When I was a new Christian I taught my son’s kindergarten Sunday School class and Werner Sallman’s famous painting, “I Stand At The Door and Knock” was prominent in that classroom. I told the children that Jesus was knocking on the door to their hearts, and there was no handle on the door, so they would need to open it. J. R.’s hand shot up and he earnestly pleaded that he wanted to open the door. God surely came to that little boy that morning and he has grown into a man who deeply loves the Lord.
But I would teach Revelation 3 differently today, for I believe it is a message aimed at lukewarm believers rather than unbelievers. Yet God in His mercy still worked through me in spite of my messy theology, for His heart was so for J. R. His power is not stymied by His weak earthen vessels.
I’m not sure if Werner Sallman based his painting on Revelation 3 or on The Song of Songs 5, but they are parallel passages. In The Song of Songs, Christ is knocking on the door of His Bride, and she is very slow to respond to Him. In Revelation, again, He is knocking on the door of the church at Laodicea, and they too lack passion.
We forget how wonderful He is, and our excuses are as flimsy as the Shulammite maiden’s excuses. She has washed her feet, drawn the drapes, and does not want to get up to open the door for Him.
I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking,
“Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.”
I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on?
I had bathed my feet,
how could I soil them?
Song of Songs 5:2-3
Such flimsy excuses we have for not responding to the Lord’s still small voice. Yet when we are faithless, He is faithful. His love will NEVER let us go. Listen — this is the truth this passage describes in story form. She is lazy, faithless — yet he is knocking till his locks are wet with dew. She loses his presence, but NEVER the relationship. She suffers, for her heart has been rekindled and she remembers how excellent he is — he is indeed, the fairest of ten thousand to her soul. He has not abandoned her, for he will return. Listen to O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go by Indelible Grace (click on the U-Tube version):
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
Monday – Friday Bible Study (Next week we will concentrate on the rich corresponding lecture from Mike Reeves)
Remember: Each day your primary duty is to get your soul “happy in the Lord.” Use music if it helps warm your cold heart. Next study the passage — you may want to take only a question or two a day and immerse yourself in it. Then use it as a springboard for prayer. Here is one of my favorite songs about His faithfulness, but you no doubt will have others to recommend to help us all.
There are marriages in which the couples basically live parallel lives, without oneness or intimacy. That is not the cold life the Lord wants with us. He feels as close to us as a brother, a friend, yet there is much more. We are His love. He doesn’t want duty, but passion. He doesn’t want to just see us in church at 11 on Sunday, He wants to be one, intertwined, in the warmth of His love.
2. Read The Song of Songs 5:2-3
Kathy Keller says that Tim was looking for a tall blond when he met her and their friendship developed. (She is a short brunette!) They became very close, as brother and sister, kindred spirits. But she wanted more. Finally she gave him the speech about leading her on, but keeping her at arm’s length. He answered her by kissing her. He often tells singles not to dismiss the two thirds of the room on the basis of physical attributes when looking for a spouse — for you want someone who can be close to you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually — even before physically. You want a sister, a bride. Amazingly, this is how Jesus sees us. Not as servants, but friends. Not as distant, but as His bride.
A. What names does he call her and what does this tell you about the beauty of this relationship? What does it mean to you
that He sees you as both sister and darling? What else does he call her?
B. Richard Sibbes sees two warring parts of our soul in “I sleep, but my heart waketh.” Do you?
C. In Matthew 26:41, what did Jesus say to the sleeping disciples that showed two warring parts?
D. Compare Revelation 3:14-22. What similarities do you see with The Song of Songs 5:2-3?
E. What evidence is there that he has been knocking for a while?
Use the above verse as a springboard for prayer: confession, thanksgiving, petition.
3. Read The Song of Songs 5:3-5
A. What excuses does she give for not responding?
B. Be alert (and pray now about this) for giving an excuse — then try to identify the lie. Record it here.
C. When she does arise, what happens to her heart? What does this tell you?
Use the above verse as a springboard for prayer.
4. Read The Song of Songs 5:6-7
A. Describe what happens in this passage.
B. Why are the watchmen beating her? Nancy Leigh deMoss was not sure if it was discipline or persecution. What do you think and why?
Richard Sibbes believes the shepherds have become wolves, and how painful it is when suffering is caused by those who were appointed to care for our souls. I find some comfort here however in God acknowledging this happens — and yet she will not back away, she is still seeking her Beloved. Unfortunately, many, especially the young, when abused by the church, back away from the Lord. But here, she does not. She goes to the daughters of Jerusalem, who are also a part of the bride, though less mature than she.
Use the above passage as a springboard for prayer.
Oh blest be Jesus, the Tie that binds our hearts in Christian love! Prepare your heart with this new rendition of a classic by Sara Groves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcYFtihSg_8
5. Read Song of Songs 5:8-9
A. What does she ask of the daughters of Jerusalem and then, what do they ask of her?
B. What do you see happening in this passage?
C. How has this happened for you, here, on this blog?
She begins to describe His beauty. I used to think this song, “He’s the Lily of the Valley,” was confused, because that is what He calls her — but then I remembered, “She is looking like Him.” And in these descriptions, she does say that His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. I love Johnny Cash, perhaps because Steve did, but I do. I appreciate how God turned him around and then he went to the prisons. The only song Steve requested at his funeral was the one June sang to him when she was dying, “The Far Side Banks of Jordan.” But here he is singing “He’s The Lily of the Valley.” (LINK)
6. Read Song of Songs 5:10-16. Meditate on this and comment if you are quickened.
Use this as a springboard for praise and prayer.
In next week’s parallel message from Mike Reeves, he talks about how preachers once frequently preached on the excellencies and beauty of Christ, but now rarely do. Pray for revival with our shepherds and watchmen!
7. What is your take-a-way for this week and why?