|The Power Of The Church Militant (Song 6:11-13)PDF Print VersionFrom the beauty of the church militant, we move on to consider the power of the church militant. This book of allegory has shown us that the church, represented by the bride, i.e. the Shulamite woman, is well loved by the Lord. The bride may also represent the individual believer. The bride had backslidden spiritually, but had quickly sought the groom in his garden. The backslidden believer must seek the Lord in the midst of His people, i.e. in the church, in order to be restored. You might wonder how the bride, which represents the church, goes to the church to seek the Lord. That is a problem if you are fastidious - wanting to be exact, finding fault with the smallest inconsistency. To be precise, we may say that both the bride and the garden represent the church in its various conditions. The bride emphasizes more on the individuals who make up the church, while the garden represents the gathered church in worship and serving the Lord in the world. In the garden, the Lord is feeding the flock and gathering in the lilies. In other words, in the midst of God’s people, His word is preached and souls are saved. In the place where the Lord is present, where prayer and praise rise up like the fragrance of herbs in the air, the backslidden believer soon recovers. He is restored to spiritual health and takes his place among the other believers, so that the beauty of the church becomes obvious to all. We know, of course, that the church will never be perfect while on earth. However, in the eyes of the Lord, she is as good as perfected. When stragglers are catching up with the other sheep, when the sick are restored to full health, the flock of the Lord’s people is beautiful and awesome to behold. In the words of verse 10, she “looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as an army with banners”. It would not be long before the power and vitality of the church militant is noticed by all. This is what we find taught in the present passage.I. The church drawing near to Christ (vv. 11-12)In the first section, we consider the church drawing near to Christ, covering verses 11 to 12. We must take a look at verse 10 again. There are two things conveyed to us about the backslidden believer who has been restored to full spiritual health. Firstly, the beauty of his Christian character will become obvious. He is like the warm and bright morning sun, whose joy and bright disposition affects everyone positively wherever he goes. There is also a certain sweetness and serenity about him, like the full moon shining in the quiet night. He is calm and stable, not irritable and agitated. He is the opposite of a person who is stressed up with the many cares of life, or one who is burdened with apparently insurmountable trials. Secondly, the vitality and quiet strength of the person is noticeable. He is like the bright afternoon sun, driving away the gloom of an overcast sky. He is also like the well-ordered army, with the banners around the camp fluttering in the wind. Here is an army well-groomed and well-equipped, ready to do battle at a moment’s notice. It is impressive, and it is awesome. A young boy dressed smartly in scout or cadet uniform looks “cool”. He is impressive, neat, and tidy. However, the army we are considering is not merely impressive in looks, but also in the power packed into it. We become aware that it is an efficient fighting machine capable of doing a lot of damage to the enemies. It is well able to protect the citizens of the country, and to efficiently carry out what ever task is assigned to it. If a natural disaster were to occur, this army is able to quickly mobilize itself in relief efforts. The restored believer who is at the peak of spiritual health will show forth both the qualities of spiritual beauty and spiritual might. The church that is walking closely with the Lord will be admired and respected by bystanders because of these two qualities.Sharing in the Lord’s burdenThis paves the way for us to consider verse 11, “I went down to the garden of nuts to see the verdure of the valley, to see whether the vine had budded and the pomegranates had bloomed.” The soul that is restored to Christ and walking in close fellowship with Him will share in the burden of his Lord. He will be in the garden. He will take an interest in the Lord’s work. He takes the initiative to examine the garden of nuts, while admiring the verdure of the valley. He examines the vine to see if they have budded, and the pomegranates to see if they have bloomed. A new church member will get to know the inner workings of the church. He will be learning how things are done, what need to be done, and what to expect. If things are not in place, he will put them right. If things are not functioning as they should, he will try to get them working again. There is the joy of learning, and there is the joy of serving. But when backsliding begins to set in, his heart grows cold towards spiritual things and towards the Lord’s work. If he does not quickly return to the Lord, by seeking Him in the company of God’s people, he will be allowing his heart to harden. Soon, he will be truly backslidden - in heart and in life. He will become thoroughly worldly and hard to restore. The Lord will have to chastise him severely to restore him. We do not want to be in such a situation. Backsliding in a new believer is painful to behold. Backsliding in a more mature believer is grievous to the Lord. Soon, he will face the painful process of spiritual discipline. Is anyone’s heart growing cold? Are you losing the joy of your salvation? Return to the Lord! Seek Him till you find Him!Filled with the SpiritThe restored believer is thankful to the Lord for His mercy. He is happily busy in the Lord’s work. He has no time to think of himself and the petty issues of life. He serves his Lord happily with fellow believers, and they mutually encourage one another. Together, we are concerned for the spread of the gospel and the growth of God’s kingdom. Soon, we are looking forward to the fruits, just like the farmer who has toiled long and hard in his orchard waiting for fruits to be seen on the trees. It is while we are joyfully serving the Lord that we are caught up with His love and experience the power of His Spirit. That is the picture given in verse 12, “Before I was even aware, my soul had made me as the chariots of my noble people.” You must remember that the chariots of old were the equivalent of the tanks of today. In a battle, the chariots were powerful war machines, from which the soldiers shoot arrows and cut down the enemies. Along the axles of the chariots, extending from the wheels, were metal blades which mowed down men and horses. While the tanks of today are powerful and strong, they are slow and cumbersome. The chariots were fast-moving and agile. This image is even more vivid when we think of the chariot of fire which swept up Elijah into heaven. Two things people around us will notice. First, the joy and love in God’s people will be noticeable. Second, their effectiveness and single-mindedness in the Lord’s work will also be noticeable. These had been noticed earlier, in verse 10. But now, there is a greater measure and deeper intensity to these two characteristics. People are drawn to the church, at the same time that they are in awe of the church. This is the Lord’s doing. We read of this in times of revival. We read of this in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:46-47, we find these words, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Just a few verses earlier, in verse 43, we have, “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” Although the age of signs, wonders and miracles is past, the same God works powerfully in, and through, His people in times of revival. The filling of the Spirit is not manufactured by men. It cannot be artificially produced by human techniques or psychological manipulations. It comes to believers who are walking closely with the Lord - obeying His commands and serving Him out of love. We are told, in verse 12, that it happened “before I was even aware”. The heightened joy and love in God’s people will be very attractive to onlookers. The effectiveness and single-mindedness of believers will lead to much useful work done for the Lord. It will not be surprising if our work for the Lord is blessed with conversion of souls. We may rightly expect such fruit from our labour for the Lord.Similarly, when a true spiritual revival occurs, it will be the sovereign work of God, and not the product of human planning and effort. There will be plentiful fruit - there will be many conversions at about the same time - with much spiritual interest in many people, all because the activity of God’s mighty Spirit. We will realize that it is not by our effort that all these occur, although God’s people will be earnest in prayer and busy in spreading the gospel. God will own the preaching of certain individuals by blessing it with much fruit, but the onset as well as the momentum of the revival will obviously be the work of God. The chariots in motion pictures the mighty stirring of the Holy Spirit in the midst of God’s people.Willing workersAnother point to be noted in verse 12 is that “the chariots of my noble people” may be translated as “the chariots of my willing people”. When the Holy Spirit works in the life of a believer, it will affect other people. We will find willing people in the church to serve the Lord together. It is like what is found in the messianic psalm, Psalm 110:3, “Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.” In this gospel age, the Lord’s people are volunteers, i.e. willing workers. We do not find unwilling workers in the Lord’s service. To be more precise, those who serve the Lord should not do so unwillingly. The work done for the Lord is acceptable to Him only when done willingly. We are reminded again of the Parable of the Talents, in which the man with one talent buries his talent in the ground. His heart is unwilling. He is described as wicked. We do not want to be such. Yes, there are Christians who serve the Lord unwillingly, but they soon learn that that is not pleasing to the Lord. In the Old Testament, Jonah was an unwilling servant of God. Here, we are considering those who are filled with the Spirit of God. One characteristic of their lives is that they serve the Lord willingly. The point made in verse12 is that the Spirit-filled Christian will be the vehicle of drawing other believers together, so that they serve the Lord as one body. There is that mutual interplay of support and encouragement to one another. We, therefore, do not see one chariot moving, but many chariots moving. What a beautiful picture of the Spirit -filled church we have here!Doing what is rightOn the individual level, we must learn the importance of acting according to what we know to be good, right, and true, instead of acting according to our emotions. When you sense your heart growing cold towards spiritual things, you must seek the Lord in the midst of His people until He is found. Then, your heart will be warm up again. You will find the joy of salvation returning. There will be the likelihood of being filled with the Spirit beyond normal so that you experience “inexpressible joy”. In 2 Chronicles 31:20-21, we read this of King Hezekiah, “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.” Hezekiah did what was good, right and true before the Lord, and he was blessed. If you were to act according to your feelings, you will find yourself unwilling to come to church when your heart grows cold. No, you must not act according to feelings, but according to what you know to be good, right and true before God. Often it is that even a faithful servant of God may be cast down with despondency and fear. These are two weapons often used by Satan to render a useful servant of God ineffective in his service. We find that happening to Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Elijah had been faithful to God, but he ran away in fear from wicked Queen Jezebel, and was cast down in despondency. Fear and despondency! These are twin brothers often found together. If you fall into fear, despondency is not far away. If you fall into despondency, fear will not be far away. You will fear men. You will fear for your own safety, or your own reputation. You will fear for your career or your loved ones. Before too long, despondency sets in as well. Satan uses these two weapons to cripple many otherwise useful Christians. Beware of acting according to your emotions! Do what is good, right and true. Since it is good, right and true that you should seek the Lord in the midst of His people, why don’t you do it? Here is the promise of the filling of the Spirit to those who seek the Lord in the midst of God’s people. II. Caught Up In Christ (v. 13)We have considered what happens when a believer seeks the Lord, in verses 11 to 12. We now proceed to the second part of this message, which covers verse 13. Here, we must not be misled by the section headings found in certain versions of the Bible. When we began our studies in the book of the Song of Solomon, it was noted that the chapters, verses, and headings have been added by scholars as aids to the readers. The headings in this book are notoriously misleading. As in verse 10, verse 13 should be seen as the words of the daughters of Jerusalem and other onlookers. The first part of verse 13 says, “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon you!” For the first time in this book, the bride is identified as the Shulammite. There have been those who propose that this is a mis-spelling of “Shunammite”. In the Bible, there are references to two women from Shunam. One of them was Abishag, the young Shunammite woman, in 1 Kings 1, who was brought in to take care of King David when he was old. The other is the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, whose son Elisha raised from the dead. There is no good reason to associate the bride in the book of Song to either of these women. She might have been another woman from Shunam, but there is a better explanation for the name of “Shulamite”. The name is actually the feminine form of “Solomon”, very much like “Augustina” is the feminine form of the name, “Augustine”. In this book of allegory, the woman is betrothed to Solomon. She is legally his wife although, according to Jewish custom, they would not live together until the wedding day. Since this is a book of allegory, and since the woman is betrothed to Solomon, should we be surprised that she takes on the feminine form of the name for “Solomon”? The name reflects the fact that she belongs to Solomon. She is suited to be his wife. She is Solomon’s “better half” - we would say today.Moving onThe Shulamite, of course, represents the church which is the bride of Christ. We have seen, time and again, the bride being described as lovely, and loved by the groom. In verse 10, the bystanders have admired the beauty of the bride. In verse 12, we have seen how the church stands out in her beauty and power - bringing a sense of admiration and awe in the onlookers. The Spirit-filled church is depicted as an army of chariots moving in orderly array. The church is both beautiful and energized with power. As the chariots begin to move, it dawns upon the onlookers that they are being left behind. A sense of dismay, and even panic, begins to grip them. “Hey, the chariot is moving away from us!” They begin to run after the chariot. They begin to call out to the Shulamite, “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon you!” However, there is no sign that the chariots are slowing down, or that the Shulamite is returning. What is this passage saying to us? It is saying that the church cannot wait for those who linger long in this world. Among the daughters of Jerusalem, i.e. the adherents in church, are those not yet committed to Christ in faith. You admire the church. You are attracted to her doctrine. You are not antagonistic to the church nor reject her teaching. You are, in fact, quite attracted to her, but you have not actually committed your life to Christ to be part of His church. You are not ready to be baptized. The church has been patient to you, ministering to your needs. You say nice things about the church, but you claim that you are not ready to be part of the membership. You are content to be on the sideline, and be an observer. There comes a point when the church refuses to wait for you, or to be held back by you. In following the Lord, we cannot wait for anyone. You would remember the Lord Jesus Christ teaching about those who give excuses for not becoming His disciples, in the Parable of the Great Supper. In Luke 14:18-20, we read that, “The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” These people will not taste the supper of the Lord.Two armiesAs you observe the chariots rolling away, the other sections of the army also begin to move. Those riding on horses, those carrying the banners, and those marching on foot - all begin to move. The whole army marches resolutely forward. The command has been given. There is work to be done. Then, as you watch - you can’t believe your eyes - there seems to be another army marching side by side with the first one! They are actually marching in unison! They are marching in the same direction, with the same sense of purpose. They are friends, not foes. They are marching forward to face the common enemies. This is found in the second half of verse 13, “What would you see in the Shulamite - as it were, the dance of the two camps?” The word translated as “dance” can be translated as “company” while the word translated as “camps” can be translated as “armies”, as seen in the King James version of the Bible. The second half of verse 13 then reads, “What would you see in the Shulamite - as it were, the company of the two armies?” Let us say more about the last word “armies” or “camps”. As noted already, “armies” is better because the focus is on the soldiers on the march, not the soldiers at rest, in camps. The first part of verse 13 already conveys the idea of movement, which is continued in this second part. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as “armies” is actually “Mahanaim”, which was the name of a place, first encountered in the Bible in Genesis 32. In that passage, Jacob was on the way back to Canaan with his family, after spending twenty years working for his uncle, Laban, in Mesopotamia. Jacob was bringing his large family, servants, and flock of animals into potentially dangerous territories. Jacob also was fearful of meeting his brother Esau. We are told, in Genesis 32:1-2, ‘So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.’ Jacob did not see two or three angels, but hundreds, and even thousands, of them. They were encamped next to his camp. God gave him a sight of His angels in the invisible realm. They were there to protect Jacob and his family, and servants. What could not be seen by human eyes normally were seen by Jacob on this occasion because God wanted to reassure him of His divine protection. The word “Mahaniam” means “two camps” or “two armies”. A similar situation is encountered in 2 Kings 6. The nation of Israel was surrounded by the Syrians. The Syrian army was so huge that the servant of the prophet Elisha was afraid. In verses 16 to 17, we read of what Elisha did: ‘So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.’ The spiritual realm exists side by side with the physical realm. The spiritual realm is as real as the physical one. Just as Satan is active in the invisible realm, God is active as well. Satan attempts to hinder the work of the gospel, but God will ensure that His work will not be frustrated by Satan.God’s faithfulnessComing back to the Song of Solomon, Chapter 6, we see in the second half of verse 13 two armies moving forward to do God’s work, instead of one. One army is made up of God’ people - the church. The other is the army of God’s angels, accompanying God’s people. The spiritual truth being conveyed by these words is that God will protect His people from all dangers, and provide divine help as they serve Him. Did not the Lord promised to be with His people to the end of the age, in the Great Commission? Based on the passages we have referred to, and the teaching found elsewhere in the Bible, some Christians believe that God literally provides angels to help His people. Others would look upon the Lord as being present with His people by His Spirit, to protect and strengthen them. We can quite safely say that both views are true, for the Lord is present with His people by His Spirit, and He also has angels carrying out His work in the world. In John 14:15-17, the Lord says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”This is for the comfort of God’s people. They are to know that God has promised never to leave nor forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5). God is faithful. He will never break His promises. Furthermore, He is all-powerful and in sovereign control of all things. He is able to fulfill all that He has promised to His people. In contrast, man is unfaithful, and often breaks his promises. Man is also weak, and not in control of his circumstances. You might remember your promises and have a desire to fulfill them, but situations have changed since you first made the promises. Now, you find yourself unable to carry out your promises even though you want to. That is why we must learn to say, “God willing”, in all that we promise, or plan, to do in the future. We see, now, that verses 11 to 12 is best understood as spoken by the bride, while the first half of verse 13 is best understood as spoken by the daughters of Jerusalem. The second half of verse 13 is best understood as spoken by the groom. Solomon was the one who provided the bride with two armies of escorts. Spiritually speaking, the Lord is the One who makes the church an army on earth, while providing and army of angels in the invisible realm to guard and help the church. As in verse 10, the beauty and power of the bride stand out. However, in verse 10, the bride is seen in her passive state. The emphasis is on her beauty, although the vitality and potential in her is noticeable. Here, in the second half of verse 13, the emphasis falls upon the power of the bride. The bride is on the move like an army - yea, as two armies! The church is portrayed in her dynamic state, actively serving the Lord in the world. This is the church militant, i.e. the church on earth. The church militant is militantly at work, bringing the gospel to the unconverted, and building up the people of God in the faith. We are reminded of the words of the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”. ConclusionWe draw to a conclusion. The spiritually healthy church, or believer, will be sharing in the concerns of the Lord, just as the bride will be tending the garden of the groom. We work towards producing fruit in our service to the Lord. In the Bible, spiritual fruit comes in the form of growth in Christian graces as well as advance in the gospel. Growth in Christian graces - such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control - mentioned in Galatians 5:22, come to us only when we learn correct doctrines and obey the commandments of the Lord. Advance in the gospel comes from being involved in the life of the church. The daughters of Jerusalem need to be ministered to, while the bride marches forward as an army. In other words, our gifts are to be used for the edification of the church, while we get involved in spreading the gospel and planting churches. All these are possible only when we are integrated into the life of the local church. As we get involved in the life of the church, the Lord will bless us with His presence and power. We might even become so filled with His Spirit that great joy and effectiveness are seen in our service to Him. We might even be blessed with true spiritual revival as we serve Him. For this to happen, we will need to watch against allowing a root of bitterness to grow in the heart. We might, in fact, say it is pointless to become members of the church if we are unwilling to serve the Lord. How would we be different from professing believers who refuse to become church members? In fact, there are non-members who have a better spirit than unwilling members and are, therefore, used by the Lord despite not being members. These said, we must see the importance of church membership if we are to be blessed by the Lord.We end by noting that discipleship is ultimately a matter between yourself and the Lord. If you have true faith, there will be true obedience to God’s word. If you are a genuine disciple of Christ, you will want to submit yourself to His lordship. We do not want to please men but our Lord. We want to do whatever is good, right, and true. Just as “time and tide wait for no man”, in the matter of obeying the Lord, we wait for no man. We care not for man’s opinion. We seek not man’s approval. We are so conscious that time is rolling past. The years have flown by. We are that much nearer the time of meeting with the Lord. Friends, come, join us in the army of God!
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