A Song for the Church: Christ’s Return for His Bride

She wakes with a start. The morning sun streams through the chamber, warming her face. Drawing herself up in bed, she looks to the window and whispers hopefully, “Maybe today!” The opening of Solomon’s Song chapter 3 reveals a bride longing for her bridegroom. He fills her thoughts and shapes her actions. Since their meeting and engagement, true love has flourished with purity and purpose. With vivid imagery, we have seen his great love and provision and her appreciation and response in the vineyard. Now she waits for their wedding day, when he will return for her. Over and over she asks, with longing, and to all who will hear, “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” (SoS 3:3 ESV).

Then, one day he comes! At the pinnacle of the poem, with a great fanfare in color, sound and the richest of fragrances, Solomon arrives for the royal wedding. Soldiers march, and young women line the streets to behold the king, crowned in glory for this day. He comes only for her, with a royal litter, secure and borne on the backs of strong men, girded with swords for her protection and honor (SoS 3:6-8). He is honored as well, in a sedan chair of terrific value, gilded in love and borne by servants. The allegory of this scene is rich, honorable, and filled with His glory. Would a victor’s shout or a piercing, gorgeous trumpet blast be out of place (1Th 4:16)? It would not, for here the strongest and finest are on display (SoS 3:9-11).

From the onset of this series, we have sought to amplify the moment of Ephesians 5:27, when Christ will present to Himself a glorious Church, at the chiastic center of Solomon’s Song. As believers, we often focus on our place as the bride, awaiting our Bridegroom’s return, drawn up in the morning light and whispering, “Maybe today!” Indeed, what joy it will be to see Him! But our picture of Christ and His Church here in the Song of Solomon reveals a different cynosure. The vast majority of the wedding text in chapter 4 is Solomon’s praise for her, for his heart is glad on this the day of his return.

We see how the procession halts, the ceremony commences, and all eyes focus on the bride, the center of Solomon’s attention. The parade and fanfare fall silent. He speaks, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair” (4:1 KJV). Metaphors and similes of natural beauty run over and over as the King exclaims, “You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you” (4:7 HCSB). She is without any spot, wrinkle or any such thing! It is beyond humbling to apply these words from the King Himself to us, His Church, presented to Himself in splendor (Eph 5:27 HCSB). Beloved, how Christ loves us (Eph 5:25)!

Solomon delights in her purity and her holiness, kept through the whole of their engagement. She is faithful, and he sees and appreciates this. Notice how his language in chapter 4 returns to the words of the vineyard. First, he directs her to look over the vineyard from the high places, and from his viewpoint there is no one like her (4:8). No one on earth can compare. His heart is hers! How much better is thy love than wine, the very fruit of the vineyard (4:10). Then, diving from the heights of splendor, the view rushes through the overstory until we drop into a private grove, for their love alone. “Come with me! Descend from the peak and from the summit,” he cries. Here, in a quiet place, we see the intimacy of the vineyard, and her purity. She is a locked garden and a sealed spring, kept for him (4:12). She is holy, clean and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27). The imagery is private; the scene is ancient. The bride so faithfully pled, “stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please” for just this moment (2:7; 3:5 KJV). The allegory of the Church emerges here, “For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Eph 1:4 HCSB).

Carefully, we open the gate and see the vineyard imagery expand even further. It enriches the moment and reveals his grace and love, yet again. Within the inner garden walls are the shoots of a choice orchard of pomegranates and other costly rarities. “Your plants are a paradise,” he whispers (4:13)—henna, precious spikenard, prized saffron, pungent cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh and aloes, the chief spices. She is a “fountain of gardens” and a well of living waters to him (4:15). Don’t lose the allegory in the intimacy. These rich, humbling words describe the Lord Jesus’ deep love for us in picture form. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25 ESV). The Lord Jesus Christ loves us, His Church, more than Solomon in all his glory and gracious words ever loved. There is no deeper love than His. He values us greater than gold and, in grace, loved us unto death on a cross. His grace is fathomless, His love is everlasting, and He still whispers, “All my springs are in thee” (Psa 87:7 KJV).

Overwhelmed at this embarrassment of riches, the bride’s words are few. Just a single verse at the end of chapter 4 carries her deepest desires, as if to say, “I am altogether yours.” She wants nothing more than to be with him, and her hope of “Maybe today” is replaced with the far better “Yes, today!”

As the wedding and the curtain draw to a close, the last words of Solomon’s deep contentment are heard, “I have come, I gather, I eat, and I drink” (5:1). Beloved in the Church, we know that when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to the air and calls us home, we will be fully satisfied with Him. The greater wonder, found here in Solomon’s Song, is that He shall be fully satisfied with us! “And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1Th 4:17-18 KJV).