THE REFORMED WITNESS HOUR
"Set Me as a Seal Upon Thy Heart”
Rev. Carl Haak
May 25, 2008; No. 3412
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Dear radio friends,
Our portion and meditation from the Scripture today is found in Song of Solomon 8:6, 7, where we read: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”
We are convinced that the Song of Solomon in the Bible is a parable or a picture of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. It is intended to be a picture of the marriage of the Lord Jesus and His bride, of the relationship of God’s love and grace that the Spirit has made between our souls and our crucified, risen, and exalted Savior.
The Song of Solomon in the Bible was written by King Solomon, David’s son. Solomon was a poet and a songwriter. Not only was he the world’s wisest man, but he was also a man who wrote many songs. And the Song of Solomon is the Song of Songs, he says, in the first chapter, verse 1. That is, he considered it the best song that he had ever written.
It is written about a real marriage between Solomon and a Shulamite woman, a woman who lived fifty miles south of Jerusalem and who was poor, worked in a vineyard, was lowly, and exceptionally beautiful. It is a book of love, marriage, sexuality, intimacy. But it is a book, above all, of the love of Jesus Christ for the church, for me, for every child of God—the holy, sweet, sufficient love of Jesus for sinners.
We admit that there are parts of this book of the Song of Solomon that are hard to understand and to interpret. And at times we blush when we read the book, or we are perplexed. Not, you understand, because the book is obscure, but because our level of spirituality and our lack of spiritual intimacy with the Lord often is deficient. The closer you come to another person, especially in marriage, the more quickly you catch the meaning and the nuance. The more experiences that you share with another person, the more readily you understand the references that are being made. As a husband and wife grow to understand each other and then to understand the levels of the intimacy of their marriage, so also in this book, if we are to understand it, we must walk personally in love with the Lord.
In the eighth chapter is found our text for today, in which the bride is asking Solomon that he set her as a seal upon his heart. Looking back to verse 5 of the eighth chapter, we see that Solomon and his wife are coming up out of the wilderness, a dry and desolate land, returning to their garden in Jerusalem. She is leaning upon her beloved. She is assured of his strength and confident of his protection.
As they walk together, we hear the conversation between the two of them. He tells her of his nurture and blessings for her. He says to her: “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth.” And she looks up to him, looks into his eyes, and expresses the deepest desires of her heart: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart.” And she goes on to sing, to express, what his love is to her. His love to her is strong and vehement and enduring and inestimable.
So also we, as the church, as believers, come up today out of the wilderness of sin, out of the heat of trial, out of the hour of pain. We carry the sorrows of heart and the struggles of mind. And we come in faith, leaning upon Him, confident in faith and assured of our Lord Jesus Christ. On this Sabbath Day He speaks to us of the blessings that He has given to us from our childhood. We have grown up under the apple tree. We have grown up under the tender care of God.
And now we also speak to Him of our deepest desires. “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, O Lord Jesus Christ. Assure me of Thy love.”
The bride’s desire is expressed, and the church’s desire is expressed, in those words: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm.” There she says that she wants the assurance of the special and permanent place that she will have in the heart of Solomon. She wants what a wife wants: love. Not his wealth, not his money, and not his garden. She wants, rather, to be sure that she occupies a place that no one else has in his heart, that he say to her: “I love you. I love only you.”
The heart of Jesus Christ is His affection, His desire, the source from which He loves. The great, great heart of Jesus Christ—to be sealed to that heart means that you are loved by Him.
A seal is what confirms the authenticity of something. It certifies that something is real, true, and reliable. A seal was, in those days, an impression: an impression made by the ring of a king, a unique design of that particular king, pressed upon wax. It would be imprinted upon any correspondence, whereby one would know that this correspondence and these words were indeed from him.
So the bride of Solomon desires to know, to be assured, to have him guarantee to her that she is stamped upon his heart, that she enjoys his tender affections, that he loves her in his heart as he loves no one else.
“Set me as a seal upon thine arm,” she continues. That could mean a tattoo, or a bracelet that he would wear with her name upon it, or the inscription of his love for her upon it, close and near. When we speak of the arm of Jesus Christ, we speak of His power and of His care. We read in Isaiah 40:11, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm.” So then, she would be praying, “Embrace me in thy tender care. Let me never fail to understand the strength of thy grace. Assure me of my place upon thy heart and my life as it is within thy arms.”
This is a bride’s desire. In an earthly marriage, this is the desire of the wife. To be a husband, you must know how to love as Christ loves. It is your calling to see that your wife understands that she is safe in your affections and that she may rely upon your heart, that your heart will be given to no one else but to her, that she can trust in your arm and in your protection, and that she is stamped upon your heart.
This is the desire of the children of God concerning our relationship to Jesus Christ. Whether as a believer we are six years old, fourteen, twenty-nine, sixty-seven, or whatever age, our prayer is, “Let me never lose the place that I have upon Thy heart. Seal that to me. As a deed is authorized by an official seal, so make it certain to me that I abide upon Thy heart and am the object of Thy care and protection.”
Now why is that so important to us? Because, you see, without Christ’s love we sink into hopelessness. Life cannot be borne, sorrows cannot be comforted, fears cannot be turned back, unless we have the assurance of Christ’s love. Our desire is that we be set as a seal upon His heart, because of the blows and the trials, the griefs, the pains, and the difficulties that cannot be endured without His love. We become desperate, sometimes, for the assurances of His love. Judging as we do from what we see, from what we feel, from what we endure, going through death and loss and heartbreak, the bride of Christ, the church, the believer is tempted to wonder about that love of God. In the world the church of Jesus Christ is battered. She is not treated well by the world. She endures the woes of this world and the sins of her own life. Oh, what it means for us to know that we are set as a seal upon the heart of the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, that He bears upon His heart the impression of my name, that He wears me on His arm as a bracelet, that He who controls all things and rules the world and orders all things is the One who loves me!
We need that assurance because that is the nature of the bride, of the wife.
What does a child need? What does a child really need? What does a wife need, really? Do you ever ask that question, as a husband, “What does she need?” A house? Goods, possessions? No, a child and a wife need to know that you love them.
Solomon’s wife says: “Solomon, I can have all the blessings that I have with you, but, understand, I can live without the palace, without the garden, without the spices, without the clothes, without the fresh-cut lilies that you constantly bring to me. I can live without that. But I cannot live without the fresh, daily assurance of your love.”
So also the child of God cries out, I must know the love of Jesus Christ that passes knowledge. God has set us as a seal upon His Son’s heart, and He has authenticated it. He has guaranteed it in His Word. As Aaron the highpriest bore on his breastplate the names of Israel’s sons, so from all eternity God in free grace wrote the name of every elect believer upon the heart of Jesus Christ, engraved them upon His heart. Jesus said, “I know my sheep and I call them by name.” Jesus said, through the prophet Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. They were forged upon my heart in eternity. They were pressed into my heart by God Himself.” Upon the cross, He swore that all who were given to Him would be borne by Him upon His heart. And He assures His church in His Word, “My wife, My people, you are ever in My affections, you are upon My heart. And My arm holds you always.”
If the surpassing excellency and the staggering wonder of this does not fill you with awe, then you do not understand. Then you have not experienced this love. You have not caught a glimpse of the love of Jesus Christ. When you know the love of Jesus Christ, and when you are assured of it in His Word, then you have peace. You have rest, you have comfort, you have joy. “In God’s love abiding, I have joy and peace.” Regardless of the circumstances of life.
The bride of Solomon seems to speak of the qualities of love in general. “Love is strong as death,” she says. Jealousy is cruel as the grave. The coals give vehement heat. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. But while she speaks in general terms, nevertheless, she is speaking of the nature of his love. She says his love is strong, impassioned, vehement, unquenchable, and enduring. The love of Jesus Christ is not weak, wimpy, fickle, broken, defeated—something that we see much of in this life.
Here are the qualities of the love of Christ: It is strong as death. There is nothing that we know that is stronger than death—except the love of God in Christ, which is stronger. Death is so strong. Who can overcome it? Who can escape it? Who can defeat its grasp? Who can take back from its clutches what it has taken from us? When death comes for your loved one, for your son, your daughter, your wife, your husband (perhaps you are there in the emergency room with the ventilators and all the machines of men), who can say, “No!” to death? All of our desires and all of our pleas lie impotent at the feet of death. But the love of Jesus is stronger. Death backs away. Death gives up. Death lies down at the feet of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ love is stronger than death.
The sinner may run from Jesus. The child may vanish deep down into the corridors of darkness. Our hearts may become cold as death. Sin may get its grip and its hold and try to chain us in despair. But the love of Jesus is greater, stronger than sin. The love of Jesus is the only unbreakable power. The love of Jesus does not let go. Death does let go, and sin lets go, at the name of Jesus. There is nothing that is able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
The love of Jesus Christ is passionate. “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave and the coals thereof as the coals of fire, giving a vehement heat.” Jealousy is hard and cruel. Jealousy has no mercy. Jealousy destroys friendships. The love of Christ is jealous and vehement. It will have the glory of God. It is vehement about the glory of God. It will not allow us who are loved of God to play around with sin. It will not let us give our affections over to the follies of sin.
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” A drowning swimmer fights against the water but it keeps coming until at last, exhausted and weak, he sinks down under the waves and dies. We say, so much has happened—one thing after another, so many disappointments. Love has drowned under the waves of disappointment. Our love has its limits, we say. It cannot go on any further. But not the love of Christ. It never dies. All the waves and billows of sin, all the deluge, all the floods of the great waters, the swelling currents, the raging floods of the wrath of God poured over His soul. But those floods did not drown His love.
Now, what value do you place upon the love of Christ for you? Is there one thing, is there anything, is there anyone more valuable to you than He? If so, if that is true, you will live to see the day when the object of your love perishes and leaves you alone.
So valuable is the love of Jesus Christ that the whole world is vanity and loss compared to it. If you have the whole world at your fingertips but if you have not the love of Jesus Christ, you are a pauper.
But the love of Jesus Christ, that gracious, wonderful, free love of Jesus Christ, given totally of God—that is the greatest treasure that a heart can possess. The free, full, never-dying, strong, vehement, eternal, unsought, undeserved love of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
Let us pray.
Father, assure us of Thy love in Jesus Christ. Amen.