Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree
January 29, 2006 / No. 3291
Dear radio friends,
Today we turn our attention to God’s Word in the Song of Solomon 2:3, where God has written these words: “As the apple tree 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 key to the interpretation of this unique book is to see this book as the picture of Christ and His bride, the church. The Song of Solomon is a poetic song between Solomon and his wife — between Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, the king over Israel after David, and the Shulamite woman. While it is important to understand as best we can what they are saying to each other, we rest confident that we have in this book the relationship existing between Christ and His bride, the church — between Christ and us. For Jesus said in John 5:39 concerning the Old Testament Scriptures, and thus concerning the Song of Solomon: “These are they which testify of me.” The Song of Solomon, thus, draws out aspects of the mysterious and wonderful union between the Lord Jesus Christ and His people, the church.
In the Scripture that I called to your attention just a moment ago, Solomon’s wife is responding to a compliment that Solomon had just made about her. She often, in this book, will do that. No sooner does Solomon say something nice and flattering to her than she replies with a compliment for him. She brings the focus back to him.
So we find it that in verse 2 of chapter 2, Solomon had said, “As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” He had paid her a high compliment. “You are to me a lily, and the rest of the daughters, in comparison to you, are to me nothing but thornbushes.”
She immediately responds with a compliment of her own. “Well, as an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.” Let us learn from that, first of all.
She has crosses, does the wife of Jesus Christ, and Solomon’s wife as well. She had burdens that she had to bear. She had many difficulties. Yet, when she is in his presence she does not talk about those things but she talks about him. Let us learn to be quick to speak well of our Lord Jesus Christ and to magnify Him rather than to murmur constantly of the crosses that we must bear. Let us learn to stay our heart readily upon Him, our Lord and Savior, and to bring praises of what He is to us.
So, in this verse, the church (the believer) is saying what Christ is to her while she is in this present world. He has said to her that as a lily among the thorns, so is His church (the believer) to Him. The church is viewed by Christ as holy. The church emits to Christ the pleasing scent of trust and faith.
But Jesus Christ is also the object of the church’s love and praise. To us, Jesus Christ is the apple tree among the trees of the wood.
Let us listen again to the esteem that the bride is placing upon her husband, that the church of Jesus Christ places upon Christ. As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.
The word “apple” probably refers to a pomegranate or an orange. It is a term that refers to a round piece of fruit. We are told that the apple, as we know it now, was not known in the day of Solomon. But the apple is fruit. The apple is refreshing. The apple is sweet.
She esteems Christ as fruit, as refreshing, as sweet to her soul and to her heart. Do you? That, of course, is more than just knowledge, mere intellectual knowledge about Him. It means, as we read in Psalm 34, that the believer has tasted that the Lord is good, that, in our experience, as the God of grace who forgives our sins, we have found Christ to possess all that our soul needs. He is the apple tree among the trees of the wood.
Notice that our adoration of Christ and the esteem that we have for Him comes out especially in the way of comparison. That is what Christ has done in verse 2. He makes a comparison. He says, “My esteem for the church is a result of a careful comparison with the daughters of the world.” The daughters of the world, that is, those who are apart from the renewing grace of Jesus Christ, are as thorns. You go among them and you get cut. There is jealousy, hatred, cursing, stinging words, prickers that you cannot get out and that irritate and fester. You had better watch out when you walk among thorns. But, Jesus said, “By way of comparison, My church, because of what I have done, because they are bestowed with My holiness and beauty, the church is as a lily. It is beautiful, as I see the love of God implanted in the heart of the church.”
And it is beautiful in that the church, by grace, gives off a scent to God. A lily, of course, is a plant that is known for its distinctive scent. If you have a lily in your room you soon will smell it. So also the church, in the midst of this world, gives off a scent to God — the scent of her praise and the scent of her prayers.
Now, by way of comparison, Jesus Christ, as we compare Him to the sons of this world, is precious. He is as an apple tree among the trees of the wood.
When it comes to providing something to eat and to refresh, the trees of the wood have nothing to offer. The ash and the elm and the oak, if you want to eat them, are bitter. They give nasty nuts. That is, the church is saying, that in the sons of this world, there is nothing that can provide refreshment and sweetness unto our souls. They are referred to as the sons of the world. The sons of this world, the world itself, would become the suitor of the church. They would come for the affection of, and woo, the bride of Jesus Christ. But the bride of Jesus Christ says, “You are as trees of the wood — gnarled roots, bitter taste — compared to Jesus Christ, the apple tree, who to us is delicious and golden. This is how we esteem Him.”
The world, in her pleasures and in her philosophies; in all of her pursuits; in everything that she could offer for the soul, we find as bitter wood. But in Christ we find that which will make our soul to thrive. We esteem, we honor, we hold dear Jesus Christ as believers because of the fruit of grace that He works within our souls. Jesus Christ is the apple tree.
If you ask me, “Well, what is that fruit?” I say that it is an abundant fruit. When the church gets together on the Lord’s Day and comes under the preaching of the Word of God, the fruit is all arranged for the believers to eat. Then, at those special services when after the preaching of the Word the church gathers at a table of communion called the Lord’s Supper, then the fruits of Jesus Christ are arranged all before the congregation of God. And they are precious fruits. There is the fruit of pardon for the soul. There is the fruit of spotless righteousness in Christ. There is the assurance of adoption unto eternal life. There is the work of the Spirit of peace within the heart. There is the promise of the resurrection of the body. There is the gift of the indwelling Spirit. These are the fruits of Jesus Christ. He is the apple tree. All else in this world, all the sons, all the world are as trees of the wood.
When you are hungry and you are hiking and you are weary, what do you want? A gnarled tree root? Do you want to gnaw on a branch? Do you want to chew on a toothpick? Or on a fresh slice of apple? So we esteem Jesus Christ as the only sweetness, the only refreshment, the only nourishment to the soul.
Are you angry today? Are you disappointed, frustrated? Are you going to turn to the trees of the wood in the world — alcohol, marijuana, friends, loud words, shouting? Bitter things will come in your life. Go to Christ, the apple tree. Think of Him. Pray to Him. You are lonely? You want to be wanted? You want to belong to another? You want to have a husband? You are ready to compromise your faith? Or, perhaps, you are ready, because you think this is the way to get love, to give up your purity? You are ready to embrace a man who does not know Jesus Christ? You are chewing on a toothpick. Christ possesses fruit. Through faith in Him you will find contentment, strength, joy. Be faithful to Him!
You are empty today? Do you feel wretched about yourself? Are you going to turn to the roots and bark of the self-esteem gurus of the world? No, no. By faith, turn to Jesus Christ, who possesses perfect satisfaction.
You are tempted by peer pressure? You want to have the acceptance of the majority? You are ready to follow the crowd? You are afraid, perhaps, to confess Christ? You are afraid of the mockery — that others are going to mock any desire in your life to be sincere and godly? The majority, then, if you are going to follow the majority in the way of sin, are as trees of the wood. They have nothing to offer. But follow the way of the crucified One, the Lord and the Savior, the Savior of your soul.
Jesus Christ is to us the apple tree. As a hungry man prefers a solitary apple tree to the whole forest of oaks and elms, so grace brings us to esteem Jesus Christ the Redeemer above all things on this earth. He is the tree of life. He comes to us, by the grace of God, from the cross and out of the empty tomb laden with the fruits of salvation. His beauty excels all others. He alone can satisfy our soul. He alone can make us happy. His fruit makes us live.
To eat of this fruit, we must rest in Him. We read that the bride went on to say, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” So she esteems Him as the apple tree and then, changing the figure a little, she says, “I sat down under his shadow.”
From the context (if you read the first chapter of this book), we see that the spouse, the wife, had been seeking her beloved husband and, in looking for him, had asked where she would be likely to find him. The answer was given: “Go thy way by the footsteps of the flock,” that is, follow the trail that is left by the cattle or the sheep and you will find him. So she went to look for him. After a while she came to another resolution: I will sit down under his shadow. The idea is that she is out under the sun and she is weary and cannot find him completely and she needs to rest and she rests now under the shadow of Jesus Christ, the apple tree.
Now, as the church of Jesus Christ, we also gather together on the Lord’s Day in the church of God as those who are weary. That weariness can be very great upon our souls. We can be burdened by wayward children, burdened by our sins, burdened because of the consequences that sin brings into our life, burdened under the trials of body and soul and anxiety for tomorrow, and on and on. In this world we can find no rest. But we come to His shadow. By grace we trust in Him. We believe in His almighty power to protect and to cover us. We come under His shadow.
You who are burdened, by the grace of God, over your sin; you who believe that your way is unbearable — sit down under His shadow. By faith look upon Him who was hanged on the cross. By faith look upon Him, the living and the risen Savior, and find rest. Child of God, ask yourself the question: Did my Savior suffer in my stead? The Word of God said so — that He mounted the cross for me! Then, I shall not suffer for those sins under the wrath of God. They are paid for. I have rest. Did He actually bear my sin? Yes, says the Word of God to the believer, He did! Then I do not bear that sin. Did God accept His sacrifice once given upon the cross as the substitution for all of my sins? Yes, says the Word of God. Well, then, God will not smite me for those sins. Though He deal with me in love and chasten me, He will not smite me in His wrath. Did God swear that nothing now and nothing in the future can ever remove me from His love in Christ Jesus? Then I can rest. Then I can sit down under His shade.
The Shulamite tells us that when she felt herself overshadowed by Solomon’s love as she sat down under his shadow, she sat down with great delight. Only the humble sinner, humbled by the grace of God, can find great delight in the overshadowing protection of Jesus Christ. Pride, you see, cannot find such great delight in being overshadowed by Christ. Great “I” cannot stand being overshadowed by anything of another. But weary, humble sinners have great delight in the shadow of the cross. To be under the care and the protection and the love of Jesus Christ, the One who has loved me, that is great delight!
Do you think that faith in Jesus Christ means that we are married to gloom? Is that the way you look at the Christian life? Do you think of the Lord’s Day as a day of mourning and you are missing out? Do you think that it is pious to serve God without cheer and as dolefully as you possibly can? Do you crawl to a place of worship in a mournful, disinterested, sad manner as if you are going to your execution? Jesus Christ is overshadowing protection! Sit down under His shade, that wonderful shade of His grace, with great delight. He cheers the heart. He fixes our souls. He fills us with enthusiasm and great delight. Do you delight in the Lord? Do you sit at His feet with joy? Do you rejoice in His promises?
She says, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” Under the shadow of Jesus Christ, the apple tree, we may sit down and eat of the fruits of salvation. Those fruits of salvation are, first, that we are brought to trust Him, by God’s grace. Then we begin to enjoy all of His blessings. Through faith we taste the fruits of Jesus Christ, the fruits of salvation in our souls. Those fruits, again, are His pardon and redemption, His intercession, His promises, His power. We feed upon those things. Note that all of this is of grace. It is not of our work, but it is His.
She says (the bride), “I sat down under his shadow and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” She did not climb the tree. We are told that there is a slogan: “He who would eat the fruit must climb the tree.” No, she sat down. It was given to her. Trusting under His shadow, not in our works or ourselves, we sit down, by grace, before the cross and we are fed.
Secondly, note that this salvation is for the entire church. The blessings of Jesus Christ extend to the entire church, that is, to the host of the redeemed, the redeemed according to the election of God’s particular grace. To all of them comes that fruit of Jesus Christ.
Marvelous fruit: peace with God, joy of the Holy Spirit, love of the brethren, regeneration, faith, calling, justification, sanctification, preservation, glorification — all of the blessings of a covenant of God’s grace. There is no fruit like this! We will feast on this fruit to eternity.
Here is the picture of Jesus Christ and the church today. The church is pictured resting under His shade. The church is at peace knowing that in this world she abides under His overshadowing protection and love. The church is feasting upon the fruits of His suffering and death. There are baskets full — baskets of mercy — more than enough and to spare. And Christ, our husband and our Savior, is the One who feeds us. He draws near and says, “I am your all in all.”
May the Lord Himself bring forth His sweet fruit to your heart.
Let us pray.
Father, we do praise and thank Thee for Thy marvelous Word. We pray that its entrance may give light and joy to our hearts. We pray that we may daily grow in esteem for Jesus Christ and that, by comparison (the comparison that the Word and grace teach us to make), we may say, “All the world has nothing for me. But Jesus Christ — He is the One — He is the apple tree, and under His shadow, the shadow of His grace, I may sit down and rest and enjoy the sweet fruits of His salvation.” All this we now pray in His name, Amen.