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From the editor: "Terrible as an army with banners" (Song 6.4)

J Grant

The Song of Songs recounts the story of the love between Solomon and a Shulamite maiden. The beauty of the language employed describes their love in a way that teaches us lessons regarding our love for the Lord. This ought to be warm and constant and yet, sad to record, it is not always so. Three times in the Song we find her losing him, just as we know there are times when we lose the closeness and devotion to the Lord that we previously enjoyed. What causes this distance?

In the opening chapter and into chapter 2 all seems to be well, with mutual love, joy, and tenderness marking them both. Suddenly, however, the mood changes! They are no longer together. She is in her winter quarters, behind the walls, behind her windows, behind the lattice, all designed to keep the out the cold (2.9). Many have felt the grim touch of spiritual winter. We may not have been aware of the gradual drift that led to this, but we know that chilly darkness seems to have taken hold of our hearts. He does not seem to care: we feel that we are alone.

But he came! He knows of her longing and with vigour he leaps over the mountains that were dividing them and calls to her, "the winter is past, the rain is over and gone" (2.11). Why had she not known that? The answer is quite clear. He brought the warmth of spring with him. May we learn the lesson. When these bitter clouds overwhelm us, when we feel the loss of His presence, let us call on Him asking that we can enjoy again His warmth, and He will come.

And so they go out to enjoy the Land together, until she says, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether" (2.17). The "day break" refers to the evening when "the day cools".1 She has gone with him so far but now she will go no further. She feels that she has done all that is expected of her; nothing else is necessary. She tells him to continue and she will see him again at evening. But, not for one night, rather, for "nights" (3.1, JND) she is alone. The cause of this separation is her limited devotion.

How many have done as she did? We feel weariness in our spiritual life, neglect reading the Scriptures, and desire to lay God’s Word aside for a while. The consequence is that we lose touch with Him, just as she did. Any who have acted in this manner must be prepared for the spiritual search to find Him again, just as the Shulamite did. He can be found!

The marriage takes place (5.1), and one would have thought that all difficulties were now over, but not so. He comes to her, but she refuses to open the door, with the excuse that she has put off her coat and washed her feet (5.2-6). She does not wish to be disturbed! Although she changes her mind it is too late and he has gone. The cause this time is deliberate exclusion.

Recovery this time is more difficult. The watchmen in the city wounded her, as it will be spiritually with us when we knowingly exclude Him from our affections. It has to be noted, however, that the beautiful description of him (5.9-16) comes from a woman who has let him go but has learned to have a greater appreciation of him. This is the reason why he left the door on that night of exclusion - to teach her the value of the one to whom she refused to allow entry.

And so with us! Should we exclude Him we will feel the cost, and only in our spiritual loneliness realise what we have lost. But, when her appreciation was expressed he was with her again, and so it will be with us. He tells her that she is "terrible as an army with banners" (6.4), an army that has overcome.

If we feel that spiritual winter, or that distance which arises when our devotion is limited, or that sense of loss when we have deliberately kept him at a distance, take courage. When we genuinely express our love for Him and seek His presence again we also will be overcomers, "terrible as an army with banners".

1Keil & Delitzsch


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