Rise Up, My Love (207): Searching in the Garden

beatrix-potters-home-hill-top-lake-district-englandSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden to see…” The first thing that strikes me about her plan is that she is not taking responsibility for making any of these things happen; she is simply checking to see if they are happening. As believers, we cannot force springtime in the souls of men; we cannot make fruit; we can only attend the fruit as it develops.   apple-blossomsThis is of utmost importance as we begin seeking to work in our Lord’s vineyard. How often Christians, in their enthusiasm to serve Christ, begin recklessly trying to force the manufacture of fruit by their own efforts. We can’t make believers any more than the bride could have made the pomegranates bud. We must understand that God is the husbandman, and the Holy Spirit is the one who imparts life and growth.   applesOne of the most striking lessons I learned as a new Christian (and many times since) was my own helplessness to produce spiritual fruit in my life. My pastor used to say that too many young Christians, like clumsy little children, try to color paper fruits, cut them out, and paste them on in an unsuccessful attempt to hide their spiritual immaturity and barrenness. These are the babes in Christ who want to appear as strong warriors for the sake of impressing others, or worse yet, these are sometimes the hypocrites who smile on the outside while spitting on the inside…insincere people with no true hunger for God, just a desire to curry man’s favor. Better to wait humbly for the true budding of the vine that results from feeding on the Bible. Trying to look spiritual for pride’s sake never works!   gathering-fruitHowever, God does promise that he will give grace to the humble (James 4:6) and that He will fill those who sincerely hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). This is not to say that we are not responsible for preparing the soil of our hearts, watering it with his word, planting the seeds of truth within our hearts, and vigorously pulling out the weeds of sin as they appear. Yes, we have many responsibilities, and as St. Augustine said: “Strive manfully; habit is overcome by habit.”   apple-tree-loaded-with-apples-in-fallWe are indeed accountable to God for our behavior, but spiritual fruit is something different. Let’s consider again for a minute the fruits of the Spirit that we studied in detail earlier (Galatians 5:22-23). Spiritual fruit is earmarked by characteristics that are totally the opposite of the natural inclinations of the flesh…attitudes of true love, joy, peace, patience, faith, humility, self-control, gentleness, and goodness.   ripe-apples-on-tree-after-rainWe are accountable to God for doing the right things, and by acts of our will, we can do the right things, but how often we wrestle with our hearts! It is only God who can purify our hearts and make our attitudes right! We may water and tearfully sow, but it is God who gives the increase (I Corinthians 3:6-9).   child-picking-raspberries“I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” Strengthened and inspired by the communion and praise of her husband, the bride—for the first time—takes the initiative…not in seeking her beloved, but in seeking fruit from their orchards.   picking-applesPreviously, the bridegroom called his beloved out to “rise up and come away.” He had entreated her to come with him in seeking fruit, but now—a full circle of seasons later—the bride chooses on her own to seek fruit. It is again springtime, but this time her love is mature. She is not just a tender, flowering tree but a fruitful tree. Just as the fragrant apple tree produces no fruit for the first years after it’s planted, so the bride had no fruit until she matured. Now she is mature. She is no longer a tender-eyed bride that must be coaxed along; she is a blazing tower of strength and purpose, “terrible as an army with banners.” And so, she chooses to do something to please her Lord.

This is a profound contrast to the last series of choices she made. Think back to chapter five. What does she say of herself there? “I sleep; I have put off my coat; I have washed my feet…” and finally, after tarrying until it was too late: “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone.” And then, the terrible search, “I sought him; I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” From this attitude of lethargy and self-centeredness …through the life-or-death struggle that ensued, the bride emerged as gold tried by the fire, refined and proclaiming: “The Lord is my God.” (Zechariah 13:9).” This seasoned, tempered vessel was the one who now says, “I went down into the garden of nuts.”

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