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THE SEAL ON THE HEART
The Loving Barrister, whose Heart Speaks to His Arm
from Song of Solomon 3, 5, 7
The Greatest Court Case in the World!
The nature of Song of Solomon has been shown earlier (in The Song, Ch. 11, The Kingdom of Heaven, the Love of God and the Spirit of Envy and in Beauty of Holiness Ch. 6).
Now our interest is to apply further this sublime allegory, and find more of the marvel of banquet which it provides for the spiritual mind. In terms of Christian Apologetics, this is the tracing of the depths and the lights such as a work of the word of God might desire for verification: these are consistent, magnificently crafted, sustained in kind and delicate in intimation, as befits a love story, the story of the pure love of God.
In terms of our title for this volume, here is a Barrister willing to defend the Christian from every vicissitude, vice and to impart every victory, because of love. Of that kind, He is the inspiration, and as to the 'law' which He applies, it is the word of God. It is however applied in the spirit of love, in the interests of a love which is indeed strong as death, which does not stop with mere life, but explodes past the otherwise restraining bonds of death, to awaken life beyond the grave.The grave, it is superfluous to such love, for the power of God defies it, and the love of God makes that defiance orderly, seemly and beautiful, for all legal bills are paid by this Barrister, in Himself.
Despite this love, you see Him at the door, in Song of Solomon Ch. 5, entreating entry, quietly, assuredly, in the night where the beloved one sleeps, having put herself to bed with fragrances which mere arising in the night would spoil. So she leaves Him for her snooze. He leaves. She pursues Him when she realises her folly, but is mocked by the 'daughters of Jerusalem', the formalistic, ceremonial religious people, good merely in appearance, until she voices her love. HER beloved, she tells them in the midst of her distress, because it is true and integral to her very being, in life or in death, He is better than anything that can even be imagined.
In Ch. 5, her paean of praise is like a banquet, and in fact in Song 2:4, you see that there is indeed a banqueting hall, in which place of honour there is a banner over the bride, and this ? it is love. It is not workability, or functionality, or work, or convenience, or survival: it is love.
What can be compared to love ? Indeed, as we find in Song 8:6-7, not only is love strong as death, but it is so vast in appeal and importance, that one could empty a house, donate it instead to someone, but as a substitute for love it would be "utterly despised." Imagine some suitor telling his would-be wife to be that unfortunately he has found someone more attractive to him personally, so that she can have the house which they were to inhabit, but alas, not himself: now otherwise occupied. Despicable ? contemptible!
Love like that is not love: it is fraud, fiasco, urbane, a sophisticant's scant substitute of virtual adultery and clumsy cant; for love is pure and suffers no sequestration; and the love here is intense, for which marital love is simply a beautiful symbol expressed in human terms (Ephesians 5) - real in itself but symbolic of the love of God. Present here before our eyes, it is the love of God, who as God knows no 'competition'.
Will a raging torrent have a trickle from an empty soft drink can as a substitute ? Would even a faithful dog leave the dying body of a pain-wracked master, for a bone ? Yes he might, but not if the love were perfected, as sometimes in hounds it seems almost to be, as they linger past death with the beloved master!
A friend loves at all times, does not drop because of imperfection or frustration, but with willing heart and agile mind, seeks the good of the one loved. How much more does God for His affianced, for the one who awaits the marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:8), as put in parable form in Matthew 22.
Thus the beloved, in Song of Solomon 5, despite her luke-warmness and half-heartedness, as it would seem at the beginning of this episode, when she was left by her beloved, because at her door knocking, He was not given entry (cf. Revelation 3:20), yet because of her love CANNOT rest. Disturbed because of love, she surges out into the night (the potential darkness when she does not find the presence of the Light of Life), and asks others where He might be (as when Christians seek to solve their spiritual problems, perhaps sometimes unrecognised with secular psychiatrists, a failure deplorable and lachrymose!). The others, naturally enough for those not lovers of God, ask in wonderment or contempt, or some subtle mixture, perhaps variable according to the case, what this beloved is compared with others! She TELLS them (5:10ff.).
Naturally she finds Him, for those who seek, find and those who ask, to them it is given, and to those who knock, it is opened, the Sermon on the Mount secures.
God is not reluctant in love, but more than reluctant with desecrative hypocrisy that like a gold-digger, speaks 'love' on false premises; so that when ardour knocks, the door opens (Jeremiah 29:12-14). Indeed, to put it reciprocally, "When You said to me, Seek My face, my heart said to You, Your face, O Lord, I will seek!" (Psalm 27:8). Such is the reciprocity of love; for when the rope is pulled one way, it is pulled back the other, for the relationship is mutual, and interchange is natural as the leaves that move in the wind.
In fact, in Song of Solomon Ch. 3, there had already been some slight distancing, where mutuality lost its ardour. "I sought Him but I did not find Him!" we learn (3:1). Out into the city we again find, she goes. Wherever culture raised its head, commerce made its trade, fulfilment sought its place, she did not find Him, no not in all the city (3:2). The watchmen were accosted: had they seen Him ? When she has passed by those who being mere elements of externality in the city, did not have apt response, she does what ? She finds Him. Like Mary Magdalene after the resurrection, after finding Him, alive from the death which love made His bed, she would not let Him go (Song 3:4, cf. John 20:15-19).
There is a mellow loveliness which, like the precise intimation in the Song, is a work of munificence, the magnificent lustre shining through the ages to its fulfilment in astounding detail.
In Song 8:6, you see one of them saying to the other,
"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death."
At once we ask, Who is this speaking ? Is it the bride asking for recognition and security, indeed better, seeking that eternity of companionship which love enshrines in its heart, or is it the Lord, seeking that His enduring love be reciprocated in depth as far as may be, in the beloved, in the Christian, in the Church ?
At first, the latter may seem appealing in terms of the sealing of the Christian, and here it would be a prevenient act, as if the Lord were asking the Christian, the Church, to have His seal on the very heart. However, this is not in biblical atmosphere, since as we see in Ephesians 1:5, it is the Lord who taking the initiative Himself, does the thing personally, for we are sealed with His Spirit. It is He who acts, and we who receive, and the choice is His! (Romans 9:16). To be sure, whoever knocks, has it opened, but it is He who opens, and shuts and seals; for "you have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you!" (John 15:16-17) as is normal when a man seeks out the woman of his heart.
In the case of the Creator, it is still more normal, because sin has blighted the eyes, and made them blind (Ephesians 2, 4:17-19, Matthew 13), so that one cannot see as one ought. Thus we are born not of the will of the flesh (John 1:12), because it is of the Spirit who blows as He 'lists' or will!
God seeks for all, but finding, seals His own (cf. Great Execrations ... Greater Grace Chs. 7, 9, Jesus Christ, Defaced ... Ch. 2, SMR, Beauty ... 2 ; Outrageous Outages ... Ch. 9, Christ's Ineffable Peace ... Ch. 2). Thus, in accord with Ephesians 1:13 (Song 8:3), we see that this is the beloved, the Christian, asking the Lord to set such a seal on His heart so that He being irrevocably committed, might make the issue as deep as death, and as inveterate as life. You find this precise approach, as if in response, but in fact it is the divine energy circulating in the Christian which seeks such a repose, in Isaiah 49:14-16. Here 'Zion' is seen deploring her plight, or bemoaning herself like this: "The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me."
First notice the eloquent movement from LORD to Lord in this verse. In other words, the reality of GOD is before her, as if she is God-forsaken; but then the personal inter-relationship by which she is as a bride before Him, the love at the more intimate level, this comes into view with the 'Lord' which does not on this occasion designate the infinite name of God, but the master. It is in this aspect that she pursues the theme of their relationship, saying, "and my Lord has forgotten me."
In response the Lord declares this:
"Can a woman forget her nursing child;
and not have compassion on the son of her womb ?"
A concession is at once made. Although it would be absolutely contrary to nature, yet such an appalling lapse could in some remote case occur. We might thrill with horror to find that in the pressures of China for example, and the one birth policy per family, that some girl babies might be abandoned. Yet for all the remoteness of this possibility, it must be conceded that it exists! Human nature in its sin can so use the bin.
The Lord however, who has given the compassion which is so striking a norm in nursing mothers, the intense zeal for the welfare of the child, the sacrificial love for it, HE will not forsake Zion, even if a mother in some unnatural breach, did forsake her nursing child. In fact, not satisfied with this, for love is anything but dumb, He continues.
"See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands..." Firstly, as David had shown long before Isaiah wrote, by the Spirit of the Lord, the Messiah's hands and His feet for that matter, would be pierced. Then, as sovereign in charge of the plan which men merely implemented, none the less sinfully, for programming in persons is not force, but fulfilment (for as a man thinks in his heart, so is he), the Lord did indeed INSCRIBE.
What however was inscribed ? It was the sin which called for nothing short of a divine sacrifice to cover the multitudinous case, the breaches as high as blasphemy, as low as hell, in order with innocence and purity to satisfy the charge of its loss, and pay for it, rebuilding by reality from the divine resources themselves (cf. II Cor. 5:17-21).
This is what David had inscribed in writing (Psalm 22 cf. Joyful Jottings 25), hundreds of years before Isaiah wrote, and before, for that matter, Solomon penned.
Love keeps the name of the beloved as near as the palms, so that in all one does, it brings the matter to mind, for the active palm is the note-book of love. Yet again, who could forget a penal, sacrificial death in which the infinitudes of purity and the illimitable glory of deity met the unthinkable squalor of sin, and paid for it, crying, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,' as was also scripted in Psalm 22. This was written a millenium before; for love gives good notice and man is not left in the dark at all! A light shining for a thousand years should suffice to bring information to any enquirer!
Thus reinforced, we see that it is, as the NKJV correctly indicates in the text, the bride who makes this request of the Lord, about His hands. Normally, you use them to write; but now they are the paper, so personal is the love!.
It is He who does it however, as only He can, and it is HIS hand which has the abundant strength to execute what the inscription means! This is precisely as in Romans 5:9-10, which tells us that the love of God was so impelling and free, that even when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It pursues the theme of its non-volatility, its inviolability, its substantiality and eternality: If then He died for the unlovely, they being so, how much more will He not forsake what He has died for, now that in resurrected life He is alive evermore to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25) evermore.
Thus He is able to make His covering prayer encapsulation , at least to the day of His coming, when they will behold Him direct, in resurrection and see His very face (I Cor. 15, Rev. 21-22) and (22:5) – “they shall reign forever and ever” (cf. Romans 5:17).
If indeed, Romans 5 argues, if by His death - a weak-seeming thing - He dies for us, how much more by His life of everlasting strength will He secure us (cf. Revelation 1:19, Ephesians 1:19, I Peter 1:5ff.). If He goes so far in weakness to secure us, how much more in strength will He keep what He has secured. Since His love is as deep as death and deeper than its call, then how much more certainly as we secure in it! Indeed, Paul continues the theme in Romans 8:28-39, What will separate us from the love of Christ ? Neither time nor space, neither powers nor events! NOTHING! We are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
Ephesians 1:13, having then sounded the call that the Lord has sealed us with His Spirit, and added that this is an act of promise, the Spirit being the guarantee with this seal. Of what, however, is it the seal ? Why it is of our inheritance. Love is lavish. It is not a mere inheritance which might be soiled, like some damp-ridden Irish castle, with its expenses and lapses; it is not one which might fade away, for it is guaranteed (cf. I Peter 1:5ff.). It is reserved as Peter also declares, in heaven for us. We in turn are kept by the power of God through faith, that dower of God (Ephesians 2:8) by which an unseverable connection being made, is maintained by grace.
It is through faith by grace that you are having been saved persons, the Greek of Ephesians 2:8 declares. It is to an inheritance reserved in heaven for you, that you come, says Peter; and it is to a salvation appointed for you, that you are given grant, says Paul in I Thess. 5:9-10. Such is love, remorseless in its intensity, unalterable in its intensity, and where the heart has come, as one who is bought, without lapse in fidelity.
Yet this is not all in the Ephesians passage. Not only is the inheritance guaranteed, but it is so "until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory." Now since redemption spiritually is already the case (Ephesians 1:7), and since moreover the predestination itself has antedated the purchase in heaven (cf. Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.), thus that in view, is not something in the past, but to be in the future for which we are kept. This ? it is even the resurrection, or the "redemption of the body" as Paul calls it in Romans 8:23: it is for this we wait, being filled with the Spirit already, initially by one Spirit baptised into one body, that of the Lord (I Cor. 12:13).
It is then on His heart and arm that the sealing is found, and it is invincibly victorious against every attempt to alienate or snatch (as in John 10:9, which established the faith of entry, and in John 10:27-28, which outlines the destiny of such faith past all effort to destabilise it!). As to love, what God does, He does forever! That is the very nature of eternal life (John 6:50ff.), for the manna in the desert for Israel, could rot; but the bread of life, Christ declared, is such that if a man should eat of it (the aorist - you come or not, eat or don't and that is that), that person will by contrast with the case of Israel with its manna, live not for a day, but for ever. That is what it is all about (cf. I John 1:1-4, 5:12-13).
Not to see this is to short-circuit grace; which however, does not respond to such bucolic buffoonery, for the circuit being protected! (as in Romans 8:30), so that whatever is justified cannot but be glorified (as in Romans 8:17).
Song 8:8 continues now, having declared that love is as strong as death. Jealousy suddenly looms into sight, cruel as hell, its flames vehement. That is why the seal on heart and hand is needed. There is no room for a wastage of that burning fire in turning to ashes the heart redeemed! This cannot be. There is guarantee of deliverance from any such development: the rock has an eternal shade and the Lord an eternal rest, for the redeemed come with everlasting joy upon their heads (Isaiah 51:11), as is most fitting for a 'wedding' to the giant grace of deity.
Small wonder the bride sought such a guarantee, and seeking it, did as the Lord moved in her, because this is precisely the gift given, as in Ephesians 5:13. So is there the reciprocity of seeking and finding, giving with grace and desiring with love.
"Many waters cannot quench love," the bride continues (Song 8:7); and it is undrownable, cannot be suffocated, even in flood of passion and tempestuous surging. As to possessions, they are incomparable, scornfully to be rejected, if brought into play for operation. This reminds us of the sad and even grievous case of the rich young ruler, as in Mark 10:17ff.. Here the love of Christ was present, but the contemptible substitute for love, riches, are in full play, and the love is never reciprocated.
What had been a youthful thrust for life and meaning and significance and spirituality and godliness and ideals and truth, lost its punch and vomited its lunch when it came to the true bread of life. Such was the lamentable case for the rich young man. The cost, too high, made love a mere urgent hope, but never gained, it was not sustained. What is not has no future! It was like a friend who forsook you because of some incident. It was no more love than is a crow a bird of beauty. It caws and deplores and goes its way.
By contrast, every vicissitude of love (cf. as above, Song Chs. 3 and 5), is met by grace, for we are saved by faith through grace. As to this whole ambit, it is not, we are told, of ourselves: but it is the GIFT of GOD. If you want to manufacture your inheritance, you must realise that it is then not an inheritance, but an earning, a thing God most justly deplores (Romans 3:23ff.). NOT of works, not of works of perseverance of grace or bounty or lavishness or any other thing. It is all despicable, lest any man should boast, says Romans 3, Ephesians 2.
Boast ? Of what ? of adding works to grace, goodness to grant, spare rooms to the inheritance ? Scarcely, for every good and perfect gift is of God as James tells us, in whom is no shadow of turning. A person needs to be saved by grace through love because of the fidelity and passion and compassion of God, but if you want to add to the gift, you merely bring scissors to the cord. The womb of God however has no place for such.
What is there is protected; and what carries to the day of redemption of the body, has the power of hand to protect, and the names are already inscribed on that hand of Him who does not overlook the fact! We who have heard the word of God and heeded it to heart, what is the word of God concerning those who have been sealed and sent into His body ? It is this, they do not come into judgment but have passed from a state of death into one of life! (John 8:24). Death has nothing to contribute; the eternal life (Romans 6:23) which is the gift of God is neither to be earned, as if by a work, nor polished nor sharpened. It is a gift.
Its workings are correlative. Thus in Ephesians 3, where the love of God is shown in its intense actuality, we see Paul prays for those who believe in Him that we may be able to REALISE its depth and height and breadth, and then to go on to see that it is past all mensuration and limitation, it is past knowledge, it is infinite in dimension, eternal in character and of the very nature of God (as in I John 4:7ff.). He prays no less that we be filled with all the fulness of God.
Practicalities follow promise.
Thus, and then we learn in Ephesians 3:20, that He is able to do what we ask. That is wonderful but far from all; for love is not limited, and as to what it has made its own (John 10:27-28), NOTHING will separate them from it. It is declared then in 3:20 that He is able to do above what we ask. This is staggering. Yet it is not love's all. He is able to do abundantly above what we ask. This is already in the spiritual halls of holiness and happiness, intensively. Nor is even this all.
He is, we read, able to do exceedingly abundantly, far above above what we ask. Nor does even this suffice. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or THINK!
Here you see the spiritual infinitude of God, who knows the heart, the future and the predestining past ( Ephesians 1:4,11 - in this last verse, we find that we have already obtained an inheritance cf. Glow ... Ch. 8 ).
What now follows in Song of Solomon Ch. 8 ? A little sister has the bride ? How remarkable! Who could this other recipient be, but the Gentile world. This has often been in view, as Jeremiah 16:19, Isaiah 42, 49 show, and indeed as Isaiah 65:13-15 makes dramatically manifest, with Psalm 67, this was a major foresight presented through the prophets. Its amazing depth had yet to be seen, but its wonderful schema was already present there.
Many of those in this Gentile domain were indeed to come, for it was, as Isaiah wrote, too small a thing for the Messiah to raise up His own from Israel. Here also, therefore, there was to be just as there now is, in that inveterate way the word of God has of forging history before it comes, a place for such a love as this, that Christ might be all, and in all, who is for all. Paul in Romans 11 dilates magnificently on the wonder of this divine inclusive schema, for Jew and for Gentile, each in its way and day, each in the same tree of faith with the same root system, and the same life.
Yet this is not so, where love being rejected at the outset, event the sacrificial and holy love of the only and the living God, there is no place for its beatific presence. The plan is for all whom the Lord finds and knows, and the outcome, with its now swelling, now dispelling dynamic, is moving to that day in its complete finality as Israel, now back in place, with Jerusalem back in Israeli hands, the finale of the mass conversion awaits (cf. Zechariah 12:10 and Divine Agenda Ch. 8 , with Red Alert Ch. 10, Gracious Goodness ... Epi, and It Bubbles ...Chs. 10 ,11).
That God does the action is sure; but that He WOULD do it for all, is no less so as the above references show. Trust is the ingredient required, and if one does not trust God, there is as little commerce, far less love, as one might expect in any human relationship lacking it. If this lack occurs, it is an external thing, carrying no weight, except for the mere currency of earthly reward. It does not course where life is.
That is one thing which the bride in Song shows: SHE TRUSTS HIM. She exults in Him, because she trust Him. Death must bow before such love. Life awaits His coming in power to control this earth.
Yet in the meantime, "until the shadows flee away" (Song 4:6), He is as a nobleman on a journey to a distant land, and the finale must wait (cf. Luke 19:12ff., Matthew 21:23ff.). No, He must not be awakened in the ultimacy of love, until then (Song 2:5 cf. Acts 1:7-8). This intense emphasis on the light of the day to come, on awaiting this with zeal and care, it is just as in the New Testament. We await it with a keen expectation, when it will be as if the Lord arises in new impact on this world, as when a mighty man awakens from sleep (Deuteronomy 32:39ff., Isaiah 66:15, 42:13, Micah 7:15ff), and finishing all things, makes an end (Daniel 9:24,27,11:40, Matthew 24:30) .
Even that, Age-terminating time, however, is in the very milieu of protective love and immutable mercy (Micah 7:19ff.),
What however of the interim ? (Song 8:14).
Yet for all that which is come, meanwhile He is very far removed from indifference! Indeed, He will be as a young gazelle or stag; for the power of His Spirit works, so that just as the Lord worked in the creation, so now He moves in lowly but lordly dynamic, until the redemption of the purchased possession, even that glorious resurrection. Without Christ, there would have been no creation, for God KNOWS what He is doing and has already predestined, based on knowing all (Isaiah 51:16). Similarly, without His return, there would be only an efflorescence of vehement evil as the world seeks to chomp on Christians, for its profit. The divine night of fireworks comes (II Thess. 1), to take care of that, when all liberty has had its lawless day, and truth sublime effulges where it cannot be hidden (cf. Matthew 13:24-30, 38-43).
However, the time will come when the shadows have indeed fled away, and the morning star will arise in our hearts (II Peter 1:19), when we see Him face to face, not in the night, but in the day which dawns in its beauty, when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14), and when indeed, this at last itself fleeing away (II Peter 3), we find ourselves in the glories of the New Jerusalem, the city of God, the everlasting kingdom of the Eternal King, manifest with the Lamb Himself its temple (Revelation 21-22, Ephesians 1:10, Hebrews 7:17-27).