How to Come Up from the Wilderness Leaning on the Beloved
Song of Solomon 8:5. “Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved” (Song 8:5)? I always think of this as the Holy Spirit speaking here. He says, “I awakened you under the apple tree”—back in Song of Solomon 2:3-4. The Lord is speaking, because He is the One who awakened the bride underneath the apple tree. “There your mother brought you forth; there she who bore you brought you forth” (ibid).
LOVE AS DEMANDING AND AS COMPREHENSIVE AS THE GRAVE
Now Jesus is speaking in verse 6. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” (Song 8:6). It’s a seal of fire. “For love is as strong as death” (ibid). Divine jealousy is as demanding, as comprehensive, and as unrelenting as the grave. In other words, nothing can escape the grasp of God’s jealousy. No sin is too great. It’s as demanding and as comprehensive as the grave. The flame of the seal on the heart is a flame of fire: “Its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame” (Song 8:6b)—or another translation says, “The very flame of God.” He goes on to say, “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it” (v. 7). Many waters of disappointment and temptation cannot quench this love that has been imparted in the heart; nor can the floods of persecution drown out the love in the heart of the Bride.
THE POWER TO LOVE IS THE REWARD ITSELF
“If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised” (Song 8:7b). If a man would give for love all his inheritance, he would consider it as rubbish. He wouldn’t consider it as anything that was exceptionally noble. He would utterly despise the idea of being recognized for it, because the power to love is the reward itself. “
WHO IS THIS COMING UP FROM THE WILDERNESS?”
In the fifth verse of this chapter, I want to look at the first two phrases. “Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?”
The verse that the Lord has really encouraged me with is Song of Solomon 8:5.
THE REALM OF VOLUNTARY AND INVOLUNTARY WEAKNESS
“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” There are five key words in these first two phrases. The number one word is wilderness. The wilderness, as I’m going to apply it tonight and as I’m applying it in my own life right now, is a place of weakness. There are several different applications of the meaning of the word wilderness here. They’re all meaningful to us as we study the Song of Solomon. Specifically it’s talking about the place in our own lives of weakness. The wilderness is the place of weakness. There are two types of weakness that we’re looking at tonight. There’s voluntary weakness and there’s involuntary weakness. It’s the voluntary weakness, the bearing or the embracing of weakness, that’s critical for us to lean upon our Beloved in the way that the Lord has ordained.
THE SEAL OF LOVE IS NURTURED IN THE WILDERNESS
A general definition of wilderness here is the overall fallen world. It’s the Bride ascending in the resurrection and coming up out of this fallen, evil, dark world. She has ascended from the wilderness. But also, the wilderness is not only a place of weakness; related to that, it is a place where the seal of God grows most effectively on our hearts. Jesus invites us in verse 6; He says, “Let Me be the seal upon your heart.” The seal is most nurtured in the wilderness. The seal of verse 6 is nurtured in the wilderness of verse 5. The seal of verse 6 grows best in the wilderness posture before the Lord in verse 5. The reward of the wilderness, verse 5, is the seal of verse 6. This is why I feel a small amount energy in my own life about embracing this and really insisting on it. No one asked me to do it; no one asked any of us to do it. We insist on it. We feel like it’s right before the Lord. The reward of verse 6 is found most effectively in the wilderness of verse 5. If you can believe that one sentence and you act on it, then it will change your life dynamically. If you believe the anointing to love, to receive, and to have an impartation of love and receive the awareness that God’s love as described in verse 6 flows from the wilderness of verse 5; if that connects in your mind and it changes your actions, then it will dynamically change the way you live. And that’s what is encouraging me right now. The wilderness is the place of weakness in the most specific way.
In a moment we’ll examine voluntary and involuntary weakness. It’s the place in the general sense of ascending out of this fallen, evil world, but prophetically it’s the place where the seal grows in our lives. That’s the wilderness.
THE MOST POWERFUL POSSESSION OF ANYONE ON EARTH
The second phrase that we’re going to look at is “coming up.” There’s victory. The Bride is ascending. The “coming up from” speaks of victory. There’s a triumph that’s going on here. The victory is defined mostly as inward in this age. There’s an outward victory in this age: there’s real physical deliverance; there’s real deliverance, very powerful deliverance, in our circumstances. The profound victory that we come up with from the wilderness is the ability to love in verse 6. Verse 6 defines the victory as inward more than outward. It’s victory in the heart. It’s having a heart of burning desire. When your heart grows in burning desire for God, you have the most powerful possession of any human being on the earth. I tell you, the victory in the heart of verse 6 flows out of verse 5. The third word, and the operative word tonight, is leaning. We’ll look at that in a moment. That’s the key idea tonight: what is leaning and how do you lean? It’s the leaning that the wilderness is to produce.
LOVE IS THE STRENGTH OF THE WHOLE PROCESS
The fourth word is the word beloved. Love is the strength of the whole process. When we call Him “Beloved,” that implies He’s a lover. When we call Him “Beloved,” it implies that we love Him. It not only implies that He’s a loving God toward us, but it implies that we love Him. Love is the strength of the whole process.
THE LOVE OF GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF OUR LIVES
Here’s the problem. When you’re in a wilderness time—and we all are in the general sense of being pre-resurrection; we’re in the wilderness of this fallen world—when we’re in the wilderness of weakness, when we’re leaning upon the Beloved and when love is in the equation, the wilderness is transformed. It’s the place where the seal comes to the heart. If we don’t have the paradigm of the Beloved, the beautiful God who loves us, the wilderness is a very, very difficult place to be. That’s one of the great problems today in the Church. The Church is in the time of struggle. They’re in the place of weakness, but they’re leaning on something other than a God who is their Beloved. They have a different paradigm of God, and being in the wilderness without the paradigm of the Beloved is a very hard place to be. That’s where many people in the Body of Christ are today. Beloved speaks of our source. The love of God is the strength of our lives. It’s our motivation. We’re in the wilderness leaning because we’re lovers. We’re leaning. We want the wilderness because we want to grow in love. The fifth phrase here in verse five is, “Who is this?” There’s a uniqueness and a mystery.
The spirit of this is what Paul the apostle said in 1 Corinthians 4:9: “We are spectacles both to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9, paraphrased). The angels looked at Paul the apostle and said, “What is the deal with this man?” He wouldn’t quit. He was a spectacle to angels. The angels were so used to God’s servants being half-hearted that when Paul the apostle came along he was a spectacle to angels. They looked at him and then looked at each other and said, “Well, what do you know, there is one.” “Who is this?” There’s a certain intrigue. There’s a drama in the question.
It’s speaking of and emphasizing the rareness and the uniqueness of this group of people across the earth who embrace the wilderness with the paradigm of a God who is their beloved and who comes out in victory leaning
. VICTORY IN LOVE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WEAKNESS OF LIFE
There are so many ideas all wrapped up in this one verse here that all relate to verse 6. It’s victory in love in the middle of the weakness of life. It’s victory in love in the heart. It’s the heart in victory while the body is in weakness. That’s what we need. It’s the heart in victory while the body is in weakness, or even when the heart is in weakness. The invitation of verses 5, 6, and 7 is to encounter God in weakness—actually to engage God in the season of the wilderness. You’re going to see in a moment that the wilderness is both voluntary and involuntary. It’s voluntary and involuntary.
LEANING ON OUR BELOVED
What a lot of people do is to make an unspoken contract with God. They say, “God, I’m going to be really red hot for You once I get out of the wilderness. I’m so distracted by the wilderness. I already have it planned out. I’m going to be more committed than ever when You deliver me.” A lot of people think that way. They’re going to be zealous after strength comes in the wilderness. What the Lord wants us to do is to engage Him in the wilderness because we have a paradigm of God as our Beloved.
MEEKNESS ISN’T WEAKNESS
My focus is the leaning heart. It’s the leaning heart in the wilderness. I referenced the meekness of Moses. Instead of “leaning on her beloved,” say, “a meek heart towards her beloved.” It’s meekness that we’re talking about. Moses is one of the best examples of meekness in the whole Bible. What is meekness? Meekness isn’t a lack of strength. You’ve heard it said meekness isn’t weakness. Meekness isn’t the absence of strength. Sometimes you’ll see a really beaten down person, so comatose and so mellow that they’re stuck in monotone: “Hi, I don’t care what you tell me, I’ll do it.”
“Boy, he’s really meek.” No, he’s almost dead. That isn’t meekness; that’s brokenness. Passivity in a monotone posture of life isn’t meekness. They’re just compliant and easily pushed around with their shoulders down. That isn’t meekness; that’s brokenness in a negative sense.
MEEKNESS IS STRENGTH UNDER RESTRAINT
Meekness isn’t the lack of strength. She isn’t lacking any strength leaning on her beloved, but she is in meekness leaning on her beloved. Actually, meekness is strength under restraint. That’s what meekness is: it’s strength under control. It’s strength under restraint or control. The best natural illustration is an illustration that I’ve heard for many years, and preached on many times. Undoubtedly you old people over forty have also heard it preached many times over the years. It’s the illustration of a horse. When you first get a horse, it’s just raw strength. When the strength of the horse is brought under the bridle, the horse is said to be meek. It isn’t because the horse has lost its strength; it’s because the strength is under the restraint of the bit and the bridle. The name they use for the horse is meek now. The strength of the horse is now fully directed and under control. Meekness is awesome strength under restraint.
Strength is a relative word. In other words, strength only makes sense, and you can only use the word strength and make sense of it when comparing it to inferior strength. Something is only strong compared to something else, and all the other things are weak. That’s what makes strength strong. It’s superior to the other things around it. The very definition of strength implies superiority. It implies uniqueness. If all the people in the world, six billion people, doubled their strength, then it would all be average again and it wouldn’t be strength. It’s a relative word. It’s a comparative word. The word strength by its very definition implies superiority, and therein lies the peril of strength. All strength by definition has an element of superiority, genuine superiority to it. That’s why it’s called strength. The superiority and uniqueness is its peril, and therein lies its vulnerable part in our hearts.
When fallen human beings have a superior dimension in their lives, strength, it causes tremendous problems in the spirit in our lives. The Lord has a solution for it.
MOSES WAS THE HUMBLEST MAN ON THE EARTH IN HIS GENERATION
Moses is the example I’m going to use. Numbers 12 is a really unusual passage. This is interesting: look at Numbers 12:3. “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all the men who were on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3).
Moses was the humblest man on the earth in his generation. Let’s read that again. “Now Moses was very humble, more than all the men on the earth.” The difficulty with verse 3 is that Moses wrote that. He did. It’s true.
He was the humblest, but he wrote that. It reminds me of John the Baptist. John the Baptist says, “Jesus is mightier even than I.” He said, “He is mightier than I” (Mt. 3:11, paraphrased). The best example of might that John the Baptist could come up with was himself. He said, “He is mightier than I. However, I’m not fit to untie even His sandal” (ibid). John the Baptist had no false humility; he knew who he was. The same thing is going on here.
JESUS WAS TOTAL POWER UNDER TOTAL RESTRAINT
Before we develop this, it’s interesting that the only characteristic Jesus ever used of Himself with His own lips was that He called Himself meek. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus never said, “I’m loving.” He’s loving, but He never said it with His own lips. Jesus never said, “I’m great,” or, “I’m good.” He never, ever described Himself with a single character trait, with one exception. It was the word meekness. That’s significant. The Son of God comes to the earth in the fullness of power, and He lays it down. The most powerful reality He can say about Himself is, “I’m total power under total restraint. I’m meek. I did Genesis 1, and now I’m walking in flesh and blood. I’m under the total restraint, and I’m the transcendent God. Here I am.
I’m meekness par excellence, strength under total restraint.” Of course, not the greatest, but one of the great miracles of Jesus’ life is what He didn’t do, and not what He did do. The miracle isn’t that He said, “Lazarus, come forth” (Jn. 11:43). The miracle is that every grave didn’t empty when He spoke the words, “Come forth.” He had to say Lazarus. He did. He said, “Lazarus.” If He had said, “Come forth,” all the graves would have opened, because He’s going to say that one day. Every grave in the whole earth is going to open when He says, “Come forth.” The real miracle of Jesus’ miracle ministry is what He didn’t do. He’s the One who acted in Genesis 1. He walked through the hills of Galilee remembering when He formed that hill. He looked at His hill and said, “I like this hill.” He made that hill at the right hand of the Father. Perfect power under perfect restraint—that’s Jesus.
MOSES WAS A MIGHTY MAN IN EGYPT
It says in Acts 7:22 that Moses was a mighty man when he was in Egypt. He was mighty in Egypt. Moses had quite a journey. It says specifically, “He was learned in all of the wisdom of Egypt” (Acts 7:22, paraphrased). Moses was one of the smartest men in the earth. He was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt. He was a math and science genius, He grasped all of the sciences and the philosophies of Egypt, that great nation. That’s number one: he was very intelligent. He was mighty in word (Acts 7:22). He was a very powerful communicator when he was in Egypt. Forty years later he was so transformed that he said, “Lord, I can’t speak; my brother has to do it for me” (Ex. 3:10, paraphrased). But when he was in Egypt, he was mighty in speech. He was a very eloquent man. The wilderness changed him.
It says also in Acts 7:22, “He was mighty in deed” (Acts 7:22b, paraphrased). He accomplished great feats. Undoubtedly he organized the building of great buildings and conquered nations. No one knows what he did, but he was mighty in his accomplishments and in his deeds. He was a very, very accomplished man by the age of forty. He was the most powerful man in the earth.
MOSES SPENT FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS
We know that Moses’ life is broken into three seasons of forty. The first season was forty years in Egypt. The second was forty years in the wilderness. The third was forty years leading the children of Israel. Again, I’ve heard half a dozen sermons on this through the years, and they all say it differently, but in nearly the same way. In the first forty years, he was gaining strength: he was being powerfully educated, and he was mighty in word and deed. He was becoming a somebody. He was becoming strong in the first forty years. He was gaining strength.
He was becoming a somebody. In the second forty years, he was in the wilderness, tending sheep like David. Can you imagine this brilliant, scientific, learned man of philosophies, who undoubtedly built large buildings and conquered nations, tending sheep? Not for ten years, but for forty; think on that. Some of you have been in the wilderness for maybe nine straight months, and you’re absolutely at the end of yourself. You’re saying, “When is this going to end?” I understand that. But think of forty! When we connect to God’s purposes then we can interpret our own seasons