How are you going to stand with Jesus when vast numbers of other people are moving away from Him? Pastor Colin talks about what it takes to have a faith that lasts.
I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone.
Song of Solomon 5:6
God has said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” We read in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, why does God sometimes seem far away? Why does it feel like I can’t find God when I need him most? Most Christians know what it is to struggle with these questions and that is our focus today.
Please turn to Song of Solomon and chapter 5. This is a remarkable book of the Bible. The first thing to say about it is that it is love story.
Song of Solomon is the story of a man and a woman, their love, and their marriage. It charts the course of their love with its joys and with its frustrations. The Song of Solomon has much to say about love and about intimacy. But there is a larger reason for this book being in the Bible.
The Love Story
This story is about more than the love of a man for a woman. It is the love of a king for his bride. It is the Song of Solomon, and Solomon was the king, coming to win his bride
The whole story points us forward to Christ the King coming into the world to seek and find his bride, the church.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his; holy bride
With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.
So today we are looking at a human love story about a king who loves his bride, and we are going to use this story as a lens through which we can see something beautiful about Christ and his love for us.
You will notice that the whole book is written in the form of a poem. It is the Song of Solomon. The song is sung in three different parts: He, She, and Others. The section we are looking at comes under the title “She.”
I slept, but my heart was awake. Song of Solomon 5:2
Some commentators take this to mean that she is describing a dream, and I think that is exactly right. “I slept. I was asleep. But my heart was awake. My mind was still going even when I was asleep.” That’s what happens when we dream.
Seeing that this was a dream helps us to understand these verses because later on the dream turns into a kind of nightmare in which the queen gets beaten up by the watchmen on the city walls.
It is hard to imagine how something like that could happen to the queen with all the security that would have surrounded her, but it’s very easy to see how it could have happened in her dream.
So I hope you have the picture: The queen has retired to her private room. She has fallen asleep, and she starts to dream about the love of her life, “I slept, but my heart was awake.”
My beloved is knocking. Song of Solomon 5:2
In the dream she hears a sound! The king has come to her private quarters.
His hair is dripping from the rain that is pouring down outside and he stands knocking at the door: “Open to me, my love. Let me in!” What is she to do? She is not prepared! I don’t know if you ever have dreams like this. Someone arrives at your door and you’re not organized.
For many years, when I was a young pastor in London, I had a recurring dream. In the dream, I was running down the road, and it was 15 minutes after the church service started. I was in a blind panic, having nothing prepared for the service. Then I would wake up and think, “Oh, I’m so glad it was only a dream.”
I think that is what is happening here. The king arrives and she is all flustered. She is not ready to receive him. What can she do?
It does seem that her reasons for not coming to the door are, shall we say, somewhat lacking in substance! The first reason: “I had put off my garment; how could I put it on?” (Song. 5:3). Well, it’s quite simple really, you just take your garment off the hanger and wrap it round you.
The second reason: “I have bathed my feet; how could I soil them” (Song. 5:3). Well, if you had to wash your feet a second time after letting your husband in, when he is standing outside in the rain, it would not be the end of the world! It is the king who is standing at the door!
But she doesn’t move. Then in verse 4 she has a change of heart: “My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.” This is highly charged stuff! It seems that the king might break through the door! Her heart is pounding…
She forgets the self-absorbed excuses about it all being too difficult to get up, and she goes to the door, “I arose to open to my beloved” (Song. 5:5).
She gets up, puts on her dressing gown, and rubs a quick splash of myrrh on her hands: “I’m coming dear!”
I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone.
Song of Solomon 5:6
When she finally gets to the door, her loved one isn’t there! So, in her dream she goes running out of the palace and into the city streets. She is looking for her beloved, but she cannot find him: “I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer” (Song. 5:6).
As she runs through the streets, she remembers his voice. She hears in her head, the sound of him knocking and saying, “Open to me, my love” (Song. 5:2). “He was there! He wanted to come in! I could have opened the door, but now he is gone.”
Then the dream turns into a nightmare: “The watchmen found me as they went about the city; they beat me, they bruised me, they took away my veil, those watchmen of the walls” (Song. 5:7).
I can imagine her at this point waking up in a complete panic. I imagine her bolting upright in her bed and saying, “I am so glad that was only a dream!
But when you have a dream like that it stays with you. You wonder, “What was all that about?” Well, what was it all about? What effect would this dream have had on her and what are we to learn from this today?
The Dream Applied
- What we learn about ourselves
What we learn about ourselves can be summed up in two words: Selfish and vulnerable.
- We are selfish
Surely this is the first thing the bride would have wondered: “Would I really have left the king that I profess to love standing in the rain because it didn’t suit me to get up and open the door? Am I really that selfish?”
A.W. Tozer comments: “Present day evangelical Christianity is not producing saints… God is valued as being useful and Christ appreciated because of the predicaments he gets us out of.
He can deliver us from the consequences of our past, relax our nerves, give us peace of mind and make our business a success. The all-consuming love that burns… is foreign to the modern religious spirit.” 
We profess to love God, but too often, we are unresponsive to him. We are preoccupied and self-absorbed. It’s all about us and our convenience.
Reading this story of a king who knocks at the door, and finds his bride unresponsive, the Christian mind naturally goes to Christ, the great King, standing at the door, knocking, and calling out to his bride, the church: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20).
The church was self-absorbed and unresponsive. The people were saying, “We have need of nothing. Our lives are full right now; don’t call us, we’ll call you.” People who profess to love the Lord can still be very selfish.
- We are vulnerable
Surely this is something else the bride would have taken from her dream. Perhaps she thought she could welcome the king when she needed him, but then retain her own private world to which he would have no access.
Then she had the nightmare of being assaulted by the watchmen. The queen can never go wandering alone in the streets at night. She would always have the protection of the king’s royal guards.
Here’s what that says to us: You may think that you can come to God when it suits you and leave him out when you want to do your own thing.
But without the Lord, you would be at the mercy of dark powers that are stronger that you.
The old hymn says it well: “I need thee every hour.” If we really believed that, we would be much more responsive to Christ than we are and we would walk much more closely with Christ that we do
What we learn about God
- God sometimes hides himself from the people he loves
Truly, you are a God who hides himself. Isaiah 45:15
This is always distressing to a true believer. Our love for the Lord is shot through with a great deal of selfishness, and yet it is true that we love him and we are distressed when we cannot find him.
It is important to know that the times when we cannot feel the presence of God with us are a common part of Christian experience. Job said, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him” (Job 23:3). David said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psa. 42:3).
When God hides his face, one of two things will happen: Either we will begin to long for him, like David and Job, or we rest content without his presence.
This is surely a striking thing about the dream. When Solomon’s bride comes to the door and finds that he is gone, she does not say, “Well, he is gone, too bad for him!” No! She loves him, and so she seeks him, and she cannot rest until she finds him.
The proof that a person loves God is that you cannot be happy unless you’re near him. The person without the Spirit knows nothing of this. The person without the Spirit may say she believes in God. She may pray to ask God for help. But the person without the Spirit does not love God.
That’s why Paul says, “No one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11). Men and women are naturally content on our own. We feel that we can handle life. We do not need God, and we do not want God, because we do not love God. If God is to figure in our lives at all, it has to be on our terms.
The felt absence of God is only a problem for those who love him. So, when a believer says to me that God seems to be far from them, I sometimes ask, “Does that bother you?” Because if it does, that says something very good about you.
Tell God that you love him and that you cannot be content without him, and it will not be long before he turns his face towards you.
- God can use the times when he seems far away to ignite a new spiritual passion in your life.
What would have been the outcome of this dream? Think about the journey she has been though in her mind.
She saw herself complacent and unresponsive; loving the king and yet absorbed with herself. She experienced the shock of him being gone, and she felt how much she loved him and how intensely she wanted him back.
She realized, from being attacked in the streets, how much she needed her king, and how vulnerable she was without him.
And suddenly she wakes up! “Thank God it was only a dream! But it was a dream about me. It was a dream about how selfish and unresponsive and vulnerable I am.”
Suppose, on waking up, she were to hear a knock on the door and the king’s voice saying, “Open to me, my love.” Do you think she would say, “I’ve just awakened from a bad dream and I can’t open the door?” Not a chance! She would rush to the door.
She would open it wide and welcome the king. The dream would ignite a new passion. It would fan into flame a new love for the king, and it would spark a new gratitude for all the blessings that were hers, because she belonged to the king.
What we have here illustrates a very important reality of Christian experience. God can use the times when he seems far away to ignite a new spiritual passion in your life.
The experience of feeling that God is far from you can be the means by which a complacent, self-absorbed Christian comes to a new experience of hungering and thirst after God.
I can imagine the bride saying to herself, “I am really glad I had that dream. It changed me. It made me less selfish and more grateful. It gave me a greater love for the king.”
The good news is that the story has a happy ending. The king and his bride are together in the garden. She says, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved in mine” (Song. 6:3). God willing, we will look at it next week, under the title, “Enjoying Christ’s Love.”
But today I want you to remember that sometimes God hides even from the people he loves, and that even when he does that, he is always up to something good.
God can use the times, when he seems far away, to ignite a new spiritual passion in your life. If you feel God is hiding his face that may be the blessing he has in mind for you.
Today we have the joy of drawing near to Christ around the communion table. Here we are reminded that God hid his face from his own Son.
The Father had always delighted in the Son and the Son had always delighted in the Father. Love, in all its fullness, had always been flowing between the Father and the Son.
And then there was the cross. Christ stood in our place and bore our sins.
Darkness covered the land, and the Father hid his face from the Son, and our Savior cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It was there that God accomplished his greatest work. The day God hid his face, was the day he redeemed the world.
 A. W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, p. 48, Wingspread, 2010