OINTMENT POURED FORTH
Mr Stanley Delves.
“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Song of Solomon 2.1.
The Song of Solomon is beyond all question one of the most pure, sweet, spiritual and holy parts of the Scriptures. Not that we would regard one part of the Word of God above another for “all scripture is given by inspiration of God.” But there are some parts of the Scripture that seem to be preeminent in the sacred volume, and one would feel that we might rightly say that the Song of Solomon is preeminent in the beauty and spirituality and holiness of its character. It is a beautiful expression of the mutual love of Christ and the church, expressed in forms of the most tender intimacy, the warmest admiration and the most intense desire the one for the other. Of all Solomon’s Songs, and he wrote one thousand and five, there was no Song like this. This is the Song of Songs. Of all Solomon’s numerous Songs this is preeminent. For one thing, it appears to have been the only Song that Solomon wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All his other songs were the product of his own poetical genius, but this was, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a sublime and exquisitely tender expression of the love of Christ and His church. It is the Song of Songs because it is the theme of themes. There is no subject like it. But it is a venture for me to speak from the Song of Solomon – for one thing – the spiritual tone is so high; it seems often so much above one’s own spiritual level. We need to have much personal, tender intimacy and living communion with Jesus Christ to be able to enter into the Song of Solomon and understand it.
There is some difficulty with regard to the interpretation as to who is the speaker in some of the expressions, whether it is Christ or the Church, or the Bride or the Bridegroom, for the Book is in the nature of a spiritual dialogue between them both. And that difficulty arises somewhat in this particular verse; there seems to be some differences of mind amongst those who have written on it as to whether this is the voice of Christ or the church. But I rather wonder is that because it seems to me that this can only be rightly understood to be the voice of Christ “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” It would hardly become the church to commend herself like that, or to express her own beauty and sweetness. “I am black” seems better to express the voice of the church, even though comely in Jesus Christ, but black in myself. It is quite right that Jesus Christ should express Himself in this way and
it is, as I understand it, a commendation of His beauty to His church, and one reason why it is thought that it is the voice of the church is because in the original there is a somewhat deprecatory note and it has been translated “I am the mere rose of Sharon and only the lily of the valleys.” To my view of it that seems only to add to it as being the voice of Christ for, although Christ does rightly commend His beauty and His sweetness, even He would do that in a very humble tone. He would not express Himself in any proud way in the matter. It is the expression of His beauty expressed in a way of humility.
The purpose of this word then, is to set before us the person and beauty of Jesus Christ; and the purpose of that being set before us, and set before us from Jesus Himself is to attract our esteem and our affection and our desire towards Himself. That is something that we very much need.
“I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.” This expresses beauty and sweetness, or perfume or fragrance. The flowers are expressive of that, although we must not altogether suppose that the rose of Sharon was necessarily a flower that goes by that name with us, nor that the lily of the valleys is the little flower that we are familiar with. Names change as so many years pass by, but there is no need for us to discuss what particular flower is meant by the rose, and by the lily. The spiritual significance is that of beauty and sweetness. Some flowers have beauty without sweetness. Some lilies, the Madonna and the Arum lily are beautiful in their pure whiteness, but there is not much perfume. Jesus Christ is not beauty without sweetness. And there are some flowers that have a fragrance like the honeysuckle, you can smell it if you don’t see it – it is so sweet but there is not any great beauty. Jesus Christ is not sweetness without beauty; He is not beauty without sweetness. He has a beautiful sweetness and a very sweet beauty. He is the rose of Sharon and He is the lily of the valleys. He has the beauty of the one combined with the sweetness of the other.
However, this description appears especially to refer to His humanity. As He was here amongst men, and with regard to His humanity as He is now in heaven. For the humanity that He assumed in this world He has taken into heaven.
Now we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ had a pre-incarnate glory with the Father in His essential eternal divine nature as the Only Begotten of the Father before the foundation of the world, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. He had a glory, a majesty that pertained to Him as the Son of God that was essential to His divine nature. That glory filled heaven even before the world was. It was the glory that He expressed in that prayer, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17.5. But that glory does not seem to be the beauty of my text. “I am the rose of Sharon”, not of heaven. “I am the lily of the valleys,” that is of the plains, “of the valleys” of this world. It seems to refer very distinctly to the beauty and sweetness of Jesus Christ as He was born into this world in our
very nature, for His humanity was real humanity in every part of it. The sinlessness of His humanity did not make it other than humanity, for humanity is not necessarily sinful. It was not sinful as God created it. Sin is not essential to human nature, it is an awful infusion into it that has defiled it, mortalized it, polluted it, perverted it from God and filled it with evil. Oh! it is an awful intrusion into human nature, and with regard to the people of God, it will be finally expelled. The human nature of the people of God will always be human nature, but it will be human nature with that awful infusion of sin cleansed out and for ever expelled. The humanity of Jesus Christ was perfect humanity. It is wonderful to ,consider this. The Lord Jesus Christ was so really God, so divine, so eternal, it seems almost impossible He could have been a real man, but He was. His humanity was so real; He hungered. He thirsted;
He was weary; He walked this world as we walk it. He had every experience of human life as we experience it. He was so really a man it seems hard to believe that He was eternally God. It is easy to say his, that we believe He was the God-man, but when you look into it, it is so wonderful it is not easy to believe it. We need the Holy Spirit to give us faith to believe that Jesus Christ was God and Man, eternally God, really Man.
These words, “I am the rose of Sharon.” refer to Him as He was in this world. “The lily of the valleys”, and so He was amongst men, although so very few perceived it; He was also the beauty, the perfume of Sharon. The expression also implies that His beauty and
His sweetness was entirely from Himself. The beauty of a rose is essentially in the flower. As the flower unfolds so its beauty appears and the perfume of it is in itself. Some things need to be perfumed; a rose does not, nor a lily because its perfume is natural to itself. It is not added to it. How different it is with us, brethren, for if there is my spiritual sweetness about us, if there is any spiritual beauty of grace about us, that did not unfold from within our own hearts. We know it did not; that must be imparted. If there is any gracious perfume, it must come from Jesus Christ to us. It does not just develop out of ourselves, as the beauty of a rose develops out of itself. We need to be perfumed; Jesus Christ never did. As He grew in life, and as He grew in stature and in wisdom, so the beauty and .sweetness of His nature in and from Himself began to be apparent and began to be seen and began to be felt, for, although the world in general saw no beauty in Him, there were some who did. They said, ‘We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1.14. What was His glory? It was “grace and truth.”
Jesus Christ is an infinite source of beauty and fragrance, but what was the beauty and sweetness of this rose of Sharon? Well, it certainly does not appear to have been in His appearance amongst men. What His appearance was we do not know, but it is foolish to suppose He bore any kind of halo around His countenance as some have tried to depict. I have no doubt that His countenance had a certain beauty but, on the other hand, it was marred with sorrow
and grief and it was said of Him that “When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” for His visage was more marred than any man’s. Where then was His beauty. His sweetness? First, His beauty and sweetness was in His holiness. How many of us can feel and sense a sweetness in holiness, and see a beauty in it? Be you clear about this, my friends, if you can see no beauty in holiness, you will see no beauty in Jesus Christ. If you can smell no sweetness in purity, you cannot sense the sweetness of the nature of Jesus Christ. That is one reason why,
“In Him the world no beauty sees.”
This is why His Name is not to them as ointment poured forth. How can men who have no spiritual nature see any beauty in holiness? I hardly know how it does appear in their eyes. But, that is no criterion. He is the rose of Sharon even if men do despise His holy beauty. But there are some who can see it and feel it. Jesus Christ was so pure. No lily was so pure as His mind was pure – no sinful thought, no sinful imagination ever left a stain upon the exquisite loveliness of His mind. Every thought of His mind was a pure, holy thought, and every feeling of His heart was a lovely feeling. Oh! there is beauty and sweetness in the purity of Jesus Christ. He was the rose of Sharon for purity. Sin? Oh, it is just opposite to that, and I do not know any way in which the evil nature of sin is more seen and felt than when we see it in comparison with the pure loveliness of Jesus. It is not an exaggeration to say that if holiness has sweetness, sin has its stench about it, repulsive and repugnant. Men love what is agreeable to their nature, and if people have no holy nature they cannot realize what an evil there is in sin, what an evil smell there is about sin. But Jesus Christ, oh! His garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces. If you and I have any spiritual sight of Jesus, and any spiritual sense of the sweetness of His Name, we shall know what holiness is, because we shall see and feel it in that rose of Sharon, in that pure lily of the valleys. I know of no other way we can feel and sense the beauty of holiness but by sensing the sweetness of Jesus Christ.
Where there is anything of Jesus Christ there is beauty, there is sweetness; and that can be in you, and it can be in me. Oh! I know what we want and what we need; we need the rose of Sharon in our hearts. We need that lily of the valleys in our spirit, then there will be a sweetness. Wherever He is there is holiness. Wherever His name is there is sweetness. Wherever His spirit is manifested, there is something lovely. Oh! we do need it, brethren. We need the rose of Sharon in our poor hearts. And can that be so? Well, if it could not be so, I have nothing more to say. I could not preach a Gospel that was impossible. I could not set forth a blessedness that we could never receive, never possess. Why should I? I should have nothing to preach, there would be nothing to listen to if it was not this, that Jesus Christ can impart His beauty. His sweetness and His loveliness to your heart.
Yes, and if one’s mind goes forward and anticipates that blessed time when Christ Himself will present His church to Himself a perfect church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, oh! what a lovely church His Bride will be. What a beautiful Bride that heavenly Bridegroom will receive for ever into the marriage union with Himself. The church will be lovely and beautiful, but its loveliness and its beauty will be the beauty of the rose of Sharon and of the lily of the valleys – there is no other!
Then, again, the beauty and the sweetness of this rose of Sharon, this lily of the valleys, is in the humility of His spirit. He was very humble. His humility was a part of His holiness. If we could perceive any holiness in ourselves, at once our foolish sinful hearts would begin to be proud of it. Perhaps that is why the Lord keeps His people far more conscious of their sinfulness than of their sanctification, of the vileness of their hearts than the beauty of Jesus Christ in them. For the Lord knows that, could we see His beauty in ourselves, well, unless we had His humility, we should think something of ourselves, and if we think something of ourselves, we are getting too high, and we may expect to be plunged into the ditch again.
Now, Jesus Christ was so humble. His humility was lovely. It was no affected humility, it was the real grace. He humbled Himself, He became obedient unto death. He was the lily, not of the heights and the mountains, but of the valleys. The Lord Jesus Christ never aspired to the great things of this world, never. He never rose above the valleys or the plain of Sharon. He never sought eminence amongst men; positions that men are so eager after, will strain every nerve to attain, meant nothing to Jesus Christ because He was so humble. Humble souls flourish best in the valleys, and He was the lily of the valleys. He humbled Himself. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. When Jesus humbled Himself He acted like Himself. He was never humiliated. To be humiliated is more often than not frustrated pride, but humility is not frustrated pride. It is a gracious, lowly spirit in the mind. Jesus was beautiful in His humility. If His Name savours of anything it savours of lowliness of heart, so He described Himself, “I am meek and lowly in heart” and that was His beauty. It was beautiful humility, it was humble beauty. When He humbled Himself He acted like Himself. He needed nothing to humble Him. All He needed was to express His humility which was already there. It was to Jesus Christ what the beauty is to the rose or the sweetness to the lily. But when He was bruised and broken, well then even the bruising of that rose of Sharon made His humility all the sweeter; not sweeter in itself, it could not be so, but sweeter to the sense and taste and feeling of those who can taste and feel it. Humility is beauty in a child of God. ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” We naturally tend to admire and appreciate gifts and abilities and the like. I think it is very little in the sight of the Lord. The humblest soul is most like the Saviour.
If there is any humility in us there is a sweetness in it, but it is not a
humility that has developed out of ourselves. It is something of Jesus Christ in us, some perfume, just a faint perfume of that sweet rose of Sharon. How can one possess this humility? Well, on our side, there is only one way and that is to seek to sit at Jesus’ feet and drink in His sweet spirit and burn with His love. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to impart something of Jesus Christ to our souls. If you would savour of humility, seek to drink in more of the spirit of Jesus Christ.
There is another feature of the sweetness of this rose of Sharon and that is His love. The love of Jesus Christ was beautiful in every way. It was beautiful in its purity. Even human love has dregs to it, a sediment at the bottom. The love of Jesus Christ was pure love, beautiful in its nature, in its humility. In the love of Jesus Christ is the love of God. For the love of God as it is in Jesus Christ seems to come nearer to us. At least, that is how I feel it. I know “God is love.” I know that He is the infinite, eternal fulness of love, but He is so sublime. He is so high, He is so Divine. I know we sing, and it’s a sweet word:-
Oh! love Divine how sweet Thou art,
When shall I find my willing heart
All taken up by Thee?
but it is that divine love as you can sense it in the rose of Sharon’s sweet smell. The Name of Jesus is fragrant with love.
How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds!
because it sounds with the sweetness of love. The beauty of Jesus Christ was the beauty of pure divine love in the rose of Sharon, in the lily of the valleys. In Jesus Christ the love of God comes down to us from heaven to earth, from the divine to the human, from the sublime fountain in essential divinity to our dear Redeemer who is “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.” The love of God in Jesus Christ comes near. Near to those to whom it comes, near to all His dear ones. My friends, no-one can feel any sweetness in Jesus Christ unless they can taste the sweetness of His love. If there is any sweetness in us at all, it is the sweetness of that love.
Love has a sweet smelling savour. We are exhorted to love one another. And why? As Christ also hath loved us. It is the love of Christ, the sweetness of His love that makes the love of believers, one to another so sweet. It is sweet to feel in that love we would have one to another, the richer, holier love of Jesus Christ who loved us.
There is an emanation of grace from Jesus Christ that is sweet. I think perhaps there is hardly a word that is more on our lips or in our prayers or in our hearts, than grace. It is a sweet word to everyone who knows it. There is something very sweet about grace. It has a sweetness that we cannot exactly describe, and yet we can so sensibly feel when we are so favoured. It was in my early days of spiritual feeling, when my spirit was in a very tender state, and the Lord was first bringing me, after much concern and confusion, into
the perception and to some degree into the experience of His precious Gospel as it is in Jesus Christ, that the grace of Gospel, so attracted my heart. I remember hearing that the late good minister of Clapham, Mr. Midmer, I do not think I had ever spoken to him before, but I ran up against him outside the chapel and he spoke to me. Quite involuntarily and without any introduction I said, “Mr. Midmer, I do love the grace of God” and he looked at me with something of surprise and he said, “That’s a great thing to say.” Well, it was, but it was true. I felt it; I involuntarily expressed it; the grace of God was lovely to me. There was something about grace that was very sweet. Although as the years go by we have not that initial sense of these things, but I think we have a deeper sense of them and a deeper sense of our need of them. And to this day the grace of God is sweet to me, as I hope it is sweet to you.
The grace of Jesus Christ is not just a doctrine that we can define although it is that. It is not only a principle of the Gospel although it is a fundamental principle of the Gospel. The whole Gospel system is founded on the principle of grace. But it is not only something that meets our need; and nothing can meet our need in our hopelessness, and dependence, and helplessness, and unworthiness and sinfulness, but grace, but there is something very sweet in grace; I will tell you why, because it emanates from the rose of Sharon, from the lily of the valleys, and whatever emanates from Jesus Christ has a sweetness in it to the spiritual sense of those who are conscious of that sweet emanation.
My friends, we haven’t anything at all apart from Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ is All and in all.
Some this, some that good virtue teach
To rectify the soul,
But we first after Jesus reach
Now you be sure that you are reaching after Jesus,
But we first after Jesus reach
And richly grasp the whole.
Without Jesus Christ we have nothing, but with Jesus Christ we have all.
A subsequent sermon on this text will. God willing, appear in our next issue.