Songs of Solomon 4:12, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” God is most anxious that His people should become a garden. He is grieved to see their hearts and lives lying waste, uncultivated without proper protection, open to every intruder and spoiler that comes along. We are called to be God’s husbandry (1 Corinthians 3:9) that He can prepare, till, and plant with the choicest vines and every other useful and valuable plant, making our lives productive and useful. ‘Enclosed’ would imply more than a fence.
It suggests that we are made secure and protected on every side. A ‘sister,’ ‘a spouse’ is a very sweet, tender and sacred relationship, the latter more than the former. ‘Sister’ suggests that we are one of the family having received the spirit of adoption. God becomes our Father and Jesus our Elder Brother. ‘Spouse’ would mean that we have attained unto the very highest standard and best because of grace being poured into our lips and we are thereby made “fairer than the children of men.” Psalm 45:2, “Truth, meekness and righteousness” (verse 3) becoming our portion and through “hearkening, considering and lending our ear” to the voice of God that speaks within, the voice of His Spirit in the innermost temple of our souls, we are drawn away from ourselves and led to “forget our own people and our Father’s house, so shall the King greatly desire our beauty.” Psalm 45:10,11) The word ‘forget’ would also suggest that we forsake; the forsaking, the life of self and all that pertains to self-life and our carnal nature, mind and reason, is indispensably necessary, so that we become the true bride of Christ. We are His fair chosen ones whom He can claim and bring into His chambers and banqueting house where His banner over us is love. But before this can take place there is much to be suffered both inwardly and outwardly. The Captain of our souls was perfected through suffering, and if we want to be joined unto the Lord and become one spirit with Him, we must be willing to suffer with Him.
We are to be joint heirs, if we suffer with Him. If we are willing now, to enter into His joy, and sorrow, His suffering and rejection, this will fit and qualify us to be glorified together. That means we will share alike with Him if we are willing now to enter into His joys, and sorrows, and sufferings and rejections, which will fit us to be glorified together with Him.
The first step is to be called out by the gospel and receiving the spirit of adoption, and the next is fencing, enclosing. God’s work is done secretly and in quietness and stillness before Him – shut out from the bold, ignorant, inquisitive gaze of the scorning world. The reason that so many make little or no progress and never attain to an insight or understanding of the deep things of God is because of unwillingness to be enclosed and separated from the world, so that they may become the Lord’s garden, where He can grow all manner of precious things and reproduce that which was seen in the life of His well beloved Son, and eternity alone will reveal the loss of those who still hold on to the world and doubt the wisdom of God, and in the words of Jesus, are “fools and slow of heart to believe the scriptures” which show the need of being willing to suffer with Him so that we may enter into His glory. (Luke 24:25-27)
After the enclosing is done there is the clearing and rooting out of many harmful, unprofitable and dangerous things, which have been allowed to grow without restraint. Then comes, the tilling and preparing of the soil, the laying out, planting of many useful and valuable things both in beauty, and in the very center of our garden or soul there is to be “the spring shut up, the fountain sealed.” This would refer to our inward or hidden walk with God and the One who is our life and being, and all our springs are in Him. (Psalms 87:7) He is our river of pleasure and fountain of life. (Psalms 36:6-9) This would also have reference to that part of our life, which is unapproachable. Shut up and sealed, hidden, secret, sacred and open alone to our well beloved, the bridegroom of our soul, and the garden thus enclosed and prepared, whose center is Jesus, is fed and nourished by Him and produces all of the precious things, and flower and fruit of all good graces and virtues.
All that was seen in the Master Gardener begins to appear, fed by the secret spring, nourished by the sealed fountain, warmed and irrigated by the Son of righteousness, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness and faith and meekness and temperance, flourish in the soil thus prepared, and under such favourable conditions. We are then left in charge of our garden to labour under the direct supervision of the Master Himself and become very conscious of two things: that is the amount of work there is to do, and the rapid fleeting of time. Our one and all absorbing desire is to become like Jesus, and so we must needs redeem the time and seek by His grace to get into our lives what was made manifest in His life. He is our wisdom and He leads us to become “pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
(James 3:17) We let this mind be in us, which leads us to contemplate Him. We look solely to Him and consider Him. (Hebrews 3:1, 12: 2-5) We see in Him the beauty of holiness. He is the chiefest among 10,000, the altogether lovely One. We see His unfeigned faith and confidence in God. His lack of vainglory, His lowliness and humility, His willingness to become a servant, the least and the lowest, in His trueness and faithfulness to God. The power and mind concentration of heavenly things: His power to avoid and lay aside unprofitable things, His patience in keeping the end in view; His fixed purpose to do God’s will; His power of endurance and disregard, for shame and contradiction; His unwearied diligence in watching and resisting unto blood striving against sin; His effacement (Matthew 19:17) His inability, insufficiency, “I can of my own self do nothing.” (John 5:19-20) His infinite and never failing love, His tender compassion, His ardour, zeal for God’s glory and kingdom. His obedience unto death. The nature of His death was true and honest, and just, pure, lovely and good and worthy of praise in His virtuous life. This is a life work, an impossible thing for the human mind to attain to, and one would be overwhelmed if they did not remember those words, “With God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26), to conform us to the image of His Son, (Rom. 8:29). We see that there is no time to waste in looking over the
enclosure, feasting our eyes on vain and unprofitable things, lamenting our loss and what we have left behind. No time to spend in idle, useless gossip with the world, its pleasures, vanity and empty fleeting show, which are only an illusion, its pride, and dress, and fashion and lusts, which perish and pass away. Such valuable time is loss never to be regained in contemplating these things.
When we are entrusted with the care of our garden, we need, by reason of use, to have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14) God and the evil one, both seeking to work through our five senses, all good desires, longings and dispositions; hunger, and thirst after righteousness, comes from God the source of all good. The adversary of our souls is ever ready to resist and draw us aside so that we may be secretly enticed from the path of holiness. We need to follow the example of our Master in this respect. Jesus had the blessed ear to hear God’s voice and obey. He also had the suggestions of the evil one, but remained unmoved. He had the blessed eye to see God’s glory, the mysteries of His Kingdom and all that was good and precious in the sight of God. He also saw the evil and the vain glories of this world, but remained uninfluenced. He also had a very keen sense of discernment, living in close harmony and fellowship with God. His sense was at best, and although surrounded by sin in living form, and guise, religious and otherwise, He was able to flee from and shun the very appearance of evil. God also kept the doors of His lips, He did not eat of the dainties provided by the workers of iniquity and had no fellowship with them. (Psalms14:3,4; Psalms 16:4) He spoke only that which He heard from the Father and told the truth which He had received from God. (John 8:38-40) He also had clean hands, (Psalms 24:4) empty hands stretched forth at God’s disposal to work for God in God’s Way alone, until He had finished the work His Father gave Him to do, and we too must needs follow Jesus in these five ways or senses. His way is perfect (Psalms 18:30), another important thing which we need to observe and practice continually. The devil seeks through the human nature that it has pleased God to give us, and which will remain with us to the end of life, and according to his subtlety, craft and cunningness, finds many ways to try and frustrate the purpose of God and hinder the accomplishment of it in our lives. And even though we are enclosed as the Lord’s garden, there are evil birds, which fly overhead and carry the seeds of many noxious and deadly weeds, and when dropped into the good ground, germinate and spring up very quickly. The seed is small and often springs up unnoticed underneath and among the leaves of our best plants. The roots become entwined with their roots and the leaves seem to take on the outward form or semblance of that particular plant under which they take shelter.
I will enumerate a few of the seeds the enemy seeks to sow: self-love, self-complacency, self-esteem, love of ease and comfort, love to please nature, sense and reason, and many other wild and poisonous things. There is also an evil, a spirit which carries the seed of a very deadly plant known as the sloth. Many unconsciously cultivate this plant because of the beautiful markings on its leaves, rich colourings and delicate veins, which appeal so much to our human nature and senses. It also bears a peculiar scented flower, very fine attractive and beautiful to look upon, but diffuses a quality of very fine pollen, which causes many to fall into a deep sleep. (Proverbs 19:15) There are some who love this sleep and come to poverty (Proverbs 20:13), others are so affected that they will not plow by reason of the cold and beg at harvest and have nothing (Proverbs 20:4), their hands refuse to labour (Proverbs 21:25). We have an example of this in the five foolish virgins. Others, it affects their vision, they can see nothing but danger and difficulties in the way. (Proverbs 26:13-25) They become wise in their own conceit and will not listen to reason. Some are overcome by drowsiness and awake at last to find themselves clothed in rags. (Proverbs 23:21) No wedding garment, and they lack the spirit which Paul manifested (Philemon 3:8-9), and many others are impeded and hindered and as it were paralyzed and so are prevented from becoming followers of those, who through faith and patience inherit the great and exceeding promise of God. (Hebrews 6:12)
Besides this are other enemies who knock at our doors, seek for admittance. There are five doors placed in our enclosure, or walls of our garden. The first door faces the sun-rising and needs to be attended to in the morning. (Songs of Solomon 5:2) “My heart awaketh. It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh saying, Open to me.” “He waketh morning by morning, He waketh my ear to hear.” (Isaiah 50:4) “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man open the door and hear my voice, I will come in.” (Revelations 3:20.) “The posts of the door moved at the voice of Him that cried.” (Isaiah 6:4) David and others attended to this matter. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning.” (Psalms 5:3) “Thou art my God, early will I seek thee.”(Psalms 63:1) (Isaiah 33:2) “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in.” (Psalms 24:7) There are three very subtle enemies which lurk by this door, to hinder our fellowship: one is “the deaf adder who stopped her ear and will not hearken to the voice of the voice of the charmers,” (Psalms 58:4,5) determined to carry on its deadly work. The Loadician Church was affected by this poison, which brought on deafness. They could not hear the Master’s voice as He knocked at the door. They were also unconsciously affected by its influence in five different ways. They became “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” so this is surely a very dreadful foe.
The second is self-comfort, self-want, some earthly or visible consolations, so that God alone can not be their sole source of comfort, strength and stay. Because of these things, sorrow fills the heart, and God cannot speak nor can He give to us the supreme good.
(John 16:6,12) The third is self-will or obstinacy, which makes us dull of hearing. Self always becomes dull as God seeks to show us the need of obedience, even though it means suffering and denial of self, and many things that God finds hard to say because of dullness. (Hebrews 5:11,12) The second door is called the door of salvation or the sheep door, where we go in and out and find pasture. There are two great enemies, that lurk around here: neglect and negligence, full cousins, whose chief business is to get us to neglect this great salvation, also the feeding and attending to God’s lambs and sheep, not availing ourselves of the provision God has made for our spiritual welfare, our eternal salvation. (Hebrews 2:3; 10:25) and (1 Timonthy 4.14-16.). Peter overcame these enemies. (2 Peter 1:1,2) The third door is the “great door and effectual” mentioned in 1Corinthians 16:9, where “there are many adversaries.” We can mention a few of the “ungodly men that dig up evil. A froward man that soweth strife. The whisperer who comes to do his malignant work, separating chief friends. Also the violent man that enticeth.” (Proverbs 16:27-29) “He that speaketh fair, but cannot be believed because of seven abominations in his heart.” (Proverbs 26:25) “The flatterer who spreadeth a net for our feet.” (Proverbs 29:5) Also “the strange and evil woman who flattereth with her words.” (Proverbs 7:5; 6:24) and the seven things which are an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 6:17-19) These are some of the enemies, members who clamber for admission by this door, so that our work may be hindered and our life and service rendered ineffectual.
The fourth door is the door of utterance Colossians 4:2, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ.” Ephesians 6:19, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” Some of the foes which haunt. this door are timidity, fear, inability, discouragement, insufficiency, rashness, presumption, defilement, foolishness, unchastity, disobedience, unwillingness, rebellion. The unruly tongue that no man can tame, full of deadly poison, envy, strife, jealousy and contention. Moses, EIijah, Jeremiah, John, Paul and others had to proclaim the determined war against these enemies.
There is the fifth and last door that no man can shut but God Himself keeps the door, the door of hope and possibility where the great prize of our high calling is set before us to become like Jesus. This is God’s eternal purpose for us. Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” 2 Timonthy1:9, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Although no man can shut this door, some have been so very foolish, as to shut it with their own hands. The subtle foes which attack this door are to be found inside. The love of self, ease, comfort, selfish motives, and worldly honour, shrinking from the offence of the cross and shame to bear His reproach. There is also an evil of the greatest magnitude which has closed this door against many for ever. We are admonished by the Holy Ghost to take heed and “beware lest there should be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” This sin has overtaken many and hindered them from entering in to their rightful inheritance. Hebrews 3:7-8, “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith,) To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness,” and 4:1-11 “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it, etc.” This is the “sin which doth so easily beset” all pilgrims on their heaven- ward journey. It is mentioned in Hebrews 12:1, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The cure or way of escape in also given in detail in this chapter.
We should remember that God Himself is speaking for our admonition. He is writing to warn us from making the fatal mistake, which those people did and coming to the same end. See 1 Corinthians 10:11-13. Deceit, and guile and desperate wickedness are so cunningly concealed in the inmost recesses of our hearts that we do not know it. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” David the man after God’s own heart felt this and prayed accordingly. Psalms 109:23. If the eyes of our understanding become at all dim, we are oft times deceived and unconscious of the fact that we are harbouring wrong there, and unexpected times when we are off guard these foes present themselves in such seeming forms of verity that we are taken unawares and if it was not for God’s gracious interference and His infinite mercy we should be taken captive with all these enemies and foes to contend with beside the labour of our garden.
We are fully occupied and cannot afford to associate with our neighbour’s ease, gratification and merriment, Luke 2:19, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart,” lest much valuable time should be stolen from us and our inheritance neglected. It is a continual warfare. There is no discharge in that war, but God is on our side, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. There is another thing of the greatest importance which must be attended to very diligently. It is found inside. The root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) which seeks to retain its life beneath the surface and secretly gathering strength springs up, causing much trouble and defiling many. The smallest piece of this plant, if allowed to remain in the ground, will grow. Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” Among the very valuable plants, vines etc. which we seek to cultivate, there is one worthy of special notice, of very great value. It thrives well under certain conditions, requires a sheltered corner, protected from the frosts and where it will get the morning sun. The leaves of this plant, when matured should be carefully gathered and when brewed, make a very wholesome and seasonable medicine. Most have a great aversion to it, as it is not palatable but bitter, and should not be merely tasted and sipped, but taken courageously and with a brave heart to the prescribed quantity. Psalms123:3-4, “Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.” The name of this plant is self-contempt and it has been used with good effect in all ages, prescribed by the Master Physician for all His chosen people. Self and all that pertains to the life of self has been one of the greatest hindrances as God has sought to conform us to the image of His Son, and I sincerely desire and pray that in His mercy He may draw us by His spirit and make us like the enclosed garden, the spring shut up and the fountain sealed. His, our fair chosen one, those whom He shall greatly desire, and who live and move and have their being in Him alone, closed up and sealed to all but the beloved of our souls, so that He may be our center and sun, the author of all that is good and virtuous and beautiful, and as our lives are viewed from whatever aspect or standpoint, naught may be seen but God’s hand and the life of Christ, and as we partake of the fellowship of His suffering and continue with Him in His temptations, and the winds blow whether softly, smooth or rough, the tempest, trials and afflictions come, that we may be enabled by His grace to diffuse that sweet fragrance and savour of Christ that from our garden the spice thereof may flow forth and be a stimulating source of refreshing to all.