"Yes! He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, this my Friend!" Song of Solomon 5:16
In this book, which is a divine marriage song, are all the strains of holy love set forth in the purest allegories and metaphors, such as represent that dear affection and union between Christ and His people. The text is nothing but the breathing forth of the spouse's love to Christ: "He is altogether lovely!" In the preceding verses, she had made her sacred paeans, and had been setting Christ forth in His spiritual embroidery.
"He is dark and dazzling" (verse 10). This denotes excellency of complexion; in Him is a mixture of the purest colors. He is of unspotted beauty.
"The chief among ten thousand." The Hebrew word signifies "the standard-bearer among ten thousand." The standard is a warlike ensign—and he who bore the standard in ancient times was the most eminent person in the army. Just so, Christ is the most glorious person of renown, the standard-bearer; according to Isaiah 11:10, "He shall stand for an ensign of the people."
"His head is as the most fine gold" (verse 11). Kings have crowns of gold; Christ is described with a head of gold. The Hebrew signifies shining gold, or sparkling gold, to set forth the infinite resplendence of Christ's beauty. It is of such a sparkling luster that the angels must wear a veil!
"His eyes are as the eyes of doves" (verse 12). Christ is described with eyes like a flame of fire in Revelation 1:14. So indeed He is to the wicked. He is a consuming fire; but to His children He has doves' eyes, which are the emblem of meekness. He has eyes dropping tears of love and compassion.
"His cheeks are as a bed of spices" (verse 13). There is an aromatic perfume coming from Him to refresh a fainting soul. Some expositors understand this bed of spices to mean the fragrancy of His virtues, which are in Scripture compared to sweet perfumes.
Thus the spouse goes on enumerating Christ's beauty; at last being in a holy rapture of spirit, she winds up all with this passionate strain of affection, "His mouth is most sweet, yes, He is altogether lovely."
"His mouth is most sweet." The Chaldean version paraphrases it, "The words of His mouth are as sweet as honey." In the Hebrew it is, "His mouth is sweetnesses." That mouth must be sweet which has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). That mouth must be sweet, a kiss of whose lips can make death sweet to a believer! Well might the spouse say, "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth!" (Song of Solomon 1:2).
"Yes, He is altogether lovely!" It is as if the spouse had said, "What do I do to set Christ forth in His several parts? His head of gold, His eyes like doves eyes, His hands as gold rings set with beryl, His belly as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires . . . alas, what is all this that I have been speaking of Christ? How barren is my conception, how dull are my expressions! Whatever I have said of Him falls infinitely short of His worth; but this I affirm: He is altogether lovely!"
The original language is, "He is all made up of loves and delights; He is all that may excite desire." So Jerome and Ambrose render it: "He is composed of sweetness and amiableness."
The text contains a glorious and magnificent description of Christ, "He is altogether lovely!" Behold here a spring full of the water of life; and whoever brings his vessel here—a heart fit to receive this water—may be refreshed, as was the woman of Samaria coming to Jacob's well—for Christ is here! The text is a sacred cabinet which contains in it, first, the jewel—Christ, in this word "He;" second, the value of this jewel—"altogether lovely."
Doctrine: Jesus Christ is infinitely and superlatively lovely.
He is the most amazing and delightful object; the very name of Jesus Christ is as a precious ointment poured forth. It is said that the letters of this name were found engraved on Ignatius's heart. Jesus Christ is in every believer's heart (Colossians 1:27, "Christ in you"); and nothing can do better there, for He is altogether lovely.
This whole book of the Song of Solomon is bespangled with the praises of Christ. Homer might praise Achilles, and Jerome might commend Nepotian; but who can set forth Christ's praise? All that I can say will be no more than the dark shadow in the picture; and yet it will be so much as may represent him very lovely. That Christ is thus transcendently lovely, will appear in four manner of ways—by titles, by types, by comparisons, and by demonstrations.
1. Christ appears lovely by His TITLES. These are so many jewels hung upon His crown. He is called "The Desire of All Nations" in Haggai 2:7, "The Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6, "The Holy One of God" in Acts 2:27, and "elect and precious" in 1 Peter 2:6. These are lovely titles.
2. Christ appears lovely by TYPES. He was prefigured by such
types as were lovely—and these types were either of persons or things.
Christ was typified by most lovely persons. I will name but three.
MOSES prefigured and typified out Christ in four things:
Moses was a type of Christ in his natural beauty. He was a lovely child (Exodus 2:2). Josephus said, "Moses was so lovely that he drew the eyes of all to him; and those who had seen him were so amazed at his beauty and fed on it with such delight, that they were unwilling to look away again." And herein he was a type of Christ, in whom are all sparkling beauties to be found, "He is altogether lovely!"
Moses was a type of Christ in his education. He was bred up a while at court and, as Josephus said, Pharaoh's daughter set a crown of gold upon his head. But leaving the court, he went and lived in the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). So Christ left the royal court of heaven—to come and live in the world.
Moses was a type of Christ in his office. He was a PROPHET. Deuteronomy 34:10, "There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." He acquainted Israel with the mind of God; he gave them the two tables of the law. So Jesus Christ is a prophet (Luke 24:19). He reveals to His people the mysteries of salvation. He unseals the book of God's decrees and makes known His will (Revelation 5:5). He is counted worthy of more glory than Moses (Hebrews 3:3).
Moses was a type of Christ in his noble acts.
He was a deliverer of the people from the Egyptian furnace; he was a temporal savior. So Jesus' name signifies a Savior. Matthew 1:21, "You are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins."
Moses was an intercessor for Israel and turned away the wrath of God from them (Numbers 14). So Christ is the saints' advocate. Romans 8:34: "He also rnakes intercession for us."
Christ was also typified by DAVID. David was a king; so is Christ adorned with regal power. He is a king to govern His people (Revelation 15:3), and to conquerHis enemies (Psalm 110:1). David was a man after God's own heart. This prefigured Christ, in whom God was well pleased (Matthew 3:17).
Christ was also typified by SOLOMON, first in his name, which signifies "peaceable." Christ is called "The Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6. The angels proclaimed this at His incarnation. Luke 2:14: "Peace on earth." All his wars tend to peace. And He gives that peace which passes all understanding.
Solomon typified Christ in his government. His was a most flourishing kingdom (2 Chronicles 9:22). King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches. So Christ's kingdom is very glorious; all His subjects are made kings. He reigns in heaven and earth—and of His kingdom there is no end.
Solomon typified Christ in His wisdom. He was the oracle of his age (1 Kings 4:31) and was wiser than all men. So Christ received the unction from His Father. He had a spirit of wisdom and holiness poured upon Him without measure (John 3:34; Isaiah 11:2). "Behold, one greater than Solomon is here!" (Matthew 12:42). Thus Jesus Christ was prefigured by those persons who were most lovely.
Christ was typified by most lovely things.
Type 1. Christ was typified by the pillar of cloud and fire, which was Israel's guide and conductor in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). This typified Christ, our pillar of cloud, who guides our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). The cloud was unerring, for God was in it. Such is Christ, who is the way and the truth (John 14:6). How lovely is this pillar to behold!
Type 2. Christ was typified by the manna. This pointed to Christ, who is like the manna in three things.
The figure of manna was circular. Exodus 16:14: "There lay a small round thing." The circle is a figure of perfection; this typified Christ, in whom is all perfection.
The manna was a food prepared for Israel. The Hebrew word (from whence manna seems to be derived) signifies "to prepare." Manna was a food cooked and dressed in heaven. God Himself prepared it—and then served it. Thus Jesus Christ was like manna: He was prepared and set apart by His Father to the blessed work of mediatorship. Hebrews 10:5: "A body have You prepared for Me."
The Jewish Rabbis say that manna suited itself to everyone's taste; whatever he desired, that he found in manna. So Jesus Christ suits Himself to every Christian's condition. He is full of quickening, strengthening, comforting virtue. What fools are they, who prefer the earthly mammon—before this heavenly manna!
Type 3. Christ was typified by the mercy seat, which was a sacred emblem representing the mercy of God to His people. There the Lord gave forth His oracles and answers of peace to His people. Exodus 25:22: "There will I meet you—and I will commune with you." This mercy seat was a type of Christ, in and through whom God is appeased towards us. Therefore He is called a sacrifice of atonement in Romans 3:25. Oh, how lovely is this mercy seat! We could not speak to God in prayer, nor would He commune with us—were it not for this blessed atoning sacrifice. The Hebrew word for mercy seat signifies a covering—to show that in Christ the sins of believers are covered.
Type 4. Christ was prefigured by the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9). The brazen serpent resembled Christ in two ways:
It was made like a serpent—but it was no real serpent. Just so, Christ was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but He was not a sinner. He was made sin—but He knew no sin. Christ was as void of sin—as the brazen serpent was of a sting!
When the people of Israel were stung by the fiery serpents, then whoever looked upon the brazen serpent was cured. Thus, when sin stings the souls of men (for it is a serpent with five stings: it stings men with guilt, shame, horror of conscience, death, and the curse of God), then Christ, that brazen serpent, being looked upon with a penitent's believing eye, cures these deadly stings! Oh, how lovely is this brazen serpent! Many of the Jews worshiped the serpent of brass, "He broke into pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had begun to worship it by burning incense to it. The brazen serpent was called Nehushtan." (2 Kings 18:4). Let us in our hearts adore this brazen serpent—the Lord Jesus.
Type 5. Christ was typified by Noah's ark, which saved Noah and his family from the flood. Thus when the wrath of God, as a deluge, overflows the wicked, Christ is the Ark in which the believer sails above those bloody waves—and is preserved from drowning!
And is not the Lord Jesus most lovely? All these types did but serve to shadow forth the divine excellencies of Christ and render Him lovely in our eyes!
3. That Christ is this lovely appears by those RESEMBLANCES to which the Scripture compares Him. He is compared to things that are
most illustrious. There are seven lovely resemblances of Christ in Scripture:
1. Christ is resembled to a ROSE. Song of Solomon 2:1: "I am the Rose of Sharon." The rose is the queen of flowers; it is most delicious for color and scent—to show that fragrant perfume which Christ sends forth. All roses, though beautiful, have their prickles; only the Rose of Sharon does not! So sweet is this rose of paradise that it makes us become a sweet fragrance to God (2 Corinthians 2:15). This rose never loses its color nor fragrancy! Is it not then, very lovely?
2. Christ is resembled to a VINE in John 15:1. The vine, as Pliny says, is the noblest of plants—and to this Christ is compared. Oh, what lovely clusters grow upon this Vine: the fruits of justification, sanctification, and so on! These bunches of grapes hang upon the Lord Jesus. We are indebted to this Vine. Hosea 14:8: "From Me is your fruit found." Nay, Christ excels the vine. For though there are many things on the vinetree besides the fruit that are useful—the leaves, the gum, the ashes of the vine—yet the wood of the vine is useless "Can wood be taken from it to make something useful? Or can anyone make a peg from it to hang things on?" (Ezekiel 15:3).
Now herein Christ is more lovely than the vinetree; there is nothing in Christ which is not useful. We have need of His human nature; we have need of His divinenature; we have need of His offices, influences, privileges—there is nothing in this vine which we can be without. Oh, how blessed are the branches of this Vine! Mary was saved not by bearing the Vine—but by being engrafted into the Vine!
3. Christ is resembled to a CORNERSTONE in 1 Peter 2:6, and that in two respects:
First, the whole weight of the building lies upon the cornerstone. Just so, the weight of our salvation lies upon Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11-12).
Second, the cornerstone knits and unites together both parts of the building. Just so, when God and man were at variance, Christ, as the cornerstone, united them together, yes—and cemented them with His own blood! Oh, how lovely and precious is this cornerstone!