I sleep, but my heart wakes: it is the voice of my beloved that knocks, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love…
Under the imagery of this dream devout students have seen pictured forth the pathetic facts of the garden in which our Lord was in agony, and his disciples slept (cf. Matthew 26:40-43 and parallels). We have -
I. THE DISTRESSED SAVIOR. (Ver. 2.) He desired his disciples to watch with him. He needed and desired their sympathy and the solace which their watchful love would have given him. His soul was troubled. He was as he who is told of here, and to whom the cold drenching dews and the damp chills of the dreary night had caused much distress, and who therefore asks the aid of her whom he loved. So did Jesus seek the aid of those he loved. He had right to expect it. He said to Peter, "Simon, sleepest thou? - thou so loved, so privileged, so loud in thy profession of love to me, so faithfully warned, sleepest thou? And still the like occurs. The Lord looking for the aid of his avowed disciples, distressed by manifold causes, and that aid not forthcoming, though he has such right to expect it. But he too often finds now what he found then -
II. HIS DISCIPLES ASLEEP. (Ver. 3.) So the spouse here, as the disciples there, and as man now, had composed herself to sleep. The repeated calls of him who by voice and knock sought to arouse her failed. And so did the repeated visits of Jesus to his disciples fail. And he finds the same still. The poor excuses of ver. 3 serve well to set forth the excuses of today when he calls on us now to aid and sympathize with him. Who really rouses himself for Christ, and puts forth earnest self-denying endeavour to help his work? No doubt the disciples had their excuses, and Christ then, as now, makes all allowances. But the fact remains the same. Christ wants us, and we are asleep. The sleeper told of in this dream evidently was filled with self-reproach. It can hardly have been otherwise with the disciples, and it is so with us now when in our holier moments the vision of our Lord in all his love for us comes before our hearts. Then we confess, It is high time to awake out of sleep."
III. THE SORROWFUL AWAKENING. The sleeper told of here awoke (ver. 5) to find her beloved gone. And in Gethsemane the disciples awoke at last. In this song (ver. 5) we are told how he had thrust in his hand by the latch hole (see Exposition). But he had withdrawn it, as she whom he had appealed to had not awaked; and, finding this, her heart was touched, and she rose to open to him. And doubtless when the disciples saw the gleam of the lanterns and heard their Lord's word, "Arise," and the tramp of the armed multitude who had come to arrest him, then their hearts were touched, and. they arose. But it was too late. And like as the sleeper here (ver. 5) did not withhold tokens of her affection - she richly perfumed herself, her hands especially, in token thereof as the Oriental manner was - so, too, the disciples in their way made plain their love for their Lord. They would have fought for him - Peter drew his sword at once - had he let them. But the opportunity for real service was gone. The sleeper of this song tells how her heart smote her when her beloved spoke, and we may well believe that it was so when the disciples heard their Lord's voice. But in both cases it was too late. Who does not know the sorrow that smites the soul when we realize that opportunities of succouring, serving, and making glad the heart of some beloved one have been allowed to pass by us unused, and now cannot be recalled? Oh, if we had only been awake then!
IV. THE UNAVAILING SEARCH. (Ver. 6.) Cf. Peter's tears; the sorrow of the disciples. The reproaches of conscience - they were the watchmen who met and sternly dealt with her who is told of here, and made her ashamed. Such failures in duty are followed by unavailing regrets and prayers. "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" Conscience, the Word of God, faithful pastors, - these are as the watchmen who meet such souls, and scant comfort is or ought to be had from them, but only deserved rebuke and reproach. It is all true. What is told of in this verse must have happened then, does happen now. Our Lord has left us, our joy is gone, we cannot find him, tears and prayers and search seem all in vain.
V. THE HELP OF THE HOLY WOMEN. (Ver. 8 and Song of Solomon 6:1.) It was wise of the sleeper, now awake, to solicit help from the friends of her beloved. And in the Gospel narrative it is plain that the holy women who loved and ministered to our Lord when on earth were a great help to his sorrowing disciples. They were last at the cross and first at the sepulchre; they first brought the glad tidings that he was risen. They represent his true Church. And the sorrowing soul cannot do better than seek the sympathy and prayers of those who love the Lord. Restoration often comes by such means. Here is one of their intercessions: "That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand, to comfort and help the weak hearted, to raise up them that fall, and finally to beat down Satan under our feet." Blessed is he who hath intercessions such as that offered for him. But better still not to need them. - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
WEB: I was asleep, but my heart was awake. It is the voice of my beloved who knocks: "Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my hair with the dampness of the night."