I heard a story about a first century Rabbi who was traveling from one town to another. As he was walking along, meditating and praying, he inadvertently took a wrong path, which led him into territory that Jews were not allowed to go. He was startled when he came face to face with a Roman soldier. As he looked up at this soldier, he heard his booming voice saying, “Who are you Jew, and where are you going?” Thinking quickly, this Rabbi answered, “How much do they pay you for saying these things to people like me?” The Roman soldier replied, “A denarius, but what’s that to you? The Rabbi responded, “I’ll double your wage, if you come to my home, stand outside my door, and every time I enter and leave you ask me those same two questions; who are you, and where are you going?
Who are you and where are you going are two questions that every single human being should ask themselves. As I think about these two questions, I’m able to answer the first question for everyone on the face of the earth. The second question, however, I cannot answer for anyone other than myself; but I can show a person how they can find the answer.
So, who are you? Interestingly, I believe the answer to all of life’s questions can be found in the Word of God, and that is where I am going to go to answer this question. I am currently working on writing a book which I am going to title, ‘Jesus in the Song’. This book will be a commentary on the short, but beautiful story of the Song of Solomon, which is misunderstood by many. I want to show how Jesus is found in each of the 13-individual love songs that comprise this book. It was in the reading of the Song of Solomon that I found the answer to my first question.
The very first verse of the narrative, the Shulamite girl is speaking of the shepherd-king who won her heart. She says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine (1:2).” What is she saying here? To know, we must understand a little of her background. Apparently her parents had passed away. She and her brothers had inherited the family vineyards. Her brothers were a lazy lot, so this Shulamite girl was doing the lion’s share of the work. She would get up early in the morning and go into the vineyards to tend to the vines. She would bear the heat of the day, planting, harvesting, and processing the tender grapes. The care of the vineyards was her entire life. She exclaims that she is black from the sun (1:5-6), which gives us an indication of how hard she worked. In addition to this, her brothers expected her to take care of them also, keeping house and tending to their needs. She was so consumed by this lifestyle that she had no time to take care of herself (1:6). This Shulamite girl, remarking on the love her shepherd-king had towards her, was saying that his love was far better than the most important thing that comprised her life. Her whole life and livelihood was in the caring of her vineyards, but the love of her shepherd-king was far better than these things. Let me suggest this application: Jesus loves us more than all the things that comprise the best parts of our lives. Mothers, think about the love you have for your children. Your whole life is wrapped up in the caring and raising of your children. Jesus’ love towards you is far better than the joy and satisfaction you receive from caring for your family. The same for men, children, and teens: whatever gives you the greatest sense of joy and satisfaction in life, Jesus’ love towards you is far better than any of these things.
The Shulamite desiring the kisses from her love is saying that she desires the intimate fellowship of her shepherd-king, and it is based on his love for her. When we realize the love Jesus has for us, we too will desire intimate fellowship with Him.
To illustrate further about Jesus’ love for us, I want to look at Song of Solomon 2:4, which says, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” Large banners were used in battle to give important signals to the troops; so big were these banners, that the whole battlefield could see them. Banners are also quiet compared to the bugle calls. The Shulamite girl is telling us that her shepherd-king, who is Solomon, was not ashamed of her, but publically, however quietly, declared to the world his love for her. Jesus loves us so much, that He too declares to the world that He loves us. His banner over us is His love, and it’s there for the whole world to see, yet it’s not something shouted from the roof tops, but is displayed quietly in the way He blesses His children. If you have trouble seeing the love God has towards us, just look to the cross Jesus bore for our sin.
One of my all-time favorite verses in the Word of God is Song of Solomon 2:10, “My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” The reason this is one of my favorites is because of a dream I had one night. This dream was about going to and being in heaven. How I got to heaven wasn’t through death, but by the Rapture, which is the still future event, where Christians will be bodily raised off the earth to meet the Lord in the air (1Thess 4:13-18). What was amazing about being raised off the earth was hearing the words from my Lord Jesus, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Imagine that you are about to be called off the earth to meet the Lord, either in death, or by the Rapture, and at that moment you hear these wonderful and reassuring words, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” How wonderful would that be? I don’t know if we will actually hear these words, but I enjoy thinking about the possibilities.
And here is the answer to our first question: Who are you? You are someone loved beyond measure by the Creator of the universe. Do you know how much Jesus loves you? A detainee at a French prison, scratched into the wall of his cell, which was found after his death, a poem which beautifully describes the love God had for him and the world. Some 200 years later they found their way into the English language, and into a hymn; I quote: “Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” Jesus loves you so much, that if He were to write a love letter to you telling of His love, I imagine the sky itself would not be a big enough ‘parchment’ to contain the words He would affectionately write about you.
If you have never experienced this love personally, then my prayer for you is that today, you will come to know and experience the love of our Lord Jesus personally. He stands waiting for you to invite Him into your heart. You must keep this love in mind, for it is key in being able to answer our second question, “Where are you going?”
Everyone on this planet is not only loved by our Lord Jesus, but will grow up developing talents and abilities. Our responsibility is not to use these talents and abilities to benefit ourselves only, but to benefit our community and the world around us as well. In addition, something happens to those who surrender their hearts to the love of the Lord Jesus. At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of the Christian, and that individual is then given gifts. These gifts are not presents, but they are things additional to talents and abilities, specific for the body of Christ (the church), to evangelize and edify. The unique thing about using these three areas of human achievement for the Christian is that Jesus promises to reward their use, when done according to His will. How great is it to be rewarded for doing something that we are gifted to do? Some of this reward we may experience now in this life, but assuredly, we will be rewarded in the life to come. The answer to our question though, is not found in the knowledge of having talents, abilities, and gifts, but it is in the learning how, and where to use them. This is the greatest achievement for the Christian; discovering their gifts and then learning how and where to use them; all for God’s glory.
How do we discover where we are going? One example is found in Isaiah 6:1-8 “ In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (2) Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. (3) And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (4) And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. (5) Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (6) Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: (7) And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. (8) Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
Most messages I have heard from this passage were centred on answering a call to missions; but, I believe that there is more to this passage than this, which is often missed. Isaiah, prior to this event in his life, was already serving the Lord; he was already doing the work of a prophet. What made the difference in continuing on in the work he was already engaged in, was seeing the Lord high and lifted-up. This is the key to it all: you as a Christian may be serving the Lord, serving the church, yet may not be fulfilling what the Lord has called (or wants to call) you to. The answer? See the Lord for who He is (high and lifted up), for when we do, we will see ourselves as we truly are. Isaiah, one of the great prophets, didn’t see himself as he truly was until He saw God as He is. When Isaiah encountered God in such a personal way, his response was, “Wow is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” An intimate encounter with God keeps us humble and ever mindful that we are sinners saved by God’s grace. It gives us strength also, to endure trials and tribulations that may come our way as we are serving Him.
How can we see the Lord high and lifted-up? The answer is through prayer. I don’t mean taking our 5-minute a day, praying generally over our prayer list routine. The prayer I’m talking about is getting alone, getting on your knees, and waiting until the Lord joins you. Does this mean that you will actually see the Lord high and lifted-up? Probably not; but, what it will do, is give you an encounter with the Lord like you have never experienced before. An encounter where all fear is replaced by all peace, where weakness is replaced with strength, and weariness replaced with renewed energy and desire to keep on for God. It is through these intimate encounters where you will be gently led in service for the Lord. One thing that takes place when we realize how much God loves us is that we will find ourselves loving Him in return. Another hymn that eloquently describes this kind of encounter is the hymn, ‘In the Garden’, which says: “ I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing; and the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing. I'd stay in the garden with Him, tho the night around me be falling; but He bids me go thru the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Spend time with your Lord and Saviour, and you will not have any problem in finding out where you are going in life.
I’d like to finish here with an example of a life that knew of the love of God for him, and followed in the path which the Lord had for him, and as he followed the Lord, he was blessed, and now we are blessed by his testimony that will endure time. Eric Liddell was born in 1902 and died in 1945; a short life of 43 years. Eric’s call in life was to missions. Though he was Scottish, he was born on the mission field in China. Eric was also a world class runner breaking all records in the 100m run. He trained for the Olympics and represented his country of Scotland in the 1924 games. His life is portrayed in the movie, “Chariots of Fire”. In the movie there is a scene where Eric was challenged by his sister about fulfilling his call to the mission field. His reply was something along the lines of, “I am called to the mission field, yes; but God also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I don’t know if these were actual words by Eric, but one thing was true; his gift from God was to serve as a missionary and his talent and ability was being able to run. He was prepared for the 100m race but found out it was scheduled for Sunday. Eric lived by a principle that Sunday is the Lord’s Day and he would do no work on that day.
Through a course of events, Eric was moved to another race, the 400m, which he had not trained for. This race was on Saturday, and he ran the race as if he were running the 100m; all out, and his reward was the gold medal. It was said of Eric, that people come to the Olympics to do great and to be great, but Eric came to the Olympics to do good and to be good. Eric honoured the Lord in all his talent and ability, and the Lord honoured him in return. After the Olympics, Eric went to China to fulfil his call to missions. During the Japanese invasion of China during WWII, Eric was taken prisoner and put into a concentration camp. He became a Pastor to those that were detained with him. Eric died of a brain tumour while a detainee in a concentration camp at 43-years of age. His short life will forever be an example of one that used his abilities, his talents, and his gifts to the glory of God. After the war, there was a monument erected in China to honour Eric Liddell, and it stands to this day.
It is the only monument in China that has ever been erected to a foreigner. It doesn’t matter the quantity of life that you have, but it is what you do with the life that you have which matters. It says in Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” May this be our prayer for all the days of our life in which the Lord has gifted to us to use for His glory.
» left by Teresa(1,344) (2 years 259 days ago.)
Hi Bart. Excellent post! I am working with Bruce to get the text corrected on the front page. I will be back to read more slowly soon! It's good to have you posting again. You always have thought provoking things to share. It's always evident that you have been spending time with Jesus. Blessings, TeresaRespond to this comment
» left by Bart(17) (2 years 259 days ago.)
Thank you for your kind words Teresa. Now that school is behind me, I hope to be more frequent in posting articles.Blessings, BartRespond to this comment
» left by Teresa(1,344) (2 years 257 days ago.)
Bart, I reread this, and wow!
I cannot wait to read your book. And I am definitely going to read the Song of Solomon with fresh eyes!
Thanks again for sharing!
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» left by Bart(17) (2 years 256 days ago.)We appreciate your comments!
Hi Teresa, The Song of Solomon is such a rich book, and there are many nuggets of gold within its pages. I am gaining so much from studying the Song of Songs. Blessings, BartRespond to this comment