OINTMENT POURED FORTH (2)
Mr Stanley Delves.
“I am the Rose of Sharon; And the lily of the valleys.” Song of Solomon 2.1.
Whatever makes Jesus Christ precious to us is a blessing and in this verse, the Lord Jesus expresses His own beauty and preciousness in order to convey the impression and sweetness of it to our hearts; and that we may feel that attraction to Him, that desire for Him and that high esteem for Him of which He is so worthy and which it is so good to feel.
The subject is intended to set before us the beauty and sweetness of Jesus Christ, but that beauty and sweetness pertains to His human nature as He appeared here in this world. Although He was the glory of heaven in His eternal divinity He was the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys as He appeared in this world in His humanity.
The beauty and sweetness of Jesus Christ is first the beauty of His holiness, and then the beauty of His humility, and then the beauty of His grace and of His love.* But now let us consider the beauty and sweetness of Jesus Christ as He lived in this world. The life that He lived was very beautiful, very holy and very lovely. He walked on earth with such a graciousness of spirit that men wondered. And they might well have wondered at “the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth” for grace was poured into His heart, and from the fulness of grace that was in His heart it flowed out with His gracious words. His lips dropped as the honeycomb with graciousness. His holy life exemplified the humility and lowliness and loveliness of His mind and heart.
The life of Jesus Christ was beautiful. He did always those things that pleased the Father. There was one continued fulfilling of God’s righteous law in the spirituality of it. I like to think, and it is a scriptural way of expressing it, that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was like a robe of righteousness; as it was said of Him, “He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” Isaiah 61.10. It is a beautiful robe. Every thought of His mind which was always pure, and every word of His lips that was always right and true and God-honouring, and everything in His heart was always holy and every deed of His hands was like so many threads continually weaving out one perfect robe. His holy life was a life of loving, humble gracious obedience. That is a beautiful obedience of Jesus Christ because those garments of His righteousness “smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces” – they smell of love and holiness. He
is beautiful in His righteousness, beautiful in the sight of God Who honours Him, beautiful as He fulfils all that the law requires. And God is more pleased in the fulfilling of the law in the obedience of Jesus Christ to it than He could possibly have been in a mere partial obedience of anyone else.
“The law its best obedience owes
To our incarnate God.”
But the point I want to set before you is this, that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is fragrant with His love and with His humility. He humbled Himself; He became a Servant. He did the will of God in every way and He did the will of God lovingly and with humility of spirit. He is the Rose of Sharon in this. His life was a beautiful, spotless, fragrant, sweet obedience to the Father’s will. It is the Gospel truth, a very blessed truth in itself, and a very blessed truth to preach and very blessed spiritually to receive and to realise, that that righteousness, so perfect and so fragrant with love, is imputable, and it is imputed. It is a righteousness that, though it is His, can be made ours, and is “unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3.22. That is, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile and there is no difference between those who believe. It is the same righteousness that clothes and justifies all alike. Some people’s faith, perhaps lacking very much assurance, confidence, and understanding; it can only say
“Other refuge have I none
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.”
To others the Lord gives assurance of faith, and strengthens it into confidence. Still, the same righteousness clothes the weakest and it clothes the strongest also. Whatever difference there is, and there is a difference in experience between weak faith and strong, there is no difference with regard to the righteousness of Jesus Christ in its beauty. That depends not at all upon the degree, or assurance, or strength of our faith; indeed, in some sense I think the weakest faith is strongest because it clings most to Jesus Christ.
This righteousness of Jesus Christ is not only an obedience but it is sweet, it is fragrant, it is perfumed with the sweet savour of His love. Joseph Hart truly says of this love
” ‘Tis prayer, ’tis praise, ’tis sacrifice
Tis holiness, ’tis all.”
The love of Jesus Christ is the holiest of all. It is wonderful to wear that robe, to be justified in that righteousness, to be accepted in that merit, for it is beautiful, with holiness and love and humility and grace.
So Jesus walked the valleys of this world, the plain of Sharon and wrought out a perfect righteousness for us. And the Holy Spirit conveys sometimes the sweet fragrance of it to the heart and makes
the righteousness of Jesus appear to be very beautiful. Then the response of faith invariably to that manifestation is this, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Philippians 3.8,9.
“Oh may my soul be found in Him
And of His righteousness partake.”
He is indeed the Rose of Sharon in His righteousness.
Now consider another precious and solemn matter. He is beautiful and He is sweet in His sufferings; in that sacrifice which He offered for sin. There was nothing sweet, there was nothing beautiful about the sufferings of Jesus Christ in themselves, His outward sufferings, the cross with all its ignominy, its shame, its pain, there was nothing lovely about it. Crucifixion was a horrible death, a cruel, shameful, disgraceful death. There was nothing sweet, nothing beautiful about the crucifixion, and with regard to the sufferings of Jesus in His soul there was nothing beautiful in the anguish of His soul as such. But, then, in another sense, He is lovely
in His sufferings, very lovely. His spirit with its holiness and humility and grace and love poured out, if I may put it like that, poured out all its rich savour into His flowing blood, His sacrifice for sin. So we read “Christ hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” Ephesians 5.2. There
was a sweet, solemn savour in the sacrifice of Jesus, and it was the savour of His holiness and His love. He bore sin but there was no sin in Him. He was unstained with it; it was imputed to Him – it was never infused into Him, never. The Sin-Bearer was sinless. If there could have been (there could not have been) but if there could have been anything of sin in Jesus Christ Himself, there would be no sweet savour in His death. He was so holy. The Lamb of God at Calvary poured out His pure and His holy and His loving soul unto death, and there arose from it a sweet savour before God. Yes, and there is a sweet savour about the sacrifice for sin to be felt in the heart. Sweet is the Name of Jesus when we are favoured a little with entrance into this great mystery of His suffering for our sin, of His atoning sacrifice and the virtue of it. He is sweet at Calvary. The Psalmist said, “My meditation of Him shall be sweet,” Psalm 104.34. It is sweet when we can:-
“Sit for ever viewing
Mercy’s streams in streams of blood,
Precious drops my soul bedewing
Plead and claim my peace with God.”
Oh! He is fragrant; His Name is sweet. His beauty is wonderful in His sorrows. His love flowed out something like it was with the
alabaster box of ointment which one brought and broke over the head of Jesus Christ, and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. The human nature of Jesus Christ was like that pure alabaster box which contained all the rich fragrance of love and holiness and grace. It certainly diffused itself during His life, but it was when the pure alabaster of His human nature was broken, broken in death, that the sweet savour of the ointment filled the house, the church of God, with a rich fragrance, and fills it to this day. He was the Rose of Sharon in all His beauty and the lily of the valleys in all its sweetness, when He poured out His precious soul unto death.
But it did not end there. He rose again. His work of suffering over, He rose again from the grave triumphant. He didn’t leave the grave as a fugitive. He left the grave as a Victor. He didn’t flee from death; death fled from Him. Victoriously He came out of the tomb. That Rose of Sharon never lost any of its fragrance in the tomb, nor any of His beauty. Oh! He was lovely, He was beautiful in His resurrection. He came forth in that same humanity, but no more to suffer and die. Indeed, I feel that it was true of Jesus Christ, He had a natural body in which to suffer and die, but He was raised a spiritual body, never to die again. There is something very lovely about His resurrection and His coming forth from the grave.
For instance, Mary, supposed that He was the gardener. There was such a change in His body that it was not immediately recognized, but once He made Himself known it was recognized. Though I would not speak too positively on these matters, I take it that the change in the appearance of Jesus Christ was that He was raised from the dead in a spiritual body, but once that body was recognized, He was seen at once to be His very self. Well, Mary, supposing Him to be the gardener, said “If Thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him.” She seemed to have no thought that He was risen from the dead,(John 20.15.) then ” Jesus saith unto her, Mary.” John 20.16. All the fragrance, all the sweetness of the love and of the loveliness of Jesus Christ was spoken into that one word, “Mary,” and there was nothing else needed. Her heart at once recognized and responded with such an out-flowing of love.
Yes, He was lovely in His resurrection. There was no trace of grief and sorrow upon Him – the marks of His sufferings, but no trace of suffering. And so it was when He appeared to His disciples on the evening of that blessed day, that wonderful day of His resurrection, on the way to Emmaus and their hearts were sad as they walked and reasoned together. It is no wonder that their hearts were sad when they reasoned together, for reasoning had not the key to that deep mystery of His death, but Jesus drew near to them, and He drew their hearts out to Him and He began to impart to them something of His sweet purity and their hearts began to burn within them so that they could not bear to part with Him. They said, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” Luke 24.29. They felt He was so precious to them.
There is never a right time for Jesus Christ to leave us and go on His way. It was towards evening. Well, if it had been the morning it would have been the same. They would have said, “There is no need for you to go yet, the whole day is in front of you, stay with us a little longer.” If it had been mid-day they would have said, “The heat of the day is great, come in and rest with us a little while.” And when it was evening, “Lord, it is too late for you to go now; you must abide with us.” It is never the right time when Jesus enters into communion with a soul for Him to pass on His way – it is always, Lord, abide with us.” You see. He was so sweet to them in His dirrection. He was the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. Though He had been torn, scourged, pierced, yet He came forth from the grave as beautiful as ever, as fragrant as ever. “I am the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.”
So He ascended into heaven at the Father’s right hand. And very blessedly and instructively He spoke to His disciples that same night when He portrayed the heavenly mansions. He said, “In my father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have I you. I go to prepare a place for you.” There are many mansions in my Father’s house but I need to prepare them – they need to be prepared for you. For heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people; and I believe that Jesus filled and fills still those heavenly mansions with His sweet beauty, His sweet preciousness, His sweet love. Oh! what would heaven be without Jesus Christ? What would Sharon be without its Rose, or the valleys without the lily, but what would heaven be without Jesus Christ? He is the glory of heaven, the bliss of heaven, the attraction of heaven in His heart. Every heart finds its perfect centre, perfect union, perfect love and perfect bliss there. Oh! my friends the savour of the Rose of Sharon fills the blessed courts above. “I am the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. He is that still. He always will be, always to endless ages, same sweet, precious, holy, lovely and loving Person, and sometimes we feel a longing to see Him as He is, and to enter into those heavenly scenes of life and love. This is a wearying world, and if we look around we see evil, and not much but which distresses the mind and grieves us. Oh! there is sin here and there and everywhere. This is a sin-stricken, grief-stricken world, but there is another life than this and another place, and that is where Jesus is. If people ask where heaven is, the question is easily answered. Heaven is where Jesus is. That is good enough; where He is there is Heaven; and where He is there is all the sweetness and perfume and beauty of the Rose of Sharon.
Finally we may consider in what ways can we hope and seek to feel this preciousness of Jesus Christ and see this beauty and taste this perfume and fragrance of His Name? Well, first of course there is the Scriptures. The Rose of Sharon perfumes the Scriptures. They are they which testify of Him. The Scriptures set before us the Person, the beauty and the loveliness of Jesus Christ. This is what makes the Scriptures to be to us what they are. It is not only that we could be interested in the Scriptures as literature. That is not
enough to do us any good. It may interest the mind, and leave the soul starved, but oh! to see Jesus in the Scriptures. There every feature of His beautiful Person, every expression is love. Every revelation of His holiness and every revelation of His grace is in the Scriptures. “They are they which testify of Me.” And when the Holy Spirit enlightens our understandings, as Jesus Himself opened the understandings of His disciples that they should understand the Scriptures, we see something in the Scriptures which makes our hearts burn as it did theirs. “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way and while He opened to us the scriptures?” They saw Jesus Christ in the Scriptures in a light that they had never seen Him in the Scriptures before. They were well acquainted with the Scriptures, of course, as the Jews were, but they hadn’t seen Jesus Christ in them, but they saw Him in the Scriptures, and when His communion with them made those Scriptures to have such a gracious influence upon their hearts, their heart began to burn within them. It is still the same, my friends. The Holy Spirit, who has taken the place of the personal presence of Jesus Christ in the church and with the Lord’s people, causes our hearts to feel some measure, little or more, of warmth towards Jesus Christ. It is when we see Him in the Scriptures we respond to Him in our hearts and feel that gracious emanation of His love upon our spirit. The Holy Scriptures are perfumed with the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily of the valleys is sweet in the Scriptures.
Then, what shall I say of the preaching of the Gospel, the ministry? If there is any sweetness, any savour, any unction in the ministry, it is because the Rose of Sharon perfumes it. The Apostle writing of the ministry said that it was by his preaching that the savour of the knowledge of Jesus Christ was shed abroad in every place; and in every place where he was led to preach the Gospel the savour of the knowledge of Jesus Christ was shed abroad. There is a knowledge of Jesus Christ, I know, that has no savour; heady, intellectual, formal, hard, speculative, traditional. But there is a knowledge of Jesus Christ that has a savour that is sweet, that endears Him to the affections, that draws out our desires towards His precious Name. This knowledge of Him is eternal life in the heart. That knowledge, that savoury knowledge was shed abroad by the preaching of the Apostle. And it is so still. That which makes the Gospel ministry savoury now is Jesus Christ. “Whom we preach,” the fulness of His grace and love flows into the Gospel and the ministry is a means of communication of it to our spirits. It is sweet to hear His Name, but it is sweet to feel that Name to be precious to our hearts. It softens our hardness as nothing else can. It revives our spiritual lives as nothing else could revive them. It attracts our affections as nothing else could attract them. The Sweetness and the beauty of Jesus makes the ministry of the Gospel to be what it is.
Again, what are the ordnances of His house and especially the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper? It is just as sweet to us, and sacred and solemn, as we can feel the preciousness of Jesus Christ; as the sacred words and sacred emblems have a perfume of His dying love
to our souls. I must say that I feel the experience of many differs with regard to this matter. Some have expressed themselves to me somewhat disappointed that they have not felt the blessing that they hoped they might feel. Well, we must speak as we feel. My experience is otherwise. I have felt the Lord to be nearer to me at His Table than anywhere and sometimes it has seemed to me as though those sacred words of His “Take eat, this is My body which is broken for you and this cup is the New Testament in My blood which is shed for you” have been sweet to me through the Saviour’s dying love in them, and that is communion, real communion! The ordiance is very little unless it is savoured with the sweetness of JesusÂ’ precious Name, love and blood. And I would like to set this before you because I feel I would like the ordinances to have a higher place in the desire and esteem and affection than I feel they do have. The Rose of Sharon sheds His sweetness in His own appointed way, at His own appointed Table and on His own appointed emblems of his broken body and shed blood. I must say that sometimes when the service has been over and everyone gone I
go back into the chapel, and sit there quietly in my seat and seem still to dwell upon the sweet savour of the Lord’s Table. Those are sweet words, the Rose of Sharon sheds His fragrance upon them, Â“This is My body, this is My blood” and so He feeds our souls with ^heavenly food which nourishes faith, strengthens hope, enlivens love, exalts His precious Name and unites us in our affections to His own.
Â“I am the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” If the Holy Spirit is pleased to convey the beauty of Christ to your spiritual view and the sweetness of Christ to your spiritual feelings, that is everything.
*This part of the subject was dealt with in the sermon in Vol. 7. No.6.