Part of me wanted to write as the title: ‘want to know Christ more? Read the Puritans.’ It’s equally sound advice and this entire post is courtesy of the two Puritans: Richard Sibbes and John Owen and their respective books: The Love of Christ and Communion with God. If you want a love feast, if you want a rich meal of teaching on Christ’s love, if you in any way want to grasp the height, width, length and breath of Christ’s love then please, read their books.
What struck me as I read them was that when dealing with Christ and his love for believers then they both instinctively turned to The Songs of Solomon. Many of you will know this Bible book as the one about marriage, and it is, but to understand it as being about a human marriage is only a tiny, insignificant part of its full richness. Primarily, as with all Scripture, Songs of Solomon is about the marriage between Christ and his bride: the church. Using language overflowing with romantic imagery it conveys a glimpse into the deep depths of the love of Jesus Christ. As such it is medicine for any soul, soul food of the best type, and if you are troubled, weary and sorrowful then you can do no better than feasting yourselves on this book.
How Christ sees us:
“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.”
Songs of Solomon 1 v 15
Christ always sees his church as beautiful and loves her to the extent of calling her ‘his darling’ for thus are the souls of his people to him, notice how his praise gushes out such is the extent of his affection and how not content with saying it once he must say it again that his church is beautiful! And if it were not enough he repeats himself in Chapter 4:
“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead.”
Songs 4 v 1
If you find yourself disgusted at the ugliness of your sin, repulsed by your cold and wayward heart, remorseful at mistakes made and sin committed, if you are all too aware of your wretchedness then take heart, be of good cheer for Jesus Christ, your King and Saviour, looks on you and proclaims you beautiful, oh, how beautiful! And if you still wonder how he could see you as such then remember that it is his love to the unlovely that makes them such a delight in his eyes. Rejoice, faint and burdened hearts, rejoice in this love that Christ has for you.
“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices. You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.”
Songs 4 v 12 – 15
We see here the soul of a Christian described, by Christ, as a garden full of fruit, a sweet and pleasant garden overflowing with all types of good plants. For this is a picture of the abundance of spiritual things in the souls of the saints of Christ Jesus. As Owen writes: “The Lord Christ greatly delights in the sweet fruits of the Spirit in his saints.” And Jesus is the gardener, planting and weeding and by degrees making our garden all the more lush. I can only echo Owen’s prayer: “O that the yearnings and worship of the Spirit of all grace might stir up all his gifts and graces in me, so that the Lord Jesus, beloved of my soul, may be well entertained and pleased when he comes to have fellowship with me.”
How we see Christ:
“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.”
Songs 2 v 3 – 6
Here we find fellowship with Christ described in all its glorious fullness. This is what our hearts should sing, this is what it means to know the love of Christ, for it is because he loves us first that we love him, his love begets ours. We see here the delight of dining with Christ, oh that we would be quicker to open up our hearts to him, for he welcomes us to his banquet of all spiritual goodness and every grace and he hangs his banner over us, the banner of love that proclaims him as a Captain in the fight and that his protecting love is always around us. It is a challenge to us: are we faint with love for Christ? Do we know that he embraces us?
One of the hardest lessons we learn in life is that it is only in Christ that we find such all surpassing joy and love; nothing else on this earth can come close though often we look elsewhere in jobs, relationships, money, fame, little things when compared to the glory of our Saviour. Jesus needs to have first place in our hearts, first place in our desires, let us faint with love for him alone!
“My beloved is white and ruddy; chief among ten thousand”
Songs 5 v 10
The refrain is taken up again in the above verse: Christ is the chief among ten thousand. No one else compares, to gaze upon Jesus Christ is to gaze upon a beauty of divinity and humanity combined in perfect union; it is to recognise that his mercy and grace overflows from him and all glory is his! All other things pale in contrast to the love and beauty of Christ.
“he is altogether lovely.”
Songs 5 v 16
People who think that Songs of Solomon is about human marriage miss the point. What human husband can be called: the altogether lovely one? Not one! But can it be said of the husband of the church? Of course, for Jesus Christ is altogether lovely, everything about him, not a single bit is unlovely, not a fault does he have, perfect in every way, this is Jesus, our Mediator, Saviour, Redeemer and Friend!
“My beloved is mine and I am his;”
Songs 2 v 16
This is one of my favourite Bible verses: Jesus Christ, my beloved, is mine and I am his. Me! Sinful, wretched, naked, rebellious me is now at one with Jesus, God the Son, perfect in everyway. And thus does the altogether unlovely meet the altogether lovely one and a loveliness not my own is made mine through Christ and his death and resurrection. And if I am Christ’s then what can I fear? He is King over all things and he will not and cannot let me go.
So yeah, if you want to know more of the love of Christ read the Songs of Solomon and marvel at the depths of love displayed. And if you want to know it even more start reading the Puritans!