A Song for the Church: Earthly Worship and Service

Previously in this series we summarized the Song of Solomon as a lush allegory of the relationship between Christ and His Church. The love between Solomon and his bride flourishes in an unrivalled vineyard, a rich and expansive land of ploughed hills, soft meadows, quiet orchards and satisfying labor. God’s Word often associates vineyards with the subject of responsibility. The Apostle Paul uses the term “God’s husbandry,” meaning fields or farmland, to describe the local church, and we draw on this metaphor today (1Co 3:9).

After Solomon and the Shulamite young woman are introduced to us early in the book, their love is expressed in richer and richer terms. Yet it remains pure (SoS 2:7). They are well acquainted; we imagine their wedding day is planned, and now their engagement blossoms in chapter 2. She finds comfort in him as an oasis, or vineyard, in En-Gedi, and he observes her beauty in the water lily (1:14; 2:2). Let’s consider their engagement, a picture of this present age, and a beautiful day in the vineyard, while the Church awaits the permanent return of our bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The day dawns with the bride surveying the vineyard. In a symbol of her time with Solomon, she passes through the woods, and one strong and spreading tree draws her attention. Its branches form a quiet sanctuary, and beneath them, thoughts of her beloved make all other suitors fade away. It is unique and its fruit is sweet and satisfying. She rests and abides in pleasant comfort. A picture of tender worship emerges, and in her bowed shadow we see the image of today’s believer, enamored not with a man who is a tree, but a man on a tree. The man Christ Jesus gave Himself for the Church, to make her holy and blameless before Him (Eph 5:25-27). He is strength and protection. He is rest, He is sweetness, and she is satisfied with no one but Him in this and all future days.

The key of this chapter is enjoyment in responsibility, and there is no stronger picture of this than the banqueting house (SoS 2:4). A better term might be “house of wine,” which fully expresses the joy and work to which he draws her. The house of wine is the heart of the vineyard, a workplace where the fruit is brought, evaluated, pressed, cooped, aged, tasted and enjoyed. The banner, or testament flying over this seat of activity, is his intense love and joy, so strong that she is overcome, lovesick for his arrival and longing for his embrace.

Tell me, dear Christian, do you labor in His house of wine? Have you heard the joy in a song, sung with others after a day spent hanging gospel texts on front doors? Do you feel it in tired but satisfied hands after the last Bible conference-goer heads home from the weekend? Do you weigh the yoke on your shoulders as you step down from the gospel platform? These labors are sweet. Joy in service to Jesus Christ, in keeping His commandments and doing His will, is the very heart of the waiting Church! Consider the true vine and the husbandman, “I have spoken [my commandments] to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Joh 15:11 HCSB). “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (Joh 15:16 HCSB).

If the deep joy of service to the Lord Jesus is foreign to you, consider how Solomon encourages his bride-to-be. She is ready and listening for him, ready to respond! He comes to her across the vineyard with leaps and bounds (SoS 2:8). His call is encouraging and exciting, for there is so much to do on this delightful spring day. The winter and the rainy season are past, and as she steps out with him, the vineyard bursts into life (2:11-12). The imagery is of growth and opportunity, singing birds, ripening fruit and fragrant vines. Twice over he calls to her, “Come away, my beautiful one” (2:10,13). Christian, have no doubts that the Lord Jesus has plans for you, gifts of service to bring joy to His vineyard. “Don’t hide your face from me, don’t hide your voice!” He cries (see 2:14).

On this spring day in Solomon’s garden, she is called to survey blooms and budding fruit grown for his enjoyment. This place far exceeds her own failed efforts under the blazing sun! Note how her appreciation grows: Early on she is occupied with pleasant thoughts of how “My beloved is unto me” (SoS 1:14). But here, having moved from imagining him in the vineyards of En-gedi among the water springs, to abiding with him in floruit fields, she exclaims with greater appreciation, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (2:16 KJV). Likewise, dear one, each reassuring day spent serving our Beloved brings a greater appreciation of those peaceful words, “I am His!”

But as delightful and fulfilling as this day is, it isn’t yet perfect. Little foxes creep in (SoS 2:15). “Catch them,” she cries, “for they spoil the vines!” How often we commiserate with Solomon’s bride-to-be that our works for Him seem so tainted by our sin. Until our Heavenly Solomon comes for us with the trumpet blast and a final shout, our service must remain so.

However, the wedding day is coming soon. Solomon will enter with all of his kingly glory, claim his bride, and their vineyard will grow and bloom without a single imperfection. On that day, a picture of Christ’s return, we shall rejoice! “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27 KJV). Rest assured that the Lord Jesus cherishes each act of service done for Him. It is treasured up in His “house of wine,” and He enjoys it for Himself. But we also know that the tender grapes taxed by little foxes, the blighted fruit we offer Him today, is nothing compared to the delights of our promised and perfect future!