The church is here pleasing herself exceedingly with the thoughts of her further communion with Christ after she has recovered from her fainting fit.
I. She rejoices in his approach, Song 2:8. 1. She hears him speak: “It is the voice of my beloved, calling me to tell me he is coming.” Like one of his own sheep, she knows his voice before she sees him, and can easily distinguish it from the voice of a stranger (John 10:4, 5), and, like a faithful friend of the bridegroom, she rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice, John 3:29. With what an air of triumph and exultation does she cry out, “It is the voice of my beloved, it can be the voice of no other, for none besides can speak to the heart and make that burn.” 2. She sees him come, sees the goings of our God, our King, Ps. 68:24. Behold, he comes. This may very well be applied to the prospect with the Old-Testament saints had of Christ’s coming in the flesh. Abraham saw his day at a distance, and was glad. The nearer the time came the clearer discoveries were made of it; and those that waited for the consolation of Israel with an eye of faith saw him come, and triumphed in the sight: Behold, he comes; for they had heard him say (Ps. 40:7), Lo, I come, to which their faith here affixes its seal: Behold, he comes as he has promised. (1.) He comes cheerfully and with great alacrity; he comes leaping and skipping like a roe and like a young hart (Song 2:9), as one pleased with his own undertaking, and that had his heart upon it and his delights with the sons of men. When he came to be baptized with the baptism of blood, how was he straitened till it was accomplished! Luke 12:50. (2.) He comes slighting and surmounting all the difficulties that lay in his way; he comes leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills (so some read it), making nothing of the discouragements he was to break through; the curse of the law, the death of the cross, must be undergone, all the powers of darkness must be grappled with, but, before the resolutions of his love, these great mountains become plains. Whatever opposition is given at any time to the deliverance of God’s church, Christ will break through it, will get over it. (3.) He comes speedily, like a roe or a young hart; they thought the time long (every day a year), but really he hastened; as now, so then, surely he comes quickly; he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. When he comes for the deliverance of his people he flies upon a cloud, and never stays beyond his time, which is the best time. We may apply it to particular believers, who find that even when Christ has withdrawn sensible comforts, and seems to forsake, yet it is but for a small moment, and he will soon return with everlasting loving-kindness.
II. She pleases herself with the glimpses she has of him, and the glances she has of his favour: “He stands behind our wall; I know he is there, for sometimes he looks forth at the window, or looks in at it, and displays himself through the lattice.” Such was the state of the Old-Testament church while it was in expectation of the coming of the Messiah. The ceremonial law is called a wall of partition (Eph. 2:14), a veil (2 Cor. 3:13); but Christ stood behind that wall. They had him near them; they had him with them, though they could not see him clearly. He that was the substance was not far off from the shadows, Col. 2:17. The saw him looking through the windows of the ceremonial institutions and smiling through those lattices; in their sacrifices and purifications Christ discovered himself to them, and gave them intimations and earnests of his grace, both to engage and to encourage their longings for his coming. Such is our present state in comparison with what it will be at Christ’s second coming. We now see him through a glass darkly (the body is a wall between us and him, through the windows of which we now and then get a sight of him), but not face to face, as we hope to see him shortly. In the sacraments Christ is near us, but it is behind the wall of external signs, through those lattices he manifests himself to us; but we shall shortly see him as he is. Some understand this of the state of a believer when he is under a cloud; Christ is out of sight and yet not far off. See Job 34:14; and compare Job 23:8-10. She calls the wall that interposed between her and her beloved our wall, because it is sin, and nothing else, that separates between us and God, and that is a wall of our own erecting (Isa. 59:1); behind that he stands, as waiting to be gracious, and ready to be reconciled, upon our repentance. Then he looks in at the window, observes the frame of our hearts and the working of our souls; he looks forth at the window, and shows himself in giving them some comfort, that they may continue hoping for his return.
III. She repeats the gracious invitation he had given her to come a walking with him, Song 2:10-13. She remembers what her beloved said to her, for it had made a very pleasing and powerful impression upon her, and the word that quickens us we shall never forget. She relates it for the encouragement of others, telling them what he had said to her soul and done for her soul, Ps. 66:16.
1. He called her his love and his fair one. Whatever she is to others, to him she is acceptable, and in his eyes she is amiable. Those that take Christ for their beloved, he will own as his; never was any love lost that was bestowed upon Christ. Christ, by expressing his love to believers, invites and encourages them to follow him.
2. He called her to rise and come away, Song 2:10; and again Song 2:13. The repetition denotes backwardness in her (we have need to be often called to come away with Jesus Christ; precept must be upon precept and line upon line), but it denotes earnestness in him; so much is his heart set upon the welfare of precious souls that he importunes them most pressingly to that which is for their own good.
3. He gave for a reason the return of the spring, and the pleasantness of the weather.
(1.) The season is elegantly described in a great variety of expressions. [1.] The winter is past, the dark, cold, and barren winter. Long winters and hard ones pass away at last; they do no endure always. And the spring would not be so pleasant as it is if it did not succeed the winter, which is a foil to its beauty, Eccl. 7:14. Neither the face of the heavens nor that of the earth is always the same, but subject to continual vicissitudes, diurnal and annual. The winter is past, but has not passed away for ever; it will come again, and we must provide for it in summer, Prov. 6:6, 8. We must weep in winter, and rejoice in summer, as though we wept and rejoiced not, for both are passing. [2.] The rain is over and gone, the winter-rain, the cold stormy rain; it is over now, and the dew is as the dew of herbs. Even the rain that drowned the world was over and gone at last (Gen. 8:1-3), and God promised to drown the world no more, which was a type and figure of the covenant of grace, Isa. 54:9. [3.] The flowers appear on the earth. All winter they are dead and buried in their roots, and there is no sign of them; but in the spring they revive, and show themselves in a wonderful variety and verdure, and, like the dew that produces them, tarry not for man, Mic. 5:7. They appear, but they will soon disappear again, and man in herein like the flower of the field, Job 14:2. [4.] The time of singing of birds has come. The little birds, which all the winter lie hid in their retirements and scarcely live, when the spring returns forget all the calamities of the winter, and to the best of their capacity chant forth the praises of their Creator. Doubtless he who understands the birds that cry for want (Ps. 147:9) takes notice of those that sing for joy Ps. 104:12. The singing of the birds may shame our silence in God’s praises, who are better fed (Matt. 6:26), and better taught (Job 35:11), and are of more value than many sparrows. They live without inordinate care (Matt. 6:26) and therefore they sing, while we murmur. [5.] The voice of the turtle is heard in our land, which is one of the season-birds mentioned Jer. 8:7; that observe the time of their coming and the time of their singing, and so shame us who know not the judgment of the Lord, understand not the times, nor do that which is beautiful in its season, do not sing in singing time. [6.] The fig-tree puts forth her green figs, by which we know that summer is nigh (Matt. 24:32), when the green figs will be ripe figs and fit for use; and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. The earth produces not only flowers (Song 2:12), but fruits; and the smell of the fruits, which are profitable, is to be preferred far before that of the flowers, which are only for show and pleasure. Serpents, they say, are driven away by the smell of the vines; and who is the old serpent, and who the true vine, we know very well.
(2.) Now this description of the returning spring, as a reason for coming away with Christ, is applicable [1.] To the introducing of the gospel in the room of the Old-Testament dispensation, during which it had been winter time with the church. Christ’s gospel warms that which was cold, makes that fruitful which before was dead and barren; when it comes to any place it puts a beauty and glory upon that place (2 Cor. 3:7, 8) and furnishes occasion for joy. Spring-time is pleasant time, and so is gospel-time. Aspice venturo laetentur ut omnia seclo—Behold what joy the dawning age inspires! said Virgil, from the Sibyls, perhaps with more reference to the setting up of the Messiah’s kingdom at that time than he himself thought of. See Ps. 96:11. Arise then, and improve this spring-time. Come away from the world and the flesh, come into fellowship with Christ, 1 Cor. 1:9. [2.] To the delivering of the church from the power of persecuting enemies, and the restoring of liberty and peace to it, after a severe winter of suffering and restraint. When the storms of trouble are over and gone, when the voice of the turtle, the joyful sound of the gospel of Christ, is again heard, and ordinances are enjoyed with freedom, then arise and come away to improve the happy juncture. Walk in the light of the Lord; sing in the ways of the Lord. When the churches had rest, then were they edified, Acts 9:31. [3.] To the conversion of sinners from a state of nature to a state of grace. That blessed change is like the return of the spring, a universal change and a very comfortable one; it is a new creation; it is being born again. The soul that was hard, and cold, and frozen, and unprofitable, like the earth in winter, becomes fruitful, like the earth in spring, and by degrees, like it, brings its fruits to perfection. This blessed change is owing purely to the approaches and influences of the sun of righteousness, who calls to us from heaven to arise and come away; come, gather in summer. [4.] To the consolations of the saints after a state of inward dejection and despondency. A child of God, under doubts and fears, is like the earth in winter, its nights long, its days dark, good affections chilled, nothing done, nothing got, the hand sealed up. But comfort will return; the birds shall sing again, and the flowers appear. Arise therefore, poor drooping soul, and come away with thy beloved. Arise, and shake thyself from the dust, Isa. 52:2. Arise, shine, for thy light has come (Isa. 60:1); walk in that light, Isa. 2:5. [5.] To the resurrection of the body at the last day, and the glory to be revealed. The bones that lay in the grave, as the roots of the plants in the ground during the winter, shall then flourish as a herb, Isa. 66:14; Isa. 26:19. That will be an eternal farewell to winter and a joyful entrance upon an everlasting spring.