[this article was contributed by Alex Rover]
“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” – Sg 2:1
With these words, the Shulamite girl described herself. The Hebrew word used for rose here is habaselet and is commonly understood to be a Hibiscus Syriacus. This beautiful flower is hardy, meaning it can grow in very unfavorable conditions.
Next, she describes herself as “the lily of the valleys”. “No”, reasons Solomon, “you are not just the lily of the valleys, you are far more exceptional than that.” So he responds with the words: “As the lily among thorns”.
Jesus said: “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came and choked them out” (Mat 13:7 NASB). How unlikely, how exceptional, how precious, to find a fruitful lily despite such thorny conditions. Likewise Jesus said in v5-6: “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil […] and because they had no root, they withered away”. How unlikely, how exceptional, how precious, to find a rose of Sharon despite affliction or persecution!
My beloved is mine, and I am his
In verse 16 the Shulamite speaks of her beloved. She is precious and belongs to him, and he belongs to her. They have made a promise to each other, and this promise is sacred. The Shulamite won’t be swayed by the advances of Solomon. The apostle Paul wrote:
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” – Ephesians 5:31
The mystery of this verse is explained in the next verse, when Paul says he is actually talking about Christ and his church. Jesus Christ has a bride, and as children of our Heavenly Father we have the assurance of our Bridegroom’s affection toward us.
You are the Shulamite maiden. You have given your heart to the Shepherd boy, and he will lay down his life for you. Jesus Christ your Shepherd said:
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – Jo 10:14-15 NET
When you partake of the emblems of the Lord’s Supper, you declare publicly that you belong to Christ and that he has chosen you. Others may think or express that you are presumptuous or arrogant. How can you be so confident? What makes you so special?
You are being measured up to the daughters of Jerusalem. With their fair skin, soft clothes and pleasant, fragrant smell they appear far more appropriate subjects for the affection of a King. What does he see in you that you deserve this? Your skin is dark because you worked in the vineyard (Sg 1:6). You bore the hardship and burning heat of the day (Mt 20:12).
Never does the Song of Solomon give a reason why he chose her. All we can find is “because he loves her”. Do you feel unworthy? Why would you be worthy of his love and affection when there are so many wiser, stronger, nobler ones?
“For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” – 1 Co 1:26-27
We “love him, because he first loved us” (1 Jo 4:19). God shows his love for us first by adopting us as his Children. And Christ showed his love for us unto death. He said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jo 15:16) If Christ then loved you first, how can it be presumptuous to respond to his love?
Reminding yourself of Christ’s love for you
After Christ first declares his love for us, and as the years pass, we may at times feel as the Shulamite did when she said: “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spoke: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer” (Sg 5:6).
Then the Shulamite charged the daughters of Jerusalem: “if you find my beloved […] tell him, that I am sick with love” (Sg 5:8). It appears like the script of a love story. A young couple falls in love, but becomes separated. A rich and wealthy man makes advances on the young girl but her heart remains loyal to her young love. She writes letters in the hope of finding him.
In fact, Christ has left his beloved congregation for a period of time “to prepare a place” for her (Jo 14:3). Yet, he promises to come back and gives her this reassurance:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” – Jo 14:3-4
In his absence, we may need to remind ourselves of the love we had at first. It is possible to forget this:
“Nevertheless I have something against you, because you have left your first love.” – Re 2:4
Like Solomon, this world with all its splendor and riches and beauty will try to sway you away from the love we felt when your shepherd boy declared his affection for you. Now separated from him for a time, doubts may creep into your mind. The daughters of Jerusalem say: “What is your beloved but another beloved?” (Sg 5:9).
The Shulamite responds by recalling him and the moments they shared. Couples likewise do well to remind themselves of why they fell in love with each other in the first place, recalling these first moments of love:
“My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are wavy, and black as raven. His eyes are like doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are like a bed of spices, like sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dripping sweet smelling myrrh. His arms are as rounded gold set with beryl: his body is as carved ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of marble, set upon bases of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” – Sg 5:10-16
When we recall our beloved regularly, our love for him remains pure and strong. We are guided by his love (2 Co 5:14) and eagerly look forward to his return.
Preparing ourselves for the Wedding
In a vision, John is taken to heaven, where a great crowd speaks with one voice: “Hallelujah; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God” (Rev 19:1). Then again the great crowd who is in heaven shout in unison: “Hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.” (v.6). What is the cause of this rejoicing and praise directed at our heavenly Father? We read:
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.” – Rev 19:7
The vision is one of a wedding between Christ and His Bride, a time of intense joy. Notice how the Bride made herself ready.
If you might imagine a splendid royal wedding: Today have come together all family members, friends, dignitaries and honored guests. The invitation cards were carefully crafted by artisan printers. In turn the guests responded by wearing their finest outfits.
Next to the sanctuary for the ceremony, the reception hall is transformed by beautiful decorations and flowers. Music completes the harmony and the laughter of little children in the hallway reminds all of the beauty in new beginnings.
Now all guests have found their seating. The bridegroom stands at the altar and the music begins to play. Doors open and the Bride appears. All guests turn and look in one direction. What do they hope to see?
The Bride! But it appears something is wrong. Her dress is dirty with mud, her veil out of place, her hair not fixed and the flowers in her wedding bouquet have withered. Can you imagine this? She hasn’t made herself ready … impossible!
“Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?” – Jeremiah 2:32
Scriptures describe our Bridegroom as returning surely, but at a time we do not expect it to be. How can we make sure we are ready for him to receive us? The Shulamite remained pure in her love for her Shepherd boy, and fully dedicated to him. Scriptures give us much food for thought:
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conduct;
Because it is written, You will be holy; for I am holy.” (1 Pe 1:13-16)
“Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Ro 12:2 ESV
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Ga 2:20 ESV
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Ps 51:10-12 ESV
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 Jo 3:2-3 ESV
We can thank our Lord that he is in heaven preparing a place for us, that he is coming back soon, and that we look forward to the day we will be together in paradise.
How soon until we hear the great trumpet shout when we as members of the congregation of Christ are joined with him? Let us prove ready!
You are the Rose of Sharon
How unlikely, how precious, how exceptional you are. Out of this world you have been called to Christ’s love to the glory of our Heavenly Father. You are the Rose of Sharon that grows in the dry wilderness of this world. With everything going against you, you blossom with unsurpassed beauty in the love of Christ.
[i] Unless otherwise mentioned, bible verses are quoted from King James Version, 2000.
[ii] Rose of Sharon Photograph by Eric Kounce – CC BY-SA 3.0