Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved? I raised you up under the apple tree…
In the verses which precede my text, the spouse had been particularly anxious that her communion with her Lord might not be disturbed. Her language is intensely earnest, "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my Love, until He please." She valued much the fellowship with which her Beloved solaced her; she was jealously alarmed lest she should endanger the continuance of it; lest any sin on her part or on the part of her companions should cause the Beloved to withdraw Himself in anger. Now it is a very striking fact that immediately after we read a verse so full of solicitous care concerning the maintenance of communion, we immediately fall upon another verse in which the upward progress of that selfsame spouse is the theme of admiration; she who would not have her Beloved disturbed is the selfsame bride who cometh up from the wilderness, leaning herself upon Him; from which it is clear that there is a most intimate connection between communion with Christ and progress in grace, and therefore the more careful we are to maintain fellowship with our Lord, the more successful shall we be in going from strength to strength in all those holy graces which are landmarks on the road to glory.
I. We notice THE HEAVENLY PILGRIM AND HER DEAR COMPANION. "Who is that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" Every soul that journeys towards heaven has Christ for its associate. Jesus suffers no pilgrim to the New Jerusalem to travel unattended. He is with us in sympathy. He has trodden every step of the way before us; whatever our temptations, He has been so tempted; whatever our afflictions, He has been so afflicted. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points like as we are. Nor is Jesus near us in sympathy alone, He is with us to render practical assistance. When we least perceive Him, He is often closest to us. When the howling tempest drowns His voice, and the darkness of the night hides His person, still He is there, and we need not be afraid. Courage, then,ye wayfarers who traverse the vale of tears; you come up from the wilderness in dear company, for One like unto the Son of God is at your side. Note the title that is given to the Companion of the spouse. "Her Beloved." Indeed, He of whom the Song here speaks is beloved above all others. He was the Beloved of His Father or ever the earth was; He was declared to be the Lord's Beloved, in the waters of Jordan, and at other times, when out of the excellent glory, there came the voice, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Beloved of His Father now, our Jesus sits for ever glorious at God's right hand. Jesus is the Beloved of every angel, and of all the bright seraphic spirits that crowd around the throne of His august majesty, casting their crowns before His feet, and lifting up their ceaseless hymns. He is the Beloved of every being of pure heart and holy mind.
II. We have said that the pilgrim has a dear Companion, but that much of the blessedness of the text lies in HER POSTURE TOWARDS HIM. "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved?" Her posture, then, is that of "leaning." His relation to her is that of a Divine supporter. What does this leaning mean? Why, first of all, there can be no leaning on another unless we believe in that other's presence and nearness. A man does not lean on a staff which is not in his hand, nor on a friend of whose presence he is not aware. Christ Jesus is with thee; though thou hearest not His voice, and seest not His face, He is with thee. Try to grasp that truth, and to realize it clearly, for thou wilt never lean until thou dost. Leaning also implies nearness. We cannot lean on that which is far off and unapproachable. Now, it is a delightful help to us in believing repose if we cannot understand that Christ is not only with us, but to an intense degree near us. A sacred unity exists between thee and Him, so that thou dost drink of His cup, and art baptized with His baptism, and in all thy sorrows and thine afflictions He Himself doth take His share. These two things being attended unto, leaning now becomes easy. To lean implies the throwing of one's weight from oneself on to another, and this is the Christian s life. The leaning place of a Christian is, first of all, Christ's person. We depend upon the Lord Jesus as God and as man. As God, He must be able to perform every promise, and to achieve every covenant engagement. We lean upon that Divinity which bears up the pillows of the universe. Our dependence is upon the Almighty God, incarnate in human form, by whom all things were created, and by whom all things consist. We lean also upon Christ as man; we depend upon His generous human sympathies. Of a woman born, He is partaker of our flesh; He enters into our sicknesses and infirmities with a pitiful compassion, which He could not have felt if He had not been the Son of man. We depend upon the love of His humanity as well as upon the potency of His deity. We lean upon our Beloved as God and man. We lean upon Christ Himself in all His offices. We lean upon Him as Priest; we expect our offerings, and our praises, and our prayers to be received, because they are presented through Him. Our leaning for acceptance is on Him. We lean upon Him as our Prophet. We do not profess to know or to be able to discover truth of ourselves, but we sit at His feet, and what He teaches that we receive as certainty. We lean upon Him as our King. He shall fight our battles for us, and manage all the affairs of our heavenly citizenship. We have no hope of victory but in the strength of Him who is the Son of David and the King of kings. We lean upon Christ in all His attributes. Sometimes it is His wisdom — in our dilemmas He directs us; at other times it is His faithfulness — in our strong temptations He abides the same. At one time His power gleams out like a golden pillar, and we rest on it, and at another moment his tenderness becomes conspicuous, and we lean on that. There is not a trait of His character, there is not a mark of His person, whether human or divine, but what we feel it safe to lean upon, because He is as a whole Christ, perfection's own self, lovely and excellent beyond all description. We lean our entire weight upon HIM, not on His arm; not on any part of His person, but upon Himself do we depend.
III. HER REASONS FOR THUS LEANING. She leaned on her Beloved because she was weak. Strength will not lean, conscious strength scorns dependence. My soul, dost thou know anything of thy weakness? It is a sorrowful lesson to learn; but oh! it is a blessed and profitable lesson, which not only must be learned, but which it were well for thee to pray to learn more and more, for there is no leaning upon Christ except in proportion as you feel you must. She leaned, again, on her Beloved, because the way was long. She had been going through the wilderness. It was a long journey, and she began to flag, and therefore she leaned; and the way is long with us, we have been converted to God now some of us these twenty years, others these forty, and there are some who have known the Lord more than sixty years, and this is a long time in which to be tempted and tried, for sin is mighty and flesh is weak. She leaned, again, because the road was perilous. Did you notice, she came up from the wilderness? The wilderness is not at all a safe place for a pilgrim. Here it is that the lion prowls, and the howl of the wolf is heard, but she leaned on her Beloved, and she was safe. If the sheep fears the wolf, he had better keep close to the shepherd, for then the shepherd's rod and staff will drive the wolf away. There is no safety for us except in close communion with Christ. Again, she leaned on the Beloved because her route was ascending. Did you notice it? "Coming up." The Christian's way is up — never content with past attainments, but up; not satisfied with graces to which he has reached, but up. If we are to go up, we must lean. Christ is higher than we are; if we lean, we shall rise the more readily to His elevation. He comes down to us that we, leaning upon Him, may go up to Him. He is made of God unto you sanctification as well as redemption. Again the spouse leaned on her Beloved because her walk was daily separating her more and more from the whole host of her other companions. The Church is in the wilderness, but this traveller was coming up from the wilderness. She was getting away from the band marching through the desert, getting more and more alone. It is so, and you will find it so; the nearer you get to Christ, the more lonely you must necessarily be in certain respects. The spouse leaned upon her Beloved because she felt sure that He was strong enough to bear her weight. He upon whom she leaned was no other than God over all blessed for ever, who cannot fail, nor be discouraged. She leaned yet again, because He was her Beloved. She would have felt it unwise to lean if He were not mighty; she would have been afraid to lean if He had not been dear to her. So it is, the more you love the more you trust, and the more you trust the more you love.
IV. THE PERSON AND THE PEDIGREE of her who leaned upon her Beloved. The text says, "Who is this?" What made them inquire, "Who is this?" It was because they were so astonished to see her looking so happy and so little wearied. Nothing amazes worldlings more than genuine Christian joy. Who, then, is this that leans on her Beloved? Her name was once called "outcast," whom no man seeketh after, but according to this old book her name is now Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in her. The name of the soul that trusts in God, and finds peace in so doing, was by nature a name of shame and sin. We were afar off from God even as others; and if any soul is brought to trust in Christ, it is not from any natural goodness in it, or any innate propensity towards such trusting; it is because grace has wrought a wondrous transformation, and God the Holy Ghost has made those who were not a people to be called the people of God. Good news this for any of you who feel your guilt this morning.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.