Today I was feeling a bit melancholy. I don't know why, perhaps for a purpose, otherwise I wouldn't have opened my Bible to the Song of Solomon. I wanted to encounter the Beloved once more; I wanted to reconnect to that magnificent love of God found in Christ, my Heavenly Bridegroom.
Most of you are likely familiar with my other studies on the Song of Solomon. They are some of my most popular blog posts. I felt compelled to do another after re-reading Songs, this time on the apple tree.
If one takes a rudimentary perusal of the Bible, they'll notice the apple is a big theme throughout. Israel is the apple of God's eye (Zechariah 2:7-8). God wants His Law to be the apple of our eye (Proverbs 7:2). And words fitly spoken are like apples of gold (Proverbs 25:11). It's up for debate whether or not the fruit Adam and Eve were tempted with was an apple, but with all the imagery regarding apples in Scripture, I'd be surprised if it wasn't an apple. (Likely a Honeycrisp apple, because seriously, those are the most amazing apples on Planet Earth.)
But I digress. :P
I noticed something in Songs regarding the apple tree that caught my eye. Keep in mind, this is my own interpretation, so this may or may not speak to you. However, I've been studying Sovereign election and free will lately, and it would seem God is helping me along in that respect. I'm not a strict Calvinist, however neither am I a tried-and-true Arminian. I believe in God's Sovereign election and our free will working in harmony, almost like prayer. When our will aligns with God's will, nothing can stop us! When our will aligns with God's will in regards to our election in Him, we thus become His children.
For months now, I've been stymied by the apple tree in Songs. What stumped me was the talk of the spouse's "mother" in the second reference. Here are the two verses in question:
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.
Right off the bat, we can interpret what the apple tree represents - the Beloved - Christ Himself. It is a metaphor for the Lord. In the first reference, we hear the spouse (the Church) speak of her Beloved, and how all other trees (other men) are barren of fruit in comparison to Him. Therefore, she sat down under His shadow (His protection, His refreshment) of her own free will, and did so with joy (with great delight). She tasted and saw that He was good (Psalm 34:8).
The second reference is now the Beloved speaking to His spouse about Himself - again with the imagery of the apple tree. Here, He tells her that He is the one bringing her forth from the wilderness to rest under His branches. "Leaning" upon someone gives the impression that the one leaning is weak, has no strength, tired, thirsty, aching, and can only make their destination through the strength of another.
But notice, even though she's coming out of the wilderness leaning upon the strength of Christ, He tells her He "raised her up under the apple tree". And then He talks about her mother bringing her forth there. Weird. Right? Maybe not.
Here, I believe we see Christ telling us of His Sovereign election. Our mother bore us under the shadow of the apple tree. It doesn't matter if our mother found her shade under the tree. I think that's what was tripping me up, because not everyone's mother is a believer. But this isn't about the mother. It's about the spouse. Through the election of God, the spouse's mother bore her under the apple tree, He raised her up under the apple tree, and when the time came, she sat down under the apple tree of her own choice with great joy.
Sovereign election and free will working in harmony!
The thing about the mother in Songs is the spouse laments that her Beloved wasn't born of her so that she could kiss Him and not be despised (Songs 8:1). She goes on to say that she would lead Him into her mother's house to become a part of her family (Songs 3:4, Songs 8:2). But what we see in Songs 8:5 is that the Lord Himself has brought the spouse into HIS family. Even though the Beloved talks about His spouse being the choice one of her that bare her (Songs 6:9), we clearly see that He also says it was HE who raised her up under the apple tree.
Therefore, while her mother bore her, it was the Beloved who raised her. He is her Father. Through His great love, it was HE who brought her into His banqueting hall (Songs 2:4). It was HE who drew her, it was HE who brought her into His chambers (Songs 1:4). She did not go on her own without Him. But she did go with great delight. And she finds comfort in His apples (Songs 2:5).
Within the Song of Solomon, we see the Beloved entreating His spouse to "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Songs 2:10). We hear the Beloved knocking while His spouse sleeps (Songs 5:2). And what happens? As a result, she seeks Him (Songs 3:1, Songs 5:6). This is the pattern of God toward His children. He seeks us, He woos us, He loves us...and we seek Him, we woo Him, we love Him. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful picture of romantic pursuit between the Beloved and His spouse - the Church. By His grace, He seeks us first, always. And we respond by seeking Him.
Christ seeks His spouse first - Sovereign election
The spouse's response to Him - free will with joy
This study might be a bit simplistic and general with regards to election and free will, but it really intrigued me. Of course, the Lord knocks on the door of every heart (Revelation 3:20), but it is only His Bride, His Love, His Fair One, who opens the door (Songs 5:6). Yet notice - it is in the knocking, it seems, that we fall in love with Him:
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
"My heart waketh". That's a beautiful image. Christ stirs us out of our slumber. He stirs our hearts. Yet when we rise up in love and open the door, He isn't there - He sought us, now it's our turn to seek Him. Songs likens the Lord to a roe or a young stag (Songs 2:17, Songs 8:14). He leaps and skips over the mountains, and we must chase after Him. But He's promised that if we seek Him, we will find Him (Matthew 7:7-8). And when we catch Him, He whispers in our ear, "Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!" (Songs 4:9-10).
He chooses us. We choose Him. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Christ will absolutely pursue all those the Father has given Him (John 6:39), and all those the Father has given Him has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
Our salvation is secure, because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Therefore, believer, Christ's election made sure that your mother bore you under the shadow of His apple tree. And in love, the Beloved raised you up under the shadow of His apple tree. And when He finally desired to arouse and awaken your love (Songs 5:2, Songs 8:4), you tasted His sweet fruit and sat down under His apple tree - with great delight (Songs 2:3).
Sovereign election and free will. Harmonious, glorious -- victorious!
Praise His holy Name! \O/