A Song for the Church: Heavenly Worship and Service

When we last visited King Solomon and his bride, their wedding day had come to a beautiful close. The chiastic poem in the Song of Songs reached its apex as all of his promises came true. In his garden, the pair are “intoxicated with love” (SoS 5:1 HCSB). In the allegory of Christ and His Church, we hear the Church respond, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1Th 4:17 KJV).

But if you’re reading along as the allegory unfolds, you may be frowning. Our earlier outline nearly skips chapter 5 and plunges right into chapter 6. What’s happening? When read carefully, the bulk of chapter 5 plays a melody out of tune with the Song. Newly joined, and with the promise of happily-ever-after still ringing in the air, a chill arises. Retiring one evening, she locks her doors and resists his call. He waits outside, cold and alone. When she finally rises and opens to him, he is gone. In despair, she searches the King’s city with a lovesick heart. His watchmen wound and openly disrespect her (5:7). How can this be? Has his promise failed? Is our allegory lost? Some Bible students point to obvious problems that arise in all earthly marriages. Others find weakness in the character of the bride or groom. Instead, let’s carefully review the text. Verse 2 clearly suggests the bride is having a most unpleasant dream, “I slept, but my heart was awake” (5:2 ESV).

Seen as a terrible dream, a tossing and turning night of separation and sorrow, it is best to draw a contrast between her nightmare and the truth of their pictorial relationship. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ will never fail to nourish and cherish His Church, nor will we be separated from Him (Eph 5:29-30). Their commitment to one another doesn’t weaken, nor do they seek their own needs. She will always respond when He calls. Indeed, she will never leave His side! He will never forget her or leave her to be injured by others. Perhaps awakened by her attendants, the bride responds to them with ongoing praise and continued love for her King. She contests every fear in the dream in the summary: “Yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (5:16 KJV).

In Chapter 6, we return to their eternal Spring, a heavenly relationship still full of worship and responsibility. This passage is the mirror image of their engagement in chapters 1-3. True to form and the poetic pattern, he visits the vineyard, a shepherd among the lilies, to enjoy the fruit of the garden (6:2). The bridegroom here feeds on the fruit of the vineyard in parallel with his delight in the earthly vineyard before their wedding day. But now their love is impenetrable; there are no foxes here to spoil the vines. Her heart, like his, delights to see the continued growth and beauty all around. The banner of love that overflew her during their engagement continues to fly high and untattered (2:4; 6:4). Her appreciation of him only grows. During their courtship, she exclaimed aloud, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (2:16 KJV). But now her focus shifts, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (6:3 KJV). It’s a subtle difference, but clear: he is first, and her own desires come second.

Dear believer, once caught up with our Lord Jesus Christ and made perfect and holy in His sight, we will worship Him as we should! For time unending, He will display to us the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness to us through Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6-7). He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:4-5). We will want to know more about Him, and being made new and holy, we will have the capacity and ability to know what we can only imagine here on earth. But, we will still have responsibilities to our Lord and our God.

Those who know little of heaven often comically portray its inhabitants lounging around on clouds with harps and halos, doing nothing all day. This image couldn’t be further from the truth! We, the saints of God, will be with our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. Where He goes, we shall go. What He desires, we shall do. The closing chapters of our Bible reveal heaven as a vibrant and active place, and we will worship with full hearts (Rev 5:13; 7:9-10). We will have administrative duties, reigning with Him, judging in due course, bringing Him honor with the host of heaven and carrying out His will (2Ti 2:12; Rev 1:6; 5:10).

Returning to our allegory in Solomon’s Song, we appreciate her following him into the vineyard, seeking his will. With him, she seeks out the fruit and flourish of the vineyard in a walnut grove (6:11 HCSB). Reviewing the blossoms, budding vines, and young fruit, she is recognized by the royal host, the Hebrew Mahanaim, of his great vineyard (Gen 32:2; SoS 6:13). These inhabitants of his kingdom recognize her preeminence as King Solomon’s bride, and give her due honor. The term “Shulamite” used here is literally a feminine version of Solomon himself; she bears his name.

At the beginning of the poem, he called her into the fields (2:10). But now, she calls to him: Let us go! Let us go! (7:11-13). Sharing her master’s joy, she still delights in the responsibility of the vineyard. Consider the imagery of the bride and her groom walking, abiding, and rejoicing together on picturesque garden paths. Revealing the riches of the place, the fruits of the vineyard, she exclaims, “I have treasured them up for you, my love!” (7:13 HCSB).

Beloved, no heart can think, no tongue can tell, what joy ‘twill be with Christ to dwell![1] The One who gave Himself for us, to present us to Himself a glorious Church, holy and without blemish, will be our eternal bridegroom (Eph 5:26-27). His is eternal love, and we will rejoice and glory in His eternal presence in the great garden of heaven forever!

[1] Joseph Swain (1761-1796)