Rise Up, My Love (160): The Importance of Being Earnest…and Wise

Satanic looking snakeSong of Solomon 5:7 “They smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.” The bride refused the bridegroom’s call and waited until it was too late to respond to him. Then, when she sought him, she could not find him. Think of the stern warning Wisdom gives in the first chapter of Proverbs: “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded…Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me” (Proverbs 1:24,28). Surely the bride was experiencing the grim result of disregarding Wisdom’s way.

But, there was worse to come. Not only had the bride lost what she wanted, she found what she did not want: abusive watchmen. The foolish person not only misses out on the blessing of wisdom’s ways; he also exposes himself to great ruin. Listen to the solemn edict found in the last verses of the warning: “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:32-33).

How true this was in the life of the bride! Her “turning away” from her husband in his time of need led to her wandering around in the darkness and being beaten. Her “prosperity” led to her downfall, for she was too taken with her own comforts—her clean feet and sweetly scented hands— to be bothered to care for the one who cared for her.

By God’s mercy, she was not “slain” and “destroyed,” but she was “smitten” and “wounded.” Only unbelievers are totally destroyed by their rebellion; believers are chastened and restored. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compasssions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). She was not destroyed, but she was a living example of one who did not “hearken” to her husband and experienced the pain of not living in safety. No quiet peace for her! The bride was in terror because of the evil befalling her.

Here is another thought worth considering. Have you ever noticed who hurt her and who robbed her? The watchmen found and wounded her; the keepers of the wall robbed her. Do you see the oppositional parallelism? Those who were hired to watch and safeguard, instead found and hurt her; those who were hired to maintain the safety barriers, instead heartlessly robbed her of the small safety barrier she possessed…her veil…her only fragile “wall” of protection from exposure and cold.

What a striking picture of the false shepherd spoken of by Jesus in John 10, who ends up stealing and destroying instead of giving his life for the sheep. Woe to those who claim to be shepherds of God’s sheep, watchers and keepers of his children, but who act unfaithfully and unscrupulously. Woe to those who attempt to do the work of God in the power of their own flesh. They will fail and hurt many others in the process, “because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

I have a dear friend whose pastor absconded with the church funds and left him feeling so terribly burned that he never wanted to risk serving on a deacon board again. I have a very close relative who has never set foot inside a church door since the day the minister at her church was arrested for showing up dressed as a woman and tried to pick up a man (who turned out to be an undercover agent) in a gay bar. In this day and age, it seems that everyone has a story about the minister who took off with his secretary.

These are false shepherds…wicked watchmen who abuse and steal…who dishearten and drive away the tender, wounded souls that are searching so desperately for their Lord. Oh, God, deliver us from such men! Please deliver us from evil…from temptation…from ever becoming such a person! Please help us to always hear your voice and follow only you, recognizing and turning away from those who would fleece instead of keep us. And, please teach us true wisdom and compassion so that we miss the sin and error of becoming false watchmen to those who look to us for guidance.


Rise Up, My Love (159): Abusive Policemen?

SS 159. 10.24.15 Searching at NightSong of Solomon 5:7 “The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.” The watchmen were those paid to guard the city and see that all was safe and well…the policemen of Jerusalem…doubtless sworn to the allegiance and protection of their sovereign king! And yet, it is the king’s own wife that they abuse. (Indeed, in the New Testament we find the watchmen abusing the king’s own son!) How could it be that such men were so unfaithful and cruelly wicked?

Some rationalize by saying that such a woman out at night could be mistaken for a prostitute. That I do not doubt, but does that give the watchmen a right to mistreat her? First, if they had stopped to listen to her, they would have known she was not a prostitute. Second, even if she had been a prostitute, that would not have given them the freedom to be evil themselves. No one has the right to abuse another person. It is the responsibility of the government to punish sin, but only according to the prescription of the law, not by terrorism, derision, and unauthorized beating and humiliation.

The watchmen were those who should have helped her, protected her, and shown her the right way to go. Each of us who is a believer is a watchman for the Lord. What is it that the Lord requires of us? The answer is abundantly clear in Ezekiel 33:7. “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.” We are to listen to God’s Word and warn those around us to forsake wickedness and walk in truth.

What would a faithful watchman have done had he found the Shulamite out wandering the streets at night in search of her husband? If he had known the king’s whereabouts, the watchman might have safely escorted her to the king. But, if the watchman did not know where to find the king, then it would seem his duty (given that he was in the service of the king and his wife) to aid her in her search.

Isn’t that what we should do as faithful servants of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ? When we see a wandering, struggling one (a child of God who is part of the “bride of Christ”) out in the dark searching for him, how do we respond? Do we say within ourselves, “How horrid! That person is an embarrassment to our community and could easily be mistaken for a prostitute (or whatever…fanatic …Pharisee…fool…you name it).” Do we turn our backs on those who have fallen, or worse yet, ridicule and abuse them, uncovering their shame and tempting them to despair of ever finding that which will satisfy the longing of their hearts…their lover and friend?

Can’t you just hear the mocking watchmen? “Sure, you’re the king’s wife! The king’s wife wouldn’t humble herself to be out running around in the middle of the night! She’d be home, or she’d have an entourage with her. She’d send a messenger out after the king…”

Can’t you just hear the self-righteous Christian? “Are you sure you’re really a Christian? Real Christians aren’t supposed to be self-indulgent and sinful!”… “If you hadn’t been so lazy and disobedient, you wouldn’t have gotten into this mess to begin with.”…“Real Christians don’t run around acting like such undignified and inappropriate fanatics!” Stop! This isn’t what God wants! “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1)

I wonder, do we know where Christ is? Do we know him well enough to know where he may be found so that we can tenderly lead the repentant wanderer back to him? If not, do we at least have enough loyalty to the king…enough integrity and courage…to take a reckless one under our wing and help in the search? “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth” (Jeremiah 5:1).

Oh, dear believer, if you are walking close to the Lord and know where he may be found, do not shun or persecute those who are confused and stumbling in the dark! Come to their side with the wonderful lamp of God’s Word in your hand and lead them back to the light! Be a faithful watchman, hearing the Word of God and warning those round about you.