“Under His Shadow”
The Song of Solomon is, in the main, a dialogue between two persons, the Beloved and His Bride. They almost vie with each other at times in their expressions of appreciation and affection, alternatively extolling the excellencies and beauties of each other. In this fashion, Chapter 2 begins, and while opinion is divided as to the identity of the first speaker, the majority of expositors, both Christian and Hebrew, are in general agreement that it is the Bride who says, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”
The Hebrew word rendered “rose” is apparently of uncertain origin. It may mean the meadow saffron or the autumn crocus, or maybe indeed just the rose as we know it. “Sharon” signifies “a plain” and is the name of that coastal plain which stretches for some thirty miles along the coast from Joppa to Caesarea between the hill country of central Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. In earlier times, however, there was a smaller Plain of Sharon lying between Mount Tabor and the Sea of Galilee, and this would have been nearer to Shunem, the probable home of the Bride. Whichever plain is intended here, the symbolism is perhaps obvious and certainly beautiful. In an attractive modesty, the Shulamite makes no high claims. She is, in her own estimation, just like the little flower of Sharon, or like the lily blooming humbly in the valley. But her Beloved views her differently. To Him she is, among the daughters, as a lily among thorns, fairest among women. She has no need to praise herself when the praises of the Bridegroom are so lavish. Humility is indeed a most desirable virtue in the believer. In ourselves, after all, we have nothing of which to be proud, but we may rejoice in this, that our Beloved sees in us a beauty which He Himself has created in us. In Him we have become so very different to what we once were.
She responds to His praises of her by praising Him, and compares Him to the apple tree among the trees of the wood. Others may have pretentious foliage, but He has fragrance and fruitfulness which they do not have. Indeed it is not a comparison, but a contrast. The others are ordinary. He is different. He excels. As Psalm 45 says of the Beloved, “Thou art fairer than the children of men.”
The imagery of the tree with its spreading laden branches continues as she then exclaims, “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.” Observe just what she has found in Him and what He means to her. There is rest, “I sat down.” There is refuge, “Under His shadow.” There is rapture, “With great delight.” And there is refreshment, “His fruit was sweet to my taste.” What rest there is in knowing Christ! It was that promise of rest that first drew many weary souls to Him. “Come unto Me I will give you rest.” How many a poor sinner, laboring under the burden of sin and laden with the awful weight of a guilty conscience, has rejoiced to find rest at last in the Savior! Nor has it only been rest from a guilty conscience, but He has brought us, too, into that peace of God which is rest in the difficult circumstances of life, peace in the sorrows of the way. We sit down, at rest, in Him.
Abiding O so wondrous sweet,
I’m resting at the Savior’s feet.
I trust in Him, I’m satisfied;
I’m resting in the Crucified.
But then, there is refuge, “Under His shadow.” How exposed we once were to wrath and judgment! What a fearful discovery it was when we learned that the wrath of God was indeed abiding over us! It was like a cloud about to break and we had no hiding place. There was no refuge in good works, or in reformation, or even in religion. These all left us naked and open before that awful holiness which condemned our sin, until we learned what the nation of Israel will learn in a future day, “A Man shall be as an hiding place” (Isaiah 32.2). There was shelter in Christ. In Him there was a covert from the storm, and in simple trust we sat down under His shadow. The heat cannot penetrate the shadow. The tree has interposed and borne the heat for us. At Golgotha, He bore it all, and now we rest, sheltered at last in Him.
And there is rapture, “Great delight!” Some told us that the path of the Christian was a miserable one, a pathway of negatives and prohibitions and no joy. How wrong they were! Soon we were to discover that real joy was to be found in Christ alone. And what manifold joy this is. It is the joy of knowing that the guilty past has been completely blotted out. It is the joy of knowing that the future is assured. But above all it is the abiding joy of daily fellowship with One whom we love. It is, as Paul says, “abundant joy,” even when there is poverty and pain, as there was with those believers of Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1-2).
What refreshment there is too, “His fruit was sweet to my taste.” Man forfeited the fruit of Eden by disobedience, but the sweetness has been restored to us in and through our Beloved. Through time and into eternity there will be fresh discoveries of His glory and the continual enjoyment of new revelations of Himself. There is sweetness now in communion with Him, though we have not yet seen Him. This is but a foretaste of the joy that will be ours when at last we are transported into His presence, never to be parted from Him through eternal ages. O the sweetness of that!
O if this glimpse of love
Is so divinely sweet,
What will it be, O Lord, above,
Thy gladdening smile to meet?
To see Thee face to face,
Thy perfect likeness wear,
And all Thy ways of wondrous grace
Through endless years declare.