“Excellent as the Cedars”
This is the final article in a series on Christ in the Song of Solomon.
The Bride waxes eloquent! It is the eloquence of love, and she revels in it as she describes the beauties of Him Whom she loves. She speaks in glowing, adoring terms, and with Oriental imagery, of His locks, His eyes, His cheeks, His lips, His inwards, His legs, His mouth or palate, and His whole general countenance. We have earlier noticed her description of His head, hands, and feet.
His locks are bushy and black as a raven. There are two things here. There is beauty and youthful vigor. In another place His head and His hair are white like wool, as white as snow, but that is a different view of Christ. There He is the Ancient of Days with eternal wisdom (Dan 7:9; Rev 1:14). Here in the Song we have the glory of One who knows no decay as our Beloved. He remains ever abidingly beautiful to His Bride.
His eyes are as the eyes of doves. They are as washed with milk and beautiful as a jewel in its proper setting. Here, in symbol, is a lovely blending of purity and tenderness, of gentleness and affection. The Savior is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Hab 1:13), and yet, in wondrous grace, He does lift up those pure eyes upon the sinner, so that many say sincerely with Ruth, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger” (Ruth 2:10). Those eyes were once wet with tears in sympathy with His weeping people, and still today the Beloved lifts up His eyes upon His people, seeing their every sorrow and feeling for them.
His cheeks are as a bed of spices, or, as many a marginal reading will render it, as towers of perfume. Here is the sweetness of His nearness, the fragrance of His presence. How sweet that presence must have been to John in Patmos, to Paul in Rome, to John Bunyan in Bedford, and to many a saint shut away in infirmity and suffering! Fragrance is indefinable. So is the sweet joy of His presence; and many believers, deprived of human company, will testify to the preciousness of His presence in their loneliness.
His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. Here again is the purity and tenderness of Christ. What gracious words fell from the lips of the Savior! They fell like sweet-smelling drops of myrrh indeed. “Never man spake like this Man” (John 7:46). How those pure and gentle words of His have fallen on our ears! Think, for instance, of Matthew 11:28; John 3:16; John 5:24; John 6:37; John 14:1; Luke 19:10; Luke 12:7; Luke 7:13. They fall in abundance, meeting every need in every circumstance of life. How rightly is He called “Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6). He has spoken on every subject about which we need to know, and has done so with gentleness and love. Especially is He all this to His Bride, and she delights to hear His voice.
His inwards are as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. The motives of Christ were always pure, and here we have the preciousness of the human thoughts and emotions of a heavenly Man. “I must be about My Father’s business,” He had said as a boy, and that never altered throughout His life and ministry. He did always those things that pleased the Father. But indeed He knew the holy emotions of a real Man. He knew love and anger, grief and joy, and tender compassion. In the account of the Levitical Offerings, the inwards were particularly important, and to make them typically what Jesus was intrinsically, they had to be washed in water. The offering must be without blemish and without spot, inwardly and outwardly pure. He who loved us unto death was just that. What men saw outwardly was a sinless life, an unblemished character, a spotless Savior. But what men could not see was known and appreciated by His Father – pure heavenly motives, rich thoughts, and a desire to do only the will of God.
His legs are as pillars, columns, of marble. The significance is perhaps obvious. It is a picture of strength and stability, the steadfastness of the immovable Christ. As well, it is most significant to remember that His legs were not broken on the cross, as were the legs of the malefactors. God would not allow it. How safely and calmly we may rest in Him! Even His own creation will perish one day. Like a used garment waxen old, it will be folded up and put away, but to our Beloved we say, “Thou remainest Thou art the same and Thy years fail not” (Heb 1:11-12). He will abide when material things have passed away. Henry Francis Lyte appreciated this when, in the evening of life, he wrote,
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
“His mouth is most sweet.” This is, more accurately, His palate, His taste. He is the very essence of sweetness. All that He is, all that He says, and all that He does is fragrant, and He desires only those things that are sweet to His Father and to His Bride. In every respect His palate is most sweet.
But then, in an interjection, just before this mention of His palate, the Bride has exclaimed, “His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.” It is almost as though she cannot wait until her detailed description is concluded, and she must say how excellent is His whole appearance. The cedars of Lebanon were majestic. They were like towers of dignity, and so was her Beloved.
May our meditations in this delightful little Song deepen our appreciation of Christ and increase our affection for Him, and may the language of the Bride help us to exalt Him, whether speaking to others or to the Father about Him.