Dear radio friends,
So moving were the bride’s words about her husband that the daughters of Jerusalem want to seek him with her. We read in the Song of Solomon 6:1: “Whither is thy beloved gone, … that we may seek him with thee.”
This book in the Bible, Song of Solomon, gives us the narrative of Solomon and his wife. It represents to us a figure or picture of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. In the passage to which I referred, the sixth chapter of the Song of Solomon, the first verses of the chapter, we find that the daughters of Jerusalem had encountered Solomon’s wife. She, frantically and desperately, was searching for her husband throughout the city. In the fifth chapter she encountered these daughters and said these words in verse 8: “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.” They, in response, had asked her, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” (v. 9). In other words, “What is so special about your beloved, about your husband, that you are so desperately in love with him?” Then, in chapter 5:10, the bride tells the daughters of Jerusalem about her beloved, of his perfections and why she loves him so dearly, culminating in the words: “He is altogether lovely” (v. 16) to me.
That is teaching us that Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom and Husband of the church, is altogether wonderful to repentant sinners, to the church, and to all those who belong by grace to Him. Jesus is altogether lovely.
Now the love of the bride for her husband has so moved the daughters of Jerusalem, she has spoken of him in such glowing terms, that they want to find him with her. It is as though the flame of the bride’s heart has scattered sparks into their hearts. The bride has come to them to ask for their help. And now they ask for her help. The cloud that was over the mind of the bride has been cleared, and so now she passionately, with a heart full of love, tells the daughters of Jerusalem where her beloved can be found. She says he is to be found in his garden. Jesus Christ is to be found in His church.
Let us ask ourselves this question as Christians: Is this true of us? Do our words and our love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ invoke in others around us an interest in Him? Do our lives, as we live dedicated to Him by grace, cause others to ask us questions? The apostle Paul says of the Roman church and of the Thessalonican church that their faith and love in Jesus Christ was spoken of throughout the world. And he had need to say nothing. Are others, by God’s grace, interested in the Lord Jesus Christ because of how we talk about Him, because of our life? Do they see something of His beauty in our life so that they respond, “O thou church, thou believer, thou fairest among women; where can thy beloved be found?”
When Solomon’s bride is asked by the daughters of Jerusalem where her beloved is to be found, she has a ready answer. She knew where he could be found. “He is gone down,” she responds (6:2), “into his garden.”
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can point to where Jesus Christ is to be found. The church knows where to look. The bride has had many hours of fellowship with Him. I know where Jesus Christ is to be found. The Son of God, the only Savior, whose words are sweet, the Prince of Peace — do you seek Him? Do you seek Him because the Holy Spirit and the Word have convicted you of your guilt, and do you feel a need of pardon? Do you seek Him because you are weak and fearful and heavy-laden in your heart? Do you say, “I have nowhere to go. Where is this mighty Savior?” Do you say, “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him and that I might have real contact and real fellowship with Him!”
I know where He is to be found. He is in His garden, in His church. He feeds His flock there. He walks, according to the book of Revelation, among the candlesticks. He said to His church when He ascended, “Lo, I am with you always.” In the body of the church the fellowship of the beloved Savior is to be found. In the church there can be found assurance to all repentant sinners that they belong to Him. That is where the beloved Jesus is to be found.
He is to be found in His garden. So, returning to the passage before us in the Song of Solomon, chapter 6 verses 1-3, we discover that the bride, Solomon’s wife, knew where he was all along. She knew, deep down in her heart, that he was not to be found in the streets of Jerusalem, but in his garden. If you read chapters 4 and 5 of the Song of Solomon, you will find that the bride had run out into the night desperately looking for her husband. As she ran out, she had been abused by the city watchmen and she had become extremely frantic. You will find that Christ (or Solomon) had come to her with the fullness of his blessings, but she had greeted him with lethargy. Spiritual things were just too much of a bother. She had gotten ready for bed, she had washed her feet, and she did not want to get up to open to him. Because she greeted her lord with indifference and coldness, in his love and wisdom he had withdrawn himself from her experience. In verse 6 of the fifth chapter we read that the bride opened to her beloved, but the beloved had withdrawn himself and she began to seek him frantically. It was a picture of the horrible sin of spiritual lethargy and indifference to spiritual matters of which we, as children of God, are so often guilty. And the result of that was the loss of felt fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
So she had gone throughout the city looking for him, had encountered the daughters of Jerusalem, and had told them about her beloved. It seems as if now the fog, the spiritual mist, has lifted from her and she knows exactly where he can be found. One moment of spiritual sense in her would tell her that he is to be found in his garden. Of course.
That is very important for us because it teaches us that repentance in our heart gives our eyes sight to know where fellowship with Jesus Christ is to be found. When we are filled with apathy, or indifference, when we live in sin, then a spiritual blindness descends upon us and we do not know where to find Jesus, even though it is very plain where He is.
You cannot really say today that you know where the beloved Jesus is? You cannot really testify of an experience of Him in your heart? It is not because He is hid in some mystic, secluded spot. He says this in Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
Perhaps as a young person you say, “Well, this sin is expected. Everyone does it. When you’re young, you party, you get drunk. And when you turn 22 or 25, you get married and you put that away.” Perhaps as a young person you curse, you get drunk, or you fornicate. And you feel an emptiness. Then someone says, “Where is Jesus in your life?” And you cannot speak of Him. You cannot direct those who do not know Him to church. You cannot direct them to where Jesus is to be found, to the Bible, because of your life. You cannot come to the side of a young person who is hurting and lead that person, by God’s grace, to the Savior because you are not living in His embrace. You see, it is a repentant sinner who knows where Jesus is to be found and can call others to find Him there with him.
Perhaps, as a young couple, as a married man, you have gotten caught up with the things of this present life, with self-pleasures. You have neglected your daily communion with your beloved Savior in prayer and in Bible reading. You begin to ask, “Where is He in my life?” You begin to feel the emptiness of the pursuits of this present time. You are busy, but you never have; you are engaged, but you are empty. Then you say, “Where is that former blessedness, when the Lord was so precious to me and I felt His presence?”
Do you know where the beloved is found? It is the repentant child of God who does. The repentant bride was able to answer their question: “He is in his garden.” At one moment she had been desperate. At one moment she had been frantic and empty. The next moment she is clear and able to guide others. Repentant sinners, who cast off the horrible sin of indifference to Christ and spiritual apathy, know where Jesus is found. It is not necessary for you to go through a long maze. He has put that knowledge in your heart. He has brought it back to your memory when He gives you repentance. He is to be found in the fellowship of His people, in His church.
Impenitent Christians do not know where fellowship with Jesus is to be found. You can put up gymnasiums, you can put up fellowship centers, you can put up spiritual wonderlands. But unless there is repentance and fleeing from sin, no sinner will ever find fellowship with Jesus Christ. The church that preaches the gospel of sin and repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is able to point repentant sinners to where Jesus is to be found. He is to be found in His church. He is to be found where the Word of God is taught and preached, confessed and loved. I do not need to give directions to repentant sinners as to where Jesus is to be found, do I? He is in His garden. His garden is the church, the communion of believers.
A garden is a place where plants and flowers are grown. It is the place where the beloved takes his pleasure. So the bride says to the daughters of Jerusalem who had asked where he is, “My beloved is gone down into this garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.”
I was saying that a garden is a place where the beloved finds pleasure. It is enclosed. Perhaps it is taken out of a vacant lot where weeds once grew. Now it is tilled and cared for. And a very beautiful garden of herbs has been planted.
The church is the place where Jesus Christ is growing things. He has taken it out of the world. He has separated His church from the world. And now He bestows upon His church His abundant and loving care. There is there a bed of spices.
If you go back to chapter 4:16, you will see that this was the intention of Christ: to blow upon His garden that the spices might flow out. The child of God, then, is planted in Christ in order that his life might give off a fragrant smell of praise — a sweet scent of little children being taught to pray and to sing praises to God — the fragrances of love and kindness one for another in the church, of young people not destroying each other with their words but encouraging each other. In the church God creates pleasant smells to His praise.
And God creates also holiness. He is among the lilies. That is a sign of the distinctive life, the distinctive fragrance of a holy walk of life.
Where is the beloved, Jesus Christ, to be found? He is found in His church. He is among His people. He is with those who love Him and serve Him. There is where He is. He is there in the preaching of the gospel and in the sacraments. “My sheep,” He said, “hear my voice and I know them.” Christ is present when the Word of God is declared in a faithful church. He is present when the sacraments are faithfully administered. He is present in the worship service. Yes, perhaps there is also an angel or two present in worship services. But in worship services that take their standard from the Word of God, Jesus Himself is present. Men and women were not first consulted to determine what they thought would be moving in worship services, but the church went to God and asked Him, “Lord, what wilt Thou have us to do in this worship service?” In such worship services Jesus walks in His garden and His fellowship is to be felt and to be experienced. And that is to be felt especially through the preaching of His holy Word.
Do you know where Jesus Christ is to be found? He is to be found, by repentant sinners, among His people where the Word of God is honored, preached, taught, and seen in their lives. Do you cry out for Jesus Christ? Do you say, “No one else will do for me, but Christ — where is He?”
The beloved is gone down into his garden and he is feeding among the lilies. He feeds there. He pastors. As a shepherd goes about his fold, taking care of his flock, so the Lord loves His church and goes about within the bowels of the church caring for His flock. He serves us food — living bread. He brings to us words of assurance. He comes to those who are weak and filled with doubt, and He swears to them in His Word and in the sacraments that their sins are forgiven. He comes to those who are discouraged and to those whose way is heavy upon them, and He assures them, “I have planted you for My glory and I am with you.”
And He gathers the lilies. We read, “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.” That is the idea that the holiness of the church, as I said, is Christ’s great concern. His goal in the church is your holiness, that you be a holy man, woman, child. Not that you be a poisonous thorn, prickly with words and jealousy and envy and hate. But that you be made like unto Him, conformed to His image, well-pleasing to God.
He has come into His garden to gather the lilies. That is one of the most beautiful descriptions of death. Death is when Jesus Christ enters into His garden, among His people in His church, where He has been working on these various plants, and He cuts them down, in order that they might be gathered and displayed in His Father’s house.
You say, “But I’m not a lily. I see only the thorns of sin and I don’t give off a very pleasant spiritual scent.” Come down to His garden today. Hear His holy Word. For there He says through His own blood and sacrifice, “I have made you holy in My blood and pleasant in My Father’s eyes.” You say, “Well, I can’t see that in my life. I don’t see that my life is like a garden where I’m being grown by the Lord into something beautiful to adorn His house. I see only my sins and how those sins plague me.” Then come down to His garden again today. Jesus Christ is present in His church with His Word of assurance, His Word of correction, His Word of love, His Word of comfort. And with that Word, He is preparing you through all things so that when the moment comes, you might be gathered into the Father’s house.
If the beloved is in His garden, and if that is His work in the garden — to prepare praise to God and to prepare saints for heaven — if that is what He does in the garden, then let us go. Let us seek Him. Let us go there. Let us be where He is.
Are you empty? Do you feel a need of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you alone? Do you say, “The Savior of the Scriptures alone can satisfy me, but I don’t know where He is”? Then come. Come to His church — to that church where the Word of God is taken to be word-for-word the Word of God, where the sovereign grace and love of God is praised as the only ground and reason of salvation, where the people of God are determined by His grace to live a holy life, not to play Christians but indeed to be to His praise and honor. Enter into that church.
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you battered? Come into His garden, where He feeds, where He will feed you. Enjoy the communion of saints. Are you looking for Jesus? You want not the idea of fellowship but you want true fellowship with Him and with His people? Then join and hold fast to the fellowship of committed Christians.
Do you know where the beloved is found because you have experienced fellowship with Him in that place — not in a church building but in the church of the living God? Have you heard Him speak to you within the folds of His flock and have you experienced His feeding you in His garden, the church? Then yours is a great assurance. You may say what the bride says in verse 3 of chapter 6 of Song of Solomon: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” There, within the church, in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, in the confines of His blessed fold, the most glorious assurance imaginable is worked in the heart of believers.
I am not a castaway; I am not an orphan; I am not a sinner responsible for my own sin. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. I belong to Him! I am assured that I am His for ever and ever.
The world says today that the church is outdated, that the church needs remodeling, that we must approach the church in an entirely different way — as a way of social interaction, social change. But the church is God’s church. It is the body of the redeemed. It is where the beloved Son of God is to be found in the power of His Word. And entering into that church, into that true church of Jesus Christ, comes the blessed fruit of a glorious assurance. My beloved is mine; and I am His! He is mine and I am His forever. A repentant sinner is given to understand that it is Jesus Christ who holds him by His mighty grace. We are His!
I gain that assurance through the fellowship of Jesus found in His true church. I gain that assurance that I belong to Him, that He is mine, that He will feed me, that He will gather me one day and will perfect me, and that He has faithfully and powerfully loved me even unto His own death and will save me to eternal glory. How do I know all of these things? Well, I learn them from His fellowship. I learn them from being with Him. He told me this. You say, “Where did He tell you that?” He told me in His garden. He told me in His church. For there Jesus is found. Right there. Today. In His true church, the beloved is to be found. Go there.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee again for the precious Word. And we pray for its blessing upon our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.