Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.Seeking the Beloved
Song of Solomon 3:1
We so often ask and do not receive: we so often seek and do not find. And yet our Lord, the Eternal Truth and the Eternal Wisdom says, 'Every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth'. How can these things be?
I. The very words of the Bride here will help us. When did she seek? 'By night:' that is, in the time of affliction. 'By night:' that is, not before the night. When everything then went well and; smoothly, she did not seek: when fearfulness and trembling came upon her, and a horrible dread overwhelmed her, then, as the Psalmist says, 'In her trouble she called unto the Lord, and complained unto her God' Well: and it is much to do that; but it is not the highest kind of seeking. No; it was not seeking her Lord early; and, therefore, no wonder that He did not answer early.
II. But we go on. 'By night on my bed I sought.' There we get the true answer. This idle, halfhearted seeking—this seeking which is without trouble—this seeking which is not seeking: this will never find; And yet how apt we all are—you know it in your own consciences—to fall into this! To take a little trouble when only the greatest will do: like King Joash, to smite three times and then to stop.
III. How does it go on? 'I will rise.' The very exact thing that has to be done. 'Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.' You must set about your work in real earnest; pray, if not oftener, at least more heartily; search and try your ways more carefully; and, mind—I will rise by and by will not do. I will rise now, the Bride says. This is the excellent determination; and now, I dare say, we shall find it crowned with success.
Let us see: 'I will rise now, and seek Him Whom my soul loveth. I sought Him;' but this is strange, too; for the verse ends: 'I sought Him, but I found Him not'. This is more perplexing than the other. Let us try and make out now it is.
First—I sought Him—where? 'I will go about the city, in the streets, and in the broad ways, I will seek Him Whom my soul loveth.' Ah, that is not where He is to be found! The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things—we know what they do: they choke the word. You know how one of the greatest saints has told us that we are to seek for our Lord:—
I seek for Jesus in repose
When round my heart its chambers close.
See how Hezekiah, in the time of his distress, found God. When Isaiah came unto Him and said—Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and shalt not live. What did he do? Two things. In the first place, he turned himself to the wall; he shut out all cares, thoughts, business, but that of prayer; and, then, he wept sore. Retirement and repentance—that was how he gained what he sought—that is how we must gain what we seek.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 127.
References.—III. 1-5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2516. III. 4.—Ibid. vol. xlii. No. 2485. III. 4, 5.—Ibid. vol. xviii. No. 1035. III. 6-11.—Ibid. vol. viii. No. 482. III. 7, 8.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 137. III. 9, 10.—Ibid. pp. 151, 364. III. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1134. III. 11.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 311. Talbot Greaves, The Joy of Jesus, Sermons, 1655-1884. IV. 6.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, pp. 159, 172. A. G. Mortimer, Life and its Problems, p. 13. IV. 7.—R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. i. p. 561. IV. 10, 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No. 282. IV. 12.—Ibid. vol. xxxiii. No. 1957. IV. 12 and 15.—Ibid. vol. viii. No. 431. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 184. IV. 14.—J. Pulsford, Infoldings and Unfoldings of the Divine Genius, in Nature and Man, p. 1.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.
He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.