He is Altogether Lovely to Me

January 16, 2005 / No. 3237

Dear radio friends,

“His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

You have just heard the church’s adoration of Jesus Christ. It was taken from the book Song of Solomon, chapter 5:16. It was part of the conversation between Solomon and his wife. In fact, it was his wife’s tribute to him, her husband. And ultimately it is the expression of the church’s tribute to Jesus Christ. This is what we think of Him as believers and as a church. His words are most sweet; yea, He is altogether lovely!

Solomon’s wife, the bride, is speaking this of her husband in response to an inquiry made by the daughters of Jerusalem. They had asked her: “What is so special about your beloved, your husband?” In the chapter we learn that Solomon’s bride had become lethargic and indifferent to him. He had come to his garden and had called upon her to open to him, but she responded that she was too tired; she had put off her garments and bathed her feet and did not want to get up or stir herself to open the door to him. She was guilty of the sin of apathy, or sickly indifference to him.

When at last she did get up, he was gone. The cost of her indifference was the felt presence of her husband. So also the cost of our indifference to Jesus Christ as children of God is often the felt presence of Jesus Christ.

We read in the chapter that frantically she rushed out of the garden to find him. She called him. She sought him. She ran into the sentinels of the city, the watchmen, who were making their rounds of the city. These men beat her up and shamed her. Then, frantic, almost near hysteria, she encountered the daughters of Jerusalem. She puts them under an oath that if they know where her beloved was, that they would tell him that she faints with desire for him. Sensing that she does indeed long for her husband and cannot bear separation from him, the daughters of Jerusalem put this question to her (v. 9): “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?” The bride answers in verses 10-16. A very wonderful tribute she renders to her husband. And it is summed in these words, “He is altogether lovely” to me. Is Jesus Christ altogether lovely to you?

Solomon’s bride is answering the question as a repentant sinner. She is answering the question, What is so special about your beloved? as one who had foolishly squandered the experience of his fellowship by her own indifference. She sees that she had so requited, so paid back his love, as to be indifferent and interested only in herself and in her own pleasures. It is only a repentant sinner who sees anything lovely in Jesus Christ. The grace of repentance is as eyeglasses given us to see Him. Jesus’ beauty can be known only through the tears of repentance. A complacent, proud, lustful, bitter sinner, a sinner duped in sin, does not see in Christ anything different from another beloved. Such a sinner is tempted to say, and does say, “Oh, yes, the church loves Jesus and we love booze and sex and money and art and sports.” But to one repentant sinner, Jesus is altogether lovely. You can have all this world. Give me Jesus. To a repentant sinner, everything about Jesus Christ is lovely. He is altogether lovely.

As I was saying, in verses 10-16 of chapter 5 of Song of Solomon, the bride is giving ten points of description of her beloved husband, and thus the church of Christ. I will not attempt to explain all of those but simply point out that the design of the Holy Spirit in such a passage is to show that Jesus Christ is in every way qualified for His undertaking to be the Husband of the church, to be the Savior of the body. We read in Colossians 1:19 that it “pleased the Father that in him [that is, in Christ] should all fullness dwell.” Further, we read in verse 18 that He has the preeminence over all things. And we sing in a versification of Psalm 89 that He is a mighty leader, true and brave; ordained, exalted, strong to save. He is altogether lovely! He is altogether desirable. Everything about Jesus Christ, to a repentant sinner, is desirable. In Him is everything worthy of our esteem, our love, and our confidence. There are no shortcomings in Him.

When she says that he is altogether lovely to her, she means that her description of her beloved husband comes far short of the dignity and the worth that he possesses. Everything you could want, everything you could need, is to be found in Jesus Christ. Everything a repentant sinner, who now stares at the leprosy of his own being and is blinded by the brilliance of the knowledge of a holy God, everything that such a sinner could possibly need is found in Jesus Christ.

Consider the Lord Jesus Christ from even a physical point of view, and you see the beauty and the loveliness of the Lord. He is the One who assumed our flesh and blood, came under the wrath of God for us, bore in His own body our sins, and died upon a cross and was laid in a grave. But He is risen. He is now glorified in His body. And out of Him, out of His face and out of that glorified body, now shines forth the glory of the eternal God. He is the sovereign one, appointed to be our leader and ruler. He is perfected. Upon Him is a golden crown. Strength and honor fall down before Him. He is, in His appearance, altogether lovely.

But His loveliness is found especially in that spiritual loveliness that eyes see when they are opened by grace and look upon Him through a repentant heart. He possesses what I need: the forgiveness of sins, peace with God. His body was broken and His blood was shed in order that I might be reconciled to a holy God. He possesses resurrection life. He possesses that life that can never die, a life that He also by His power works within me by His Spirit. He is the One who has sworn to keep me, and to keep me alive forever more, to be with me, to live in me, so that I might go on living through Him. He is altogether lovely.

Look on Him and you must agree with Solomon’s bride that the descriptions that we offer of Jesus Christ are altogether inadequate. And love, at last, simply gives up trying to describe His brilliance and His beauty. He is altogether lovely to me! Is that what you say?

There is especially one thing about Jesus Christ that makes Him so lovely to the church, to a repentant sinner. Notice the last thing that she says in verse 16 about Him: “His mouth is most sweet (as we read in the King James or, better translated, His speech is most sweet, His words are most sweet).” It was especially this, more than anything else, about her husband that impressed her of his loveliness. In verse 6 she confessed that “my soul failed when he spake.” The deepest effect upon her was produced by the way that he spoke to her. It was his voice that was the power to arouse her finally out of her dullness and get her moving.

Let me tell you the doctrine, then, that is being revealed here in this passage. It is the doctrine of the efficacious call. That is the most beautiful thing about Jesus Christ to the sinner. No man ever spake as this man. The efficacious call refers to the power, the mighty power, of the Lord Jesus through His own Word to call His own to Himself. It is Christ’s voice, His living voice, a voice penetrating, touching the soul of the believer, so that the soul melts and is softened and is comforted and is drawn to her husband. No man speaks as He. His words are most sweet.

(I might make an application here, if I may pause only for a moment, to us as husbands, for the Scriptures declare that as Christ is to His church, so husbands must be to their wives. If it is the Word of Christ that so soothes and so fills the church with a love for Him, then also must not our words, as husbands, be the source of our wives’ comfort? The voice of Christ soothes, comforts, assures, calls the church to Himself. Then, husband, your words are to be your wife’s comfort and guidance and hope. How do you speak to your wife? You call yourself a Christian. How do you speak to your wife?)

What makes Jesus altogether lovely? Have you heard Him speak? Have you heard Him speak to you through His Word? Not simply reading the Bible out loud; not even hearing my voice (a voice that has been caught on tape and is now being transmitted to you through the means of media — through electricity or whatever those created means are). No, no. Do you hear Him? His efficacious call is this: that I hear Him and His words are true. They ring down to my soul and I hear Him speak to me. I hear him say, concerning sin: “Son, your sins are forgiven you. Go and sin no more.” I hear Him in the hour of death. There are many who pass through the line to greet the grieving family. Those who are passing through the line are asking the question, “What do I say?” The answer is always, “Bring Jesus’ words.” Those are the words that cut through grief and that bring those who are overcome with sorrow to a sure place of comfort. Give them to stand upon a rock. What is able to do that? The Word of Jesus Christ. What did Jesus say to Mary Magdelene, who was overwhelmed and distraught at His death outside the tomb, beyond any words of comfort, almost desperate? What comforted her? He said, “Mary.”

Oh, His words to a repentant sinner are most sweet. They are most sweet in the storms of life. You say, “My son will not talk to me. My daughter is gone.” You say, “Oh, the difficulties I have to face today.” Listen to the voice of the beloved: “Peace, be still. It is I. Be not afraid.” He is altogether lovely. His speech is most sweet.
But for Jesus Christ to be altogether lovely to us, we must be brought into a real relationship to Him. Her husband was so lovely to her because her husband was her beloved and her friend. She responds: “This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” Without that relationship of grace, Jesus Christ is not lovely. Jesus Christ is not lovely to anyone apart from the grace of God that brings Him to us as our beloved Friend.

There are two things, then, that describe that relationship that is established between the believer and Christ by God. That relationship is, first of all, that Jesus Christ is my beloved. The bride loved him. We love Him. And the emphasis now in this passage is not His love of us but of ours for Him — a love that is given to us from Him. We read in I John 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.” We love Him. That love is the implanting of His love in our heart, which returns to Him. It returns to the source from which it came. And it returns through a renewed will and heart so that we say, “My beloved. My beloved.” An exclusive love, the love of a wife for her husband and not for another. He is our rightful Lord.

Note that we are confessing concerning Jesus Christ not simply that we know Him and about Him. It is not simply to say, “I know what Jesus taught. I went to catechism class as a child and I know the story of His life.” It is not simply to say, as a teenager, “Oh, I know what Jesus wants of me. I know all about that. I could tell others about it, too.” But it is to say, “I love Him.”

Children, who are listening, did you know that your love, by grace, for Jesus is expressed in a way that angels cannot do? Oh, the angels right now adore Jesus Christ. They rejoice in Him, they marvel over Him, they talk all about Him. But did you know that repentant sinners love Jesus today in a way that angels cannot? We love Him as a forgiven sinner. We love Him as the woman who washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. So John says, “In you, in the child of God, the love of God is perfected.” I know that our love for Jesus is so pitifully weak. Nevertheless, in the song of our love is to be found a chord that is not heard sung even by the angels in heaven. It is the love of a repentant sinner for Him who is now everything to us. This is my beloved and this is my friend.

And those words, “this is my friend,” emphasize that covenant relationship, that bond of living fellowship that Jesus establishes by His grace with us. He not only forgives our sin, but He comes close, and He reveals to us the secrets of the living God. He said in John 15, I call you not servants, but friends; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you. As a friend, He reveals to us the secret counsel and the will of God concerning our redemption. As a friend, He tells us wonderful things. He says, “Did you know that My death on the cross was planned in the eternal heart of My Father?” He says, “Did you know that all those sins, those sins going on in your mind, that God knows them and that I paid their full price? Did you know,” He says, “that last week when you were distraught and you could not go on, I kept you then, I sustained you then? And I sustained you through the treasures that I obtained for you on the cross.”

This is our confession. This is our tribute. This is our adoration. He is altogether lovely to us. Oh, yes, the church in glory says, “He is altogether lovely.” The church in China, where men are wasting away in a bamboo cell because of their confession of the name of Jesus Christ —those men and women say in those cells, “Jesus is altogether lovely to us.” But we say it, too. Right now. You want to know why?

Are you a repentant sinner? Do you know what a fool you are in taking Christ for granted? Do your sins burden you? When Jesus speaks those sweet words, “I have given My body to be broken and My blood to be shed. I am your Savior, I am your Lord, your husband,” do you hear Him? That is why He is altogether lovely. The guilt of our sin (adultery, murder, stinking pride against the throne of God) is forgiven. The agony of our soul in seeing a wayward son or daughter is soothed. The sorrows of death, which, as waves, would overwhelm me and drown me, He does not allow to overcome me. He makes them to be at peace.

So, it is a legitimate question: You who are Christians, what is there more about your beloved, Jesus Christ, than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? That is a legitimate question. What is there about Jesus Christ that makes Him altogether lovely to you? Give an answer. The world says, we have husbands, we have beloveds; we are married to them: booze, sex, money, self, possessions, friends. Now, Christian, they ask you, “You say No to our beloveds. The ones we are married to, you say No to. In fact you run away from their embrace and you say that you want only the embrace of your beloved friend, Jesus. Well, will you tell us, then, what is there about Him that is more than another beloved?” Ah, for a thousand lifetimes to tell you! Oh, for ten thousand angels to sing to you of Him! Why, what is there so lovely about Him? If you have eyes given of God to see your sin and eyes given to look into the gospel, you have the answer: He laid down His life for me; He burned in my hell; He lay in my grave; He paid my debt; He set me free; He forgave my sins; He loved me. He is altogether lovely to me.

Let us pray.

Father, thanks for Thy word. Now write it on our hearts and in our lives today that we be not those who speak and do not. But may it be seen so that others ask of our beloved. May it be seen that to us Jesus Christ is altogether lovely. Amen.