Today’s middle reading brethren and sisters is one of those sections of scripture that is difficult for us to understand. In many ways it is probably more enigmatic than the book of Revelation for us these days.

It is difficult to understand for a number of reasons:

Firstly—the way the text is laid out in our Bibles

Secondly—the language of the text in this piece of wisdom literature

Thirdly—the difficulty we have in ascertaining exactly who is speaking

Fourthly—our distance and removal from the historical and cultural references

Fifthly—our own cultural sensibilities regarding the subject matter within the book

Now even with these five barriers it is more than possible for us to understand the book brethren and sisters on a number of different and relevant levels.

Firstly—the historical & cultural basis of Solomon’s courtship & marriage.

Secondly—as an allegory of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh their God.

Thirdly—as an allegory of the saints relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fourthly—as an allegory of our individual relationship to our Beloved Master

Fifthly since this is a piece of wisdom literature then it must have a practical application and blessing for us, as a manual for our relationships, both before and during marriage, which after all is a type of the allegories just mentioned

On that final point brethren and sisters I think as a community we have failed in using this piece of wisdom literature to enlighten our every day lives. We have no problem picking up practical teaching from the other four wisdom books, Job, Psalms, Proverbs an Ecclesiastes. This is where our cultural sensibilities have greatly hindered us in only spiritualising the book and not seeking out its practical wisdom for our daily lives.

Now don’t worry brethren and sisters this is not the place for us to go practically through the song taking relationship guidance and advice. I certainly would not be the best-placed person to perform that, as my wife will readily confirm. Rather I just wanted to bring this very real failing on our part before your minds, by way of practical exhortation.

So then due to the enigmatic nature of the book and our cultural sensibilities we rarely delve into this fascinating portion of scripture in order to gain comfort, encouragement and exhortation.

Yet if we look there is a great deal of comfort and encouragement to be found. Now the perspective of the song is primarily from the angle of the prospective bride. She speaks the most within the various sections of the book. Most of the time she is speaking about her beloved to her companions and not directly too him.

The bridegroom only has two major speeches within the book. We find brethren and sisters the brides longing, her self-consciousness and her fears and in this she is typical of all of us today sat here.

We have that longing for our Master to return and bringing about of the kingdom for which we hope. Yet as we have come here to remember that which has been done on our behalf in our beloved Masters sacrifice and his ongoing high priestly intercession for us. We are each uncomfortably only too aware of our shortcomings, our weaknesses and our sinfulness that stops us from manifestation our love for our Heavenly Father properly in our daily lives. As a result we also fear his return in part, because of the judgement that we shall all have to endure concerning our individual walk. Thus we have nagging doubts, which plague and paralyse our faith and service.

Thus like the bride portrayed in this wonderful book, we likewise go through these same great highs and lows that the truth brings into our lives. Now this book then ought to greatly comfort and encourage us brethren and sisters. In that our individual similarity to the bride with regards to the expression of feelings, fears and hopes, clearly teaches us that none of us are on our own; we all undergo this same emotional roller coaster in the truth.

That is why one of the speakers in this book is the brides attendants, her friends, the daughters of Jerusalem & Zion. Thus each one of us, then brethren and sisters is one of these daughters, an individual virgin within the corporate body of the bride of Christ, the ecclesia.

Yet when we consider the bridegroom repeatedly throughout the song, He is constantly reassuring the bride not only of his love for her, but also of her beauty. Thus in the emblems upon the table, in the bread and in the wine we see the manifestation of our beloved Masters love towards his bride, in that he gave himself for her.

This little book contains part of the joy that was set before the Master that enabled him to go through the crucifixion brethren and sisters, even the impending marriage of the lamb.

Revelation Chapter 19, verses 6 – 9:

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Now back in Hebrews where we have that phrase “the joy set before him”. The word “before” in the Greek means that the Lord Jesus Christ chose daily to have those things of the kingdom in the forefront of his mind. So our Master then made it a daily principle of his life to have these things set before him. Thus the joy, became a chief motivational factor in the outworking of his faith and his resultant faithfulness.

Now if the Lord Jesus Christ could undoubtedly use this book to enhance that vision of joy before him, then brethren and sister ought not we to do likewise?

Should not we similarly have “a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”?

Now that quotation form earlier in Hebrews brethren and sisters contains the same Greek word in the same form indicating to us that we each individually need to daily chose to keep the joy of the kingdom before us, so that we might endure unto the end. Indeed there is an exhortation upon each of us to encourage each other to keep that joy alive in one another, despite our recurring anxiety and fears.

So then as we read over this song during the next few days brethren and sisters try and enter into the feelings of the bride, as they are expressed. Is this how each of us feel with regards to the one we have come to remember? Do you have the longing of a young woman anticipating her wedding?

This may well be more difficult for the brethren to enter into, being male, but try thinking about the fact if your married brethren that your wife desires to be with you. Whereas most young man not too long married still try to retain their independence and their own space. In this we have a living exhortation through the sisters of how we as brethren should feel with regards to our Lord.

And at the same time we have an insight through this independent spirit in the brethren of how the flesh reacts against the things of the spirit. In that the man desires to retain in some small way his independence. This then becomes an exhortation to us all brethren and sisters of how the flesh resists the work of our Heavenly Father in our daily lives.

Notice carefully, as you read the exhortation of the daughters of Jerusalem, each time they address the bride, they question her and seek to aid her in the development of her love. This then is the role of the ecclesia in relation to each one of us brethren and sisters. Consequently our role in relation to one another, since each one of us are one of these virgins is to support and develop one another’s love.

Correspondingly let us each see the reassuring statements of the bridegroom, as personal exhortation and encouragement to us to work with him in making ourselves ready.

Ephesians Chapter 5, verses 25 – 27

“Christ also loved the ecclesia, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious ecclesia , not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Now this passage in Ephesians five brethren and sisters clearly instructs us that not only does our bridegroom desire his bride, but that He is constantly working on her behalf. Daily ministering to create in her the moral purity and character required that, is in the sight of our Heavenly Father of great price.

Remember though brethren and sisters the bride we were earlier informed from Revelation chapter nineteen “hath made herself ready”. Notice it is in the past tense, so there will be a bride willing and ready in the day of our Lord’s return and each of us have the opportunity to be a part of it. For we know it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

So then we are not left on our own without aid & support; nor is it the sole responsibility of our Master to make us ready. There are tasks fitted to both parties working together towards the consummation of the purpose of our Father.

Our Master is still giving himself 24 hours per day, seven days per week, week in week out, month by month and year by year. To bring each of us to a position of being not only cleansed, but holy and glorious, without spot, wrinkle or any blemish. Through his intercessory prayers and his providential care.

Psalm 45 and verses 13 – 15

“The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.”

The end of this psalm depicts the marriage of the lamb with the bride in all her beauty. The Master achieves this glorification of the bride through two agencies firstly the ministration of the angels, those who are sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation. Secondly as head of the ecclesia, through directing one another’s service within the ecclesia through the word.

These are the means at his disposal to accomplish his purpose with the saints. Brethren and sisters all power has been given unto him in heaven and in earth. He laid down his very life to make this all possible in us. Let us take encouragement from these facts brethren and sisters, for there is no lack of desire and action on his part. That desire of our beloved Master is recorded for us in Luke Chapter 22 and at verses 14 – 18

“And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.”

Yet sometimes the circumstances of life would seem to indicate our Heavenly Father is not at work in our lives, yet that can only be temporary in order to perfect our characters. Nevertheless all this direction towards the preparation of the wedding feast goes on in the background, unseen and indeed almost completely unknown by us my dear brethren. Only occasionally do we gain a glimpse behind the curtain and then it is only in hindsight brethren and sisters.

Surely part of the purpose of the way all these things have been arranged in the wisdom of the Father is that our individual and collective faith might be developed further. In order that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

For one of the key themes in the song that constantly jumps off the page at you is the waiting of the bride to be. She appears to know only the season of the bridegroom’s coming, but not the day or the hour. Is not this true of our selves?

1st Thessalonians Chapter 5, verses 1 – 2:

“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

Yet in the mercy of our Heavenly Father the ecclesial bride has not left without concrete visual support in that firstly we have the word of life, it’s self. Which is our guide to wedding preparation and our how too manual of preparation in order that our lamps may be fully trimmed and shining brightly with ample supplies of oil.

Also secondly we have the company of one another our fellow daughters of Jerusalem in the way. Now it is readily apparent from the reading of the song brethren and sisters that the bride to be would not endure without the aid of her companions.

Hebrews Chapter 10 and verses 22 – 25

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Now the individual virgins, who make up the bride of our beloved Master, you and I brethren and sisters will only make our selves ready if the desire is truly there?

Do we each have the desire? Surely this is one of the purposes of this lovely, yet enigmatic book brethren and sisters to develop in us this desire. The desire to please our lord in the same way He always and only did those, which pleased his Father.

1st John Chapter 3, verses 1 – 3

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Notice what should be our response in that third verse brethren and sisters, we are to purify ourselves. We must each develop an intense, burning desire to so purify ourselves, if we really want to be like the Lord Jesus Christ, a reflection of his character that we might be a helpmeet to him in the age to come. For it is only when our personal desire (our passion) becomes intense enough that we will have the energy and the internal drive to overcome all the obstacles that will arise in our pathway to the kingdom.

Yet this desire can only be based upon love for love is the strongest motivational force in the universe. Remember our Heavenly Father the great creator & sustainer of all things is the very embodiment of love.

Fear although a powerful motivator will not take you far enough to endure brethren and sisters, because in the end the torment that fear produces will paralyse you. Whereas as, love casts out fear and perfects that which is lacking in our faith, indeed Galatians records how that our faith is energised by our love.

In Song of Solomon Chapter 1 and at verse 4 we read

“Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”

Here we find the young woman, the prospective bride describing her desire for the bridegroom to her companions. We see the companions of the bride rejoicing in her love and encouraging her in her desire to be with the bridegroom. In this brethren and sisters we see an example of what has happened to each one of us, as individual virgins who constitute this bride. More than this we see what the correct ecclesial response is when one of the virgins express their love for the bridegroom.

The bride desires to be drawn to the bridegroom, she exclaims “draw me”. Now in the Hebrew this word is an imperative command. Brethren and sisters when the imperative form is used by someone who is lesser addressing one who is greater, it becomes the strongest form of wish possible. With the use of the imperative here we see both the urgency of the brides desire, but also we see her single-minded determination.

Apparently this expression “draw me” is a figurative expression implying that the bride is a willing captive, a willing prisoner of the love of her beloved. She wants to be led by him and drawn to his embrace. Here then we see the bride being constrained / thronged by the love of the bridegroom and in our case the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul models this desire for us brethren, when He speaks through the spirit the following: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Philippians Chapter 3, verses 10 – 14

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Our desire should be as the Apostle’s, my dear brethren and sisters, which is a direct result and reciprocation of the love shown to him and us.

Specifically with regards to our Master, the bridegroom’s sacrifice, as laid out before us in the emblems upon the table. Now in Galatians we read “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

It was the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for Paul that motivated and energised his life in the truth. Can this be said of each one of us brethren and sisters?

You see the young woman in the song, this prospective bride brethren and sisters is completely animated by the love of the bridegroom. Her whole life is now bound up in receiving and returning that affection which He has expressed to her. The Master said “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

John Chapter 14 and at verse 23:

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

The Father has drawn each of us to the bridegroom, just like the young bride to be in this wonderful book. Thus we like her desire to be drawn into his presence into his innermost chambers, his personal living quarters, including the bedchamber.

Again, John Chapter 14 and verses 1

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

The Hebrew in verse four of this first chapter of the song can be rendered “May the king bring me into his chambers.” Apparently the language here expresses her desire and the expectation that her desire will be realised one day, soon. For us we desire, pray for and look for the kingdom and to have access to our Lord’s personal chambers in that temple of the future age prophesised in Ezekiel chapters forty to forty-eight.

Having expressed her desire for him to “draw me”, her companions reply “we will run after thee”.

They desire to accompany the bride and likewise be in the presence of this royal bridegroom. The word “run” implies action “without any hesitation, a swift compliance with all eagerness”. In the Psalms we read “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.”

This is exactly the same word and form of this Hebrew word “run”. We learn here brethren and sisters that nothing enlarges the heart more than love genuinely expressed and reciprocated. Typical of the bride to be and her attendants in this song we ought likewise brethren and sisters to run after the king in the way of his commandments. “Without any hesitation, and a swift compliance with all eagerness” in love.

Now notice carefully brethren and sisters the response of the bride and each of the faithful individual virgins within it, in the three “we will’s” statements in this verse. Now the number three in scripture is the number of fruit, as is witnesses by the third day of creation, when all the fruit bearing plants brought forth.

There are in this verse four step’s (God manifestation) brethren and sisters to us remaining or as the Eternal Spirit through Jude puts it “keeping ourselves in the love of God”. Three of them are related to those “we will’s”. We are firstly, as we have already seen to follow in the footsteps of our lord. Then secondly we are to “be glad and rejoice” in the bridegroom. Now this phrase “to be glad and rejoice” again speaks to us of the expectant desire of the fulfilment of all the bride’s hope. Listen to these three verses:

Isaiah Chapter 25 and verse 9

“And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is Yahweh; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Zephaniah Chapter 3, vs 14 & 17:

“Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. Yahweh thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

Again in Revelation Chapter 19 and at verse 7:

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”

Here we see then not only the heartfelt response and reciprocation of the love shown unto the bride, but also the determination of the bride not only to continue in that love, but also to revel and rejoice in it. Now if we are honest brethren and sisters we do not find it easy to revel and rejoice in this love, we are shortly to remember.

Like the young woman here in the song, we feel self-conscious and unworthy of it. As verse five and six continues:

“I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me.”

Surely the antidote to these feelings of unworthiness and self-conciseness is in the third response and determination of the bride and her attending virgins in that fourth verse. Where we read “we will remember thy love more than wine”.

As we saw earlier in the life of the Apostle Paul this love was the motivational force in his life that enabled him to face life with eagerness each and every new day. We do not need to try and escape the daily pressures of life through the use of alcohol, like so many of our contemporaries in the world outside. Rather we have a comparison here for although elsewhere we read that wine “maketh glad the heart of man”.

This remembrance of the love of the bridegroom and his Father has for us a greater impact and effect in lifting our spirits (pardon the pun) day by day than does the choicest of wines. Now this word “remember” not only means to “recall to mind”, but it also carries with it the idea of doing so to others in speech. In other words causing others to likewise remember the love of the bridegroom. Is this not one of the purposes of an exhortation brethren and sisters?

In a few moments we each shall remember “thy love”, in the emblems and particularly wine, which speaks of that new covenant in his blood, which was shed for us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

As we now remember this love brethren and sisters; let our response be that of this young bride to be and of her companions, which is the fourth step in keeping our selves in the love of God. As we read in the final part of this fourth verse “the upright love thee”, Or as the margin of my Bible has it “they love thee uprightly”.

A love which is pure, not insincere and not unfeigned, a love brethren and sisters that fully reflects his faithful love to the ecclesia, his bride.

Wayne Marshall