Loving Discipline (Song of Solomon, Chapter 3)
God will lovingly draw His Bride into the wilderness, the place of encounter, so that He can reveal Himself to her in new and greater ways. Early on in our journey, we read of the Maiden’s original prayer as she cried out to her Beloved to come and draw her away:
“Draw me away! We will run after you.” (Songs 1:4)
The Bridegr0om answers the cry of her heart, calling her to come, to leave her comfort zone, in order to experience greater intimacy and partnership with Him:
My Beloved…said to me: “Rise up, My love, My fair one, and come away.” (Songs 2:10)
But the Maiden does not obey the call to come away but rather she tells Jesus to turn and go to the mountains without her. She does this because of her fear and immaturity, and not rebellion.
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of Bether. (Song 2:17)
The Lord’s response to the Maiden’s refusal to go with Him is to lovingly discipline her by causing His manifest presence to be removed from her heart. He is not angry; rather He is jealous for the Bride to share His values and walk in maturity and greater intimacy with Him. The cost of obedience to Jesus is high. But the cost of disobedience is even higher. When we say to the Lord, “Come, draw me away”, He comes. And if we refuse Him, the Lord will do what is necessary to turn our heart and affections back towards Him. When we neglect the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives, it comes at a high price.
There are a few reasons why the Lord would lift His manifest presence from us. First, to bring an awareness to our compromise when we refuse to embrace the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives. Second, to humble us and bring a greater awareness of our need for Him. Third, to awaken a deeper hunger in our heart for Jesus. I cannot stress strongly enough that when the Lord disciplines us, He is not rejecting us. The Lord loves, even in times of weakness. And He lovingly and gently disciplines those He loves.
Whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:12)
The Maiden sought God, but could not find Him. She had never before experienced a “night season”.
By night on my bed I sought the One I love; I sought Him, but I did not find Him. “I will rise now,” I said, “and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the One I love.” I sought Him, but I did not find Him. (Song 3:1-2)
There are four different night seasons in our lives where we must diligently seek the Lord:
- The night hours: we often seek God in the night hours out of our desperation to know Him through the inconvenience of these hours.
- The night of pain: in difficult circumstances as when David ran from Saul and Joseph was in the dungeon; they did not give up by concluding God’s promises were false.
- The night of temptation: in times of failure and darkness we must continue to seek God.
- The dark night of the soul: in the Middle Ages some spoke of the dark night of the soul
indicating God’s presence being temporarily withdrawn in times of obedience (Song 5:6).
(Taken from notes by Mike Bickle – Song of Songs, Chapter 14 – Divine Discipline)
The Maiden was not supposed to be on her bed, but with Him on the mountains. Her refusal to go with Him disrupted their intimacy. But her heart is set on loving Jesus even in her struggle. We are still able to refer to Jesus as the “One I love”, even before we have the victory in that area. Sometimes we face a mountain of faith that seems out of reach. In between mountains are valleys. We are still lovers of God in the valley. When we cannot feel God’s presence, we must Trust God’s Word that He will draw near to us, if we draw near to Him.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
The Maiden now arises as she was commanded to in Songs 2:10.
“I will rise now,” I said, “and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the One I love.” I sought Him, but I did not find Him. 3 The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, “Have you seen the One I love?” (Song 3:2-3)
Jesus hides His face because He knows He can produce earnestness in our hearts by doing so. He will withhold His presence long enough to cause us to seek after Him. The pain of losing His presence motivated the Maiden to arise off her bed and leave her comfort zone. Jesus knows that we cannot live without His presence. Our soul becomes desperate for more of God as we remember former seasons of sweetness.
In response to the Maiden’s obedience to arise and come away with Him, Jesus returned His presence to her:
Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the One I love. I held Him and would not let Him go, until I had brought Him to the house of my mother, and into the chamber of her who conceived me.
The Maiden made a new resolution to hold on to the Bridegroom with a determination that results from her painful season of spiritual struggle. She “never lets go of Him” throughout the remainder of the Song.
Like the Maiden, we find Jesus when we rise up to seek after Him. And Jesus will respond when we seek Him earnestly and with our whole heart.