I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spoke: I sought him…
No passage in the Canticles is more pathetic than this. Whilst the prevalent tone of the Song of Songs is a tone of joyful love, we meet here with the sentiment of anxious sorrow. We are reminded of the grief of Mary, when, on the resurrection-morn, she exclaimed, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." A true transcript of the moods to which experience is subject! And not without spiritual lessons which may be turned to true profit.
I. A TRANSIENT ESTRANGEMENT AND BRIEF WITHDRAWAL. There have been periods in the history of the Church of Christ, resembling the captivity of Israel in the East, when the countenance of the Lord has been hidden from the sight of his people. The heart, which knoweth its own bitterness, is now and again conscious of a want of happy fellowship with the best and dearest Friend. But it is not Christ who changes. When the sun is eclipsed, it does not cease to shine, though its beams may not reach the earth. And when Christ is hidden, he remains himself "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." But something has come between the Sun of Righteousness and. the soul which derives all its spiritual light from him, and the vision is obscured. Selfishness, worldliness, unbelief, may hinder the soul from enjoying the Saviour's presence and grace. The fault is not his, but ours.
II. DISTRESSING SYMPTOMS OF SUCH ESTRANGEMENT AND WITHDRAWAL. How simple and how touching is the complaint of the bride! "I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." Yet it is the nature of Christ to delight in the quest and the cry of those he loves, to reveal himself to such as ever ready to approach and to bless. There may, however, be a reason, and faith cannot question that there is a reason, for the withholding of an immediate response. There may be on the Saviour's part a perception that a stronger confidence, a more evident desire, a truer love, are needed, and are thus only to be called forth. It may be well that for a season the soul should suffer for its sin, that it may be encouraged to deeper penitence and to more fervent prayer.
III. AFFECTIONATE YEARNING THE EARNEST OF SPEEDY RECONCILIATION AND RENEWED HAPPINESS. The parable represents the bride as sad and anxious, as enduring bitter disappointment, as oppressed by the heartless insult and injury of those indifferent to her woes; yet as retaining all her love, and only concerned as soon as may be to find her beloved. A true picture of the devout and affectionate friend of Christ, who is only drawn to him the Closer by the sorrowful experiences and repeated trials of life. When the Christian offends his Lord, it is a good sign that he is not really forsaken, it is an earnest of the restoration of fellowship, if he ardently desires reconciliation, and takes measures to recover the favour which for a season he has lost. The beauty of Christ appears the more inimitable and supreme, the fellowship of Christ appears the mere precious and desirable. And this being so, the hour is surely near when the face of Christ shall appear in unclouded benignity, when the voice of Christ shall be heard uttering Divine assurances and promises in tones of kindliest friendship. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.