Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Song of Solomon, Day 5

Episode Resources

Get more from this study. Meditate through the "Making It Personal" questions located at the bottom of the transcript.

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has a message for anyone who feels tired.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The antidote for burnout, the solution for burnout is not to focus on myself. “I need more time for me.” No. It’s to focus on Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Friday, February 26, 2016.

Nancy’s been in a series based on the Song of Solomon called, “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.”

Nancy: As we continue in our study of the Song of Solomon, or as I like to call it, the Song of Songs—the ultimate song, the song of love—the bride has expressed her earnest longing, her desire, her passion to pursue an intimate love relationship with her bridegroom. But as she looks at herself and her background, where she’s come from, where she’s been, what’s been done to her, she sees some flaws and some limitations. As a result, she’s conflicted. She’s concerned that she is not qualified to be married to this king or to be loved by him.

I think this is so important as we consider what this song has to say about our relationship with the Lord Jesus as His Bride. We see some of these same flaws and limitations. And we’re conflicted, aren’t we, at times that we would be qualified to be married to Him, to have a relationship with Him, that He would love us? How can it be?

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean.”

Well, those are some of the feelings that this bride is having. So as we come to verse 5 in chapter 1, she speaks to the daughters of Jerusalem. Now, that’s the first time they are mentioned, but they surface repeatedly throughout this book, and there have been various suggestions made as to who these daughters of Jerusalem represent.

The one that makes the most sense to me, in light of the way we’re looking at this book, is that they represent other believers who are less mature. They lack the desire for the fervent pursuit of Christ, but they are drawn increasingly to Him as they see this bride’s devotion to her beloved. So they’re being drawn in this journey.

And she speaks to the daughters of Jerusalem, verse 5, and she says:

I am dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon. 

Do not look upon me, because I am dark,
Because the sun has looked upon me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
They made me the keeper of the vineyards,
But my own vineyard I have not kept.

And then she says to her beloved:

Tell me, O you whom I love,
Where you feed [your flock],
Where you [make it] rest at noon.
For why should I be as one who veils herself
By the flocks of your companions?

And then the beloved speaks for the first time. Verse 8, he says:

If you do not know, O fairest among women,
Follow in the footsteps of the flock,
And feed your little goats
Beside the shepherds’ tents (vv. 5–8).

Now, let’s just take that paragraph and unpack that some in our discussion today.

First of all, here’s a bride who knows that she loves her bridegroom. She calls him in verse 7, “You whom I love.” But she wonders how He could love her. She feels unworthy of his love. She’s amazed that he would choose her—the king, that he would choose her to be his bride. And so she says:

I am dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not look upon me, because I am dark,
Because the sun has looked upon me.

Dark, but lovely. Dark like the tents of Kedar, but lovely like the curtains of Solomon.

There’s a contrast here. She sees two aspects of herself, and they conflict with each other, and so she is a conflicted woman.

Dark like the tents of Kedar. Now, that probably doesn’t mean anything to most of us. Kedar refers to a tribe of nomads who were descended from Ishmael. They lived in tents made of black goatskins that became darker as they were exposed to the elements.

So she says, “I am dark.” Some translations say, “black, like the tents of Kedar.” Now why is she dark? Well, we see that her skin has been darkened because she has been working outside in the vineyard. It’s sunburned. She’s been exposed to the sun.

Today people think that having a suntan is really beautiful, but in that era, it was considered that to have fair skin was really beautiful. If you had sunburnt skin or suntanned skin, well that was just common peasants who had that kind of sunburnt skin. So the beautiful women, the royal women would have this real pale, fair skin.

So she says, “I’m dark. The sun has looked upon me. The sun has burned me.” Now, this is a concern she didn’t have until she met him. She didn’t realize what she was really like until she got close to him. As long as everyone else around her, all the people she worked with and did life with and who were also out working in the vineyards, as long as they had this sun-darkened, leathery skin, she was fine. But his fairness and his loveliness had been revealing her unloveliness to her by contrast.

You ever feel like you’re just fine until you get around people who are really godly? And then you realize, “Oh, I’ve got a temper. I’ve got these rough edges. I’ve got these harsh parts. I’m not like Jesus in so many ways.” There’s this tension in us as we realize how beautiful He is, how lovely and wonderful He is, but how dark we are in comparison. It’s in His light that our darkness is revealed.

So she says, “I’m dark like the tents of Kedar, but lovely like the curtains of Solomon.” These curtains, such as those that would have been put in the Old Testament tabernacle were made of fine linen. They were beautiful. They were master pieces of art. They were gorgeous.

I think that for the believer, this points to the righteousness of Christ which Revelation 19 tells us, that the Bride of Christ is dressed in fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the believers, the righteousness they get from Christ.

This loveliness, like the curtains of Solomon speaks of who she has become and is becoming by virtue of her relationship with Christ. But she feels this tension between who she has been and what she’s like naturally and who she is becoming—dark but lovely. “I am dark, but lovely.”

Can you think of somebody else in the Scripture who expressed similar feelings? Think of Romans chapter 7. The apostle Paul said:

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. [I am dark.] For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. . . . For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being [lovely], but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members [dark]. Oh wretched man that I am! . . . So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind [lovely], but with my flesh I serve the law of sin [dark]. (vv. 18–25)

There’s this understanding that by nature, in Adam, our flesh, apart from Christ, is dark. It’s fallen. It’s depraved. Left to ourselves we would never seek after God. We’re dark. But we have been given a new nature, and in Christ, our spirit has been quickened and has been made, by virtue of His righteousness, lovely.

We’ve been chosen by Him, not because of any intrinsic worth or beauty—we have none. Listen, if the apostle Paul could say, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh,” you think there’s anything good in your flesh or mine? There’s no intrinsic worth or beauty in us, but He chose us, and He loves us just because He is love.

So we are dark in ourselves but lovely in Christ. Doesn’t that create some tension in your life? I know it does in mine. We’re ever conscious of our sin and our bent to sinning. But we’re also conscious of His grace and His righteousness that He’s wanting to work in us.

Who among us doesn't know what it is to feel the sense of our unfitness to belong to Christ, to be loved by Him, our unworthiness to be used by Him. I can't tell you how often . . . Certainly not a week goes by, rarely does a day go by, that I do not feel the weight of my own unworthiness to be loved and used by Christ. I see the darkness.

Some of you listen to our radio program, or you read my books, and you go, "Oh no, you are so lovely." You don't know me. You don't live with me. Anything good that you see is because Christ is doing a work in me by His grace. But I live with myself. I know the temptations and the pull and the bent and the things that come out that are so not like Jesus. And I say, "I'm dark. How could you use me, Lord?" But I'm lovely. I'm accepted in the beloved. If you are in Christ, so are you. It's all of grace.

As we study this book together over these next weeks, watch for the transforming effects on this woman's life. His presence is going to transform her into a beautiful woman—as it is in the process of transforming us and giving us a beauty that is not our own. We are dark, but it reflects His loveliness. Dark, but lovely.

In a devotional book I was reading this last week, I came across this quote, and it just fit so perfectly with this concept. Andrew Bonar said, “Crush our hearts between these two millstones—a sense of sin, and a sense of Divine grace.”

Now, we’re often crushed underneath the millstone of our sense of our sin, but should we not have an even weightier, heavier sense of His divine grace? So we pray, “Lord, crush our hearts between these two millstones—a sense of sin, and a sense of divine grace.” Dark, but lovely.

Well, she says, “Do not look upon me, because I am dark”—verse 6. She is self-conscious because of her imperfections. Isn’t that our natural instinct when we see the darkness within us, to feel shame? “Don’t look on me.” To want to cover, to want to hide. You know somebody else who did that? Adam and Eve. “Don’t look upon me.”

Isaiah saying, “Woe is me! . . . I am a man of unclean lips . . . for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (6:5) I am dark, and He is lovely.

Peter saying: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

Then she explains why she is dark. She goes on in verse 6 to say, “The sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards.”

This is a classic rejected step-sister story—Cinderella. Her “mother’s sons were angry with me." We don’t know what that was all about or why, but they put her under compulsory, hard labor in the family vineyards, to her own detriment.

Now, compare that with the way they treated her, with the way the king treats her. He loves her. He’s not angry with her. He loves her.

Some of you think that God is like those other people you have known. But He’s not! This king loves her. He brings her into his chamber. He sits her at his table, we’ll see in verse 12. He converses with her. He brings her rest and refreshment. There is a world of difference between the way these two kinds of people treat her.

And what a picture this is of the difference between the demands of the law and the delights of love.

The demands of the law result in our laboring out of obligation, duty, and fear. There’s no love, no freedom, no joy with this woman who was forced to work in her family vineyard.

But under the delights of love and of grace, service is freely given, gladly given, out of love, and it results in our blessing and freedom and joy.

So I would ask you this: Are you living and laboring in the vineyard of the law or the vineyard of grace? Are you serving under law’s demand or love’s delight?

You can be doing a lot of good things for the Lord—being a good mom, being a good wife, being a good worker, doing a lot of ministry, leading Bible studies, counseling other people, discipling others—all the things that are part of your service, but you can be doing it under the burden of law’s demand and experiencing no joy in it. It’s just a burden. It’s a weight.

She says, “My mother’s sons were angry with me. They made me the keeper of the vineyards.” There’s no joy there.

She said, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I haven’t kept.” There’s a problem there.

And when she says, “My vineyard . . .” as you go through this book, you’re going to see she’s referring to herself, her own life. She has not been tending to her own heart, her own life. She’s worn out. She’s burned out.

This is a picture of trying to serve others while failing to nurture our own hearts. And who does that remind you of in the New Testament? In the gospel of Luke, chapter 10, Martha—serving, doing the right things, zeal, service, but neglecting personal communion and fellowship with Christ. And what happens? You get soul fatigue, weariness, emptiness, dryness, lovelessness, coldness of heart, demandingness. Anybody ever been there? This week?

I got an email recently from a twenty-six year-old mom who has two toddlers. She and her husband decided to step down from a pastorate where he was serving. She said, "I was driving myself to the point of exhaustion. I poured out everything I had. But being stuck in the nursery every service . . ." Stuck in the nursery. It sounds like "my mother's sons were angry with me. They made me the keeper of the vineyard." "Being stuck in the nursery every service caused me to become spiritually dry. I needed serious refreshing."

You could write your own story, right? Maybe you are there. So what do you do? What does this bride do? She seeks him. She seeks her beloved. She says to her beloved, “Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock, where you make it rest at noon.” Now, a more literal translation of that verse would be: “Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed, where you rest at noon.”

She’s seeking him. She needs nourishment and rest. She knows she loves him—“You whom I love. You whom my soul loves.” She knows she needs him to restore her soul. And so now she has a new priority.

As Jesus said was true of Mary, Martha’s sister, “One thing is needful and she has chosen that good part.” What’s the one thing that’s absolutely necessary? To get to the feet of Jesus, get to His presence, let Him tend your vineyard.

So she says to her bridegroom, “Where can I find you? Where can I find the green pastures and the still waters that you promised?”

The antidote for burnout, the solution for burnout is not to focus on myself. “I need more time for me.” No. It’s to focus on Christ.

The antidote for burnout is not to focus on myself. It’s to focus on Christ.

“Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed, where you rest at noon? I want to be with you.”

He is the one who refreshes, renews, restores, revives our hearts. So we keep our vineyard, we tend our vineyard by abiding in Him, by being with Him. The food and rest that we need are found in Him. He is the living water. He is the bread of life. He is the one who said, “If you’re thirsty, come to Me and drink.”

He’s the one who said in Matthew chapter 11, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (v. 28). Now those are great words for a woman whose burnout is from working in the family vineyard. Right? “I will give you rest.”

She’s been laboring under law’s demands. He says, “Come and live under love's delight. I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (see Mt. 11:28–30)

Where would you rather work? In the vineyard of the law’s demands, or in the the vineyard of love’s delights?

She says, “Tell me where you feed, where you rest. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions?” She’s saying, “I don’t want to drift away from you.” It's the picture the believer who says, “I don’t want to wander away from Christ. I don’t want to be drawn away from Him.” She knows that he is the only one who can provide the relief and the refreshment and the rest that she so desperately needs.

Listen women, following men or women of God is inferior to following the Lord Himself. I don’t want you following me. I want you following Christ. I don’t want you following your pastor. I want you following Christ.

I want to follow Christ. There are many men of God whose ministry of the Word ministers to my heart. When I get on the treadmill, I'll listen to many of those different messages, and I blessed by them. The real blessing is if they can get me to Christ. Tell me where you rest, where you feed, Lord Jesus.

Don’t expect your husband, your pastor, your friends, books about Christ, radio programs or podcasts about Christ—don’t expect them to meet needs that only Christ Himself can meet. “The Lord is my Shepherd. He restores my soul.”

Well, in verse 8, we hear for the first time the voice of the beloved. Remember, this bride has just said, “I am dark but lovely.” She had that tension in her, that conflicted sense within. Well, what does he call her when he speaks to her for the first time? “Fairest among women.” The English Standard Version says, “The most beautiful among women.”

In his eyes she is fair. She is lovely. She is beautiful. Now, contrast the bride’s view of herself with her beloved’s view of her. What’s her view of herself? “I am dark.” And, by the way, she’s not making that up. It’s true. It’s not just that she has a bad self-image. She is dark. She does have issues. She does have problems. There are areas where she’s not like him.

But what’s his view of her? His view is, “You are the fairest, loveliest, the most beautiful of women.” He sees her through different eyes than she sees herself. He sees her through eyes of grace and eyes of love. And her view of herself is in the process of being shaped by his view of her.

Let the Lord shape your view of yourself. Listen. He sees the darkness. He knows it. He knows it better than you know it. But listen to Him say, if you are in Christ, “You are the fairest among women. You are the most beautiful among women.”

I think of how I acted yesterday and the day before, and the day before, or thoughts that I’ve had that are not worthy of Christ, that are dark, that are not lovely, or how I’ve believed the lies, and I’ve given in to them. And I think, Oh! How could He say that? He says that because He doesn’t see me as I am in my flesh. He sees me as I am having been clothed in His righteousness. His beauty He has given to me so He can say I’m the fairest among women.

He says to her, “If you do not know, O fairest among women [if you don’t know where I feed, where I rest] follow in the footsteps of the flock, and feed your little goats beside the shepherd’s tents” (v. 8).

Notice here, and I’ll just mention this briefly—we’ll see it a lot more through the rest of this study—the concern throughout the Song of Solomon for the condition of the vineyards and the condition of the flock.

Notice this here: the concern throughout the Song of Solomon for the condition of the vineyards and the condition of the flock. Pursuing intimacy with Christ doesn’t require neglecting our responsibility to serve others. In fact, as we go with Him into the vineyards and to feed the flocks, it could actually draw us closer to Him. It can be a means of great blessing when we’re serving in union and communion with Him.

Jesus said to Peter in John 21, “Do you love Me?” Don’t just seek to get your own needs met if you do. Feed the sheep I have entrusted to your care. Don’t neglect the care of less mature believers. As we feed them, He will feed us.

I say that because there are some of you who are the mother of three toddlers, and you say, "There is no way I can mother and have an intimate relationship with Christ. Something has to go." Let me say, as you pursue intimacy with Christ, He can make you a better mother. He can give you a greater capacity to respond to pressure, or whatever pressures are in your life. As you serve others in union and communion with Him, you will find that you are drawn closer to Him.

She says, “I’ve tended the vineyards of others, but my own vineyard I have not kept.” The solution to that condition is not to stop serving others but to find rest and refreshment in Him so that we can minister to others out of fullness, out of the delights of love.

As she cultivates her own life, her own vineyard, it starts to flourish, and it become fruitful. And by the end of this story, she is eager to join him in caring for the vineyards of others. Her heart is for fruitfulness—not just to have this selfish, self-absorbed, personal relationship with him, but to be with him in being fruitful, in being fragrant in tending the vineyards of others for his pleasure, for his glory, for his joy.

So, what’s the condition of your vineyard? And don't mean just sitting here in this room where we are all blessed to be loving the Lord and studying His Word together. But as you think about real life, back home, in your workplace, in your church. What's the condition of your vineyard?

The women who listen to this program I think are among the most hard-working, diligent, earnest servants of the Lord. But could it be said that while you’ve been tending the vineyard of others, you’ve neglected your own heart?

Maybe you’re serving out of law’s demands rather than love’s delight. Maybe you’re serving in the vineyard of the law rather than the vineyard of grace. Then could I appeal to you to do what this bride does? Seek Him. Seek Him. Say, “Lord, tell me. You’re the one I love. Tell me where You feed, where You rest. I want to be there with You.” And as you seek Him, He will show you how to find rest and refreshment and fullness in Him.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been encouraging all of us to tend the vineyard. In other words, to maintain a close personal relationship with Christ.

We want today’s program to be more than just a nice thing to listen to while passing the time. We hope you’ll see it as an opportunity to dig into the Song of Songs for yourself and grow in intimacy with Christ. Nancy’s here to tell you one way you can do that.

Nancy: I hope the programs in this series are just the beginning of your own study in the Song of Solomon. This little Old Testament gem will help you learn about the greatest love story ever. You’ll more deeply understand the love of Jesus for His Church. To help you grow in that understanding, we’d like to send you a booklet that includes some practical questions for you to work through while you’re reading and meditating on the Song of Solomon. The booklet has the same name as this teaching series, “How to Fall and Stay in Love with Jesus.”

We’d be glad to send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Your donation will help us share with other women around the world about how much love Jesus has for them. Be sure to ask for the booklet when you call with your gift. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com. During this series, we’ll send one booklet per household with your gift. Thanks for helping Revive Our Hearts get women into God’s Word and find out how much they are truly loved.

Leslie: Your heavenly Bridegroom says, “You are beautiful.” But do you find yourself doubting that? We all know we’re flawed. So how can God find us beautiful? Nancy will talk about it Monday. Please join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version. Song of Song references are from the New King James Version.

Making It Personal

Day 5 – Initial Love (How Could He Love Me?—Song of Songs 1:5–8)

  1. Do not look upon me, because I am dark (1:6). What are some of the failures or areas in your life that make you feel unlovely and unlovable to Christ, unworthy of His love? 
  2. I am dark, but lovely (1:5). Solomon’s bride felt unattractive in his presence, but his love made her beautiful. Though you are conscious of your sins and inadequacies, in Christ you have no “spot” to mar your loveliness (see 4:7). How should Christ’s love for you and the way He sees you affect the way you see yourself? 
  3. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards (1:6). Are you laboring in the vineyard of law’s demand or love’s delight? What are the evidences? What difference does it make for our service to be motivated by love’s delight? 
  4. Tell me . . . where you feed your flock (1:7). Who are the “sheep” that the Lord has entrusted to your care? How can you serve them today? 
  5. My own vineyard I have not kept (1:6). Can you relate to what the bride says about tending others’ vineyards while neglecting her own? What is the condition of your vineyard? What practical steps could you take to nurture your personal fellowship with Christ?

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.