For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
First Love: The Beginning
The first principles of a "Manual of Love" for the believer who wants to advance in their devotion of Christ.
I want to share with you a word that is a continuation of what I spoke on the last time(1). Although this message could be of benefit to all, I believe that it is especially addressed to our brothers and sisters who have recently begun their life in Christ. I believe that it is also addressed to those who consider that they have not been able to reach spiritual stability.
I also believe this word is especially for the young people. Something that I did not mention last time is that John, the disciple who came to be known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" had to have been scarcely twenty years old when the Lord called him. He was a youngster. If a twenty-year-old young person opens his or her heart to the love of the Lord, they can be captivated as John was.
A Manual of Love
As I mentioned last time, the Lord gave me a clue, that if I wanted to know His love, I would need to study the book of the "Song of Songs" (Solomon) and understand it as a manual for falling in love. Of how to go step by step along a path, where one could know of the love of Christ and, finally, be full to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:19)
The "Song of Songs" does not begin with us loving the Lord. This is something fundamental: you and I cannot love the Lord initially, rather, only in response to His love. It is only when we know His love, that we are enabled to respond with love to Him who loved us. There is no other alternative. The ability does not exist within us to generate a love that corresponds to the love of Christ. God Himself, with His love, produces it. We cannot love the Lord, outside of a response to His love. As John said, we love God, but only because He first loved us….. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10)
The Story of a Common Woman
The "Song of Songs" begins with the story of a woman. And this is what I find to be full of blessing: that it is a common and ordinary woman. It is a woman who does not begin by loving her lover. She is a common, ordinary person, much like you and me. The "Song of Songs" begins at a point at which we can all begin. It does not start so far removed that ninety nine percent, rather than say all of us, remain excluded. It starts at such a very low point ... because there is no alternative. God Himself must come down to us so that he can lift us up.
The "Song of Songs" begins with the story of a woman, and that woman is you and I. That woman is the church! She is the church! You are that woman! That woman is you! And how does it begin? Verse 2: "Oh, (Beginning with an Oh!--a sigh), "Oh, if he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!" (2). And this "oh!" is a longing, a desire, an aspiration. To what is she aspiring? What thing is the woman longing for? ... "the kisses of his mouth". What is this? It is his love; she wants to experience his love. Oh if I could feel his love! Oh, if I could know his love! Oh, if I could experience his love!
"Oh, if he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!". And this is all that we need in order to begin. It does not say: "Begin by praying twenty-four hours and fast seven days a week." Is it not possible to start with a longing? How many of us, like the woman, say: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. Oh, if I could know his love!" ? The Lord took me from a very low place and said, "Can you long for me? Can you begin by longing for me?"
How many of you find it difficult to pray? For those who do, you could at least begin by longing to pray, not by praying ... but longing to! That is how the Lord began with me, like a child. He didn't say to me, "go and pray" He said, "start by longing", and so I began to. During the day I said to Him, "Lord, I want to know your love. Lord, I want to experience it ... I don't want to know your love as biblical information, I don't want to know your love as a concept, nor as a memorised verse ... I want to experience your love!" And He said to me, "Begin by longing ... long for the kisses of my mouth, long to experience my love."
Why does this woman have such a longing? Because she said: (and this is the same thing that you say, the church says, and what I say): "Your love is more delightful than wine". Is His love more delightful than wine? This is what makes us long to know His love. And what is this wine? We could say that the wine is the wine of the world, therefore the Lord's love is better than the best the world has to offer. However I also thought that the wine could be the wine of the Holy Spirit, and in this sense the love of Christ is also superior to the manifestations of the Spirit. That is to say, the greatest gift is the "Giver" of gifts. Greater even than charisma, is He who gives charisma. Therefore, whether the wine represents the world or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the woman is able to say: "I long to know your love, because your love is more delightful than wine."
She says: "Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes." The Lord is always fragrant! And "your name", she says, "your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you!" No wonder those who see you long for you and desire you!
Therefore, the first point: Everything begins with a longing, everything begins with an "Oh!". We pray that "Oh!", we say it in the morning, at mid-day and at night. "Oh, Lord, I want to know your love!" We note therefore that she began not by loving him, but by longing for him.
Secondly, the woman pleaded. Verse 4. Could you add a plea to your longing? A plea that is a short prayer: "Take me away with you". These are very important words, the woman recognises that she has no capacity to follow him. She is recognising his importance. "Unless you take me away with you Lord, I will not be able to follow you." Therefore together with a longing, I began to plead: "Take me away with you, do it Lord, manifest yourself in me, reveal yourself to me, take me with you Lord and guide me."
"Take me away with you, in pursuit of you we will run"(3). Note that "we will run" is plural, because she is saying: "If you take me away with you, I am going to be one of your followers, one of those who run after you." There are many people who throughout history have run after the Lord. Before ourselves, many have loved the Lord, but now I, Lord, want to be part of that group who run after you. If you take me away with you, I will run and unite myself with those who throughout history have run after you.
Longing and pleading ... its everything you need in order to begin! How wonderful that we are all included, there is nobody left out, everybody can start.
These two things are sufficient, longing and pleading ... and so I went on doing so, literally, like a child, like an apprentice, I longed ... and afterwards when I understood how to plead, I began pleading, I longed and I pleaded and I didn't stop. These two things were sufficient and the Lord began to respond.
The King's Demands
What is the phrase that follows? She says: "The king has brought me into his chambers". This is the first action that he has taken. She had done enough for the Lord to begin to work, he whom she had longed for and pleaded with. And when the Lord saw her longing and the plea, he began to manifest himself to her. "The king" she says, "has brought me to his chambers".
What is this? To what experience does this refer? Note that she had not said anything about who he was. She had said that she longed for his kisses of his mouth, that his love was greater than wine, that the fragrance of his perfume was delightful, that his name was like perfume poured out, but she had not said who he was. Is he a man from the countryside? A soldier? A prince? Who is he?
This is the first indication that she gives us of who he is: he is the King. He is the King! Hallelujah! What therefore is this experience in which "the king has brought me to his chambers"? She appeared before his authority! One longs for his love, one pleads for his love, and what one sees, before experiencing his love, is his authority ... his majesty.
In this chamber, before the King, one hears this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength". And it is in this chamber where one hears the King say: "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it". (Matt.10:37-39)
In this chamber one hears the King say: "Do not love the world, or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him". (1 John 2:15) In this chamber one hears the King say: "Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?" (James 4:4-5)
What is, by definition, this encounter with the King in his chamber? It is this: that if you want to experience Christ and His love, fully, completely, you have to give yourself to Him fully and completely. Everything or nothing, everything for everything, everything you have for everything He has.
"The kisses of his mouth" ... This is the wedding kiss. People in those times did not kiss on the mouth until they were husband and wife. Therefore the woman is saying, "I want him as my husband, I want him for myself, I want to be his, and he mine own!" The King therefore replies: "Very well, the price is that I also want you to be completely mine. Do you want me to be entirely yours, Church of Christ?" says the Lord, "then I want you to be entirely mine. I give everything of myself for all that you are." It is as if the Lord first asks what is the price of what you are longing and pleading for. And when this happens, it happens to us just as it did to the woman. What is this price?
Conscious of our Darkness (4)
In verse 5 she makes a terrible declaration. She says: "Dark am I". It is in the chamber of the King, facing these absolute demands, where our darkness becomes apparent. She was not aware of her darkness until the King took her to his chamber. So, she saw herself. Facing these demands, who is capable; who is competent by themselves?
To love one's father or mother more than Christ? ... Do you love Christ more than your father or mother? Do you love Christ more than your son or daughter? Do you love Christ with all your heart, with all your mind, all your soul and all your strength? In the King's chamber, she discovered her darkness, and there, we too have discovered our darkness. Yet the woman did not only discover her darkness, but also its origin.
The Cause of Darkness
The woman says in verse 6: "Do not stare at me because I am dark because I am darkened by the sun. My Mother's sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected". What happened, she says, is that I had a vineyard to be looked after but I have been so busy attending other vineyards that that which was mine was neglected. That is my error. And what is this vineyard? This vineyard is Christ! He is your priority, He is first, He is not only your vineyard, but He is your first vineyard. Everything else that we do is all right, it is good to work and to serve, but when we do that, and do not look after our vineyard, that which is ours, that which is our priority, that which is the source of everything else, that which drives our incentive for everything else that we do, therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we have left the correct path, we have diverted. Ephesus, Ephesus, "You have forsaken your first love". (Revelation 2:4)
For this reason, the woman immediately wants to rectify her error. She says: "Tell me, you whom I love, where do you graze your flock...". I have understood that the cause of my darkness is that I have neglected you, that I have not been living for you, I have not had my life centered on you, I have not made you my priority, that my time is spend on so many things, and I never have time for you. I recognize that everything is found first in you.
This woman wants to correct her error, and immediately says… (Do you also want to know the Love of Christ? Then you must say what she says.) "Tell me, you whom I love, where do you graze your flock and where do you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled (Spanish-translation says, errant woman or woman in error) woman besides the flocks of your friends?" I do not want to walk in further error, I want to go and centre myself on the right target. Where are you Lord, where can I find you?
King, but also a Shepherd
Here is something implicitly beautiful: the woman has recognized him as King, but she also realizes that he is a shepherd. That is why she says, "where do you graze your flock?". This is also a great blessing to my soul. He is not only an omnipotent, majestic absolute King, who demands everything: He is also a shepherd. This is a perfect and exact revelation. After acknowledging him as King, after one has contemplated His complete, perfect and absolute demands one could become disheartened and say: "This isn't for me." However, he appears and says, "I who demand am He who also will take you and lead you by the hand, and today what is impossible for you, I myself will make it possible; if today you don't want this, I will slowly give you the desire to want it; if today you cannot, I, step by step, day by day, little by little will teach you to make it possible." We need this shepherd. Only if He is a shepherd as well as King will this be possible. The good news is this: Christ is King, and Christ is our shepherd! He is the "shepherd and overseer of our souls"! (1 Peter 2:25) Hallelujah!
He is not only the implacable King, He is also a patient shepherd. Tell me brothers and sisters, how long has He waited? Has He not had patience? Has He not waited for you? Oh, how long He has waited for me brothers and sisters! How much we have literally abused His grace, yet He has had complete patience. We have said, "Yes, Lord", and then we turn our backs on Him. He has followed, waiting for us: "Oh, tell me, you whom my soul loves, where do you graze you flock?" "I need this shepherd" she says, "I need to be shepherded by somebody like this" ... and she goes and searches for him.
Following the Tracks of the Sheep
Therefore the maidens say to her, "If you do not know, most beautiful of women, follow the tracks of the sheep and graze your young goats by the tents of the shepherds". So she goes out and follows the tracks of the sheep ... what is this, beloved brothers and sisters? It is that which we have been talking about in these last days ... you cannot do it alone. What do you have to do? ... Follow the tracks of the sheep, follow those who know where He is; follow those who can help you. It isn't something you have to search for alone. Follow the tracks of the sheep. There are those who go before you.
She did it, and went out following the tracks of the sheep, bringing behind her, her own young goats ... perhaps your family, your children, any situation in which the Lord has placed you with those smaller than yourself, so that the Lord can help them. Take your young goats, follow the tracks of the sheep, until you find Him. And she did find Him...
It is He who Comes to Find Us
I say to you: If a person is searching for somebody, and finds them, who do you suppose should be the first to speak? The one who seeks or the one who is found? The one who seeks! The woman searched, and found him, but do you notice, she is not the first to speak ... He speaks first. We often believe that we have taken the initiative, but it is He who takes it. In actuality, when we go to look for Him, He surprises us: He was waiting for us all that time. In love, we are not the ones who take the initiative: it is He who produces it, He who has been persuading and calling us, for all of time.
In the parable of the "Prodigal Son", it is impressionable that when the son says, "I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: father, I have sinned against heaven and against you". (Luke 15:18) And he returns ... but when they meet, the passage does not say that the son saw the father: it says the father saw the son coming from afar. It does not say it was the son who ran: it was the father who ran. Nor was it the son who embraced the father: it was the father who embraced the son. Hallelujah! It is not the son who kisses the father: it is the father who kisses the son. In other words, the father was waiting. The father was there before the son.
It's Beautiful to Run Towards Christ
Therefore He created the encounter by coming to look for us, and He spoke first, with a beautiful compliment, brothers and especially sisters, that you can be very joyful over (if you don't already know what the greeting was). He says to her, "I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh". This is not an insult, brothers and sisters. You know that Arabian horses are the most beautiful. Have you ever seen a horse running in a meadow? What is he saying to her? "I saw you when you began to run towards me, and it was like watching a horse running in a meadow, it was a beautiful sight. I cannot but compare you with the greatest horses of Pharoah".
He had seen her since the first moment that she began to run towards him. Remember that he had said: "Take me away with you, in pursuit of you we will run", and our run towards Him is beautiful. God said to Daniel, "Daniel, since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard". (Daniel 10: 12) She did not see him, but he saw her, he saw her coming, and the Lord found her approach to be so beautiful. The willingness of your heart is so beautiful, God sees it and for Him, it is beautiful.
An Undeserved Gift
"My darling..." When she comes to meet him, she comes adorned with jewellery that she herself has made; with her own merits and with her own works. The Lord says something strange, because when a woman puts on beautiful jewellery, necklaces and earrings, one doesn't say, "Your neck is so beautiful", but rather, "Your necklace is beautiful." A necklace is worn to show the necklace. However, as it was jewellery that she herself had made, he says to her, "Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings". It is not the earrings that you bring (which serve for nothing) it is your cheeks that are beautiful to me! Not your necklace, but "your neck with strings of jewels".
As she came clothed with her own merits, he says to her, "We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver". "I am going to put true adornments on you, I am going to dress you in glory." Yet she who came with her darkness was impacted by such a gift. Tell me if you would not be overwhelmed at such a gift! "I appear beautiful to Him without being so... I am so conscious, so conscious of my weaknesses and my darkness, yet despite this, He sees me as beautiful; I am beautiful to Him."
This gift captured her. How many times have we felt, because of our sin, that the Lord is going to reject us, get angry with us, to show us our sin and condemn us, but the Lord has surprised us so many times by not receiving us as we'd expect to be received.
The Perfume of Gratitude Spreads its Fragrance
Therefore, she says, "Whilst the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance". It is not his perfume, as she is the one now speaking, whilst he is reclining at his table, she welcomes him with "My perfume". What therefore is this perfume? It is her gratitude! After receiving such a gift from the King, what can we do? We can give thanks and praise! She poured out the perfume of her gratitude, of her thanksgiving, the perfume of joy, of adoration and of praise.
When I studied this section, the figure of a woman in the New Testament came immediately to mind. We therefore read in Luke chapter 7, verse 36: "Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town..." She was a woman of ill fame in that town, and what did this woman do? ... "learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house" - the same scenario found in "Song of Songs", at the table- What did she do? ... "she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them".
How precious that it says the woman had lived a sinful life. Why did this woman of such bad reputation, upon hearing that Jesus was in that house, go and intrude? She did not consider herself worthy, not even to stand in front of Jesus, but rather she fell down behind him and wept on his feet. She then dried her tears with her hair, took out her perfume and poured it on the feet of Jesus.
This is the same reaction as the woman in "Song of Songs." Women in the bible represent the church. This sinful woman is you and I. It is the church of Christ, because she, having been a sinner, did not see in Jesus someone who brought condemnation. Being a sinner, she did not see in Jesus someone who would reproach her for her sin, but rather in Jesus she found love and someone who would welcome her. All the men before Jesus had taken this woman and abused her and those who were more holy who had not slept with her, had despised her. But one day Jesus looked at her, and he was the first person to look at her with love. Where is there one like Jesus brothers and sisters? He looked at her with love, and he said, "I do not condemn you, I have come to give life to the dead, I have come to save sinners." And when one is received like this, what does one do? One does what she did. Our perfume spreads its fragrance. What can one do except cry and be grateful? Blessed be the Lord! Blessed be our God!
We return now to The "Song of Songs." ...Therefore we find the woman having grasped hold of his feet. We capture the Lord and we take Him by the feet. Do you remember Martha and Mary? Where was Mary? At His feet! Do you want to capture the Lord? Throw yourself at His feet; take Him by the feet. There the Lord is captured and won over.
The Flattery of Love
Therefore, having said yes, she says, "My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi". At this point I understand nothing, I do not know the place, or the things she names, but the one thing I do know is that it must be something beautiful. He then says to her, "How beautiful you are my darling, oh how beautiful! Your eyes are doves". She says to him, "No, Lord, no! ... How handsome you are my lover! Oh how charming." How can you say that Lord? I am not the beautiful one, you are, "my lover, oh how charming".
Where can one find words sweeter than those of the Lord? "Our bed is verdant. The beams of our house are cedars; our rafters are firs". She says to him, "Lord! How can you say that I am beautiful, if I am hardly a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys? I am a wild flower, a common flower, the mountains are full of these flowers, Lord, how can you find beauty in me?" He says to her, "You are already too humble... if you are only a lily, you are a lily among thorns."
Look how the Lord compliments her! "Well, its all right, if you are just a lily, then you are a lily among thorns, my love amongst the maidens". Yet how a lily amongst thorns? All the others, he says, are like thorns, and you are a lily amongst them. She however does not stop there (to such a statement one must reply!) She therefore says to him, "Like an apple tree amongst the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men". "Well if I am a lily amongst thorns, I tell you that you are an apple tree amongst the trees of the forest..."
And so they continue, compliment for compliment, the praise comes and goes between them. They are short words exchanged between one and other whilst there is still little familiarity between the two. Yet if you continue to read through the "Song of Songs" you will find that the dialogue begins to lengthen as they grow to know one another better. They are able to say more and more, until they can describe one another from head to toe because of their profound communion and knowledge of each other. In actual fact, as he already knew her completely, it is she too who eventually comes to know him fully.
To love the Lord we need to know Him. To love Him profoundly, we need profound knowledge of Him, and for this, we need to have communion with Him. But you can start here, longing... pleading... and knowing that He will take the initiative, He will guide and take you by the hand, as a good shepherd, and He will wait for you. Blessed be the Lord!
(1) Aguas Vivas No.14 pp.15-18
(2) This translation appears in the “Reina Valera 1960” Version of the Bible used in Chile. Closest equivalent to be found in the Revised Standard Version.
(3) This translation appears in the “Reina Valera 1960” Version of the Bible used in Chile. Closest equivalent to be found in the Revised Standard Version.
(4) This phrase refers to our sin, not our skin colour.