By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
Song of Solomon 3:1The bride in our text yearns for the presence of her bridegroom. So, too, the believer has a holy desire for fellowship with Jesus Christ, the bridegroom of the church. Frequently, however, we are lulled into spiritual slumber by the cares and concerns of the world, so that we do not seek Him as we ought. The result is that we do not experience the fellowship with God that we would like, and God seems far from us. But, by God’s grace, we seek Jehovah’s presence once more and find Him.
Solomon speaks of this yearning for Christ through the picture of the bride seeking after the bridegroom. Indeed, the entire book called the Song of Songs presents a picture of the beautiful and mysterious relationship of Christ and the church.
In the text that we consider, the bridegroom had left his bride while she slept. First she seeks him on her bed; but, he is gone. Arousing herself from her slumber, she goes into the streets of the city to seek him. Finally she finds him and will not let him go. So it is with the church. She yearns for the presence of Jesus Christ. And when by God’s grace she finds Him, she holds Him and will not let Him go.
Though the bride truly delighted in her bridegroom and sought him, sadly she does not find him immediately. “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.”
Not that she cared nothing for her bridegroom. In fact, she delighted greatly in his presence. It is not without reason that the bride calls her bridegroom “him whom my soul loveth.” Having that love, she seeks after him; he is the center of her life, the love of her soul. So it is with the church. She delights in Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit. Delighting in Him, the church gathers to worship, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, with true love in her heart for the bridegroom.
But God might seem far off. The psalmist often expresses that sentiment: “Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Ps. 27:9).
The problem with the bride, however, is that she had not given herself diligently to hold onto the bridegroom while he was with her. The bridegroom slipped away while she slumbered.
That’s true of the church as well. The spiritual slumber of sin affects our fellowship with God. David experienced that when he had sin that he did not confess: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). Isaiah expresses the same idea, that sin separates: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Is. 59:2). As long as we live, sin will keep us from enjoying the fullness of fellowship with God that we desire. Part of that sin is our lack of diligence in seeking after Him.
Like the bride of Solomon, we fall into spiritual slumber. Perhaps we do not prepare ourselves to worship God. Or we might not read and meditate upon God’s Word and pray to God during the week. That spiritual slumber may also include a seeking after the things of this earth rather than the things above.
And yet, all is not lost.
Although the bride had slumbered and slept, and the bridegroom now seems far away, she must nevertheless know that the bridegroom has not left her permanently. After all, it was the bridegroom who had first drawn her to himself (cf. Song 1:4). That is how she came to love him.
Although we do not embrace Jesus Christ with the zeal we ought to have, He will not withdraw Himself completely from us. He initially drew us to Himself. He loved us with such a great love that He died for us. We love and delight in Him exactly because He first loved us (I John 4:19). And nothing shall separate us from His love (cf. Rom. 8:39). Surely, then, His absence will not continue indefinitely.
But Christ would have us seek after Him. It is true that this seeking is ultimately His own work in us. But still the Holy Spirit tells us, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). The more precious He is to us, the more we will seek after Him.
Do we seek Him?
When the bride did not find her bridegroom in the bed, she did not give up. She might have decided to wait until he came back. She might have said, “What’s the use? I’ll just have to wait for him to return when he wants.” Or she might have thrown up her hands in despair, saying, “I don’t deserve his presence anyway.” But, rather than resigning herself to being apart from the bridegroom, the bride rises up from her bed immediately, facing the cold and dangerous night, to search diligently for him in the city.
When we as children of God do not sense the presence of Christ in our lives, we might resign ourselves to thinking, “He will make His presence known whenever He wants; I cannot change that.” Or we might consider that we don’t deserve His presence anyway. But a proper response is to search after Him. Do we devote ourselves to searching after God when we do not sense His presence? Surely a child of God will not be content without fellowship with Christ.
Although it may seem harsh, one reason why God afflicts His people is that His absence may lead them to yearn more for Him. God wants them to seek after Him, as the bride seeks for her bridegroom. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Is. 55:6).
The bride sought for her bridegroom. Are we seeking after Christ?
Notice that she sought for him in the city. She says, “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not” (Song 3:2). She searched high and low in the plazas and streets of the city, that is, in the place where God’s people dwell. She looked in Jerusalem, the holy city, whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord (cf. Ps. 122:4).
That is where we ought to search for the bridegroom, Jesus Christ: in the church. Strange, then, when some feel God’s presence the least, when they are at their lowest, when they most need God’s grace, that it is then that they are tempted to stay away from the means of grace in the church.
But fellowship with Christ will be found within the fellowship of God’s people in the church. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3). The means by which we are brought into greater fellowship with the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, is the preaching of God’s Word and the ordinances in the church. It was thus in the Old Testament too. When the people sought the Lord, they went to the place of worship, the tabernacle of the congregation (cf. Ex. 33:7).
Is it our joy and delight to seek Christ in the church, the city of God?
In her earnest and diligent seeking, the bride found her bridegroom.
Not only did she have to rouse herself from her comfortable bed; she also had to contend with the dangers of the night. In her searching, she encountered the unfriendly watchmen (cf. Song 3:3). These same watchmen were the ones who smote and wounded the bride (cf. Song 5:7). In spite of the difficulties, she kept on searching.
Finally she finds him! “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me” (Song 3:4). All that mattered to her was to be with him whom her soul loved.
Notice that when she found him, she would not let him go. She desired sweet communion with Him. And, in that connection, she wanted nothing to disturb them from their communion: “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please” (Song 3:5).
We as the church of Jesus Christ seek after Him whom our souls love. Nothing should matter more to us than to draw near to Him. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it well when it asks, “What is the chief end of man?” and then answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Is that our desire? Do we want to glorify our God and enjoy fellowship with Him forever?
When we diligently seek after Christ, we will certainly find Him. Not that our seeking earns Christ’s presence in any way. Nevertheless, we will find Him in the way of seeking.
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). But even our diligent seeking is the result of His grace working in our hearts. Our yearning for the bridegroom is evidence that He Himself is drawing us. And He is drawing us because we have been chosen by the Father and given to Christ: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Our yearning will be satisfied as God crowns His gifts with grace.
Are we yearning after Christ?