Here is, I. The humble petition which the spouse presents to her beloved, the shepherdess to the shepherd, the church and every believer to Christ, for a more free and intimate communion with him. She turns from the daughters of Jerusalem, to whom she had complained both of her sins and of her troubles, and looks up to heaven for relief and succour against both, Song 1:7. Here observe, 1. The title she gives to Christ: O thou whom my soul loveth. Note, It is the undoubted character of all true believers that their souls love Jesus Christ, which intimates both the sincerity and the strength of their love; they love him with all their hearts; and those that do so may come to him boldly and may humbly plead it with him. 2. The opinion she has of him as the good shepherd of the sheep; she doubts not but he feeds his flock and makes them rest at noon. Jesus Christ graciously provides both repast and repose for his sheep; they are not starved, but well fed, not scattered upon the mountains, but fed together, fed in green pastures and in the hot time of the day led by the still waters and made to lie down under a cool refreshing shade. Isa. it with God’s people a noon-time of outward troubles, inward conflicts? Christ has rest for them; he carries them in his arms, Isa. 40:11. 3. Her request to him that she might be admitted into his society: Tell me where thou feedest. Those that would be told, that would be taught, what they are concerned to know and do, must apply to Jesus Christ, and beg of him to teach them, to tell them. “Tell me where to find thee, where I may have conversation with thee, where thou feedest and tendest thy flock, that there I may have some of my company.” Observe, by the way, We should not, in love to our friends and their company, tempt them or urge them to neglect their business, but desire such an enjoyment of them as will consist with it, and rather, if we can, to join with them in their business and help to forward it. “Tell me where thou feedest, and there I will sit with thee, walk with thee, feed my flocks with thine, and not hinder thee nor myself, but bring my work with me.” Note, Those whose souls love Jesus Christ earnestly desire to have communion with him, by his word in which he speaks to us and by prayer in which we speak to him, and to share in the privileges of his flock; and we may learn from the care he takes of his church, to provide convenient food and rest for it, how to take care of our own souls, which are our charge. 4. The plea she uses for the enforcing of this request: “For why should I be as one that turns aside by (or after) the flocks of thy companions, that pretend to be so, but are really thy competitors, and rivals with thee.” Note, Turning aside from Christ after other lovers is that which gracious souls dread, and deprecate, more than any thing else. “Thou wouldst not have me to turn aside, no, nor to be as one that turns aside; tell me then, O tell me, where I may be near thee, and I will never leave thee.” (1.) “Why should I lie under suspicion, and look as if I belonged to some other and not to thee? Why should I be thought by the flocks of our companions to be a deserter from thee, and a retainer to some other shepherd?” Good Christians will be afraid of giving any occasion to those about them to question their faith in Christ and their love to him; they would not do any thing that looks like unconcernedness about their souls; or uncharitableness towards their brethren, or that savours of indifference and disaffection to holy ordinances; and we should pray to God to direct us into and keep us in the way of our duty, that we may not so much as seem to come short, Heb. 4:1. (2.) “Why should I lie in temptation to turn aside, as I do while I am absent from thee?” We should be earnest with God for a settled peace in communion with God through Christ, that we may not be as waifs and strays, ready to be picked up by him that next passes by.
II. The gracious answer which the bridegroom gives to this request, Song 1:8. See how ready God is to answer prayer, especially prayers for instruction; even while she is yet speaking, he hears. Observe, 1. How affectionately he speaks to her: O thou fairest among women! Note, Believing souls are fair, in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, above any other. Christ sees a beauty in holiness, whether we do or no. The spouse has called herself black, but Christ calls her fair. Those that are low in their own eyes are so much the more amiable in the eyes of Jesus Christ. Blushing at their own deformity (says Mr. Durham) is a chief part of their beauty. 2. How mildly he checks her for her ignorance, in these words, If thou know not, intimating that she might have known it if it had not been her own fault. What! dost thou not know where to find me and my flock? Compare Christ’s answer to a like address of Philip’s (John 14:9), Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? But, 3. With what tenderness he acquaints her where she might find him. If men say, Lo, here is Christ, or, Lo, he is there, believe them not, go not after them, Matt. 24:23, 26. But, (1.) Walk in the way of good men (Prov. 2:20), follow the track, ask for the good old way, observe the footsteps of the flock, and go forth by them. It will not serve to sit still and cry, “Lord, show me the way,” but we must bestir ourselves to enquire out the way; and we may find it by looking which way the footsteps of the flock lead, what has been the practice of godly people all along; let that practice be ours, Heb. 6:12; 1 Cor. 11:1. (2.) Sit under the direction of good ministers: “Feed thyself and thy kids besides the tents of the under-shepherds. Bring thy charge with thee” (it is probable that the custom was to commit the lambs and kids to the custody of the women, the shepherdesses); “they shall all be welcome; the shepherds will be no hindrance to thee, as they were to Reuel’s daughters (Exod. 2:17), but helpers rather, and therefore abide by their tents.” Note, Those that would have acquaintance and communion with Christ must closely and conscientiously adhere to holy ordinances, must join themselves to his people and attend his ministers. Those that have the charge of families must bring them with them to religious assemblies; let their kids, their children, their servants, have the benefit of the shepherds’ tents.
III. The high encomiums which the bridegroom gives of his spouse. To be given in marriage, in the Hebrew dialect, is to be praised (Ps. 78:63; margin), so this spouse is here; her husband praises this virtuous woman (Prov. 31:28); he praises her, as is usual in poems, by similitudes. 1. He calls her his love (Song 1:9); it is an endearing compellation often used in this book: “My friend, my companion, my familiar.” 2. He compares her to a set of strong and stately horses in Pharaoh’s chariots. Egypt was famous for the best horses. Solomon had his thence; and Pharaoh, no doubt, had the choicest the country afforded for his own chariots. The church had complained of her own weakness, and the danger she was in of being made a prey of by her enemies: “Fear not,” says Christ; “I have made thee like a company of horses; I have put strength into thee as I have done into the horse (Job 39:19), so that thou shalt with a gracious boldness mock at fear, and not be affrighted, like the lion, Prov. 28:1. The Lord has made thee as his goodly horse in the day of battle, Zech. 10:3. I have compared thee to my company of horses which triumphed over Pharaoh’s chariots, the holy angels, horses of fire.” Hab. 3:15; Thou didst walk through the sea with thy horses; and see Isa. 63:13. We are weak in ourselves, but if Christ make us as horses, strong and bold, we need not fear what all the powers of darkness can do against us. 3. He admires the beauty and ornaments of her countenance (Song 1:10): Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, the attire of the head, curls of hair, or favourites (so some), or knots of ribbons; thy neck also with chains, such as persons of the first rank wear, chains of gold. The ordinances of Christ are the ornaments of the church. The graces, gifts, and comforts of the Spirit, are the adorning of every believing soul, and beautify it; these render it, in the sight of God, of great price. The ornaments of the saints are many, but all orderly disposed in rows and chains, in which there is a mutual connexion with and dependence upon each other. The beauty is not from any thing in themselves, from the neck or from the cheeks, but from ornaments with which they are set off. It was comeliness which I put upon thee, said the Lord God; for we were born not only naked, but polluted, Ezek. 16:14.
IV. His gracious purpose to add to her ornaments; for where God has given true grace he will give more grace; to him that has shall be given. Isa. the church courageous in her resistance of sin, as the horses in Pharaoh’s chariots? Isa. she comely in the exercise of grace, as with rows of jewels and chains of gold? She shall be yet further beautified (Song 1:11): We will make thee borders of gold, inlaid, or enamelled, with studs of silver. Whatever is wanting shall be made up, till the church and every true believer come to be perfect in beauty; see Ezek. 16:14. This is here undertaken to be done by the concurring power of the three persons in the Godhead: We will do it; like that (Gen. 1:26), “Let us make man; so let us new-make him, and perfect his beauty.” The same that is the author will be the finisher of the good work; and it cannot miscarry.