Study 6 THE PERIL OF SPIRITUAL APATHY
THE SONG OF SOLOMON
by Francis Dixon
Key-verse: “I slept but my heart was awake: …I opened for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone…” (Song of Songs 5:2-8)
This section in the Song of Songs tells us how the bride, on account of apathy and neglect, lost fellowship with her bridegroom. The bride loved, and certainly belonged to, her bridegroom. That relationship could never change, but for the time being she was out of touch with him. This was due to her apathy, to her neglect of him, to her lazy carelessness. She reached a point where she sought him, “but my lover had left, he was gone”. It was not his fault that fellowship was broken, but hers, and yet she had not intended it. She had just been careless and neglectful, she had perhaps taken his love for granted, and she had become self-occupied. It was not that she had been unfaithful and had lived as a prostitute (Jeremiah 3:1); it was not due to any wilful sin (Hebrews 10:26); it was not any secret sin (Psalm 90:8); she had not acted as Peter did (Luke 22:54); as Demas did (2 Timothy 4:10); or as Jonah did (Jonah 1:1-3). She had not, in fact, committed any deliberate act of sin; she had just been neglectful and careless. And how easily we can be guilty of the same folly; to be occupied with the Lord’s service and to love Him, and yet not to be living in close fellowship with Him! Let us see how the bride got into this sad condition and what she did about it.
1. THE FOLLY SHE CONFESSED
We get this in verse 2 – “I slept, but my heart was awake.” It is foolish for a Christian to sleep when he should be awake, but here we are told that while the bride was asleep her heart was in fact awake. She still loved her lover, but her body was overcome with sleep, and she was completely inactive. This could be said to be the condition of the Church, the Bride of Christ, today. We as believers certainly love Him, but how often we are asleep! We sleep when Jesus, our Bridegroom, waits for us to join Him in the work of evangelism, in the strengthening of the churches or in active, personal witnessing for Him.
2. THE APPEAL SHE HEARD
We get this in verse 2. While she was asleep, with her heart awake, her lover came seeking her. He sought her and tried to restore the fellowship which had been broken. This is how the Lord comes to us when we are neglectful of Him. He appeals to us, and begs us to come back into fellowship with Himself. It was like this in Laodicea (Revelation 3:20). Notice concerning the appeal of the bridegroom to his bride, in verse 2:-
- (1) It was urgent – knocking.
- (2) It was affectionate - “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove…”
- (3) It was persuasive - “my head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night”.
He hoped his love would constrain her. Our Heavenly Bridegroom comes to us in this way – knocking through the voice of the preacher, through His Word, through circumstances; speaking to us in so many ways, with His loving appeal to us to come back into close communion and fellowship with Himself. What did the bride do? Did she get up to greet her bridegroom? No!
3. THE EXCUSE SHE GAVE
We get this in verse 3. It seems as though she was so drowsy that she said in effect, ’I’ve retired to rest. I can’t get up - even for you!’ What a sad condition to get into, and yet it is so easy to get like this and to make excuses - look up Luke 14:18. So the bride stayed there asleep? Yes, but not for long!
4. THE RECOVERY SHE SOUGHT
We get this in verses 4 and 5. A marvellous thing happened. Notice what the bridegroom did, in verse 4. In his endeavours and longing to be united with his bride he tried the door, only to find it was locked; so he put his hand through the keyhole. She saw this, but she did not at once rise to unbolt the door and let him in, and while she delayed, and because he would not force an entrance, he left. She was then overcome with contrition and sorrow, and she rose up to open the door. It seems from verse 5 that she hesitated because she wanted to anoint herself with ointments, and while she ministered to herself instead of to him, he withdrew and left. Has God ever spoken to you so clearly that you have known His voice and His will, but you have delayed? And then the impression left you completely. Delays can be dangerous.
5. THE MISERY SHE ENDURED
We get this in verse 6, where we have the picture of a soul out of touch with the Lord. Notice the marks of such a person:-
- (1) Her fellowship was broken – “I opened… but my lover had left…” What a sad, sad experience! Is it yours?
- (2) Her prayer was unanswered – “I called him, but he did not answer…” Look up and compare Psalm 66:18.
- (3) Her testimony was lost - look at verse 7. When she went out of doors, the watchmen thought she was a sinful woman because she was out on the streets at night. They took away her veil, the greatest indignity that could be afforded to an oriental lady.
Thus, the “sister”, the “darling”, the “dove”, the “flawless” one in verse 2 had completely lost her testimony before men. This must always be so when we are out of touch with the Lord. So what did she do?
6. THE APPEAL SHE MADE
We get this in verse 8. She loved her lover so much that she felt sick on account of his absence. She could not live without him, so she turned to the daughters of Jerusalem and asked their help, and this help was given, for although the passage ends here it is evident that full fellowship was quickly restored. We can therefore conclude our study by thinking of this last point.
7. THE BLISS SHE KNEW
Her lover came to her, and she and he were together in the closest bonds of love and fellowship, without a shadow between them. And that is how it should be; that is the only happy place, the place of lasting satisfaction and joy - joy not only for us, but joy for our Bridegroom also.