Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on December 5, 1976
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the
moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
-Song of Solomon 6:10
. . . the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself
ready . . . Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper
of the Lamb.
TURN IN YOUR BIBLE TO THE SONG OF SOLOMON 6:10 in the Old Testament. One of the saints of the Middle Ages preached 80 sermons on the first two chapters of Solomon’s songs. That tells you how rich this book can be. The great names among the fathers of the church and voices throughout the history of the church, Hippolytus, Gregory, Jerome, Augustine and Luther, all found a rich, beautiful picture of the relationship between Jesus and His church in the song of Solomon.
Some people look on it as just a love story, but God doesn’t put anything in this book without intending it to speak to us of eternal things. It consists of a series of soliloquies and dialogues between Solomon and the Shulamite woman. These are occasionally interspersed with the sound of the chorus, onlookers who react to these interactions between Solomon and his lover.
The Bible is a testament. A testament is a particular kind of contract: it is a one-sided contract. When you write your “Last Will and Testament,” it is that unique kind of legal document where you dictate all the terms. No one may add to or take away anything from it. It is one of the rare times in this life when you can act like God and get away with it: you can write all the terms for participation in your inheritance. In the Old and New Testament languages, there are many words for covenants, but every time God’s covenants with man are described, a word is used that exclusively means a one-sided contract.
God has always wanted to relate to man. He created man that He might have fellowship with him. He said, “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26) He would come down in the cool of the day to walk and talk with man. Man sinned, and because God had said that for sin comes death, man was walled away from God. There was a “wall of partition” created by man’s sins that kept man and God apart. (Ephesians 2:14) You can never find God by looking for Him; God found us. “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) The wall of partition had to be broken, thereby letting God do what He already wanted to do: come to rescue us from ourselves. This Old and New Testament is the description of God’s terms for relating to Him, and God’s way for man to come back to Him.
In the New Testament, God delivered His Word in the literal substance of the Living Word, the logos, the One who could tell us all we need to know about God. John says that in the beginning, “the Word was with God.” (John 1:1) That word with means the Word was facing God and worshipfully adoring Him. That One who could tell us everything we need to know about God was of the same essence as God and was made flesh and “tented” among us in human form. The literal substance of God moved onto the stage of history. His disciples could look back and say, “We beheld his glory.” (John 1:14) The Hebrews letter says He was the literal out-raying of God’s glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
But prior to that, in the Old Testament, God spoke in types and shadows and through prophets and through a people whose lives were an acted-out drama. He elected a people to be His spokesmen. His hand would intrude into their lives with such control that their very history became a drama to tell us the truths of God’s testament, His “Will and Testament” revealed, that would tell us how to relate to Him.
The beauty of God’s love is such that, when the partition was broken, what God desired was to restore a love relationship. From Genesis to Revelation, God describes the church and the Master using a marriage analogy. In the book of Genesis, Abraham sends his servant Eliezer to seek out a bride for his son Isaac. Finding Rebekah and bringing her gifts, they make the long journey ultimately to join her in marriage with the son. This typifies God the Father sending the Holy Spirit to seek out a bride, the church, for His Son Jesus. In the book of Revelation is the picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb, where the church and Jesus join together. (Revelation 19:7-9) That is why the saints have seen this love story between Solomon and the Shulamite woman as a picture of Jesus and the church.
There are choruses scattered throughout this book that represent the onlooking world. The Song of Solomon 6:10 is such an expression. It is not Solomon or Jesus talking; it is not the Shulamite woman or the church talking; it is the world singing the chorus of observation as they are looking at the Shulamite woman, and they are asking a series of four questions which represent what the world ought to see when they look at us.
The world is looking at the church today, like the prisoners on that night in Philippi when Paul and Silas, who had been beaten and thrown into prison, began to hymn praises to God at midnight. The Scripture says, “the prisoners listened.” (Acts 16:25)
As Dwight L. Moody has said, the only Jesus seen by the world is not who they read about in the Bible or hear about from a preacher; the world learns about Jesus as they look on the saints. We are “living epistles,” read of men. (2 Corinthians 3:2) The world looking at the lover of our Lord in that context should see this about us. We need to ask ourselves today, through these four questions from the onlooking world, do we qualify? Would we create this kind of reaction from the world looking at us today? Please underline and number these phrases in your Bible:
1. “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning . . .”
2. “fair as the moon . . .”
3. “clear as the sun . . .”
4. “and terrible as an army with banners?”
“Who is she that looketh forth as the morning? “ You don’t have to be a poet to see the poetry in this. Morning is always new, always fresh. The darkness is behind. I have awakened to birds singing in jungle villages in the southernmost islands of the Philippines. I have awakened at dawn on high mountains. And I have looked over this smog-ridden city, and even it looks good at daylight. Did you ever notice that about the morning? There is something fresh and new about it. The world ought to see that quality in the church.
There are many reasons why the world looking at the church is not drawn to it. Too often it looks more like it is going into midnight than like it is coming forth as the morning. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are. We have taught out of the Song of Moses that God’s promise is “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25) That is why we say, “At the end of the day, don’t quit!” I am never going to quit at the end of the day. I may want to, but I am not going to. “As thy days” means that if you have a big day, the promise is for a big measure of strength. If you are facing only little problems, then only a little measure of strength is required. But since God has promised to His saints “As thy days, so shall thy strength be,” then we ought to be looking forth as the morning. We ought to have the attitude He is adequate.
You might say, “Oh, you don’t know my problems.” I don’t have to know. That is why we sing the song, “Got any rivers you think are uncrossable? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through? God specializes in things thought impossible; and He can do what no other power can do.”
We literally embed ourselves into the house of God, “whose house we are, if . . .” If what? We are “boldly speaking forth and exulting of the hope firm unto the end.” That is the literal meaning of the words in the Greek. (Hebrews 3:6) Writing to Christians scattered throughout Asia who were facing persecution that would curl the hair of most of us in modern Christianity, Peter said, “Let the world see your eulogies to God peal forth; let them see an exhibition of praise in the midst of that persecution. The rest of the world suffering this kind of circumstance has nothing but the circumstance, but you have a hope that is eternal.” Think on these things. As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 These are not new truths. We don’t need any new truths; we need to rediscover the old ones. That giant, the apostle Paul, said, “I have not yet attained, but I press toward the mark.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
It is so simple. How did you get up this morning? How did I get up this morning? How do we come to church? Do we groan, “Oh, I sure hope they’ve got something for me today?” Or do we come to church like a bride about to face a bridegroom in a new day? Have you ever been in love? Do you remember the first meal you ever cooked for your companion? Some people get up claiming to be the bride heading toward the bridegroom, but the way they approach the day, you would think they were trying to poison Him. What do you think Rebekah felt? Each new morning the horizon might reveal Isaac. Every day we get closer to home.
Crawl 19 feet down into a hewn-out cistern and see the apostle Paul. All Asia had forsaken him. The Christians think he must be out of God’s will, for he pleads with Timothy that he might explain Paul’s bonds to them. He is cold; he says, “Bring me the cloak.” He is lonely, he says, “Only Luke is with me.” Yet that old battle-scarred veteran says, “I know in whom I have believed.” And he says, “the time of my departure is at hand,” and he picks a word out of sailing language. It does not describe coming in to an end of a voyage; it is the precise word that is used when a ship leaves a harbor. (2 Timothy)
Have you ever gone on a cruise or on a sailing trip and known that excitement, that newness when the ship pulls out? Paul still felt it after enduring countless trials and persecutions: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness . . .” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) And after a lifetime, he is not looking back. “The time of my outgoing, the time of my casting off, the beginning of my trip is upon me.” Glory to God!
Paul spoke of having an “earnest expectation.” (Philippians 1:20) He uses a compound word in the Greek comprised of three words: away, the head, and to watch. It suggests a sense of expectancy where the head is lifted high to see what is coming next. Some people crawl out of bed in the morning carrying the covers over their heads because of the misery of their Christian journey. I have grown up in the church. I have heard people get up and testify: “I have been in the way so long . . .” They sure had been “In the way” – you couldn’t get past them!
Here is the second part of the question asked by the chorus representing the onlooking world: “Who is she . . . fair as the moon . . .?” What is the quality of the moon? It reflects a hidden light that is not its own. I never cease to marvel at the way God says the same thing in so many different ways that you can’t miss it. The world looking at the church should see the reflection of the hidden light; let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.
The apostle Paul gave a testimony concerning the Corinthian church that anyone ought to be glad to have said of them: they were “behind in no gift.” (1 Corinthians 1:7) They had the Spirit. They were “overfull” of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 4:8) The Greek word is a cognate of our word plutocrat. Those Corinthians had the riches of Paul’s teaching over and over again. He had come to them and said, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
So what was wrong with the Corinthian church? One said, “I am of Apollos;” another said, “I am of Paul;” another said, “I am of Cephas.” (1 Corinthians 1:12) They had their eyes on everything else. Regarding the gift that was given them, they were more interested in their own expression and their own edification than they were in the real matter of business. Paul finally came to grips with it and said, “With open face behold him.” Get every distortion away from you and keep the fixation of your gaze on Christ, and you will literally be metamorphosed, “from glory to glory into that self-same image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Spiritually, literally in the Greek, means “the expressions of the Spirit.” When it comes out, it will look like Him. When you have the Spirit, Paul said, you have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) That means you ought to start thinking as He thinks. To the Romans, Paul says, “God enters in to all things to work His good, to them which are the called according to His purpose.” Then he names that purpose: that we might all “be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:28-29)
To the saints at Ephesus who were seated in heavenly places, he prayed that they might comprehend the height and the depth and the breadth of the love that was theirs to draw upon in God. (Ephesians 3:18-19) Then he says gift ministers are given to bring unity of the faith. From all the diversity, unity is to come; and they are to bring the unity through a knowledge of the perfect man, until we all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
The imagery of the moon is beautiful: it can be a thin little silver reflection with a lot of darkness, or it can be a full moon. I have not yet attained, but looking forth as the morning, I pray tomorrow that a little more of the silver will show and less of the black. That is what the church is supposed to show to the world, not our gifts, not our “holiness,” not our righteousness, not our wants. Jesus and the angle of relationship to Him determine the shine.
I used to want certain things from God. When I went into the ministry, I wanted to be a good evangelist or a good pastor or a good preacher. I really mean it today, “God, next year at this time, or even tomorrow at this time, more than anything else, I wish a little more of Jesus could be seen and a little less of me.”
We move on to the third part of the question asked by those onlookers: “Who is she . . . clear as the sun . . .?” Now the imagery changes. The King James Version does not adequately translate this phrase. The expression suggests being clarified as by fire and burning bright because of the heat. Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth . . .” The Greek gives a picture out of the assayer’s world where the dross is burned away that the gold might shine. That kind of trying circumstance of heat and fire, “being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)
In the mouth of two witnesses a thing is confirmed. Listen to Paul: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this,” literally, “sphere of grace wherein we stand.” As we hang on to God’s promise, we literally move into a dimension where a waterfall of unmerited favor is pouring down. We stand there and we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also . . .” Tribulum is the word from the Latin, which means a rod that beats the chaff out of wheat. “Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience,” triedness is the word in the Greek, “and tiredness, hope” of full glory. (Romans 5:1-4)
If you want it in simple words: Who is she that looketh forth with the fresh expectancy of a morning, reflecting the beauty of the unseen light, taking on that shining forth?” Have you ever seen someone who is usually not very articulate come alive when they talk about someone they are in love with? That becomes their only subject. What does it tell you about the love of a bride for the bridegroom if all she can talk about is herself? But if the light shining forth is of the unseen One whom she loves and is moving toward, and if the pressure and heat of trials only serve to bring forth the light of that desire and shining forth of direction even the stronger, then we can understand the fourth part of the question.
“Who is she . . . terrible as an army with banners?” Don’t get in front of her and try to keep her from joining the bridegroom! The Lord shall build His church and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) The word prevail means to overcome and overpower and be strong to another’s detriment. The avenger of the soul, the elements of this journey, nothing that is designed to overpower or overcome can prevail against the church of God! If you have caught that vision, you will wade through swamps, jungles and deserts to get there. Too much of today’s church world is willing to make the journey only if God’s servant Eliezer, or whomever is the type, gives them a candy sucker. If there is an adequate bridge provided for them, or an air-conditioned flying carpet, then they will go over the swamp or the desert.
The world was amazed: “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon,” burning more brightly under fire, “and terrible as an army with banners,” in her forward progress. God give us a church where we hang our bodies in an exhibition of faith to an onlooking world. May God grant that they will see a people “looking forth as the morning.” Quit looking back; let us go on! In the New Testament, the people marveled at the apostles’ boldness, and they perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men; but they also perceived they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) This isn’t something mystical; it is the reflection of the hidden light.
Let the fire burn; all it will do is cut the flesh away, and there will shine forth the gold that is eternal: namely, the gold of faith that is tried in the fire as we march on clear as the sun. If anyone stands in the way of that progress, let the church be as terrible as an army with banners, for we are marching to Zion.
How did you start out today, and how are you going to start out tomorrow? Looking forth as the morning, or struggling and hoping you can maybe make it through another day? The world is watching us. We tell them what our lover is like as “we go forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners.” Small wonder some people don’t join the journey. Let them scramble for the bouquet as we throw it and wish they were so lucky.
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
Prayer Requests for October, 2014
For Robert Casto (Cushing, OK) and His family, for health.
For Vangie Gonzales (Silver City, NM), for health.
For Dennis Martin (Lexington, OK) who has had several heart surgeries and is now having another pace maker put in.
For Frederick Gray & his family (Oklahoma), for health.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), that he will be granted clemency from the parole board.
For Michael Small’s Mom, Suzanne (Illinois).
For Anthony Grayson (Elmira, New York), that he finds legal assistance.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Freddie Lee Lott (Chicago, Illinois), to stay “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan (Grady, Arkansas), that DNA evidence in his case will be tested.
For all the Wingspread brothers who have recently gotten out of prison.
For Pastor Scott’s health; & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For our friend & neighbor, Ginger, for strength and health.
For Margaret, for healing of glaucoma.
For all of us at Wingspread.
Got Any Rivers
Words & Music by: Oscar C. Eliason
Be of good courage God spoke unto Joshua
When o'er the river God pointed the way
Jordan uncrossable, things seemed impossible
Waters divide as they march and obey.
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
And He can do what no other Power can do.
Battles to win they would meet with their obstacles
Jericho's walls too must, fall to the ground
God never failed He stood back of his promises
Walls had to crumble as they marched around.
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
And He can do what no other Power can do.
God is the same and His Word is dependable
He'll make a way through the water's for you
Life's situations by Him are amendable
Mountains and Hills He will part for you too.
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