A Song for the Church: A New Relationship in Christ

Previously in this series we summarized the Song of Solomon as an allegory of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. All believers saved by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ are added, or built into the living Church, by the Lord Jesus Himself (Mat 16:18). It is not a physical building. Being part of the Church is not a reward granted by overseers, nor is inclusion due to personal dedication on your part or mine. The Church is a beautiful relationship gathered to Christ, initiated and fostered in love by Him at salvation. Ephesians 5:22-33 unfolds this truth in the language of marriage, and it is reflected in the poetry and place of the Song of Songs.

The love between Solomon and his bride flourishes in an unrivalled vineyard. Solomon’s garden is a rich and expansive land of rolling hills, breathtaking mountains, soft meadows, quiet woods, manicured beds and satisfying labor. God’s Word often associates vineyards with the subject of responsibility, and both the bride and groom delight to be there (Isa 5:1-7; Mat 20:1; Joh 15:4).

The story begins with a full heart. The future bride is enamored with the figure and character of Solomon. He is her delight, his person pouring into each moment of her life and accenting every thought with a subtle delicious fragrance. He satisfies her beyond imagination. A thousand times a day she wonders, “What would Solomon think of this? Would it make him happy?” She longs to be with him (SoS 1:4). We would each do well to rekindle the young love that once burned in our hearts after meeting our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you’re long into your relationship with Him by now. The words, responsibilities and routines are well practiced and worn for some in the Church. After so many anniversaries with Christ, do we still ask what pleases Him each day? Do we turn toward the sweet smell when Jesus approaches? Do we stir to learn and love Him more?

But as she muses on his worth and character her heart turns fearful. She is unworthy of his love or this new relationship. The Shulamite’s references to being “black” or “dark” in chapter 1 are neither disparaging nor racist. Rather, she is describing the result of fruitless days toiling in the harsh sun. Sent to the vineyard by her brothers, she finds that thorns and thistles make burdensome work. Before Solomon, her best efforts brought only perspiration and pain (Gen 3:17-19). Spiritless and worn by the curse, she could never find good and fruitful labor alone. Such is the case for anyone looking back to life before the call of Jesus Christ. Before His gifts and His guidance, our righteousnesses were as filthy rags. The imagery is very personal, “But mine own vineyard have I not kept” (SoS 1:6 KJV).

Wisely, she turns to seek reassurance in him. She is not grasping for just anyone to meet her needs, for only “the one her soul loves” could provide what she desires (1:7). She wants to be near him, beside him with a fruitful heart. Are we any different today? The imagery of a shepherd and his flock is no coincidence here, for both the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul use the same pictures to describe the followers of Christ and the Church (Joh 10:1-18; Act 20:28). “Where do you pasture your sheep?” she questions. What do they feed on, and how are they nourished? Tired of the hot sun overhead, the young Shulamite asks where her love rests his flock at noon. She will not seek her own way or stay veiled at a distance (1:7 HCSB). She wants to know his way. These are worthy questions for younger Christians today too. We might ask the Lord pointedly concerning our responsibilities in the Church, “How do I grow?” and “How can I know?”

There is no waiting. As soon as she asks to know more of the things he holds dear, Solomon responds. The answers do not come from rules or rote, and there are no schedules found among them, for love is not a list. To grow with the flock, he advises her to spend time with the sheep and walk in their footsteps. A literal translation of verse 8 suggests that she should “go out for herself into the flock” to personally learn the paths, the character of his sheep. Tear the fresh grass they eat in your hands and smell it on the air. Step carefully and watch the weeds and thorns they avoid. Know when they are thirsty and mark the water. Notice how they act in rain and in sun. Beloved, do you wish to grow and take up responsibility in His Church? Then be among His people. All. The. Time. Follow their footprints and walk with them. Immerse yourself in the flock of God.

She wants to know the work of the vineyard is good, right and lasting, too. Her love points over green fields toward his shepherds’ tents. Do you see them on the hill, against the breeze, clean and inviting? “Dwell near them,” he advises. The allegory holds true. Do you long to know you are doing the right things and that your good works for God are not in vain? Then be alongside His shepherds. Observe your leaders in the local church. Talk with them, spend time with them and learn from them. Feed with purpose, and pasture on their words. Value their experiences. To grow in Christ and to know Him more requires a following heart, out among the flock and learning beside the shepherds’ tents.

Each one added to the Church starts a new love story with Jesus Christ. A love that starts with the desire to grow and to know more of our Lord starts from a good place. Solomon’s flocks and shepherds waited for his bride – their wisdom was hers to enjoy, their experiences hers to gain. So likewise, with full and fruitful hearts, let us follow Him deeper into the vineyard where next we’ll consider their engagement, and a glorious bride awaiting her bridegroom’s soon arrival.