Page images

It is probable that it was in some region of this desert land, more wild and barren than the rest that our Saviour was tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts for forty days (Mark, i, 13).


“ This thy stature is like a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of

grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof; now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples.”

As a preliminary remark, I would wish to observe that the Song of Solomon in its primary sense is alone applicable to the Jewish Church. “The glorious church” of Eph. v, 27, had no existence prior to the day of Pentecost. The church Christ founded (when he said “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood revealed it not unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven, and I say unto thee thou art Peter, and upon this rock I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH)” was evidently a future church, one not existing at the time Christ opened out the counsels of eternity, and I do not imagine that any sophistry can twist those plain words into any other sense. This age,—the one we now live in,—dating from Pentecost to the rapture of the saints (1st Cor., xv, 51, 52; 1st Thess., iv, 13–18), is purely parenthetical ; it is not, except in the guise of symbols, alluded to in the Old Testament. The mystery of the Gentiles becoming heirs and joint-heirs with the Jews, though in some passages perhaps dimly adumbrated, was not comprehended by the prophets of old, but by a special revelation was made known to Paul, the chosen vessel of God, to manifest forth His loving kindness to the Gentile race (Eph., iii, 3–6).

The church, collectively or individually may, and are even bound to, apply any part of the old scriptures to their spiritual wants and comfort; and did we not do so we should deprive ourselves of one of the greatest blessings the history of God's dealings with his ancient people is calculated to convey; indeed the object God had in view in manifesting himself through Christ to His church would be lost and set aside ; and it would be perfectly impossible to understand the mind of God toward us, did we not see in the types and shadows of the past a sure guarantee of realities yet to be revealed. It is in the dealings and promises of God to his chosen people that we learn the unchangeableness of his character, the unfathomable riches of his grace, his unwearied long-suffering, and his boundless and inexhaustible love.

Yet with all this we have no right to interpret spiritually passages which in the plainest terms, and in the most literal language apply to the Jew. The Jews have their promises and rewards as we have ours; each one distinct: and though we may gather comfort and consolation from what we read of them, we possess no right to appropriate them to ourselves. He who reads the Scriptures in their literal sense has little to fear on this score; it is the pernicious system of spiritualizing that causes so much misapprehension.

To revert to the passage heading this note, it seems that Jesus the bridegroom is addressing his Jewish bride“This thy stature is like to a palm tree.” She was once of small stature, a vine of little growth, unfruitful, unproductive, a byeword and a reproach to all nations, “but God planted it in a fruitful field, he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree; and it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature.” This was in the times of Jehoakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar took captive to Babylon (2nd Chro., xxxvi, 6). “So he became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs" (Eze., xvii, 6, 7). She became a vine, but one of low stature, and only shot forth sprigs. She trailed along the ground, and brought forth no fruit; for Israel was still rebellious, and refused to acccpt God's punishment. She refused to remain under the vassalage of Nebuchadnezzar, so God permitted them to go into captivity. But God, who is long suffering and merciful, restored them after a time: she again became fruitful, and full of branches, her stature was exalted, and she appeared in her height, with the multitude of her branches (Eze., xix, 10, 11). But again she offended; she crucified the Lord of Glory," and she was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground; her rods (princes and rulers) were broken and withered, and now is she planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land."

The day of her widowhood is passing away. God's anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life; weeping


may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning (Ps., xxx, 5), for God says, “I am the Lord, and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright” (Leviticus, xxvi, 13). Yes, upright, and of lofty stature, will she be on the day the Lord maketh up His jewels : not one who has testified to His name shall be forgotten on

“She shall then discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serverh him not” (Mal., iii, 16, 18).

Zaccheus, type of the Jewish nation in their low estate, was little of stature.” But so great was his desire to see Jesus, that he climbed up into a sycamore tree for that purpose, and that day salvation came to his house, “ forasmuch as he too is a son of Abraham; for the son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke, xix, 2–10). The Jewish nation is now under a cloud,-she is of little stature; but Jesus will raise her up, and her desire on that day will be as anxious to see and welcome her Lord as was that of Zaccheus. She was lost, but she is found, and like Jesus, who increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man; so will the Jewish bride on that day rise in the uprightness of her way, and with strong cries call upon Him who has said—“For thy maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; he hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth when thou wast refused, saith thy God; for a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather you,” &c. (Isa., liv, 5—7). Let the whole chapter be read, for it breathes a love which passeth knowledge.

Her stature is now so graceful, so exalted, that she is likened unto a palm tree-a most beautiful and appropriate simile—for of all the trees in the world, especially in tropical climes, there is not to be found one more graceful, more useful, or more generally beneficial. It flourishes only in the desert, wherever there is a spring, or stream or fountain. to moisten its roots. It is remarkable for longevity and for fruitfulness, and offers from the burning sun a cool and refreshing shade. It commences to yield fruit about its thirtieth year ; its leaves are ever verdant, and its fruit, hanging in large clusters, afford both pleasure and nourishment to the wayworn traveller.

It is impossible to conceive a more perfect emblem of a believer than the palm. The Jewish remnant having discarded her former ways, and despising the grovelling pursuits of time and sense, raises her whole form to the attainment of heavenly things, the fruit cannot be reached without assistance, but confident in the strength and love of her Lord, she reaches forward to the mark of the prize of her high calling. And Jesus pours into her bosom the glistering luscious fruit he has gathered for her. As the palm is rough and unseemly in its lower stem but gradually as it rises casts off these earthly blemishes, and ascends smooth, graceful and polished to its lofty summit, even so the bride, who for many ages has been sore tried in the furnace of affliction, is now cleansed and purified, and with contrite heart and affection mounts up above the cares and sorrows of the world to the fond embrace of her loving bridgroom; she is now at the summit of her prayers and hopes, and clasped in his arms, sorrow and sighing flee away, joy and gladness shed their beams around her: under the shelter of his wings, even as the fruit by the umbrageous foliage is preserved from the power of the sun's rays, so is the happy bride preserved from all noxious influences. And as the palm retains through cold and heat, through summer and winter, its ever verdant and enduring leaves, so is the bride, through all the dark and desolating scenes which are coming on the world, held secure in the everlasting arms from all vicissitudes of that trying hour. And as the leaves never fade or wither, but retain their emerald verdure for ages, so the bride in the full enjoyment of an all boundless love, shall ever rejoice in the goodness of her Lord, and be indeed satisfied when she awakes with his likeness and realises in his love and grace the full fruition of the eternal promises.

How often do we meet with the mention of the palm tree in the Bible and invariably emblematic of blessings; in Ex., xv, 27, we read of the twelve fountains and the seventy palm trees, typical of the streams of living water and abounding fruit that will result to the heathen when the Jews under God's providence are restored to their own land. The palm is one of the ornaments of the temple in the new Jerusalem (Eze., xli, 12, 20—28). During the feast of tabernacles palm trees were used to form the booths, a striking symbol of Israel's present widowed state, and of the bright glory which shall attend her when the time of the ingathering is brought to pass. It was the city of palm trees (Jericho) that Moses saw from the heights of Pisgah, a happy vision of the blessings in store for his nation. It was from beneath a palm tree that Deborah arose a prophetess in Israel, and called forth the tribes to fight against Sisera, the captain of the host of Jabin, when the stars in their courses fought against the enemies of God's people, and overcame them, even as Christ shall utterly rout and destroy Antichrist and his host on the great battle field of Armageddon.

In every instance the palm betokens victory and praise. Branches of this noble tree were strewn by the people on the road leading to Jerusalem, a foreshadowing of that glorious day when Christ's happy and repentant people shall shout in the fulness of their love, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors : and the King of Glory shall come in, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Ps., xxiv, 7-10). In chapter iii, 6, of this holy song, the bridegroom is announced as one coming out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke. The word pillar is equivalent to a palm tree, being derived from the same root; and Ithamar, Aaron's son, signifies the palm.

Jesus again compares the bride's breasts to clusters of grapes. The last words are not in the original; it seems more natural to refer the clusters to those of the palm tree, which produces luxuriant clusters of golden fruit. These are emblems of his grace and love he pours into the bride's bosom. Gold in the tabernacle represented the purity of Christ, so does the golden fruit here, which he gives, not grudgingly, or of necessity, but with a richness of profusion freely to enjoy. Jesus came to seek and to save them that were lost; and, as Esdras beautifully remarks, that even after the vineyard has been gathered a cluster or two may yet remain hidden beneath the foliage, which may have escaped notice; but God's all-searching eye espies the poor forsaken cluster, and not willing that one little lamb should be lost, he bears it away to repose in his Father's arms,one more poor sinner saved by His grace, and placed in the bosom of the loving bride; the one stone, perhaps, which was wanting to complete the holy edifice.

The bridegroom then adds, “I will go up to the palm tree, and I will take hold of the boughs thereof." What

« EelmineJätka »