Song of Songs 2: 8-14
Ephesians 3: 14-21
Zephaniah 3: 17
AM I was thinking of the occasion that we experienced this morning. We were led on, and all the way it was love. We started with a hymn to the Lord Jesus that contained the words:
Living and ever precious is Thy love!
and we sang that hymn with the emblems before us, the tokens of His love. That love has once been tested and proved, and for the last two days we have spoken about the circumstances in which that love was tested. It needs to be tested no more; it has been proved, and proved abundantly. How great that love is! But we gathered together in the light of that love, and with confidence in the love of the Lord Jesus, that He would come and we would have some sense of His presence. This passage in Song of Songs comes to mind:
The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he cometh
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
There is no obstacle from His side that would prevent Him from coming to His own where there are those who are waiting for Him, who desire to be here in accordance with His own will.
But in this passage He is moving on, and the Lord is moving on, and the service moved on, and we came to another realm. Ephesians 3 came to mind because we are brought into a realm that is characterised by love. A brother referred to a universe of love; that affected me. There is a sphere that we have been brought into, and Paul turns to the Father in order that we should be able to apprehend these things, “that the Christ may dwell, through faith, in your hearts, being rooted and founded in love” and that we should “know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. The title here is “the Christ”; it is not exactly to know the love of Jesus, but it conveys to me that there is a sphere which takes character from Christ and it is permeated by love, and we are to know what it is to have part in such a scene, “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge” and, as having part in that, we would have to say to God, “to him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages”.
The verse in Zephaniah speaks about the wonderful culmination, that God has found His rest: “he will rest in his love”. There is nothing to disturb that rest. He finds His rest in the Lord Jesus, His Son, but eternally “he will rest in his love”. Wonderful to think of what that means! The expression of that love and the result of it, the fruit of it, is what He will rest in. But we have the love of God, and it seems that the majority of the references in Scripture to the love of God are brought to us in connection with our need; God comes in in relation to our need. But it is a great thing to get through to divine love beyond a scene of need. Love at rest, the love of God, is something we are brought to appreciate.
But first we have the love of a Man. The love of God has been expressed in Jesus, but we have His own personal love. We have His love for the assembly, and His love for each one of us, and I thought we might begin with that. That is how we began this morning, that there is a living Man, a glorious Man, who has overcome everything and His love is ‘Living and ever precious’, and is always for our enjoyment.
NJH Do we need to come to some conscious experience that divine love dictates movement in the service of God? In Ephesians it is, “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. You might say it is out of our reach; it is entirely on the basis of divine love proceeding. Is that right?
AM That is right. Movement in the service of God is under the direction of Christ. He is the “minister of the holy places” (Heb 8: 2), and it is under His headship, and His love would ensure that the Father receives an adequate portion. The love of Jesus is not selfish. He receives from the saints what gratifies Him, and He finds in the assembly what is uniquely for His pleasure, but it is not a selfish love; love is never selfish. He has the Father before Him, and the movements of divine love would lead us to the Father.
WMP You said there is no obstacle to love on His part; that is something to lay hold of. Would that then exercise us that there might be no obstacle on our side?
AM Absolutely. It must do, must it not? Am I always in the enjoyment of the love of Christ? Have I always found that there are no clouds? Why would there be? The clouds do not just come in. Any hindrance to the enjoyment of His love is entirely on my side, and He feels it.
TJC John lived in the consciousness of the love of Christ: “To him who loves us”, Rev 1: 5. It was not a historical matter; it was a current matter with John, do you think?
AM I am glad you say that, because we were referring earlier in the weekend to references in the gospels that there was a disciple “whom Jesus loved”, John 13: 23. Now that was here in flesh and blood conditions, but when John wrote the Revelation he saw the Lord Jesus completely outside this order of things altogether, and it is still the same: “To him who loves us”. It is in the present tense.
TJC It is wonderful to come up to the Supper with that knowledge in mind. We are coming to remember One that we love, but His love is ever towards us.
AM That is good, and that is right, and we do love Him, but what can we say about our love? You look at the emblems and you feel you cannot speak of our love for Him, can you? You see His love, you see the extent to which it has gone, but it is still operating, living: it is the ‘Living and ever precious’ love, and it is still operating towards His own today.
RDP You made a distinction as to “the love of the Christ”. This seems to be very personal, personal affection, and Ephesians is His relation to a whole sphere of things: “in order that ye may be fully able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of the Christ”. “The Christ” is a great title, is it not? I am wondering if “the love of the Christ” embraces almost a greater area. The personal love of Christ is known here, but also in relation to His great offices.
AM That is what I wondered. Do you think the distinction was right to make?
RDP I am asking.
AM It is just the way it seemed to me. Think of all that “the love of the Christ” secured for God, and it all takes character from Christ. “To know the love of the Christ”; whatever you look at, whatever aspect you take account of of what is secured for God has that stamp upon it. Do you agree with that?
RDP I was just wondering that. It is the same Person, of course, but “the Christ” is a very expansive and extensive title, is it not? This is a subject so great that Paul has to break off from ministry to pray, and he is envisaging the saints strengthened by the Father’s Spirit that they might “know the love of the Christ”. It seemed to me to be a very great thought that it is Christ not now so much in relation to His personal love - that would always be there - but in relation to the great area of things over which He presides. I am asking.
AM That is the impression I have. If as you suggest someone like Paul might say, ‘I cannot minister this’, then we are in deep waters, are we not? We have to be careful, but it seems to me that “the love of the Christ” embraces the whole sphere that has been secured for the pleasure of God, and there is One who is at the centre of it, giving character to it. It is all for God’s pleasure.
NJH Did Paul’s prayers in Ephesians therefore bring him into this sphere of divine affection? He evidently felt the need of it. In a certain sense, it goes beyond the ministry by itself, but he is brought into that area of divine affection.
AM That is right. The prayer in chapter 2 is that we should understand our status, that we should come into the knowledge of that. Again that seems as if Paul is saying, ‘There is only one way; I cannot tell you about this; I can pray’. But in chapter 3 it is actual experience: “to know the love of the Christ”.
QAP It says, “who is the head, the Christ”; “the Christ” is the anointed Head of a whole vast system for the pleasure of God.
AM Yes, that is right: He is. There is the title that applies to the Lord Jesus personally, His title Lord Jesus Christ, but “the Christ” is wider. The whole tabernacle system was a figure of “the Christ”. I think I am right in saying that. It is everything of which He is the Centre personally.
RG Would you say something more, please, about the distinction you are making as to “the love of the Christ” being active, but apart from need?
AM Well, we think of divine love acting towards us: “God commends his love to us, in that, we being still sinners, Christ has died for us”, Rom 5: 8. Divine love has acted in compassion: “God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love wherewith he loved us”, Eph 2: 4. Now, He secured us on that basis, but then love does not cease. He has secured us in order that we might come into the full enjoyment of His love and He should have a sphere of love in which He can rest, a sphere where there is no need. What would you say?
RG I am enquiring. The verse that has come into my mind speaks of the gold fitted on the wood, 1 Kings 6: 35. There was not exactly a requirement in that sense; the wood was perfect and complete, but gold was fitted. Do you think divine love in its activities, apart from need, would bring out something of the ornamental side of things?
AM I think that is good. As experiencing divine love in this way, apart from how it relates to us with all our need, we really are experiencing what is most profound, are we not, in the presence of God Himself, to know Him in His own presence?
RG So really that would lead on to what we speak of as worship. That is, I am not now thinking at all of myself or my nature; they have all been met, but I am enjoying the sense of being loved by Someone who is in a restful condition.
AM That is good. I am glad you refer to worship because it is total absorption with the object.
DMC You spoke over the weekend about God’s need. Do you think the effect of Christ’s love operating in the saints has found an answer to what God needs and what God delights in?
AM In the satisfaction of His own heart; I think that is the object of it all. God is working to that end, is He not? Why does the gospel go out? In order that God’s heart should be satisfied, should be filled.
KW Is what you are bringing before us about knowing the love of Christ in His circumstances something precious? I was thinking how we have been taught that in the Song of Songs the first chapter, up to perhaps verse 7 of the second chapter, is His circumstances, knowing His love in His circumstances. There is something precious about that. In chapter 1 there is that wonderful verse: “We will remember thy love more than wine”, v 4. The love of Christ is so precious, more precious than anything natural, but it is something that we can touch as we enter into His circumstances, into a realm we touched this morning. There is something precious about that word.
AM That is very good. I was thinking about the earlier part of chapter 2:
He hath brought me to the house of wine,
And his banner over me is love, v 4.
It seems to me that that is a restful sphere, His own circumstances. The banner is there; in that sense it is a rallying point. The banner might be seen in a military setting, but the banner there is in a scene of rest, a scene of enjoyment, and it is for His own enjoyment.
PAG Is there a connection between “the Christ” dwelling, “through faith, in your hearts” and knowing “the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”? “The Christ” dwelling “through faith, in your hearts” must be now because faith will not apply in eternity; but does “the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge not bring us into the sphere of what is eternal?
AM I think so. It does not exclude what is now, but I think that will be our eternal portion, “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. Ephesians 3 takes you to a sphere which gives you the full extent of divine thoughts, “the breadth and length and depth and height”. What is it: “breadth and length and depth and height”? Well, it is all filled with “the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”. We, in our conditions, are so limited, and we will always be limited, and yet there is that which is infinite in “the love of the Christ”, and we are brought to know it. The illustration has often been used of the basket in the ocean, JT vol 55 p164.
PAG As we respond to the Lord’s word, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!”, we move away from time. We move away from the scene of the earth by faith, and we move into what is eternal.
AM So the Lord comes in. We have come together in physical circumstances. The young people have probably heard us say many times that we break bread in the wilderness; quite simply, we break bread in the circumstances in which we are. We turn up, and we meet one another, and see one another as we are, and there is a testimonial aspect to the breaking of bread; we are there. But the Lord comes. You get a touch in your soul and you say, ‘That is the Lord’, and immediately in your spirit you are transported, and we respond to Him personally, to His personal love as His brethren and as His bride. We respond to Him personally. But He says, ‘There is more. There is movement onwards and upwards’.
RH So He comes to us with alacrity, and it behoves us too to be responsive in an alacritous way, that we might move with Him into this sphere of which He is the Son and Centre.
AM I think this passage in Song of Songs shows the energy of love:
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
It is the energy of love. Just to be clear, we apply the Song of Songs to the relations of Christ and the assembly, but the Song of Songs actually, in its teaching, relates to Israel, and you will see if you read through the book, the bride is conscious of deficiency most of the way through, and the bridegroom is reassuring her of his love. The book really shows us how Israel will be won. But we apply it to the assembly, and Christ coming in with all the energy of affection. In the next chapter she has been lethargic. She says,
On my bed, in the nights,
I sought him” (chap 3: 1),
and He was not there. Well, you do not find Him in such circumstances. He is coming in with energy and, He is looking for alacrity on our part.
RH He comes a little later on. He says, “I am come into my garden” (chap 5: 1), “a garden enclosed”, chap 4: 12.
AM That is very precious.
RDP I was just thinking about this question of movement. The first chapter of the Song is His circumstances. He is moving into His circumstances. There is a certain felt lack:
Mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Tell me, thou whom my soul loveth,
Where thou feedest thy flock (v 6, 7);
Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, v 8.
There is a movement into His circumstances. I was thinking of what our brother said, that this is not just something that happens casually; it involves moving into the circumstances where He is to know the fulness of this, and from then on it seems the experience of the love of the Christ is continual movement.
AM That is good. He comes to us in order that we should move into His circumstances; that has marked divine ways all along. He has come to us in the gospel. He comes to us at the Supper in order that we should be brought into His circumstances, and there should be a movement Godward. Think of what is in His heart!
DCB Chapter 4 brings in, “Come, look from the top of Amanah”. That is ‘firmness’ or ‘constancy’ (see note ‘a’). Is it coming to look with Him from the mountains?
AM Say some more about the ‘firmness’ and ‘constancy’.
DCB Well, you are taken entirely out of this sphere that is characteristic of us, which lacks ‘firmness’ and ‘constancy’, to be in His environment, and to see what is firmly in the purpose of God.
AM Yes, and if we want to find constancy, we find it in His love:
Living and ever precious is Thy love!
It never fails.
PM There are two references, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away”, one in verse 10, and then in verse 13, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!” I was wondering why there are two steps, if you like. One seems to relate to what is outward: “For behold, the winter is past”. We have been speaking about the cross and the effect of it. I wondered if we are to take account of that first, and then the next section, verses 14 and 15, really is more personal and intimate, do you think?
AM I think that is very good. There is what is past; there is what is finished:
For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over, it is gone;
The flowers appear on the earth.
There is that which can be taken account of. Certain exercises have been gone through, and there are results from them. But then He says He wants to be occupied with herself: “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice”. That is a really personal and intimate matter. Say some more.
PM He is interested in her, in her love: “Rise up, my love”. You have something that only you have. Nobody else has it in that sense. He is not giving up. He is releasing her from her circumstances just to be for Him, “in the covert of the precipice”. It seems to me that it is an isolated, or a more insulated, area that He desires her to come into.
AM That is good, and that is His own sphere. He is looking for her affections and her joy to be in Him. I have often been struck with a statement that was made in a letter. Lady Powerscourt wrote dozens of letters, and in one of these letters she said, ‘Love will never be satisfied unless it is confident that its object is satisfied’. Now, when you think about that, the Lord’s love is constantly active. He is looking for our satisfaction to be in Him, for our occupation to be Himself alone.
NCMcK Is it helpful, therefore, especially for the younger ones, to see that this love is known and experienced in definite relationships, which are eternal? They are relationships which came from purpose and belong to eternity, and therefore their love is beyond; indeed, as we have said, it belongs to divine purpose, and therefore we are in a fixed relationship in regard to that. It is a very stable thing.
AM It is. Tell us some more about the relationship.
NCMcK Just what you have been saying about the thought of movement. It is known largely through what we know as being the brethren of Christ. These relationships are for the pleasure of divine Persons. Then the assembly, the bride of Christ, what she is to Christ, and then our link with the Spirit and the Spirit’s service in that way, and then sonship in the Father’s presence. The service moves and it moves in relationships of love which is according to divine purpose.
AM That is very helpful. The Supper and what follows is an extraordinary time, because we enter joyfully into what is for divine Persons. Each phase, if we may speak about phases, flows. We want to be careful not to have rigid definitions of how we behave in the service, but it flows from one glory to another, and each glory is for the pleasure of divine Persons, and each one relates to what was in God’s thoughts before time was.
CS The word here is,
… let me hear thy voice;
For sweet is thy voice.
There is a response to that love that the Lord appreciates. We had remarkable contributions this morning from quite young persons, and if that is special for us, it is special for Him.
AM Yes, it is. That is what was in my mind. He is looking to get this response and He loves to see the countenance:
Let me see thy countenance,
let me hear thy voice.
It is what He sees and what He hears. The Lord is a Man - and I speak very carefully and respectfully, but man has senses. He can hear; he can see; he can taste; he can detect fragrance. Think of what the Lord has from the assembly, each sense, speaking carefully, finding its answer in the assembly. Sometimes we sing
All that delights thy taste
Doth here abound. (Hymn 361)
The voice is peculiar because that is so personal.
NJH I was just thinking of what has been said. Predestination is for Christ first and then for us: “that he should be the firstborn among many brethren”, Rom 8: 29. In one sense He entered in immediately as having “been raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father”, Rom 6: 4. That whole area of love now opens up to us in these relationships.
AM That is right, and these relationships are entered into on resurrection and ascension grounds. That has to be. You commented this morning that love was involved in the resurrection, “the glory of the Father” involving His love, and it provides a basis on which these wonderful relationships should be known.
WMP What is your impression then of this expression “being rooted and founded in love”? Does that imply that if that is the kind of rootstock, if I might use that word, then the whole matter is to be permeated with love?
AM It seems to be. “Being rooted” includes also the thought of drawing resource, and really all our springs are in divine love. “Founded” is stability. There is that which is stable in divine love, “rooted and founded in love”. Love is permeating the whole thing, is it not?
RT That seems to spring from the Spirit in this chapter.
AM Help us about that.
RT Scripture just says that: “to be strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inner man; that the Christ may dwell, through faith, in your hearts, being rooted and founded in love”. God is love. It is always there. Mr Darby says:
If clouds have dimmed my sight,
When passed, eternal Lover,
Towards me, as e’er, Thou’rt bright.
That is the effect of the Spirit being in us and with us.
AM That is very good. The Holy Spirit in the believer is providing substance in love. We speak of the Holy Spirit as power and that is right in His many services, but God is love, and the Holy Spirit is here.
RT Jude, in a broken day, says, “keep yourselves in the love of God”, v 21. It is always there. That is by the Spirit to bring us into the enjoyment; it is always there.
AM Yes; that is good. As you say, Jude says that in a broken day, and John records at the end, in the last of all the Scriptures to be written, that the Lord Jesus said, “abide in my love”, John 15: 9.
RT It is not only in the meetings this happens. It is the life of the saint that God has revealed Himself in a Man, and has come so near to us to meet our guilt and to bring us into the enjoyment of His constant love.
AM Yes, that is very fine, and to know it in His presence!
GBG “Strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inner man” that would be “that the Christ may dwell, through faith”. We each have an “inner man”; so we each know this, but the end of man is the same in each one.
AM Say some more about “the inner man”.
GBG Well, we each have an “inner man”. There is no difference, so we each know this inwardly by the Spirit, but the “inner man” is the same in each of us. Therefore we move together in this.
AM Do you mean it is the product of divine work, “in the inner man”? I like that thought that we move together. There is what we can experience at any time. There is what we can experience as going into the service of God as we did this morning. These things should colour us, but there is a consistency about it all.
RH Are the service of God and the gospel inextricably linked? The preaching really has in view that these precious things that have been rehearsed amongst us this afternoon should be entered into.
AM The preaching is in view of the service of God.
BWL I was wondering if you could say something about union. The Lord comes in, and we recognise His presence, but then, as united to Him, we move with Him. Could you maybe say something as to that?
AM Well, I think what you say is something very important, that we are united to Him. You can say that as a statement of fact: we are united to Him. Now we enter into relationship with Christ in the service as His bride. The assembly is united to Him as His bride, but we move forward as united to Him. We have a hymn addressed to the Father that brings in the thought of union:
Here Christ and the assembly
Are seen in radiance bright
Man in Thine own blest image,
For ever Thy delight.
His love, though passing knowledge,
For her, His spouse so fair,
Is known as we in union
With Him in glory share. (Hymn 441)
We move in union, but we never cease to be His brethren, and as we go into the Father’s presence we are the Father’s sons, but it is all a united company, is it not, all one with Christ? What do you say?
BWL That is helpful. Does it lead on to “glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus”?
AM Yes, indeed. So it is the same personnel: the Lord’s brethren are the sons of the Father; the assembly, the bride, united to Christ, is the assembly in which there is glory to God; and that is what this leads up to. Paul is taking account of the wonder of divine love and his heart breaks out in this doxology: “to him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages”.
NCMcK I was wondering, is that what you understand that “the assembly in Christ Jesus” involves union?
AM Yes. Is that right? I would like some help. It has been stated in the ministry that union is one of the least understood things among us (JT vol 37: p531). I think “the assembly in Christ Jesus” must involve union. It is Christ and the assembly and there is glory to God in this wonderful concept: not only a concept but the realisation of it.
GAB Does it help to get these things into perspective that we are in conditions of time now? So we have to view them one perhaps after another. Eternally that will not be so.
AM “Now I know partially”; we have to learn things in parts because our minds can only contain a part at a time; so you have, for example, the kingdom and the new covenant and reconciliation and eternal life. Mr Raven took these up as separate subjects (vol 12 p390), but then Paul says, “then I shall know according as I also have been known” (1 Cor 13: 12), and that is that you see that the whole divine system of operations, and all that has been done, and all that has been secured, is one great entity, and it is all for the glory of God.
NJH We could not touch the highest thoughts without union.
AM Say some more about that.
NJH It is so essential. If we do not experience something of union with Christ, we can hardly proceed further.
AM No, we could not. If we do touch them, we touch God’s rest. We had very much a sense this morning of God’s rest: “he will rest in his love”. That is, to me, He has secured a scene through His love, which is characterised by His love and which is responsive to His love, and that whole is a scene in which eternally He will rest.
PJW Is that all contained in Paul’s expression, “the full knowledge of the mystery of God”? I was thinking of what you said about knowing in part, and then knowing as we are known; would it be right to say that “the full knowledge of the mystery of God” contains everything that God has ever conceived in purpose to bring about?
AM That is Colossians?
PJW Yes, chapter 2: “to the end that their hearts may be encouraged, being united together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God; in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge”, Col 2: 2, 3.
AM Yes, that really suggests bringing together everything. All divine ways, all divine work, have been brought together there, and it will be seen as a complete thing with no adjustments or anything like that needed. It is one complete and glorious thing that will be manifested in the eternal day.
16th August 2015
D C Brown, Edinburgh; G A Brown, Grangemouth; T J Campbell, Glasgow; D M Crozier, Warrenpoint; G B Grant, Dundee; P A Gray, Grangemouth; R Gray, Grangemouth; N J Henry, Glasgow; R Hodge, St Ives; B W Lovie, Aberdeen; A Martin, Buckhurst Hill; N C McKay, Glasgow; P Metcalfe, Glasgow; W M Patterson, Glasgow; R D Plant, Birmingham; Q A Poore, Swanage; R Taylor, Kirkcaldy; K Walker, Dundee; P J Walkinshaw, Strood