Rise Up, My Love (266): Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Today as I write this, it is Christmas Eve, 2017 and the perfect time to consider our verse from the Song of Songs, because there is a beautiful old English carol that speaks of “Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree.” Do you know it?

Song of Solomon 8:5 says, “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth…” The bridegroom carries out the developmental nurturing of his beloved bride in the same protective environment as that which his bride had experienced during her early training. He declares, “I raised thee up under the apple tree.” Where? “Under the apple tree.” What does that mean? Does it mean that the bridegroom lets his wife live in the same community where she grew up so that she never has to move away and can always live close to her mother… “under the same apple tree?”

As pleasant a thought as that might be to some of us, that is obviously not what the bridegroom meant, because we have seen from the preceding chapters that the bride was physically drawn away to many different (and sometimes very challenging) geographical environments. So, symbolically, to what does the “apple tree” refer?

Do you remember our earlier discussion on the imagery of the apple tree from 7:8? “A composite of all the other occurrences used in Scripture depict the apple as symbolic of that which was central to one’s heart, attention, and affection, full of wisdom and discretion, joy and abundance…that which was the greatest of its type, providing delightful protection and sweet sustenance, stabilization and comfort. Could that be anything but a picture of Christ himself?”

Our family has sung in many places at Christmas time the old English carol, “Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree.” The bridegroom is declaring that in all his nurturing he used the same influences and standards as his wife had been taught from birth (and spiritually—from “rebirth!”): The gold standard—Christ and his Word. Husbands, are you raising up—lifting up—nurturing your wife under the apple tree of Christ? Are you teaching her to become more like him by living his life in your relationship with her?

Or, are you pushing her to become more like “you,” trying to force her to see things your way and live with “your liberties” and ideas of right and wrong? Don’t be guilty of expecting your wife to live by your standards, which was the condemnation of the apostate Israelites during the days of the judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

There is a king…our Lord Jesus. He is our standard and our “apple tree.” Here it was that your wife was brought to spiritual birth, and here it is that you should continue her nurturing. As you “bring up” your wife, be sure you are using the same standard as that she was taught from her new birth: Jesus. What would Jesus do? Be as gentle as a nursing mother, providing for your wife all the very best of spiritual meat and drink…not forcing her to eat your meat and drink from your cup, but allowing her to take as she will so that together you imbibe Christ and become “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone” (Genesis 2:23).