Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed, where you make your flock to rest at noon…
The Christian pilgrim has to pass through a variety of fortunes in his passage to the celestial city. His fluctuations of joy and sorrow, hope and fear, resemble an April day. Sunshine alternates with storm. Now he is on the mountain top; now in the valley of humiliation. Now he looks into his Master's face, and sees a smile of heavenly love; now that gracious face is hid, like the sun during eclipse.
I. WE HAVE A SENSE OF DESERTION. This is a matter of personal feeling, not an external reality. God does not undergo any change, nor does he ever forsake his friends. But it sometimes happens that we cease to realize our vital interest in Jesus; we lose for a season the enjoyment of his favours. The sun is as near the earth - yea, nearer - in December as in June; yet, because our northern hemisphere is turned away from the sun, flowers do not bloom, nor do fruits ripen, on our side the globe. So we may unintentionally have drifted away from Christ; our hearts may have flagged in devotion or in zeal; the bloom of our love may have vanished; some cloud of earthliness may have intervened, some mist of doubt may have risen up, and we no longer see the radiant face of our Beloved. In proportion to our appreciation of our heart's best Friend will be the sorrow we shall endure. No earthly good will compensate for the loss. No other joy can take its place. It seems as if the natural sun were veiled; as if earth were clad in mourning; as if all music had ceased, because Jesus is not a Guest in the soul.
II. HERE, NOTWITHSTANDING, THERE IS AN UNDERCURRENT OF HOPE. We find yet, within the soul, strong love to Jesus, although we no longer realize his love to us. This is solid comfort; for it is evident that our love is real, and not simply a desire for self-advantage. It is not a refined form of selfishness, inasmuch as our love to him abides, although it brings no enjoyment. And we still perceive and appreciate his office. We still regard him as the great Shepherd of the sheep. As such he will not allow a single lamb to stray. It is the part of a good shepherd to care for each member of the flock, and to restore the wanderer. Though we no longer bask in the sunshine of his favour, we are sure that others do, and we love him for his compassion to them. Further, we are sure that he is not far away. He is busy with his flock, feeding them, caring for their needs; so we will seek him out. We will not sullenly wait until he shall come to us; we will search for him, for we are sure that he will approve our search. If we heartily desire him, this is hopeful.
III. WE HAVE ALSO AN EAGER INQUIRY. "Tell me where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon." So fully conscious is the soul of its loss and injury, that it longs to end this sad experience. Its main difficulty is what to do, what step to take. No hindrance in the way of finding Jesus shall be allowed to remain. If we have been guilty of any misdeed or neglect, we will confess it honestly. One question only perplexes us - Where shall we find our Well-beloved? We want information, guidance, light. Yet this same Jesus is our All in all. He is our Light. He will reveal himself. In due time he will give us light. So we speak to him directly, and we employ a very discreet argument: "For why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" In other words, "Why should I seek for satisfaction elsewhere but in thee?" If I seek, I shall find only disappointment. These fancied joys will be as apples of Sodom, as the grapes of Gomorrah. I must have some object on whom to expend my love. Let it be no other object, no inferior object, than thyself. Only show me thy chosen haunt, and I will find. thee out. Distance shall be annihilated. Mountains shall be levelled.
IV. A GRACIOUS RESPONSE. "Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents." Prayer for light is especially acceptable to God. In him is no darkness, and nothing is further from him than to keep us in darkness. Most of all does he delight in the prayer which yearns after him. It has been his business all through the past eternity to reveal himself, and to come into nearer union with the human soul; hence our prayer is only the echo of his own wish, our desire is his desire, and response is ready. How tender is his rebuke of our ignorance! "If thou know not." It is as if he said, "Yet surely you ought to know. You have found the way to me aforetime. It is the same way still, for I change not." Or, "If thou canst not find the way to me directly, then act as my friends act. Learn from the successes of others. I have instructed others how to find me. They have found me, and now they are patterns and helpers for all seekers. Observe the 'footsteps of the flock.'" If we are earnest in our search after Christ, we shall use all and every means likely to ensure our success. Very often it is not more light we want, but a humble and diligent readiness to use the light we have. Unfaithfulness to our light is a common failing. The instruments employed to convey the electric current must be scrupulously clean, and every law must be delicately observed, or the mystic force refuses to act. Our spiritual sensibilities are far more delicate, and a neglect, which may seem minute or insignificant, will defeat our purpose, and rob us of our joy. They who desire intimate fellowship with Jesus must be companions of the friends of Jesus, and must learn lessons in the humblest school. The footprints of other pilgrims we must carefully note and faithfully follow. Jesus is no respecter of persons. Others have found him: why should not we? They have not exhausted his love; they have merely tasted a sip of the infinite ocean. I may, if I will, drink more deeply than any mortal yet has done. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?