Rise Up, My Love (300): Feasting on the Bread of Heaven

Song of Solomon 8:14 Well, last week’s meditation was quite an aside. I hope you didn’t mind. Let’s go back to our last verse and savor just two words: “My beloved.” First, Jesus is ours: He belongs to us. Second, Jesus is our beloved: He is the one with whom we are entwined forever in a love relationship. “My beloved.” He is mine. He is yours! He belongs to each of us uniquely and individually, and we all belong to him and to each other in the universe’s grandest and most glorious, mysterious corporation…a corporation which offers incredible benefits, perfect job security, dividends “above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), and a pension plan that will provide for us through all eternity. How do you like that for a package? “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (Psalm 68:19).

Why is he beloved? To begin with, “We love him because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). He’s beloved because he loves us. Also, we love him because we know that his love will last forever. Nothing ever “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39). Other loves of this world come and go. Some passions seem intense but fade to nothing, and even the greatest loves of earth are at times fickle and frail. Not so the love of God! “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  We love him because the expression of his love through his mercies is fresh and new each morning. Look at Exodus 6:7, “In the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord.” Do you know what the children of Israel saw? They saw manna…the perfect bread sent down fresh from God’s kitchen. Did you know that “manna” means “What is it?” In John 6:51 Jesus explained what it is, and what he is: ”I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” Jesus is our manna…our living Bread and our living Word (Matthew 4:4).  He is our Morning Glory…the one who satisfies us early. (As a flower lover, the idea of him being my Morning Glory is my own “pet” name with a double meaning, but isn’t it a sweet thought?) Are you feasting on the warm, fresh, inviting, living Word and being filled afresh with his glory morning by morning? The children of Israel got to the point where they complained bitterly about having to eat manna in the wilderness. “Our soul loatheth this light bread” (Numbers 21:5). They grew tired of perfection. Have you?

I’ve had children who struggled with continuing the practice of a daily morning devotional time because it became “routine and boring.” I beg you, never quit!! Forty years ago my Sunday school teacher used to encourage me as a high schooler with her own view on the Scripture. “Feeding on the Bible is like taking medicine when you’re you’re young. It’s like eating shredded wheat when you’re mature. But, it’s like savoring peaches and cream when you get old.” I think I’ve gotten old…how about you? May he ever be our Morning Glory, and may our waking thoughts each day be to praise him for the glorious beauty of his love and holiness!

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
(—William Williams, 1745)

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
[or Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer…]
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.

Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold:
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
Sin, and Satan and the grave,
Sin, and Satan and the grave.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
Lord, I long to be with Thee!

P.S.—Although this is an ancient song, I noticed that it was sung in Eng­lish at the fun­er­al of Di­a­na, Prin­cess of Wales, in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, Sep­tem­ber 6, 1997. So, both the song, and the Bread of Heaven about whom the song was written, continue to feed our souls. Truly, feeding on the Word of God provides eternal nourishment, because Jesus is the Bread of Life sent down from heaven (John 6:48), and in him is life eternal (John 17:2-3)!

Rise Up, My Love (299): The Secret That Is No Secret

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart…” We are almost to the end of our meditation on The Song of Solomon, and I find myself hanging on every word, almost as if I can’t bear to finish such a delightful study! It’s like having to say goodbye after a perfectly wonderful evening that you don’t want it ever to end. Do you remember one or two such heavenly occasions?  My husband and I tend to relish the last hours of every Sunday night, often going to sleep a little later than is probably ideal simply because we’ve taken such joy in being together all weekend, and we know that when we wake up he’ll be off to work and I’ll be home to work…wonderful occupations, but apart.

Won’t it be grand when there are no more partings? When we are all forever “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” in some mysterious but perfect union with God? So, I linger over the last words in the Song of Solomon, clinging to each thought, anxious lest I lose the precious closeness that I’ve felt to the Lord while meditating so deeply on his Word for these past ten years. I think I’ve learned the secret of how to have a happy life, though. It’s the secret of loving the Lord with all my being…heart, soul, mind, and strength…and then experiencing love for others constrained by our love for him.  Sound familiar? It’s the secret that is no secret! How do we develop such passion for the Lord? By spending time with him through meditating on his Word. This does not mean simply reading it (which does have its own benefits…but more in gaining head knowledge than heart transformation). Meditation requires cogitation, like a cow chewing on her cud, where we dig into the meaning of each word and phrase, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and apply the truths to our lives in a life-changing way.  How true the promise of Joshua 1:8 is! “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” When you’ve finished this study, if you aren’t already engaged in your own “green pasture” of meditation, won’t you consider asking the Lord to lead you to a study of your own on some portion of Scripture?  When I began studying The Song of Solomon, it didn’t occur to me that I might want to continue such extensive meditation somewhere else in the Scripture, but having experienced its sweet fruit, now I know that I can’t live without it! How true is the invitation: “O, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8). By God’s grace, I trust that the Lord will let me lie down in some other green pasture, at least for a little while each morning.

However, it’s not about what the Lord does for “John”…what will he do with “Peter”? Won’t you ask him to lead you into his Word for an in-depth study of your own? All it takes is a Bible. Or, if you have the resources, it helps to have a pen and paper, or a journal or computer, and a commentary or two borrowed from your church or local library…or even requested as a Christmas present. My commentaries came from many sources: my pastor, an eighty-year-old saint from my church family, finds from local bookstores and libraries, and even one as a gift from a very dear but troubled young Christian sister who knew about my study. The Lord provides. But, truly all we need is a portion of Scripture and a ready spirit to listen to our guide and teacher, the Holy Spirit.

Rise Up, My Love (298): Deep Calling to Deep

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved…” A few weeks ago in Alaska my husband and I watched the pulsing flow of two great V’s of snow geese and heard their urgent cries calling their fellows on as the rose above the clouds and disappeared into heaven. In fall the whole world seems to become restless…waiting, watching…preparing to fly away…where? Can’t you feel the pull in your own heart? “Deep calleth unto deep.” I think it’s the deep, inarticulate longing within the heart of man to escape this sin-cursed earth and fly up into the bliss and rest of heaven.“Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away;
To a land where joys shall never end, I’ll fly away!
I’ll fly away, O glory, I’ll fly away” (Albert E. Brumley).

And, for those of us who love God passionately, it is the longing to be
“Face to face with Christ, my Savior, face to face—what shall it be?
When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me”
(Carrie E. Breck).

“Make haste, my beloved!” When will our Lord return? Do you wonder? I know that “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). But, whenever God the Father gives Jesus leave, our heavenly bridegroom will indeed “make haste!” The swift appearance of our “Bright and Morning Star” (Revelation 2:16) will turn night to day in an instant, surely in a blaze of glory more stunning than the sunrise I enjoyed this morning!   “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:28). “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Revelation 1:7). Christ will come “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:27).  Beloved, our Bright and Morning Star is coming back, and it is my fervent prayer that he comes soon, not only because I want to be with him forever, but also because nothing else can end the pain and suffering all around us! My husband and I recently saw an IMAX film at the science center in Vancouver, B.C. called Forces of Nature dealing with the tremendous activity of natural disasters, including volcanoes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. This magnificent film from the field of science made no mention of the Bible, but I couldn’t help but remember the verse: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:8).

I was filled with awe as the documentary discussed the fault line in the Middle East that is producing a series of earthquakes at an ever-accelerating rate. Could this fault line be related to the splitting of the Mount of Olives that will occur when our Lord returns? “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, with is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4).

Dear Father, we cannot know the day or hour, but we know that Jesus, your son, is coming, and our hearts long for him to “make haste!” “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22) waiting for Christ’s return to set all things right. Help us to “be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7) and to “take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33), so that when Jesus returns we may share the Apostle Paul’s testimony: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

 

Rise Up, My Love (297): Is “Maranatha” The Cry of Your Heart?

Song of Solomon 8:14 “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.” The last request of our beloved is that he may hear our voice. What is our heart cry back to him? Hurry back! Maranatha! Oh Lord, may you come today! Fly to me with the speed with which one might flee from his enemies.

This verse is the poignant closing to Solomon’s song. Interestingly, once the introduction to the book was given, the book both begins and ends with expressions of the bride’s desire for intimacy with her husband. After all the experiences of first love, their marriage, and now mature love, her greatest desire in life is simply to be with him. Not surprisingly, we find this same urgent desire expressed at the end of Revelation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come… Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:17,20).

Oh, isn’t this what we’re longing for…to see his blessed face? To behold him in his beauty and dwell with him forever? If you’ve experienced the joy of marriage, stop a moment and remember the longing with which you anticipated that event! Together always. It was going to be too good to be true! I remember discussing length of engagement with my mother and saying, “It’s like asking, ‘So when do you want to inherit a million dollars?’ As soon as possible, of course!” (My husband was working as a mechanic his father’s garage at the time, so I was not referring to money!)  When will he come? As I’m writing, the clouds in the eastern sky are just beginning to pink up, and our little lake is awash in mottled pinks and blues…very like Aurora’s wedding dress in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. When I walked my husband out to the car and waved goodbye to him just a half hour ago, the stars were still like bright, shiny diamonds on a black velvet dress.  How suddenly and gloriously day broke this crisp fall morning! (Well, today is only the end of July, but it was late October when I wrote this years ago.) The trees are beginning to emerge from the darkness, and they’re crowned with shaggy heads of crimson and gold. A touch of frost is on the grass, and wisps of mist hover here and there across the lake on thin, translucent wings. Yesterday a long, southbound train of ducks pulled in to rest here at “Shadow Lake Station,” but they’re gone now, and all is still save one pair of great blue herons who summer here every year. I just watched them circle and fly away. I don’t know when they’ll leave for their winter home…or maybe that’s what I just witnessed. How true it is that autumn flies on colored wings! Dear Lord, when will we fly away?

When you hear the expression, “Maranatha!” it usually means, “Come, Lord!” I think the words to this Vineyard song written by Brenton Brown and Glenn Robertson expresses it so well:

“All Who Are Thirsty”

“All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Just come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream of life
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of His mercy
As the deep cries out to deep, we sing…

“Come, Lord Jesus come
Come, Lord Jesus come
Come, Lord Jesus come
Come, Lord Jesus come.”

Rise Up, My Love (296): Do You Feel Like God Doesn’t Speak to You?

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Cause me to hear it.” Speak to me! Sing to me! Let me hear your voice. Tell me what’s on your mind and in your heart. Tell me about your fears and worries. How can I help you if I don’t know what’s troubling you? Tell me about your joys and triumphs. Let me rejoice with you. Tell me about your loves and hatreds. I want to understand you. I want you to understand yourself. I want you to understand me. Speak to me. I want to know that you hunger and thirst for me. I am the Bread of Life and the Water of Life. If you open your mouth wide, I will fill it. Cause me to hear your voice!

Are there times in your life when you feel that God isn’t listening to you? If so, examine yourself and ask God to reveal any sin that might be separating you. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). If you feel that you cannot hear the Lord’s voice speaking to you, and that your voice is falling on deaf ears, then lift up your voice and “cause me to hear it!” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).  Sometimes it’s possible to feel distant even if we’re not knowingly rebelling against God’s clear guidance from scripture or his Spirit’s still small voice in our hearts. That has happened to me. Sometimes things are going so smoothly that I just start to wander off a bit on my own, not paying attention because the way looks clear. When I realize I’m feeling empty and distant, I now understand that I’ve been drifting, and I cry out to God, “Help! I want to be close to you!” As the psalmist wrote: “Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it!” (Psalm 69:18).

The Lord is so good! “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 34:15). A note of comfort: All believers are “righteous” by definition because we are justified by Christ. His righteousness has been imputed to us (see Romans 4:11). “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:17). “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). God wants to hear our voice calling out to him.  This is his last request to us…the last thing he has asked us to do on this earth before he returns to carry us off as his eternal bride! Like the fiancé who is gone and loves to hear his beloved’s voice on the phone…our Lord longs to hear our voice! Have you ever wanted to know what God’s will is for you? Look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Let him hear your voice. Cause him to hear it!

Rise Up, My Love (295): Learning to Speak Up!

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.” “Cause me to hear it.” Does that phrase catch your attention? Our Lord is asking us to make something happen. I thought he heard every word we whispered in our beds at night. How is it that he is asking us to make him hear us? If he’d said, “Speak to me!” I’d know what he meant. Did you ever have a child who became staunchly silent, wrinkled up his nose, and pursed his lips with a big “No!” written all over his little face, but you had no idea why he didn’t want to do the simple thing you’d asked him to do…usually for his own good?  Why the resistance? Refusal seemed simply and totally unfathomable. “Speak to me!” I’d say. “Tell me what you’re thinking! Why are you saying, “No!” to a perfectly reasonable request?” I had one toddler who refused to participate in the simple developmental task tests that young children are sometimes asked to complete as part of their pediatric exams. All of my first five children had been very eager achievers and would happily build towers out of blocks or whatever “game” the nurse asked them to play.

However, number six would have nothing to do with such a scheme. When the nurse asked him to build a tower, he didn’t even respond. I knew he was a bright child who could easily accomplish the task, and I knew he wasn’t deaf, so I said, “Would you please build a tower out of blocks for the lady?” and demonstrated again just in case there was some misunderstanding. He ignored me too! I was mortified. He was a very loving, obedient child, and I was shocked that he was refusing to do such a simple thing. However, I swallowed my pride, mystified but unwilling to humiliate him publicly. I told the nurse he could build a tower out of three or more blocks (the parameters set for normal ability at his age), but that for whatever reason, he was unwilling to build one that day, and I didn’t want to push him.  After we left, I asked him what was wrong, but he was too little to know. It took me about two more years to understand the dynamics. This tiny chap was a tremendous perfectionist who was insecure about performance. He was unwilling to do anything that might draw attention to himself. When he learned to talk, I would hear him practicing words in a whisper before he would say them aloud: “orange…orange.” When he was only four, he taught himself to read out of the Bible—before I had any idea that he was learning to read—simply from being read to!  This past Sunday morning (written over a decade ago, although this past Sunday this same son was serving as the accompanist at his church) he was up with a group of young people leading the worship music at our chapel, and I marveled at how far the Lord has brought him in sixteen years: from obstructed by fear, to singing for his Creator!  Are you petrified by fear when it comes to speaking out for your Savior? Pray for grace, and the let him hear your voice!

Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak
(Frances R. Havergal, 1872)

  1. Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
    In living echoes of Thy tone;
    As Thou has sought, so let me seek
    Thine erring children lost and lone.
  2. Oh, lead me, Lord, that I may lead
    The wand’ring and the wav’ring feet;
    Oh, feed me, Lord, that I may feed
    Thy hung’ring ones with manna sweet.
  3. Oh, strengthen me, that while I stand
    Firm on the rock, and strong in Thee,
    I may stretch out a loving hand
    To wrestlers with the troubled sea.
  4. Oh, teach me, Lord, that I may teach
    The precious things Thou dost impart;
    And wing my words, that they may reach
    The hidden depths of many a heart.
  5. Oh, give Thine own sweet rest to me,
    That I may speak with soothing pow’r
    A word in season, as from Thee,
    To weary ones in needful hour.
  6. Oh, fill me with Thy fullness, Lord,
    Until my very heart o’erflow
    In kindling thought and glowing word,
    Thy love to tell, Thy praise to show.
  7. Oh, use me, Lord, use even me,
    Just as Thou wilt, and when, and where,
    Until Thy blessed face I see,
    Thy rest, Thy joy, Thy glory share.

 

Rise Up, My Love (294): Who Are Our Companions?

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” This is the husband’s cadenza. What is his last request for his beloved? That he might hear her voice. Tell me, if you can’t be physically present with the one you love, what’s the next best thing? For me, it’s talking on the phone.

Someone asked me what convenience I’ve enjoyed most since the beginning of the new millennium. Without a doubt, it’s having a cell phone small enough to slip into my purse and carry with me everywhere. My cell phone is programed and voice activated, so all I have to do is say my loved one’s name, and that person’s number is automatically dialed. With kids scattered from California to New York and even Italy now, one of my chief delights in life is being able to hear their cheery voices any old time I want! What a blessing! It takes a lot of the sting out of being separated. (And today, thanks to smart phones and internet, we can even see their faces!)  “The companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” Our companions hear our voice…but how much more does the Lord long to hear us speaking to him! Actually, the verse doesn’t say our companions, or even your companions, but rather the companions. Who are “the companions?” According to the dictionary, a companion is “a person who accompanies or associates with another; a comrade; a person employed to assist, live with, or travel with another” (American Heritage, 384).  The root words refer to those who eat bread together. I was struck by the fact that being a companion is not exactly synonymous with being a friend, although certainly companions may also be friends. “The companions” is more closely related to “the business associates,” such as those individuals with whom we work every day. There is a sense in which this verse should encourage us to pay more careful attention to what we say to our coworkers, because “the companions hearken to thy voice.” Those we work with day by day are listening to us, whether or not we can tell, and they are being affected by what we say!  Above all, what is the message that God wants us to be telling “the companions?” In Exodus 3:16-18, God told Moses to gather the children of Israel together and tell them that God would deliver them from slavery and lead them “unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” God concluded by saying, “And they shall hearken to thy voice.” Listen to that! “And they will hearken to thy voice.” “The companions hearken to thy voice.”  Those around you do hear you. What are you telling them? What is the message you are preaching by your deeds and speaking with your heart and tongue? Beloved, is there any more needed message in this world today than the message that God will deliver us from our bondage and lead us “unto a land flowing with milk and honey?” Have you thought about what it means to “flow with milk?”  When I used to nurse my babies, I produced an incredible amount of milk. Sometimes while I was nursing, my husband would come over to watch, and the baby would pop off the nipple to look around and see his daddy, which would usually earn him a big squirt of milk all over his little face and ear. I mean, I was flowing!! The baby would fuss, but Alan would just smile and say, “Contented cows make good milk.”  A land flowing with milk and honey is a land where there’s peace, contentment, and an abundance of nourishing sweetness. On the spiritual level, “the companions” must be those with whom we associate because of our position as the king’s bride rather than simply the friends we have selected by personal choice. “The” companions are those who are also dwelling in the king’s gardens. We have all been engaged by the king to live together, to work together, to assist one another, to break bread together, and to travel together through the king’s gardens and into his celestial city.  “The companions” are fellow pilgrims we interact with through our church and other ministries. They also “hearken to our voice.” I graduated from a public high school but was able to attend a Christian university. My anticipation was that college would be sort of a Christian “Mecca” where I could relax and just “fit in” because everyone would love God and be zealously preparing to serve his Kingdom causes. My older and wiser spiritual brother, who was a senior at the same school, prepared me by saying, “Just remember, no matter where you go, you’re going to be either a missionary or a mission field.”  In this world, no matter how good our Christian organization or spiritual fellowship, all of us are works in process…growing, changing, backsliding, moving forward, needing encouragement, needing correction…needing each other to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord and calling one another on to love and good works. Until we get to heaven, there is no such thing as settling in to “status quo” mentality. The companions will be listening to our voice. May our speech be holy, gracious, and full of love and truth!

(Thank you, Bob Hardee, for sharing you gift of photos with scripture verses!)