The Secret Garden
The concept of a garden in the Bible begins of course, with the Garden of Eden, where all was perfect between God and all His creation, including man. Perfect, that is, until sin entered in. This garden that God had created was well-watered by a river which flowed through it. There are many gardens delineated throughout Scripture, but none so intriguing as in the Song of Solomon 4:13. "A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a rock garden locked, a spring sealed up."
The Song of Solomon is a beautiful picture of Christ and His bride, the church. Throughout the illustration, the Bridegroom is drawing His future bride out of herself and her immaturity into opening herself up to Him and following wherever He leads. Just as in a blossoming romance and during the honeymoon, each step in the relationship is taken with a quickened heart and eager anticipation. Feelings and emotions know no bounds. Perhaps you remember when you were first in love.
When I first saw my husband I was quite young. He was a little older. I was very impressed with him. I told others he was my boyfriend. I learned things about him from other people and I admired him. I talked about him a lot. Much of what I said about him was based not only on what others told me, but also on what I wanted him to be. In my mind, he was not the real Charles Harrington. He was a fantasy that I had built up in my romantic 16 year old mind of what my ideal man would be. One day, I had a real life personal encounter with him and then, through many such encounters, I began to get to know him for who he really is.
Many in the church today know Jesus Christ, or at least they have come to know about Him. Millions attend church regularly. They may even tithe and perhaps they teach a Sunday School class or are involved in various church related activities. They feel quite confident in their Christianity. But, when these people observe believers who are very zealous in seeking the Lord, they become quite skeptical of them. Perhaps these zealous ones are more demonstrative than their observers. They talk about Jesus more than other topics; they actually seem excited about Him. This makes some folks uncomfortable. These "Christians" have the same kind of concept of Jesus that I had of my husband when I had seen him but I had not actually met him. They may never have had a real life encounter with Him - face to face - spirit to spirit. When this happens though, when we come to this pivotal place, we will be the one who is a fanatic and others will think we have gone off the deep end.
The bride (or soon to be bride) in the Song of Solomon portrays those who through seeking have experienced encounter after intimate encounter and have had their spiritual eyes opened to the heart-riveting beauty and life-changing love of the Living Lord. They know what they have been saved from. Their lives have been radically changed. Despite all the protests of those who prefer to have their ears tickled and lullabies sang to them from the pulpits of their churches, who only go through formalities and call it worship, the bride of Christ portrayed here cannot settle for this kind of fare. They are alive in Christ! They know the old man (old nature) is dead and they have been set free! They do not mind showing their excitement with a shout, or with tears or kneeling in His presence. They do not sing hymns or choruses. They sing love songs to their Beloved. In return, He inhabits their praises and meets with them in their adoration. It is a two-way love affair. This is the bride to whom the Bridegroom is speaking in the Song of Solomon when He says such things as: "How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than all kinds of spices!" (4:10). "How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! your eyes are like doves" (1:15). The dove's eyes see only one thing at a time. They focus on one thing. This Bridegroom knows His bride has eyes only for Him.
In 4:15, He tells her, "You are a garden spring, A well of fresh water, And streams flowing from Lebanon." Another translation of the well of fresh water is "a well of living water." But why does He call her a locked garden with a sealed spring inside, you may ask. Ah! This is the real garden of the Lord. The heart of this one who has been seeking after Him. He has planted much of Himself and His Spirit within her. But what good is it doing there locked within her? What good is an enclosed spring or a sealed fountain?
Although He has visited there many times before, the little bride has heretofore referred to the garden as her garden. But this time she requests that her Beloved come into His garden and partake of its choice fruits. She willingly allows Him entrance into the carefully constructed enclosure of their secret garden. He has come into the garden on many other occasions but on this visit, through the enticement of the wonderful love she has found in Him, and His careful dealings with her through a period of time, He finally achieves His goal. The strong north winds of trial and adversity, and the soft, gentle southern breezes, which are times of refreshing she has spent with Him, have successfully been employed by the Bridegroom to bring down the ugly walls of self around her heart allowing the fragrance of Christ to be wafted abroad. The spring within then, no longer sealed, gushes forth as "rivers of living water" (John 7:38). That is power!
Paul said that God, "manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ..." (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15). Practically, we might say that the fragrance of Christ is the fruit, or evidence, of His life within the believer. It is the love and the gentleness and the Spirit of Christ that radiates from those who continually abide in Him. The attractiveness of this "fragrance" catches people off-guard and disarms them. And Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up...I will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32).
The bringing down of the walls around the garden enables the fulfillment of the next objective of her persistent Bridegroom. At her invitation to enter His garden, here is what He says to her: "I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers" (5:1). He has not entered alone this time, you see. He brings hungry people with Him, others whose hearts He has been preparing to bring to this same place of intimacy with Him so He can repeat the same cycle with them.
What is holding revival back? Why has the church become dead and formal where once there was real life? Why isn't the church having more of a godly impact on society? It is because of the walls we have constructed. Perhaps we really do have the Living Lord within, but we have been hurt or rejected and we construct walls of protection around us. We build walls that are denominational, walls of racial or national prejudice. Many of us have walls of materialism, greed, and conformity to the world rather than to Christ. Some of our walls are tradition, perhaps our own or family tradition that we cannot release. Some of the ugliest walls are walls of smug religiosity. We might have walls of inferiority, or walls of pride, or resentment, or even walls of complacency. Often the "walls" of the church consist of our self-absorption rather than going outside our buildings and into the world where the hurting people are. Walls can be constructed of various types of materials and walls are sin. The lost and dying world cannot see or understand our message of hope because they cannot see the beauty of Christ or smell His fragrance about us. They see and smell our ugly walls instead.
Here is just a part of what the Father promises us in Isaiah 58, (I suggest you read the entire chapter) "And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places and give strength to your bones. And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins. You will raise up the age-old foundation and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell."
God wants to hold us close and love down our walls today so a lost, hurting and dying world can find their way to Him. Folks, it is WE ourselves who are blocking the way!
Copyright Daphne Harrington 1999