“Until the Day Break”
Twice in the Song the Bride employs this phrase. It implies a night scene which is, of course, just figurative of the present age of testimony and pilgrimage. When the Lord Jesus was here He said, “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world” (John 8). But now He has gone and the world has been left in moral darkness. He is the light of the sanctuary now, in the heavens, like the lampstand in the holy place of the ancient tabernacle. The only light for men today is that which shines from local assemblies, viewed as lampstands in Revelation 1, and from the individual lives of believers who are like luminaries in the darkness. It is a murky world through which we pass, and a dark night, and the Bride longs for the breaking of the day. But until the day break and the shadows flee away, what should be her exercise? What will she do, what can she do, while she waits for the dawn? In these two verses she tells us.”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). Bether was a mountainous region in Israel, possibly near Lebanon, the site now unknown. The name means “division” or “separation” and the symbolic implication for the believer is probably obvious. The Bride prays for the presence of her Beloved. There were hills that separated them from one another and she asks that He might cross these mountains of division and come to her. It was urgent too. She pleads that He might come with the swiftness of a roe or a young hart and be with her speedily. She needs His presence during the lonely dark hours.
So do we too, during this long dreary night of His absence, need His presence, but there is much that would separate us. The world is not only dark, it is bustling with its demands upon us, many of which are quite legitimate. The claims of family and business and domestic life are right and proper. It is essential that they have our attention, but how they can at times rob us of the quietness of communion with the Beloved and sap from us the joy of His presence!
Then again, the same world abounds with attractions and allurements, which, if yielded to, will result in a spiritual barrenness in the life, and perhaps even a blot on the testimony. We need His presence! We earnestly ought to pray that our Beloved will cross the mountains that divide us and be with us until the day break. With Henry Francis Lyte we sing –
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me!
In a word, the Bride is saying, “Come to me; be with me; stay with me until the day break and the shadows of the night have gone.” One day, some day, maybe even this day, the Morning Star will appear and the night will be over, but until then we need His presence.
She then employs the same phrase again, saying, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense” (4:6). Still it is night, and still she needs the comfort of His presence, but now her exercise is expressed differently. “Until the day break,” she has said, “Come to me.” Now it is “Until the day break, I will go to Him.” Another mountain is now mentioned, but how very different is this “mountain of myrrh; hill of frankincense.” The sweet bitterness of myrrh and the exuding fragrance of frankincense are often linked in the Scriptures. Where else but at Calvary can we find a mountain of myrrh? Where else is there a hill of frankincense like this?
Myrrh was sweet to the smell but bitter to the taste. It has been called a sweet bitterness, or a bitter sweetness, and seems to be always a tender reminder of the sufferings of Christ. Even when those early wise men from the East presented it to Him in infancy, was it not anticipatory of the deep sorrows which lay before Him? It was indeed offered to Him as He hung upon the cross (Mark 15:23), and was used too at His burial (John 19:39). How bitter those sufferings must have been to Him, the sinless One, but how sweet to those who love Him as they remember what He endured! What better way to escape the temptations and snares of a corrupt world than to get to that mountain of myrrh?
Frankincense was a white, pure, rich, fragrant substance, used so often in the service of the sanctuary. It is a fitting symbol of the moral glory of the Lord Jesus, and Calvary was the climax of that moral glory, for He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Devotion to His Father and God led Him to Golgotha and the fragrance of that lovely life must have risen to heaven itself as He voluntarily laid it down in death.
It is a dark night for the believer, and we long for the breaking of day. But until then we must have the presence of our Beloved. May He come to us over the mountains that would separate us, and may we constantly go to Him who suffered for us.
Near the cross, O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadow o’er me.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, may He draw near to us! Until the day break, we will get to Him, to where we first met Him – at Golgotha!
I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
And I have peace with God.
I change, He changes not;
The Christ can never die:
His love not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.
The cross still stands unchanged,
Though heaven is now His home;
The mighty stone is rolled away,
But yonder is His tomb.
I know He liveth now
At God’s right hand above;
I know the throne on which He sits,
I know His truth and love.