The Fruitfulness of This Garden – “Pleasant Fruits” (4:13)
This garden is exotic. The fruits and spices are not local, but from far-flung shores and foreign climes. The fruit and fragrance of a local assembly does not derive from a local or natural source. Our priestly exercise is from above. “I create the fruit of the lips,” says our God. The believers’ spiritual sacrifices are reminders of the exotic shores of glory and are derived from the Holy Spirit. The world fails to recognize their value and their preciousness to God.
This garden must be cultivated. It requires constant time and attention. The concept of husbandry conjures up an image of hard work; labor that causes perspiration and raises a sweat. The assembly is no place for shirkers, but for workers, and on a spiritual plane, not merely a physical level. Cleaning, decorating, and repairing the hall are necessary, and time must also be spent preparing for worship, prayer, ministry, Bible-study, overseership, visitation, and hospitality.
Proverbs 24 gives us a timely warning about what happens when a garden is neglected through idleness and sloth, when the wall is breached, allowing wild animals, vandals, etc., to enter and spoil the garden. We do not read of fruits and spices, or even vines in this garden. Instead, we have the results of the curse: thorns and nettles. The weeds encroach and the wall is breached. Everything goes “back to nature.”
How sad the assembly where the wall of separation is down. Anybody and anything may find its way in – the pastor, to emulate the sects; sharing pulpits with denominational churches; reception on the backburner, and people accepted with no questions asked about morality or soundness of doctrine. Entertainment becomes more acceptable than the Bible-reading or ministry meeting. Usually, the focus becomes skewed to pander to young people. Musical instruments multiply, choral singing takes over from prayer, praise, and worship. Inter-church games are played on weekends instead of engaging in tract-bands and open-air testimony. There is a general dumbing down of standards of behavior, speech, and dress to accommodate and to appeal to the unsaved. They must not be made to feel different or uncomfortable among the believers!
“Then I saw and considered it well: I looked upon it and received instruction” (Prov 24:32, KJV). Oh, that we might learn salutary lessons from seeing the garden of the assembly being reduced from spiritual fruitfulness to a “back to nature” condition, before it is too late.
“Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits … with all the chief spices” (v13, KJV). “Thy sprouts,” better than “thy plants,” conveys the ideas of life, energy, and vitality; three words which should describe every assembly!
“A paradise of pomegranates,” is how JND translates this. Pomegranates were one of the fruits which the spies brought out of Canaan to convince the nation of its blessedness. Pomegranates figured on the High Priest’s clothing and in the decoration of the Temple. The pomegranate is full to bursting with pink, fleshy seeds … fruitfulness. God is looking for fruitfulness. Fruit is forthcoming when we exercise our priesthood in the sanctuary and offer up spiritual sacrifices.
“I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:5, KJV) says Christ. Fruit is, then, expected on a sliding scale: fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. May God have His desire met by increasing fruitfulness in our assembly.
There are nine named fruits and spices in our verses. Nine is the number associated with the Spirit of God. Fruit, the number nine, and the Holy Spirit are brought together in Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV). ”The fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.”
“Fruit” is in the singular, as it is probably used as a collective noun. These graces are best seen in the lovely person of the Lord Jesus Christ – but are they seen in me?
Love, joy, and peace were gifts to His own which the Lord spoke of in His upper-room ministry. The other six were graces exhibited in the life of Christ. The first three graces were exhibited externally, the second three were graces exercised internally. Are these fruits and fragrances produced in our assembly for God’s delectation? Other New Testament fruits are:
“The fruit of my labour” – service.
“That fruit may abound to your account” – giving.
“The fruit of the gospel” – evangelism.
“The fruit of our lips” – praise.
“Fruitful in every good work” – practical deeds of kindness.
“the peaceable fruit of righteousness – the result of chastening.
Twice the fruit is called “pleasant” (vv13, 16, KJV), meaning, “distinguished, valuable, or precious.” The fruit of the garden was valuable and precious in Solomon’s eyes. The fruit which we grow in our assembly is of outstanding value to our heavenly Solomon. It is precious to His heart.
The Fragrance of This Garden – “Chief Spices” (4:14)
Camphire is generally accepted by authorities as henna. The henna plant has yellowy-white flowers but the fragrance is obtained in the form of oil from its leaves and roots. The two Bible references to camphire both appear in Canticles. In chapter one, her beloved is likened to a cluster of camphire. Here, camphire is grown in her garden. The features of her beloved are reproduced in the garden of her life. Should not features of Christ be reproduced in our lives and in our assembly? This flower was discovered in the vineyards of Engedi, a wilderness on the edge of the Dead Sea, except for this oasis where the vines and camphire grow. The assembly is like an oasis in the wilderness of our world and should produce what is fruitful and fragrant for God. The word for henna is also translated “ransom” and ”satisfaction.” Surely, when we consider Christ and the ransom paid, adoration should fill our hearts and find its expression in worship. Blessed be His Name!
Further incense should ascend from the assembly to God when we consider the satisfaction brought to the Father’s heart by the work of His Son upon the cross.
How full of expression and truth are these OT pictures and types!
– To be continued