Category Archives: Bible Commentary

Rise Up, My Love (256): Afraid of Being Despised

Song of Solomon 8:1 What keeps the bride from immediately acting on her inspiration in this verse? Fear of being despised by others. How true the proverb: “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” Her lament is the core thought as the bride begins to paint this last poetic picture, and it should cause us to pause for serious introspection.

What keeps us from public displays of affection for our Lord? What keeps us from coming away with him during the day for a time of communion? Is it the fear of public ridicule? Are we afraid of being despised? Immediately verses begin to swirl through my brain, such as those prophetically spoken of Jesus: Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected of men… he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” and Psalm 22:6, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”

Jesus was clearly despised by those who rejected him. But…what about the New Testament admonitions such as 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity,” and Titus 2:15: “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

Those two lines of thought seem incongruous. What exactly does it mean to be despised? Is it something to be avoided, or is it something that we will inevitably suffer for the Lord’s sake? If Jesus, perfect as he was, was despised, how shall we escape such degradation? According to the dictionary, to despise something is to regard it as “unworthy of interest or concern” or worse yet, to regard it with “utter contempt (1)”. Our Lord was regarded as something unworthy of interest by those who rejected him. How often we find that true among unbelievers today!

How often I’ve tried to share Christ with those I love, and their response is often something like this, “I’m too busy. I don’t feel a need. There are too many other things going on in my life right now! Who cares?” Wow! I believe it is against this calloused indifference that our Lord admonished us to be examples of true faith and to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). Don’t let people ignore their need! Speak. Tell them. If they refuse to listen, then exhort them: “urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal (2).”  If they still refuse to acknowledge their need of the Savior, then rebuke them: “criticize or reprove sharply; reprimand (3).” Point out to them their sins “with all authority”…based on the authority of the Word of God!

So, in the final analysis, it looks like the bride is afraid of being despised but should not be. King Solomon wrote in his proverbs that “the fear of man bringeth a snare,” but “whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Perhaps he taught these very lessons to his wife long before they were recorded for posterity, because—happily—as the next three verses unfold, we see that the bride overcomes her fears in order to bring her husband into communion. And, for us as believers today, we should take heart, not fearing the ridicule of man, but rather pursuing our Lord…morning, noon, and night!

(1) The American Heritage Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992, 507.
(2) Ibid, 642.
(3) Ibid, 1507.

Rise Up, My Love (255): Holy Fire

Song of Solomon 8:1 “O that thou wert as my brother…” Although Solomon has used the term of intimate endearment, “my sister my spouse” four times in the Song, this is the first and only time that his wife uses the word “brother,” and then…she doesn’t really call him brother, she simply expresses the desire to be as affectionate with him in public as one can be with a true biological brother.

The  complete phrase (which I’m going to ask you to look up lest it sound inappropriate for anyone who reads on Face Book) implies a full, rather than only a half brother, since multiple wives but not multiple husbands sometimes occurred during that period. This is a significant differentiation since we know from the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Amnon and Tamar, etc. that half brothers and sisters could and sometimes did marry in ancient times, and therefore—apparently—public affection was socially uncensured only between true biological offspring of the same couple.

I was surprised to find that there is precious little commentary from anyone on this verse. Is it because we—as products of modern western culture—find it hard to understand what she’s feeling? From the remainder of the section (verses 1-4), it seems clear that her desire is not simply to be able to give him a sisterly greeting in public places, it is the desire to be able to draw him away from the public concourses into the privacy of home and initiate intimate communion without incurring public ridicule.

A biological sister could greet her brother affectionately in the market place and take him home to their mother’s house without arousing any suspicion or derision because it would be assumed that she had come on a legitimate business errand. But, this bride was on a romantic errand instead!

Why did she experience such a passion for intimacy during the day, and was the fear of being despised good or bad? As a wife, I can think of times when I’ve daydreamed about “kidnapping” my husband to carry him off for a romantic interlude. There are two common motivations, one selfish and one unselfish.

On the selfish side, such fantasies are often the result of feeling overwhelmed by present responsibilities or burdened by present griefs and trials. There is something almost irresistibly appealing about the thought of escaping to “somewhere” away from the fray with “someone” who loves you and will make you forget your worries. Haven’t you felt that sometimes too?

Although there are proper places and times for coming apart for refreshment (as modeled by our Lord Jesus, who would go apart with his Father and pray), I suspect the Lord doesn’t intend them nearly as often as we imagine! On the unselfish side, the ardent desire to be in communion with the one who is the object of our affection is ever a good thing, and although the pressures and responsibilities of the day often keep us apart for long periods of time, the eagerness of our hearts for reunion is simply an indication of the depths of our love.

Since the text gives no indication that outside pressures are distressing the bride, it seems reasonable to assume that her passion for union is driven simply by the intensity of her love. I wonder, do we share a similar unselfish passion for communion with our Savior…just to be with him not because we need something but because we want him? What about in our marriages? Do we long to be with our mates—not to get something from him or her such as help, reassurance, or sexual release, but “just because”…just because we love being together?

Dear God, please give us a passion for communion with our mate and with our Savior! Please grant us a passion for Christ like the passion we feel for physical union! Please develop in us a hunger and thirst for Christ that’s even greater than our drive for food and water! May we burn brightly with your holy fire.   PS—It didn’t occur to me 15+ years ago when I first studied this verse, but I think a very high percentage of adulterous relationships develop when people feel overwhelmed by life and work stresses but fail to go to God and their mate for help. As mates, we really need to be available to listen and soothe one another. If we’re always busy complaining and adding to our mate’s stress level, then pretty soon our mate will be tempted to go somewhere where they can feel less pressured, not more. However, that’s absolutely WRONG! If spending time with your mate makes you feel more stressed, tell your mate! Work together to find times when you can declare a “no stress zone,” and have times when you concentrate on bonding and having fun together instead of always grinding through issues and problems. The problems ye have with you always!

Rise Up, My Love (254): What Are Some New and Old Fruits We Can Give?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “…and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.” The term translated “pleasant fruits” in the KJV is the Hebrew word meged which means “costly” or “precious,” and the idea of fruit is interpolated, since it is not in the original text. (So, do you suppose it was really sushi? Just kidding!) Sapan is the Hebrew term translated “laid up” and means “to hide or to conceal.”*

Since the phrase “pleasant fruits” used in 4:16 is most often thought to be alluding metaphorically to marital bliss, most commentators interpret these costly delicacies—so carefully hidden away by the bride for her husband—to be the offerings of her own personal affections. As a wife, I can easily imagine that a husband would prize the offerings of love more highly than gifts of fresh and dried fruits, but—whether taken figuratively or literally—the invitation is a triple delight!  🙂

First, Solomon’s wife offers all types of that which is pleasantly appealing. Second, she offers both old and new delights. And third, she offers fruits which she has lovingly stored away just for him. “All manner of pleasant fruits…” All—every—not just some or a few favorite, but some of each of those that delight. Nothing held back; nothing excused; nothing missing. Oh, that our hearts might produce and store up for our beloved all the fruits that will delight him!  “New and old…” Here is a woman who knows what her husband loves but who continues to be freshly creative in finding new ways of pleasing him. Based on her experience of what he has loved in the past, she prepares for him a wealth of his “old favorites,” but that isn’t enough to satisfy her! She has experimented with new fruits that she believes will delight him also. Isn’t that the true nature of love? It is ever constant, yet constantly expanding…ever soothing by its familiarity, yet ever fresh and refreshing.

And spiritually, what could the new and old fruits be? Well, it has been said that “love is the golden thread that binds all together,” so surely it is a new fruit as well as an old fruit. Love is the first fruit, and the last fruit. It is the first work, and without it, any other work becomes “tinkling brass” without meaning or “a sounding gong” without melody. The bride has certainly demonstrated love in her plans and preparations.

What else? New fruits…old fruits. If I were thinking literally about my household, I would say that new fruits are mangoes and kiwis and old fruits are dates and raisins. Do you think that’s what the Bible is talking about? Let’s think beyond the literal story to its possible allegorical, spiritual meaning. New fruits…new efforts, new converts brought to Christ, new zeal and deepening commitment, fresh understanding about who he is and what his Word means, new enthusiasm to serve him, new appreciation for all his blessings and protections, new awareness of how much his presence means to us, a new sense of reverence for the majesty of his person, which rises in us like a great tidal wave sweeping over our souls.

Ah, how he longs for us to go on in our faith, learning new things about him and recognizing the new mercies that he lavishes on us morning by morning! How he wants us to conquer new territory, praying with Jabez: “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain” (1 Chronicles 6:10, NIV). New surrender, new courage, new hope, new strength, new confidence, new endurance. How our Lord longs for us to prepare such gifts for him!

And, what about old fruits? What might they be? Old honors and successes…not clinging to them in pride, but instead recognizing that it is not we ourselves but rather Jesus who does all things well and works through us to perform his good pleasure… looking ever forward to Christ alone as the goal and prize for which we strive. Old forgiveness…taking the sins that he’s forgiven and casting them behind our backs forever, refusing to ever speak or even think of them again…not only the sins that we’ve committed but the sins that others have committed against us.   Old saints, ripening for heaven, and old parents (whether saved or unsaved) who brought us up…do we truly give them the place of reverential honor that they deserve? Or, do we tend to blame them for our failures and despise their ever-increasing frailty and need for help? Wow. I believe God wants us to honor our earthly fathers and mothers as a reflection of the honor we feel for our heavenly Father. That’s a big one, but that is certainly an “old fruit” that we could store up to please our Lord!  Not only is it the cup of cold water given to a child in his name that pleases our Lord, it is the cup of kindness poured out to the elderly…that extra sacrificial time we take to bring them into our homes, to read to them, to talk to them, to pray with them, to bring them into our confidence. I had two very aged and needy parents when I wrote this (years ago now), and there was nothing that meant more to my father than just having me sit at his bedside, hold his hand, and spend some time with him. If we try to minister to our parents with the same tender love with which we’d attend Christ…that is a gift for him!

Indeed, in all of life, may the good that is produced in and through us be “laid up” all for Jesus, and for him alone.

“Thou God and I, none other:
Oh far from men to be!
Nay, midst the crowd and tumult,
Still Lord alone with Thee.
Still folded close upon Thy breast,
In field and mart and street.
Untroubled in that perfect rest,
That isolation sweet.”
(—L.M. McPhee, in The Romance of the Ages)

* Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.

Rise Up, My Love (253): Ever Wondered What Mandrakes Are?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “The mandrakes give a smell.” What in the world are mandrakes? They are only mentioned six times in Scripture: once in this verse and five times in Genesis 30:14-16, where Rachel bargains with her sister Leah, exchanging the privilege of sleeping with their husband Jacob for the mandrakes that Leah’s son Reuben found in the field. Why all the fuss about mandrakes, and what are they?

For a starter, it’s inconceivable to me that a woman would exchange a night of physical intimacy with her husband for anything! I believe God intended marital expression to be sacred and beyond price, as intimated in chapter 8: “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned.” How would you feel if your spouse “hired” you out for a bunch of whatevers?

That preposterous and degrading deal aside (an insight into the petty selfishness of our human nature, since we’ve all fallen prey to the temptation to exchange our souls for some trite pleasure from time to time…), let’s go back to the use of the term “mandrake” in Solomon’s song. The word translated “mandrake” is the Hebrew duda’im. It is consistently translated as “love apple” in the The Interlinear Bible and as something which induces love in Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew and English Lexicon (1).

In the final analysis, no one knows for sure what these “love apples” were, but the top two choices for “preferred guess” are either what we commonly call “may apples” today, or the Mandragora. May apples are common throughout temperate regions. In fact, we have colonies of them in our woods. In the spring each plant sprouts into a leafy one-foot umbrella with a single white blossom sheltered underneath, which becomes a yellowish, edible fruit about the size of a nutmeg in late May or June. The flowers have a very mild but pleasing scent, although the children and I have never found it perceptible from the path…only by studied trial. Also, may apples are edible but not especially flavorful, certainly nothing exotic or gourmet like the morel mushrooms that also sprout up in our woods about that time! It’s inconceivable to me that Rachel would have found anything in May apples compellingly attractive enough to tempt her to sell her husband’s affection!

On the other hand, the genus Mandragora has six species still common to the Mediterranean region which were used in antiquity as addictive aphrodisiacs. The Mandragora is a poisonous, perennial member of the potato family (Solanceae) (2).  It has tuberous roots that look almost like clusters of large grapes, and according to the World Book Encyclopedia(3) , these roots were often used as “narcotics, anesthetics, and in so-called love potions.” It is said that these mandrakes had a “very distinct and agreeable odor” and that “among the Arabs it was called both ‘the servant of love’ and the ruffah eshaitain or ‘Satan’s apples’ (4).”

It is conceivable to me that such a potent and powerfully addictive plant could arouse the passionate demands demonstrated in Rachel. In the Song of Solomon, there is no hint of evil or inordinate passion. The verse only mentions, “The mandrakes give a smell,” and perhaps the proper interpretive amplification of this comment might be, “It is the time for sharing love. Can’t you tell? Even the air is filled with the scent of love!” This is a good thing, and love should be everywhere about us. That is the bright and positive side of a good relationship.

On the dark side, perhaps this verse should cause us to reflect for a minute on our desires. Is there anything in our life that drives us…that controls our behavior…or is threatening to do so? Is there anything so powerful in our lives that we would choose to pursue it over pursuing time with our Lord and our spouse? Any person, any pass time, any passion? I find myself from time to time feeling the heavy hand of temptation luring me toward some lust. It can be something as simple but almost universal as the temptation to overeat. It can be the subtle pleasure of spending money on myself for something I want but don’t need. It can be the idle enjoyment of a wasted hour when there was much work to be done. It can be the deadly draw toward fascination with any man who is not my husband. The world, my flesh, and the devil conspire to surround me with temptations and lusts that are as powerfully addictive and attractive as the ancient mandrakes.

I wonder, are we being tempted by any mandrakes in our lives today? Don’t be driven to trade your spouse’s affection for a handful of “mandrakes,” whatever they are. What attractive scent is arousing passion in you? Food? Money? Leisure? Sex? Don’t trade your soul or your spouse’s love for a pot of poisonous (but narcotic) pottage! If there is good, find it, and let it arouse right desires. Eating is good; just don’t overeat. Money is good; just don’t overindulge. Leisure is good; just use it to restore rather than debilitate. Sex is good; just make sure that it’s with your mate! When the scent of mandrakes in your life is arousing you, learn to say, “Rise up, my love, and come away with me! Let me give you my love, and all the good things I’ve prepared for you!” Live for your Lord, and if you’re married, live joyfully with your spouse. (1) Brown, Francis, D.D., D. Litt. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997, 188 (cf. pg. 188,“love-producing…as exciting sexual desire”).
(2) The Encyclopedia Americana.  Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Inc., 1995, 227.
(3) The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book—Childcraft International, Inc., 1980, 103.
(4) Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.
(Photos from Wikipedia)

Rise Up, My Love (252): Add Some Dazzle to Your Calendar

Song of Solomon 7:12, “There will I give thee my loves.” Let’s take a few minutes to think about one of the best things a wife can do for her husband in a very practical way to show her love for him. It’s the concept of planning “mini honeymoons,” and it’s been one of the most transforming discoveries of my marriage…drawn from the inspiring example of Solomon’s wife. So, what’s a mini honeymoon, and how does it work?

A mini honeymoon is a time set apart for the wife to whisk her husband away from his normal responsibilities so she can focus on loving him. It can be as short as a twenty-four hour period or as long as a long weekend, depending on what will maximize your husband’s pleasure without causing him undo stress over time or financial concerns. The first and most important aspect of the mini honeymoon is the wife’s attitude. She needs to be committed to doing this not for her own pleasure, but for her husband’s, as her gift to him, thinking of what will best meet his needs and delight his heart.

It is a time apart for the husband to “taste and see” that his wife is good…for them to reconnect and bond…for the husband to enjoy his wife—body, soul, and spirit—and to receive love from her. “There will I give thee my loves.” So, there’s nothing in it for the wives? Oh, yes, there certainly is, although I hope that’s not our motive or focus. As wives, we will be richly rewarded over time by the revitalization of our marriage. I have found (and believe it will also be true for you) a new energy and loyalty in my spouse when I consciously take steps to “give him her [my] loves.”   And, the wife can usually begin by picking the special place for the honeymoon retreat, because the good news is that (at least this is true in my marriage, so hopefully it will be true in yours as well) a husband will go happily most anywhere to spend the night with the woman he loves. (You may have to surprise him or talk him into it the first time, but he’ll probably be asking, “When can we do this again??” before you return if it turns out well, because everyone loves being loved!)

So, to start with, pick any lovely place (relatively close to home) where the scenery is refreshing and the dinner will be romantic…some place that will make you both feel relaxed and open…some place where there’s nothing to make your husband think about other people or work-related pressures, and some place that makes you breathe in deeply and sigh with delight. Have you got such a place in mind? If so, start saving up to pay for it. If not, start asking around for suggestions.

My husband doesn’t usually like us to have to drive more than an hour or two; yours may not care, but try to be sensitive to the amount of time transportation will take. You need to be far enough away from home so that you feel “away,” but close enough so that the travel doesn’t rob you of too much time or make the driver tense. Once you’ve picked your place, find a free time in your husband’s schedule. I have often had to consult with a boss or secretary on this one, but I’ve been amazed at how willing people usually are to help out if given enough lead time.

For surprise getaways, I’ve found coworkers more than happy to help, even taking delight in making the schedule look especially difficult for the time when your dear husband is really going to be “sprung” from duty. (That is never my idea…but often theirs!) Once you have the place and the time, start preparing for the occasion. Notice how Solomon’s wife invited him to be a “fruit inspector.”

This will require a big commitment from you, because your husband will be checking out your fruitfulness! Are you bearing the fruits of love in your life? Are your thoughts in order concerning your husband? If he should “taste and see” the thoughts in your mind, will they be like the refreshing bursts of sweetness found in a pomegranate? How about the discipline of getting back into physical shape (preaching to myself on this one particularly!)? If you want him to be crazy about you the way he was when you were first married…how about trying to look something like you did back then? (I didn’t say we can really look like we did twenty or forty years ago…but we can at least try to look pretty by eating wisely, exercising properly, and dressing neatly.)

Is this too scary? Does it sound too hard? Impossible? If money is the biggest issue, find a friend who will watch your kids for a night and just creatively dress up your house. You could make funny little signs with crayons on sheets of white paper. That doesn’t cost much. Remember, it’s not about money; it’s about loving your mate! Or, perhaps you are saying to yourself, “I haven’t got a chance! I’ve gotten fat, and I feel ugly. All my thoughts are unhappy thoughts and I don’t even feel like I love my husband. In fact, why should I want to do anything for him? He’s a jerk.”

Well, if you’re reading this devotional commentary, you must have—at the very least—either some deep love for the Lord or your husband. If love for your husband is lacking, always remember that the burning core of our lives and motivation is our passion for the Lord. Start by doing what you do for the Lord’s sake. He instructs us to love others with a pure and fervent heart (I Peter 1:22)…and that includes loving our husband! This is a way of loving our husband, even if he seems totally unlovable.

Take the burden on your own shoulders of learning how to love. Do everything as if he were the most wonderful man in the world…as if he were Christ. What would you do for Jesus? Love your husband in that way. Prepare for your honeymoon with that much prayerful ingenuity. Take a few props…some pleasant-smelling lotion for a good massage, some bubbles for the bath tub, an appealing new nightgown (okay, so maybe new lounge pants and tee shirt if you’re a Millennial)…whatever you think would make him feel especially loved and desired.

Make a very conscious attempt to “dazzle” and “fascinate” your mate! (By the way, the husband can do all these same things for his wife; remember, at the beginning of the Song, it was the husband doing all the wooing. Wives will forever love being wooed!) Well, maybe you’re an old hand at mini vacations, but if not, I hope I’ve offered enough suggestions to get your mind turning. Let your own creativity and what you know of your husband’s tastes spark your imagination as you prayerfully plan a mini-honeymoon to live out this verse: “There will I give thee my loves.”

Rise Up, My Love (251): Pomegranate-colored Glasses

“Let us see…whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranates bud forth” (Song of Songs 7:12). In this verse, the bride is urging her husband to come and see how things are going, but really, she already knows! We can tell this because in the next verse she describes what they will find, even revealing that she has already stored up some special treats to give him. So…why is she entreating him to come out with her? I think she is asking her husband to come out and “check up” because she is prepared and eager to prove her love for him. She wants to surprise him with what she’s done to please him. Frankly, it sounds like she’s planned a “mini honeymoon trip!”

Let’s discuss first the most important, spiritual ramifications, but then afterward let’s consider a practical way of living out this concept as an expression of wives loving their husbands today. What are the fruits which the bride entreats her husband to inspect?   “Let us see…whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranates bud forth.” The fruit of the vine we’ve already discussed at length in this book. This is the fruit that develops in our lives and character as we abide in his Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control…fruit which enables us to have the meek and quiet spirit necessary to properly nurture new spiritual babes that are birthed into this world.

The Lord assured us: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth much fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16). It is our privilege and delight as believers to abide in the Vine and experience the abundant life that he has planned for us…a life of fruitfulness, contentment, and blessing…a life of becoming like Christ and bringing others to Christ…a life of asking for and receiving fruit that will remain through all eternity.

And what of the budding pomegranates? As we’ve discovered from earlier research, the pomegranate was considered the choicest of fruit, and meditative commentators suggest that the succulence hidden in the labyrinth of ruby red fruits is like minds filled with orderly rows of precious truths about Christ. Whatever else the Lord may have in mind…certainly if our lives are overflowing with fruit and our minds are filled with Christ—what could be any more a delight to the heart of God?

Think about the individual seed cells in a pomegranate. Each seed is enveloped in a crystal clear, ruby red liquid bursting with sweetness. If we could see all of life through such a filter (if thoughts of the crystal-pure, blood-red love of Christ could so filter our vision)…well, that would be seeing life through rose-colored glasses, now wouldn’t it? This, I believe with all my heart, is precisely what the Lord desires for us.

As Madame Guyon said while languishing in a French prison for writing a spiritual commentary of The Song of Solomon some four hundred years ago, the stones in her prison walls seemed like precious jewels, so sweet was her fellowship with Christ! Now there was a woman who saw life through the rose-colored glasses of Christ’s love…whose mind was like a pomegranate…who truly lived out what she learned from her meditations. What an inspiration and example for the rest of us! So, the bride urges her husband to come and inspect the progress of springtime renewal in his land…and Spirit-time renaissance in his wife. “There will I give thee my loves.” There will I give you all that I’ve prepared for you, and thereby you will know just how indescribably precious you have become to me. Ah, Lord God, may our lives be so with you today!

 

Rise Up, My Love (249): Rescue

Song of Solomon 7:12 Perhaps you’ve heard about the man who dreamed he saw a beautiful grassy field full of flowers where men and women and children were all playing and laughing. It was a perfect summer day, full of sunshine and warmth. Some of the men were playing ball with their sons, and the women and their daughters were sitting in circles here and there on the grass making daisy chains to wear in their hair. It reminded the man of the wonderful fellowship that Christians enjoy together, and he felt a warm glow inside him.

But suddenly, it was as if he were lifted up into the air so that he could gain a greater perspective. He realized that not 200 feet away from the group, just over the top of a grassy knoll and down into a little valley, there was a deadly precipice, and that a huge number of filthy, wretched people, dressed in rags and blindfolded, were stumbling about, moving in the general direction of the cliff. Every second or two one of these poor souls would fall over the edge and let out a bloodcurdling scream, which made the other blind people freeze in their places for a few seconds.

However, the terrible crying seemed to have no perceptible effect on the happy families who were enjoying each other’s company just over the hill, even though sobbing could be clearly heard. Sometimes one of the blind people would stumble and fall and knock another blind person over the cliff, or, as they began to fall, they would clutch at someone nearby and drag that person over the edge too, all the while crying out for help.

Finally, there was an especially agonizing cry, and one teenager did respond. He was playing ball with his father and two friends, and it was his turn to bat, but he dropped his bat and went racing over the top of the grassy knoll to see what was going on. He was horrified at the amazing sight of the seemingly numberless throngs of people cascading over the edge of the cliff with a roar as loud as the thundering of Niagara Falls. He tried to stop the terrible tragedy, but the edge of the cliff was so vast, and the number of people was so great, that he couldn’t begin to rescue everyone alone.

In desperation he cried out to his friends to come and help him. His father and the two boys came to the top of the knoll and looked down, but they just stared with a sense of helpless disbelief and didn’t even try to come. “Help me!” cried the boy again. “No!” called one, “It’s hopeless. Why even try?” “No!” replied another. “It must be their own faults; leave them alone.” “Come back,” cried his father. “You’ll never succeed, and you’ll just get yourself killed trying to help.”

Do you feel the stab of pain that pierced that young man’s heart? Where is compassion? Where is love? Are we all so self-centered that we can’t be bothered to go into our Father’s vineyard and help to reap the harvest of lost and dying souls who are crying out in their blindness and fright? Isn’t it worth giving our lives to save some? Isn’t that what Jesus did? Isn’t our willingness to suffer for the sake of the gospel a measure of our love and devotion to Christ?

Ah, beloved, the wife was responding to the need. Let us be like the faithful wife and enjoin our heavenly Savior to “let us get up early to the vineyards.”

“…pain is quiet, and love.
And even childbirth pains
Are soundless in themselves
So came our Lord,
Amid the pain, the ache, the dirt, the hate,
To tell of love.
And as He lived in love, giving it,
Knew the pain as well.” —Ellen Weldon in Essays on Love