Tag Archives: Commentary on Song of Solomon 8:9

Rise Up, My Love (282): A Meditation on Cedar

Song of Solomon 8:9 “And if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” What else might King Solomon mean by saying that he would “inclose her with boards of cedar?” We have discussed the merits of cedar wood already in this study. To enclose her with boards of cedar would mean not only providing for her, but providing the very best for her, both physically and spiritually.  Cedar trees were considered the strongest: Job spoke of the great leviathan as thrashing his huge tail “like a cedar” (Job 40:17). Cedar trees were regarded as the most beautiful and the best: King David lived in a house made from cedar (2 Samuel 7:2), and his son, Solomon (who is the husband now speaking in our text), built his house, “and covered the house with beams and boards of cedar” (I Kings 6:9). The great temple built by Solomon was also enclosed with boards of cedar (I Kings 7). To enclose the younger sister in boards of cedar was—symbolically—to provide the very best for her, even as Solomon had provided the very best for his bride and his God!   Cedar trees were not only the tree of choice for strength, beauty, and durability, but cedar trees were also used in Scripture to picture royalty. In 2 Chronicles 25:18, King Joash of Israel likened himself to a cedar and derided the king of Judah by comparing him to a thistle. In Jeremiah 22, the Lord sent a scathing rebuke to King Zedekiah telling him that if he would not be a righteous king, God would judge him severely. During this prophecy, the Lord says, “Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar?” The intimation is that to enclose oneself in cedar is a kingly thing to do. To enclose the little sister in cedar was to treat her like royalty!   Indeed, our King will enclose us with the cedar of himself! In Zechariah 11:2, the rejection of the Messiah is likened to the destruction of a cedar tree: “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen.” In Leviticus 14, cedar is mentioned five times in connection with the sacrifice offered in the ritual cleansing of homes. Cedar, because of its strength, beauty, durability and fragrance, speaks of our precious Lord’s character. He was offered up as a sacrifice for the redemptive cleansing of our bodies, the “home” of the Holy Spirit. And, just as the Leviticus sacrifice in the ritual cleansing was enveloped with the fragrance of burning cedar, so may we be both a living sacrifice made fragrant by Christ’s character, and a cleansed temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Then we, too, will be enclosed by boards of cedar like the little sister… encircled forever by Christ’s ineffable love.(Many thanks to Wikimedia Commons, and in particular Jerzy Strzelecki, for sharing their photos so freely!)

Rise Up, My Love (281): What Can You Do With a Door?

Song of Solomon 8:9 “And if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” What is a door? A door provides access. Some commentators seem to think that being a door would mean being promiscuous, and that enclosing her would mean shutting her in so that she couldn’t get into trouble. To each his own, I guess, but I see no justification for that in the text. I believe being a wall or a door were both good possibilities…just different! Why? Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).   A door is an opening…a way. Wouldn’t you like to be like Jesus, a door of hope and opportunity, opening the way for others to find salvation and rest in Christ? A door that provides access to the shady green pastures of God’s rest is most blessed! I think of missionaries, evangelists, pastors, and teachers as being like doors of hope! We should all desire to fling ourselves wide open and welcome others in to meet the Savior who resides in our hearts. If our hearts are truly Christ’s home, then they should not have locked doors (although, of course, we’re instructed to keep our hearts “with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23).  Our hearts should be like visitor centers along the highway of life where lost or weary pilgrims can come in for refreshment and direction. So, a door can be a wonderful thing…if it provides access to something good. “God is good” (Psalm 73:1; see also Mark 10:18). May we be like doors through which others may find the true door, the Lord Jesus. And, through our Lord Jesus Christ may all gain access to the one true God! “One door, and only one, and yet the sides are two. I’m on the inside, on which side are you?” goes the old Sunday school song.   A wall is something that goes around an area to protect it, but it needs a door to allow access into the protected area. A door, on the other hand, is something designed to provide access to a protected area, but it needs a wall around it before the door is of any practical value. What is the only reasonable thing to do with a door? Attach it to a wall or enclosure so that it can be used for its intended purpose. “If she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” The husband is saying, “No matter what your little sister is like, we will care for her and provide whatever she lacks to help her fulfill her purpose.”

(P.S.—I am fascinated by doors! All of these photos were taken of doors in Nepal from my trip there last fall.)

Rise Up, My Love (280): Silver Palaces

Happy Easter! He is Risen! He is risen indeed! But, what about her???Song of Solomon 8:9 “If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver.” Once the wall of a city was built, then watch towers, the palace, and homes could be added. The grandest building in any city was the palace: the home of the ruling monarch. If the foundation of the wall was sure, it could bear the weight of great structures. Even so, if we are resting on the sure foundation of Christ, we can bear the weight of glory that will be ours as the Holy Spirit—our resident monarch— indwells our “palace of silver.”

And, just how does this “palace of silver” come about? Does it say that if this young girl is firm and strong, if she has learned to keep the Lord around her as a wall of fire to protect her from sin, if she is morally upright, straight, and true, then “we will build upon her a palace of silver”? Well, it would be lovely if the little sister were such a grand wall, but the only true requirement was being a wall…being a work in progress. Silver in Scripture speaks of redemption, which is a great comfort to us, because it reminds us that even the weakest child of God will forever be a monument to his redeeming love and grace.

Although the “we will build” points to the fact that we will always have an integral part in the work of God here on earth, the “palace of silver” speaks of a habitation made holy by the one who indwells it. We do not have to be perfect in order to invite the king to dwell within our hearts; we only have to be willing. The house doesn’t clean itself; it only exists to provide a dwelling place for the one who will maintain it. The Holy Spirit, when allowed full access, is also our holy housekeeper to cleanse and sanctify our hearts.

“That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, ‘Thou art my refuge’.” —George MacDonald (quoted in March 10, 2004 Our Daily Bread).

“If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver…” We will add to her beauty and usefulness; we will embellish her so that she is more attractive; we will secure her so that she is of greater service to the king. Oh, beloved, don’t you wish to be such a wall? Do you have in your heart the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” desire to love others as yourself? Are you willing to invest in those who are younger than you in the faith? To work hand in hand with the Lord to build up your younger sisters…and younger sister churches?

Think of how the world would stand in awe of Christian love if instead of arguing with and defaming less mature believers (and less mature churches), we came along side and helped build them up in the faith so that they could become more beautiful, more useful, more secure, and more glorious for our king! What a calling, and yet—it is our calling! Like Nehemiah, will you arm yourself with the Sword and a trowel, pick up a brick, and start building on the wall? Will you pray with me? “Lord, I want to be a builder! I want to be a work ‘to the praise of your glory’ like it says in Ephesians 1:12, and I want to help build up others so that they are also ‘to the praise of your glory.’ Here I am; please use me.”

Rise Up, My Love (279): How to Enter the Gates of Heaven

Here it is, Palm Sunday! As we think about Jesus’ entrance through the gates of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, it makes me think of another set of gates—the gates of heaven—where all who believe in Jesus may also enter in.This Sunday our meditation is on Song of Solomon 8:9. Have you ever wondered if St. Peter really stands at the entrance to heaven to decide who gets to come in? Well, earlier in Revelation 21 it says that the twelve foundation stones of the city have the twelve names of the apostles written on them, and that the twelve gates have twelve angels at them with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on them. Figuratively, I believe this may mean that the twelve foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem are Jesus Christ as taught to us by the apostles in the New Testament, and the twelve gates are made of The Pearl of Great Price himself…guarded by the principles taught to us in the Old Testament. That’s not exactly St. Peter standing guard at the gate, but there are gates, and there are requirements for getting through them!

How will we enter in through the gates of heaven? Through fulfilling the righteousness of the Old Testament Law? That’s one way, except nobody can enter in that way, because no one ever perfectly fulfills the Law. Only Christ fulfilled the Law without sin, and in the New Testament we learn that it is only through faith in the finished work of Christ for us that we may gain access into heaven. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of heaven, and he is the only way into it. Could you possibly have read this far into The Song of Solomon without understanding his love and sacrifice for you? Have you bowed before him, confessing your sins and asking him to save you and become enthroned in your heart as Lord of your life for ever and ever?

May I urge you to make sure that you have entrusted your life to his care. If you belong to him, will you bow with me in worship and adoration? Lord, thank you for being the one who fills “all in all.” Thank you for filling us. Thank you for crafting us into your masterpieces…into works of grace that can be compared to the new heaven in beauty and perfection. Oh God, we long to become like your Son and be joined as one to him. Thank you for taking us to yourself, and for your promise to bring to completion the work you’ve started in us. We love you, Lord! Help us to become like beautiful walls of jasper, clear as crystal, built upon the foundation of the New Testament expression of Christ, gated with the Pearl of Great Price himself, who is the way into our eternal, heavenly home. Oh, Lord, how we love you! Thank you for being more than we can imagine. How we long to see you face to face! Amen, and amen.

Rise Up, My Love (277): What’s in a Wall?

Song of Solomon 8:9. “If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.” Let’s start with just the first thought: “If she be a wall…” What does it mean to be a wall? In the next verse, the bride declares that she herself is a “wall” with “towers,” which won her a place of favor in her husband’s eyes, so we can assume the couple felt that being a wall was a good thing. So, what is a wall, literally and metaphorically?

Literally, a wall is a structure that gives definition; it sets boundaries and limits; it protects. I’ve read that in ancient times, building a wall was the first step toward building a city, since walls were necessary for protection against wild beasts and foreign invaders. It was only after the walls came crashing down that the Israelites were able to successfully conquer Jericho (Joshua 6:5). When King Sennacherib led the Assyrians in a campaign against Israel, King Hezekiah immediately began his defense by building up the walls of Jerusalem: “He strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without”(2 Chronicles 32:5). When Nehemiah was called to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, the first thing he did was rebuild the wall around the city (Nehemiah 12:27-32).

Metaphorically, a wall was used as a symbol of strength and security. David and his men were described as a protective “wall unto us both by night and day” while Nabal’s shepherds were out in the wild caring for their flocks (I Samuel 25:16). In Zachariah 2:5, the Lord promises that He will be “a wall of fire round about” Jerusalem to protect her from harm. In Proverbs 18:11 we are warned that a rich man will often fail to trust in the Lord for his help and mistakenly consider wealth as “his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”

Truly, are we any different today? How many of us are tempted to feel secure if we have stable jobs and a good income? I know that’s a natural tendency in me, and I have to keep reflecting on the truth that “the horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Virtually no one lives within a walled city any more, but I’ve seen lots of fence walls. In the vast tracts of tiny, hovel dwellings built on the garbage dumps of Agua Prieta, Mexico, I’ve seen fences around twenty-by-twenty foot compounds made out of bedsprings, trash, and cactus; in China I’ve seen walls with razor rolls on top and chunks of glass embedded in the concrete…all to keep people out.

And here in America, don’t we feel safer within the walls of our own home? I do! One of my dearest friends had a husband who always felt a huge sense of relief every night as he pulled into their driveway, so I gave him a plaque to hang on the wall of their garage right where he parked his car that read: Home Free! Isn’t that the way we feel? (At least, if our home is happy.)

Walls do protect and keep us safe…as long as we’re on the inside. However, if we’re on the outside of a wall trying to get in…well that’s another story! A wall that keeps strangers out makes us feel safe, but a wall that keeps us out can be terribly frustrating. Metaphorically, a wall is something that stops us from going any further. We speak of “hitting the wall” when we can’t go any further because we’re exhausted, being driven “up the wall” when we’re totally frustrated because we can’t reach our goal, and being “off the wall” when we’ve ceased being rational in the pursuit of our goal.

God made Jeremiah like “a fenced brasen wall” to the rebellious Israelites, “and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 15:20). God told Ezekiel to take an iron pan “and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city,” as a sign to Israel that God would not deliver them in the day of judgment because they refused to repent (Ezekiel 4:3). A wall sets limits. It can either work for us or against us, depending on who we are and what we want.

“If she be a wall…” Although this is the groom speaking of a younger sister, the bride later affirms that she is a wall, so as a spiritual exercise let’s consider these questions for ourselves: What kind of a wall am I? What walls have I erected in my life? Who or what am I keeping in and out of my life? Please ponder these questions right now, and if you happen to be reading with someone else, stop and talk about your thoughts together. Are you strong, straight, true, and able to protect? Are your wall boundaries what you want them to be? Are they effective? (If you know you have boundary problems [definitely a weak area for me], consider reading the New York Times bestseller, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend).

When I was in China, I walked along the top of the Great Wall one rainy day. People bobbed along under rainbow-colored umbrellas, and I could see out across a vast countryside of green and brown. The Great Wall is still one of the man-made wonders of the earth, but it is no longer used as a defensive boundary. Its main use today is as a romantically grand, pleasure walkway where millions of people come for refreshment every year.

What kind of a wall am I? What kind of wall are you? Oh, Lord, may we tear down any walls that we’ve attempted to make out of the trash and broken glass in our lives to keep you or others “at bay.” Help us to be straight, strong, and true to keep sin out of our lives, but not you or those you’ve created. Help us to be like a spiritual Great Wall: a display of your glory, but no longer a barrier to keep others out. May our hearts instead become a place where others may come to be strengthened, renewed, and refreshed. And, Lord, may we always take you as our wall of defense. Please be a wall of fire around us to keep us safely within your heart and will.

A friend of ours, Bob Hardee, sent this light-hearted photo after Alan and I had visited several castles in the U.K. with our two youngest. Truly, our homes are our “castles,” aren’t they? But, the real question is: How do we use the walls we’ve built?!