jesus lover of my soul ... Thou, O Christ, art all I want’. (Charles Wesley, 1707-1788, ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’)
2 I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”
3 I have taken off my robe—
must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
must I soil them again?
4 My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening;
my heart began to pound for him.
5 I arose to open for my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with flowing myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
6 I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.
7 The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they bruised me;
they took away my cloak,
those watchmen of the walls!
8 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you—
if you find my beloved,
what will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love.
9 How is your beloved better than others,
most beautiful of women?
How is your beloved better than others,
that you so charge us?
10 My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
outstanding among ten thousand.
11 His head is purest gold;
his hair is wavy
and black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves
by the water streams,
washed in milk,
mounted like jewels.
13 His cheeks are like beds of spice
His lips are like lilies
dripping with myrrh.
14 His arms are rods of gold
set with topaz.
His body is like polished ivory
decorated with lapis lazuli.
15 His legs are pillars of marble
set on bases of pure gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as its cedars.
16 His mouth is sweetness itself;
he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, this is my friend,
daughters of Jerusalem.
6 Where has your beloved gone,
most beautiful of women?
Which way did your beloved turn,
that we may look for him with you?
2 My beloved has gone down to his garden,
to the beds of spices,
to browse in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he browses among the lilies.
Late at night the doorbell rings. But by the time we get there, the person has gone! We can sympathise. Is this a dream (5:2) reflecting the girl’s fears, or is it an actual episode in the couple’s relationship? Either way, it suggests that there is some difficulty – ‘my heart sank’ (5:6).
Her lover – ‘drenched with dew’ – has been out through the night (5:2). The conversation through the door reveals, perhaps, playful and arch reproach: (‘Shall I get dressed again?’, 5:3). Then he is gone and she begins her desperate search which ends in tears (5:7). ‘Is he worth it?’ friends ask (5:9). When driven to distraction by some aspect of your efforts to live faithfully as a disciple of Jesus, are you sometimes tempted to give up? Perhaps you have friends who ask you, ‘Is it really worth it?’
In response, echoing the man’s earlier words (4:1–15), the woman describes her lover (5:10–16). Again, such images in our western twenty-first century world may make us smile. But the sensual, rich picture points to a deep love: ‘This is my beloved ... my friend’ (5:16). This is not some superficial infatuation, but a profound relationship. ‘OK,’ her friends say, ‘we’ll help you find him’ (6:1). The young woman reasserts her commitment to him: ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’ (6:3).
Reassert your commitment to Jesus.
Deeper Bible study
‘He is altogether lovely.’1 Worship the Lord Jesus who is perfectly good and compassionate, truthful and understanding.
‘Be careful she does not trespass your boundaries’ was the advice given to my new boyfriend. In those early tentative days, this warning puzzled me. For surely, as committed devotion grows, secrecy, independence and selfishness are lovingly assaulted.
The woman here returns to earlier themes of loss and longing, being open and closed. She couches her fears in the language of nightmares: her lover comes to the door and begs repeatedly to be let in. Is she teasing him, playing games to make him desperate? Does she fancy her own space for a while? Or is she making him pay for something that has displeased her? Whatever it is, it backfires: when she opens the door, he is gone. Frantic, she leaves the comfort and safety of her bedroom, only to be treated as a prostitute by the security guards who fail to protect her.
When relationships are becoming established, individuals move at different paces and can get out of sync. In the miscommunications and tussles between assertive autonomy and necessary otherness, outsiders play a significant part. Inevitably, there are the ‘watchmen of the walls’ (v 7) who judge and injure and gossip, leaving troubled souls exposed and hopeless. Quick to react without taking the time to listen, they do little to support the vulnerable, struggling from the fall-out of love. Thank God for those like the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ (vs 8,16) who probe, inviting the distressed to connect again with the heart of the matter. Their questions remind wobbling hearts of the loved one towering above the misplaced remarks and incidents. In the challenges of dependence and independence, couples need those who will speak words of wisdom and kindness and truth. With sensitivity.
Pray for counsellors and pastors, as well as whole church communities, who support healing and strength in troubled family relationships.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 2 Chronicles 35,36; Luke 1:39–80
Pray for Scripture Union
Potters Bar mission started in 2017 and has been very effective; Cath Hawes takes over as leader this year. Felpham Mission has been renamed Impact Felpham with Dan Balsdon as new leader. Pray for Cath and Dan now that the mission has been cancelled.