I sleep, but my heart wakes: it is the voice of my beloved that knocks, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love…
Thus opens the recital of a dream - a dream which was the confused expression of deep feelings, of affection, of apprehension, of anxiety. The expression is poetical; the body slumbers, yet the mind and its feelings are not altogether asleep. A slumbering heart is inaccessible to the Divine approach, the Divine appeal, the Divine mercy. It is well when the heart waketh, for the wakeful heart is -
I. PROMPT TO HEAR THE VOICE OF HEAVEN. The mother awakes at once when the babe cries; the surgeon wakes at once when the bell rings; the nurse wakes at once when the patient asks for medicine or for food. When the heart is awake, the ear hearkens, the eye is ready to unclose, the sleeper is half alert and prepared to rise. The heart that loves the Saviour is prompt to hear any word of his, whether it be a word of encouragement, a word of admonition, a word of command. "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth," denotes the vigilant attitude, the true preparedness of the soul.
II. PROMPT TO RESPOND TO THE LOVE OF CHRIST. The true heart is not wakeful to every call, to every presence, to every appeal. It is mutual love that ensures a heart that waketh. The Christian gives love for love. "We love him, because he first loved us." Hence the very sound of Jesus' name enkindles upon the devout and grateful heart the flame of pure and fervent affection. Nothing that concerns the Lord is indifferent to the Christian; for his heart is awake to every token of the Divine presence, and eager for the spiritual communion which is the privilege of the friends of Jesus.
III. WATCHFUL AGAINST THOUGHTS AND PURPOSES OF EVIL. The deep slumber into which the careless may fall is likely to render them a prey to the assaults of the tempter. Christ found his three nearest friends sleeping in the garden whilst he was enduring his bitter conflict. "Watch and pray," was his admonition, "lest ye enter into temptation." As soldiers during a campaign must take rest in sleep, yet, as it were, with one eye and one ear open, so that they may spring up, and fly to arms, if the foe approach them under cover of the darkness; so must the Christian take even his refreshing rest and recreation as upon the alert, and as ready to resist an approaching enemy. Watchfulness and prayer must guard him against surprise. The heart must be ever wakeful. "Keep thy heart with all diligence."
IV. READY TO ENGAGE IN ALL REQUIRED SERVICE. The service of the hands, of the lips, alone is unacceptable to our Divine Lord, who desires above all things the devotion and loyalty of the heart. This, if the heart slumbers, cannot be given. But a wakeful heart, being ready to receive impressions, is ready also to obey commands, to summon all the powers of the nature to engage in that service which combines dimity with freedom, and submission with joy. - T.
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."