“Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy Name is as ointment poured forth. Therefore do the virgins love thee.”
The over-riding purpose of the Song of Songs is to show how God and Man are brought together into a perfect oneness, a unity of love eternal, imperishable, complete—the entire object and aim of the divine life.
Here is something beyond the normal boundary of theology (as that term is commonly employed)—or rather, here is the goal, the purpose and meaning of all theology as that term should be used—not merely information about God, but participation of the creature in the divine life of the Creator—or to express it otherwise, the deliberate union of God and Man by means of the Incarnation. God becomes true Man for the purpose of redeeming, uniting and glorifying Man, raising to His own eternal throne that which is made in His own image and likeness. The concept of the divine sovereignty as an exercise of the Lord’s eternal wisdom and mercy may not be minimised, but by whole continents of thought it comes short of explaining the full intention of the incarnation and the atonement. There we may not rest, for we are only at the beginning of the divine mystery.
What is there in that deep mystery of the divine life which required as its inevitable goal that God should create Man, and then by incredible descent and self-abnegation make Himself the Victim of His own creation—expiating the offence of sin by becoming the innocent scapegoat of it all: to be hurled into awful death and incredible sorrow as the only means by which He, the Lord of all, must achieve the end and purpose of His own great life?
The key to this mystery does not lie in our formal theology. It lies principally in the Poetry and Song of the Bible, nowhere more so than in the Song of Songs which is Solomon’s—that inspired lyric in which the Lord of all, the great Creator, gives all He has to give (which is Himself), without reserve, to possess a Bride with whom to share His glory and become One with Him in an eternal ecstasy of Love, Joy and Peace. This deep unity of love in which Creator and created are to be eternally united, is profoundly expressed in the conclusion of that great prayer recorded in John, chapter 17, where the Lord finally expresses His dedication to this divine purpose (at the cost of His own great life) in the words, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them”. (John 17:26)
That God became Man in order that Man might become partaker of the divine nature and destiny, who can deny?
Peter declares this same glorious destiny as being the subject of “exceeding great and precious promises” by which we are to become “partakers of the divine nature”. (2 Peter 1:4)
He who possesses all, takes to Himself a Bride who is destitute of all except love, so that in the ecstasy of an eternal moment which never began and will never end, the redeemed Bride might become partaker of the divine life, just as surely as God, becoming Man, exhausted to the full the entire secret of the Godhead by entering into death that He might resume life eternal in the unity of God and Man through redemption.
The adjustment of our theology to that ultimate destiny of God and Man is the final task of theology. Beyond all the limitations of our formal schemes which are concerned mainly with finding logical ground for an assured salvation, we must seek something as high above that, as heaven is higher than earth.
The Song is the mysterious door admitting the soul to that higher mystery. God, manifesting Himself in the Son, becomes the divine Lover who will not reign alone in His own creation, nor yet reign over a kingdom built on the pattern of Ruler and Subject. There will be no subjects in heaven. There Christ will reign with His Bride as with an equal—for divine love knows only of an eternal Oneness, as in all true marriage there are equal rights, mutual possession, the giving of Oneself to Another, that two may be one for ever.
Far removed is this concept from the trivial efforts of so many who search anywhere but in the right direction for the meaning of the Song of Songs. The literal must give way to the spiritual, for the Song is a parable, a mystery, which shrouds from the carnal eye that which only the Holy Spirit can reveal.
The true thought overwhelms, and dismisses as irrelevant, the mind which refuses to see, or is incapable of perceiving, the spiritual goal of the life of God as portrayed in the Song. “I thank thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight”. (Luke 10:21) The intimacies of the Song are spiritual mysteries understood only by those of spiritual mind. Where two become one, there is an end to all idle curiosity.
Unique therefore among all the Books of the Bible is the Song of Songs. It turns theology into poetry. The strains of an immortal harmony arise from its mystic measures. This is in fact the heart and soul of all true theology. This is what creation is about. Here at last is the answer to the last, the final questions which trouble the human soul. Here is final assurance—delectable prospect. The end of the road is Christ. The Bride of the Song has a heavenly foretaste of it. She longs for the full reality. Still in her Old Testament condition she desires above all the direct manifestation of Christ, the kisses of whose mouth are the communication of His grace and love in our salvation (as we have already seen in verse 2). This alone will satisfy her longing. She begins to breathe the atmosphere of His long expected appearing.
“Thus” (says Origen) “was the Church, the spouse, nourished and made ready in Old Testament times, for the coming of Christ, whose fragrance is above all (Old Testament) spices.”
The Old Testament church was thus taught not to rest in the types and shadows of the Law which, however necessary for the times then present, could not take away sin or satisfy the longing of the awakened soul for Christ. Paul describes the legal dispensation of Moses as “the ministration of death”, whereas the Gospel is the ministration of the Spirit. The Old Dispensation was glorious indeed, because it expressed the righteousness of God, but it had no saving virtue. Moses veiled his face to signify that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly to the end of that which was to be abolished. “That veil” says Paul, “is done away in Christ”. The full glory of the Gospel shines forth in Him.
“But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18.)
THE FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST
Our verse 3 therefore teaches us that the fragrance of Christ (His name as ointment poured forth) is above all the teachings of the Law and the Prophets by which the Church of the OT was instructed before the Bridegroom came.
The literal view (by which we mean that view of the Song which holds that Solomon was writing of himself and the arrangements of his own reign in Jerusalem) —is impossible here. If Solomon were in fact writing of himself, exalting his own name as resembling the savour of delectable ointment “poured forth”—it would surely be an intolerable vanity, and Solomon would stand exposed, not as one of the wisest of men, but as an arrant fool. Whatever his failings, Solomon never pretended to be other than a mere man, however exalted in station and privilege. The author of the world’s mightiest treatise on vanity (the Book known as “Ecclesiastes”) could scarcely have been guilty of the impertinence of placing his own name in so delectable a category, declaring of himself that his name was like ointment poured forth!
If, however, Solomon consciously and deliberately was writing of Another, who was none other than the Son of God, the long expected Shiloh, we must bow in holy awe and in deep humility, with Solomon, before One whom he here describes as the source of all beauty and fragrance in creation. We must read this verse with reverence and humility befitting so great and glorious a Person. Another prophet who lived centuries after Solomon, takes up the same glorious theme in these imperishable words:
“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful,Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
One hundred and fifty years before Solomon, in the days of the Judges, this glorious “Child” whose name is “Wonderful” appeared to Manoah and his wife to announce the forthcoming birth of Samson, the deliverer of Israel from the Philistines. They asked the heavenly Visitor to declare to them His Name, who thus addressed them, “Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is secret?” (Judges 13:18) The word used for “secret” is the same as “Wonderful” in Isaiah 9:6, and carries the meaning of “Incommunicable”—the name of Deity.
His Name is what He is, and it is thus that He is spoken of by Solomon in our verse—“Thy name is as ointment poured forth”.
Christ bears in Himself the full glory and beauty of the Godhead. In the last chapter of the Bible He describes Himself as “The root and the offspring of David; the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). He is the one true hope of our humanity, the root and the offspring thereof, the beauty of our race, the Lily of the Valleys. Of Him alone could Solomon write that the savour of His Name is as ointment poured forth, and it is this perfection and beauty which calls forth the love of those who are exquisitely described as His “lilies” in Psalms 45, 69 and 80 where the ascription to the Shoshanim (Hebrew plural for lilies) occurs in the titles. Psalm 45 is the royal marriage psalm (of Christ and the Church) composed by King David. Psalm 69 is one of the crucifixion psalms, and Psalm 80 records the failure of Israel under the law, and the cry of the Church for the coming of the Redeemer in the words, “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself” (v.17).
Thus was the expectation of the people of God in ancient times centred around the promise of the Redeemer, the Shepherd of Israel, and thus plainly was it understood by the prophet-writers of Psalm and Song in their inspired anticipation.
The unwillingness of so many writers and commentators to perceive the prophetic nature of the Song of Songs and the full divine inspiration of its Royal Composer, has deprived the Lord’s people of much of the joy and consolation designed for them in this Song.
Verse 3 belongs essentially to the manifestation of Christ in the secret of His Being as God and Man, and in the purpose of His incarnation to manifest in Himself the Godhead, to overcome sin and death, to vindicate the righteousness of God, and to achieve a new creation of redeemed souls renewed in the divine and holy likeness of God. He comes as the fulfillment of all that is declared in the great promise of Isaiah 9:6 (above)—as Son yet bearing the name of the Everlasting Father whose nature and prerogatives He shares. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:7-11). This glorious Son of God is the central figure of the Song and it is the pouring forth of the ointment of His Name which raises in the souls of those who believe in Him an answering love so described in our verse—“Thy name is as ointment poured forth—therefore do the virgins love thee”.
We have previously indicated the remarkable fact that verse 12 of our chapter anticipates the anointing at Bethany shortly before the Crucifixion—“While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof” (v.12). Nowhere else in the Bible is spikenard mentioned but here in the Song of Songs three times (chap. 1:12; 4:13; and 4:14) and twice in the Gospels (Mark 14:3 and John 12:3). The quotations from the Gospels relate to Mary’s act which was anticipatory of the Lord’s death. Matthew and Luke describe the same occurrence but do not give the name of the ointment.
We are aware of course that the Hebrew has “nard” where our translation has “spikenard’. Our translators understood this, and no doubt for the purpose of identification used the Greek formation of the word. The substance is found mainly in India and is derived from ‘a hairy spike-like plant’ (hence, spikenard). Robert Calmet writes, “In India, whence the best sort comes, it grows as common grass, in large tufts, close to each other, in general three to four feet high. So strong is its aroma which resides principally in the husky roots, that when trodden upon or bruised, the air is filled with its fragrance”.
The ointment of verse 3 of course is not to be confused with the spikenard of verse 12. Mary’s spikenard represents the worship and adoration of the Church in contemplation of the life laid down on her behalf. The ointments (plural) of verse 3 can only mean in the words of Thomas Scott, “The glorious excellences of the Redeemer, the unction of the Holy Spirit without measure, the condescension and love of His undertaking on behalf of sinners; the preciousness of His righteousness, atonement and mediation for our benefit”.
In short the only way by which the savour of Christ’s name could be released (that is, the meaning of His Name as Saviour be fully unfolded) was by His death which Mary had anticipated—alone amongst the select group which assembled that day in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Mary of Bethany was in fact Mary Magdalene, as an unbroken tradition from the earliest days of the Church asserts. Her identity was carefully concealed so long as she was alive because of the tenderness which it is always proper to observe in the case of a woman who was once an adulteress, now cleansed and made whole by divine forgiveness. When John wrote his Gospel and proclaimed her identity, she had been taken to heaven along with the entire generation which knew her. If all this is so as the Church always believed in the course of history, we have here not only a most moving story of grace, but also a key to the understanding of Solomon’s remarkable words.
The spikenard which Mary used in her act of devotion could only be released by the shattering of the alabaster box in which it was secreted (see Mark 14:3). The savour of Christ likewise could only be fully released by the suffering of death. Mary’s spikenard was the pouring out of a devoted life, redeemed from sin and shame. In the case of the virgins of Solomon’s Song their total love was called into expression because the Name of the Beloved was poured forth in the only way in which it could be so manifested—by the shattering of the alabaster box of His own glorious life laid upon the altar for the redemption of the world of sinners. Let that stand: “Therefore do the virgins love thee”.
The atoning death of Christ opened the holy mysteries of heaven. The Holy Spirit, who could not be ‘given’ till Christ was glorified (John 7.39) was outpoured at Pentecost. The full savour of Christ’s atoning sacrifice fills the Church with adoring praise such as was not possible in the earlier ages when the Church had only the typical offerings of bulls and goats which could not take away sin.
The savour of Christ’s anointing tells of the total release of divine grace. The Spirit of Love which is the Spirit of God prepares the bride for the final ecstasy of the completed marriage in heaven described by John in the last chapter of the Bible —Revelation 22.
“THEREFORE DO THE VIRGINS LOVE THEE” (v.3)
“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The virgins are not individual believers but represent the completed Church. This is shown in the next verse, “Draw me, we will run after thee. The king hath brought me into his chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” (verse 4). It is to be noted that the Bride speaks both in the singular and the plural, indiscriminately. Twice in this one verse ‘me’ is followed immediately by ‘we’.
The church is viewed collectively throughout the Song, and there appears to be no room for that individualism so beloved by writers past and present. An individual believer could scarcely be compared with a “company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot” (chap. 1, v.9), and a male believer could scarcely be the subject of the feminine description of verse 13. Indeed there is no room anywhere in the Song for any male actors unless it be the watchmen of chapter 3, v.3, and of chapter 5, verse 7. They of chapter 3 could conceivably be considered as faithful pastors, but the watchmen of chapter 5 are cruel, persecuting unbelievers. We have also the 60 “valiant men”, of the royal guard (chapter 3, verses 7, 8).
On the other hand the Church, whether of Old Testament or of New, is usually described in feminine terms, as would befit her place as “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9). One of the few exceptions is the vision of Rev. 14 where the complete Church is presented under the figure of 144,000 virgin males—their virginity being descriptive of their being undefiled by idolatry.
Elsewhere nations are described extensively in feminine terms. The Church in the Old Testament is frequently described as “the daughter of Zion” (according to Cruden 28 times in Psalms and prophets) with numerous co-lateral equivalents as Daughter of Jerusalem, Daughter of my people, or just plain Daughter.
Even in modern times it is still customary for nations to be represented in common parlance by feminine terms, as Britannia for England. America’s Statue of Liberty is of course, a woman. France and other continental countries likewise use the woman as a symbol of the nation.
Isaiah’s vision of the New Testament Church is most remarkable for the use of feminine terms, as in chapter 62 of his prophecy: “As a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (v.5). Again, in Isaiah 66 verses 10 to 12, Jerusalem is seen as a mother whose little ones are ‘borne upon her sides and dandled upon her knees’.
The use of the feminine in these connections is so highly developed because in Old Testament and in New, the Church becomes the bride of Christ—a symbol of that unity of the redeemed with the divine, which is the goal of all creation, the realisation of the eternal wisdom of God, a representation of that great end ever in view, when the purpose of Creation will be finally realised in the eternal and blissful union of God and man.
With all this in mind, the student of the Song of Songs can no longer have difficulty in recognising that the virgins of our verse 3 of the Song represent the Church or Churches of Old Testament and New, and in the genius of allegory are one with the Bride herself. The Bride is at one and the same time both singular and plural according to the necessities of poetic verse. She is the Bride and also the virgin companions who wait upon her and furnish the chorus of the Song.
“Therefore do the virgins love thee” (v.3) is therefore the response of the entire Church of OT and NT to the pouring forth of the ointment of the all-redeeming love of Christ on behalf of her of whom it is written by the apostle, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
“We love him because he first loved us” writes the beloved John (1 John 4: 19). This is in agreement with Solomon’s “Therefore do the virgins love thee”. A vista is opened so vast, so wide, as to exceed the capacity of the mind. Here is the mystery of all mysteries unfolded. Why did God create the heaven and the earth? Why is there a creation of angels and men? What purpose lies hidden in the vastness of creation? There can be but one answer: God creates in order to widen immeasurably the area of His own blessedness.
THE NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME
What then is this Name which to the virgins of the Song is like ointment poured forth, exciting their delight, admiration, worship, and love. The exalted words of the apostle Paul must be our guide, as those words are contained in the epistle to the Philippians (chapter 2, verses 6-11):
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We are well aware of the unworthy criticism, sometimes falsification, of these words, on the part of those who would be thought to be wise. The modern versions of the English Bible have for the most part added only confusion and doubt in their treatment of verse 6—“Being in the form of God He (Christ) thought it not robbery to be equal with God ....” They were answered as to their dubious renderings, long ago by some of the most distinguished of the Church Fathers. Chrysostom says, “If the divine attributes were not His; if He were less than God; then to shrink from grasping after those attributes would be no act of self-abnegation. It would be merely to refrain from impious and mad presumption. He abstains from outward assertion of His Godhead, not because it was not His by right, but of His own infinite condescension”.
Theodore of Mopsuestia points out that Christ’s humility would have here no application were it not assumed that He was equal with the Father.
The Speaker’s Commentary has this fine comment: “The whole verse yields its full meaning as follows. He was from eternity equal with the Father, yet He did not account His divine state to be tenaciously grasped, but on the contrary stripped Himself of its glories, as elsewhere it is stated, ‘Though he was rich yet for our sakes He became poor, that we, through His poverty might become rich’ (2 Cor. 8:9)”.
In short, it is clear from the above that if Christ were not in fact equal with God it were presumption to have even suggested that He declined to claim the honour. If He were in fact the divine equal, this is the measure of His condescension, namely to make Himself of no reputation for the purpose of our redemption.
What then is this “Name above every name”—which to the virgins of Solomon’s Song is as fragrant ointment poured forth exciting their love and adoration? The name of the Lord is what He is, in the full and glorious mystery of His Being—yet it would be impossible for us to understand the mystery which enshrouds His name were it not made manifest in that transcendent act of love in the giving of Himself to awful death at Calvary.
Calvary is the key to all creation. It is the one act which alone fully reveals the heart of God and leads us to understand the meaning and purpose of life, of suffering, of trial, of faith. Without Christ and without Calvary, there is nothing for our race but darkness and despair.
It is here that Mary’s spikenard helps us to enter into the mystery of eternal love. “Therefore do the virgins love thee” writes the inspired Solomon as he unlocks all mysteries. Paul crowns all when he tells us that this Man is the eternal Son who receives from the Father the Name above all names, and summons the dark spirits from the lowest hell dumbly to add their silent quota to the unanimous cry of all creation—“He is worthy”. For ever silent are they in those depths of eternity where all discordant and impious spirits will have their portion.
“Tell me thy Name” cries wrestling Jacob, when he held Omnipotence within his ten fingers and cried, “I will not let thee go ....”
And was it not Charles Wesley who taught us what that Name was, which is the key to all creation?
‘Tis love! ‘tis love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure universal love thou art;
To me, to all, Thy mercies move:
Thy nature and Thy name is Love
It was to this the inspired Solomon was pointing when he wrote, “Therefore do the virgins love thee”—always remembering that the virgins are the churches where Christ is exalted and the music of His Name comes down from the heavenly courts (which are all around us, if we only knew), and is echoed back to heaven from the receptive hearts of true worshippers. In the Old Testament the virgins are the daughters of Jerusalem, the cities of Judah, who are summoned (Isaiah 40:9) to join with Zion in acclaiming their God and king.
“O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God”.
The naming of Solomon himself unveils a great wonder, which (as we have shown in our first chapter of this study of the Song) was well-known to Solomon. This knowledge extended not only to Solomon’s direct connection by name with Christ, the promised Shiloh (Solomon’s name in the Hebrew being Shelomoh, a development of the name Shiloh used by Jacob in his prophecy in Genesis 49). He had another name given him by the prophet Nathan at Solomon’s birth—Jedidiah (“Beloved of the Lord”) - 2 Samuel 12:25. At the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist at the river Jordan, this name was pronounced from heaven by the direct voice of the Father—“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. (Matthew 3:17)
Christ bears a name and a title which could only be entrusted to one who is Himself God. Paul names it in Ephesians 1:19-23.
“... the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body—the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
Solomon tells us that the “virgins” of the Song, love the heavenly Bridegroom because of the savour of His Name. The “virgins” were then the cities of Judah, today they are the individual churches which consist of the true citizens of the heavenly Zion. Individualism is not to be sought in the Song. The Song reveals to the Church the beauty and perfection of Christ, her Shepherd, King, Saviour, and Friend. By the understanding of His “Name” the love of the Church is evoked. Names are of great significance in the Bible and Christ’s “names” are most significant of all.
They unveil who He is, and portray His character purpose and redeeming love. He unveils by His words and deeds the fulness of the divine Name which He shares in Trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. “Therefore do the virgins love thee”. Only as the secret is unfolded of who Christ is, does the Godhead truly come within the sphere of our understanding and our devotion. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” declares the Lord to Philip—“How sayest thou then: Shew us the Father? ... Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me”. (See John 14, verses 7-11)
His “Name” acts upon the soul as a healing balm, driving away doubt and dread, filling the Church with adoring praise, moving the individual soul with wonder; assurance and delight. So are we to understand the words “Therefore do the virgins love thee”. This same comfort of the Saviour’s voice and presence are also made known in His last words to the disciples in the Upper Room, commencing “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God. Believe also in me”. (John 14)
Truly is this heavenly Solomon’s name “as ointment poured forth”. It commands the love and adoration of all virgin souls throughout the whole Church for ever, because no other name as high and great, so significant of love and truth, has ever been made known to man—nor ever can or will be.
The Holy Scriptures abound in the rich variety of names by which it has pleased the Lord to reveal Himself. Supreme amongst these names is Jehovah, the name which first occurs at the creation of man. It appears in Genesis, chapter 2, in the combination Jehovah—Elohim (in our translation—“LORD God”). Elohim is a plural noun standing for the Unity of the Godhead, yet pointing to the subsequent revelation that there is a plurality of Persons in the Oneness, or Unity, of the divine Name.
The combination Jehovah—Elohim (the LORD God) occurs in Genesis, chapter 2, where the full story is related of the creation of our first parents.
We repudiate with disgust the modern attempt to force upon the Christian public the false name YAHWEH in place of Jehovah. No such name exists. It is without meaning, invented largely when theology had begun to be perverted during the course of the nineteenth century.
Ambrose Searle (writing 200 years ago) gives to us the following observation on this glorious name JEHOVAH and its two equivalents—EHYEH and JAH:
“The title JEHOVAH is the grand, the peculiar, and the incommunicable Name of God. It neither is applied to any created being throughout the Scriptures, nor can be applied in reason: for it imports the necessary, independent and eternal existence of the Most High.
“Of the infinite, self-existent Essence implied by this Name it is impossible for us to form a full and adequate idea; because we, and all other creatures have but a finite, derivative essence. Our sublimest notions of such uncircumscribed Existence must fall infinitely more short of the truth than the smallest animalcule or atom floating in the air, falls short of the vast dimensions of universal nature.
“We could not even have conceived anything of the peculiarities which this Name teaches us, of the Almighty, if He had not been pleased to reveal Himself under it, and to declare those distinguishing peculiarities to us. For the want of this revelation, the wisest heathens did but grope, or (as the apostle expresses it) ‘feel after Him’ in the dark (Acts 17:17)—tacitly acknowledging, by their great variety of different conjectures, what Simonides confessed openly: That the more they considered and reflected upon the Being and Nature of God, the more inscrutable He appeared to them, and the more bewildered were their researches after Him. How thankful therefore ought we to be for the Holy Scriptures! How should we meditate on them day and night! These will never lead us astray. These will edify our understanding and enliven our hopes, without the fallacies of human sophistry or the dryness of carnal inventions. In a word, the more constant and teachable readers, by the aid of divine grace, that we are, the more we shall become real and solid and experimental divines.
“JEHOVAH, EHYEH, and JAH, are names expressive of the incommunicable essence, not names of office. And had it not pleased Him, from the infinite source of His own free grace and love, to have assumed some other denominations significant of His own free grace and love, significant of His kindness to us and of what we need from Him, this awful title JEHOVAH could only have thundered ten thousand terrors, and filled the soul of fallen Man with all the torments of a consuming fire. Abstractedly viewed, as a Being of infinite holiness and power, we as sinful creatures could have had no complacency in His holiness, nor as rebellious creatures, any delight in His justice. He also must abhor us, from the contrariety of our nature to His own. But in His character as Saviour and Redeemer, we become endeared to Him and He to us; all His work of creation and grace appears to be arrayed with the infinite splendours of eternal glory.”
Mr. Searle goes on to say that the name JAH stands simply for the divine essence, or for Him who is, and who necessarily must be. The name EHYEH occurs nowhere but in Exodus 3:14 (“I am that I am”)—and means, not only Him who necessarily is, but who necessarily will be. “It regards the future Eternal, and demonstrates the immutability of the divine existence. The title JEHOVAH includes the past, the present and the future Eternal (that is, according to our conceptions, for all things, and every division of that duration which we understand by time, are present with Him though successive to us). Thus the inspired apostle (John)—finding no word in Greek to represent the idea contained in the Hebrew, uses a periphrasis (a comment) on the word, and expresses (in Revelation 1: verse 4) the name of Jehovah by, ‘He that IS, that WAS, and that IS TO COME’.
“The best account which Plato, a man of the most enlarged and penetrating genius, could give of the Godhead” continues Mr. Searle, “was, that the mind could neither comprehend, nor language express Him”.
Treating of the philosophical opinions of the deity, that excellent French historian and Christian, Charles Rollin, writes, “There is nothing so absurd that has not been advanced by some philosopher in the attempt to define the Deity”. Mr. Searle adds, “These circumstances, so humiliating to the pride of Man, should at least teach him modesty and diffidence in every speculation which relates to the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, and constrain the Deists, Socinians, Unitarians, and all our rational inquirers (as they style themselves) to use some caution and moderation of sentiment and language, when treating of this profound and important subject. Or as Augustine, ‘No point is to be mistaken with more danger, none to be studied with more diligence, none to be understood with more profit’ ”
In our Authorised Version of the Scriptures, the English for the name Jehovah is usually printed in capitals: LORD, to distinguish it from that other name frequently used in the Hebrew, “Adonai”, represented in our version by “Lord” in small letters.
Mr. Searle continues, “If this Name Jehovah be applied to the Messiah, it constitutes irrefragable proof of His divinity, from an infallible evidence. And that it is so applied there are many instances which cannot be denied. Jeremiah (for example) prophesied that a righteous branch should be raised to David and in His days Judah would be saved and His Name should be called JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Both Jews and Christians apply this to the Messiah, and indeed it cannot possibly be understood of any other, for Christ alone is our Righteousness as well as Wisdom, Sanctification and Redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
The Messiah therefore is Jehovah ...
... In the Book of the Prophet Zechariah (chapter 12, v.10) we find Jehovah Himself declaring, ‘I will pour upon the House of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of Grace and Supplication, and they shall look upon me whom they pierced ....’ Christ, uniting the two natures of God and Man, was the pierced one. Consequently the great Redeemer, taking our humanity upon Himself, is Jehovah”.
This is the mystery of divine love which Charles Wesley with holy boldness described in these terms:
Amazing love, and can it be That thou my God should'st die for me?
“How the Manhood was taken into God surpasses the investigation and capacity of created intellect,” (continues Mr. Searle); “Nor is the explanation of this conjunction needful to His people; but only the assurance of the fact.
“In this glorious view of our exalted Saviour, what a fund of comfort appears in all His undertakings and offices, His nature, His work, for the children of God! ‘Because he continueth ever he hath an unchangeable priesthood, and is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth (the very meaning of the name Jehovah)—to make intercession for them.’
“Jesus is Jehovah, or He could not be the same yesterday (that is, from eternity), today (through all time), and for ever (to eternity). All this the name Jehovah implies.” So far Ambrose Searle.
This is “the Name” of which Solomon wrote when he declared “Thy name is as ointment poured forth”. But did Solomon understand what he wrote as do we, who live after the Incarnation? Beyond all doubt he did, as we have previously shown in our study of the opening words of the Song. Solomon knew himself to be the type or foreshadowing of the promised Shiloh, whose prophetic Name he bore.
The proof, if further proof were needed, that Solomon’s Song was intended from the very first to portray Christ in the mystery of His Godhead joined to His true Manhood, lies in two of the most significant psalms of King David—Psalms 45 and 72. The former has long been recognised as the basis of Solomon’s Song, and the latter gives a peculiar emphasis to the mystery of “the NAME” of “the King’s Son”—so richly expanded in the words of Solomon with which we are dealing.
THE NAME WHICH ENDURES FOR EVER
“His name shall endure for ever,” wrote David. “His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him. All nations shall call him blessed”. (Psalm 72:17)
When King David lifted up his pen for the last time, ere he left this scene of trial and tears, he composed that remarkable psalm which is numbered 72 in the divine collection. That psalm is headed “A Psalm for Solomon”—and as this title is ambiguous and can just as confidently (in the opinion of some) be translated “A Psalm of Solomon”, there have been those who have laboured to assert that Solomon composed it, not David. Excellent men and earnest theologians have been persuaded that this is in fact the case, but we believe they have been mistaken—and for the following reasons.
Psalm 72 is a “doxology psalm”—that is, it marks the end of one of the great sections of the psalms. These doxologies divide the Book of Psalms into five groups. The first group ends at Psalm 41 the 13th verse of which is a doxology—“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. Amen and Amen”. The next section ends with the great doxology of three verses at the end of Psalm 72. The third ends with Psalm 89, and the fourth with Psalm 106, leaving the fifth part of the Book to conclude with the “praise” Psalm, 145. Each doxology concludes with the double Amen.
In the case of Psalm 72 there is an additional line—“The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended”.
The critics say that these words do not apply to Psalm 72 to which the doxology is annexed.
How remiss of Solomon to allow that final sentence to be appended, if it were not applicable! How irrelevant is that sentence to so great a psalm, if David did not compose it! John Calvin reminds us that the superscription of the psalm: “A Psalm for Solomon”, which the objectors claim should read “A Psalm of Solomon”, is ambiguous in the Hebrew, and that the particle can mean either “of” or “for”. Nevertheless Calvin himself adopts (in our view mistakenly) the opinion that Solomon was the probable author.
The refutation of this view lies in the very first verse—“Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son”. Who was the King? Who, the Kings Son? If Solomon were the king then he must have honoured as the subject of the Psalm his son and successor Rehoboam—a worthless character who threw away the crown of Israel in the first act of his reign, and retained only the tribe of Judah for himself. It can scarcely be doubted that Solomon knew the character of his successor from an early date, Rehoboam being born about the beginning of Solomon’s 40 year reign. The theory of this psalm being composed by Solomon is therefore unthinkable.
The opening words of the psalm could only have been written by David: “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son”. As the entire psalm is prophetic of Christ’s reign, the “king” and the “king’s son” could have naught to do with the immediate succession of Solomon, or the wretched Rehoboam. It was relevant only to that one great and coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the long anticipated SHILOH, “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”. That Son was Christ. (See Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 1, verse 1.)
If also, as appears to be the case, this psalm was the very last of David’s inspired utterances (though not the last in the final arrangement of the BOOK)—and that it was given to Solomon at David’s deathbed ere be breathed his last, we can have no doubt that neither David nor Solomon nor any of their successors were in view—except One only, the Son of God, the (true) king of Israel, Nathanael acclaimed Him on that memorable day so carefully recorded by John (John 1:49): “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel”.
Those divines, who gave marginal references and chapter summaries to our Authorised Version of the Holy Scriptures, knew what they were about when they summarised the contents of Psalm 72 as follows: “David, praying for Solomon, sheweth the goodness and glory of his kingdom in type, and of Christ’s in truth”. (See also marginal note AV Oxford Edition, relating to verse 17: where we have in the AV “His name shall be continued as long as the sun” the marginal rendering is “Shall be as a son to continue his father’s name for ever”. This will be enlarged upon later in this commentary.) Only a Son eternal, could continue His Father’s name for ever, and that Son was Christ.
Psalm 72 was indeed a glorious note on which David was inspired to close his kingship and his life in this world. As we shall presently see, this was one of the greatest of all David’s compositions, rich in poetic measures, elevating in its glorious description of Messiah’s reign, grand and mysterious in its conclusion at verse 17, overwhelming in its doxology in verses 18 and 19, and most moving in its triumphant peroration:—“The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended”. David’s reference to his father Jesse, was no casual or formal ascription; it was an essential part of the prophetic genius of the entire Psalm, for Jesse means “He who is”.
It is deplorable that so rich a jewel in Christ’s crown as this great Psalm of David, with its graphic doxology and triumphant declaration (“The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended”)—should be treated with such poverty of vision and lack of understanding by so many authors of commentaries, amongst whom are found more names of distinction than may be good for our peace of mind.
Psalm 45 (the great marriage psalm of Christ and the Church) and this 72nd psalm (describing the boundless nature of Christ’s kingdom and the glory of His reign) were surely in the possession of Solomon from his father David when he (Solomon) received that divine impulse which produced the Song of Solomon and moved the wisest man on earth to compose those glorious poetic sequences, enshrining the grand secret of the wisdom of God.
THE NAME THAT ENDURES FOR EVER
The last verse proper of the Psalm, verse 17, has a natural affinity with our verse in the Song of Songs which we are endeavouring to elucidate:
“His name shall endure for ever. His name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blest in him: all nations shall call him blessed.”
Our verse in the Song reads, “Because of the savour of thy good ointments Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.”
The emphasis on the Name of this mystic King is unmistakable. The word “name” is threefold in the termination of the psalm, twice in verse 17, and once in the doxology (verse 19) where we have, “Blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory”. Many of the commentators make a wretched use of these facts, and would hesitate to accept that here we have the Holy Trinity where three are one—and one, three.
This raises the psalm far above all earthly definitions. There is only one name which shall endure for ever and that is the name of Jesus—which in the Hebrew form is Joshua, meaning “Jehovah Saves”. The only One who is entitled to bear that Name is the Son of God who is also the Son of Man, God manifest in the flesh, the Incarnate Deity, the veritable testimony of the Father’s love for a world of sinners. Here is the fulfillment of the Father’s undertaking when the human race fell in the person of their progenitor Adam—“I will put enmity between thee (the Serpent) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”. (Genesis 3:15)
Not the seed of the Man, but the seed of the Woman, would prevail. A birth by normal conception would be a birth contaminated by sin. Birth by the woman alone, could only be brought about by divine creation. Hence Christ who was Very God of Very God was born of woman and became Man by direct act of creation. By the Woman, the seed was truly Man, yet by miraculous act of God, it was the deity incarnate. Christ became the Son of Man by the Virgin; He already was the Son of God by eternal begetting:
“Our God contracted to a span—Incomprehensibly made Man.”
Thus the Eternal Son who bears the Father’s name, became “the Son of Man’ by descent of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob—and of David, though not of Solomon (except by legal inheritance), but of another of David’s sons, Nathan (Luke 3:31), by natural descent through Mary who (we believe) was descended from David in her own right, and in any case was in the legal descent of the monarchy of Israel by her espousal to Joseph, yet “found with child of the Holy Ghost” before the marriage was formally completed after the Jewish manner.
This was the mystery unsolved and unsolvable by any human wisdom, from the time of the original promise in Eden. Born of woman, the Creator became Man, in a birth unsullied by sin. Sin does not adhere to bodies but to the spirit and the soul. Christ, through the Eternal Spirit was born of woman only, and so became Man, pure, spotless, tried, tempted, proved, obedient to death, wholly submitted, in love eternal, to the Father’s will. For only by God becoming Man, without tinge of inheritance of sin, could the problem of creation be solved and a new heaven and a new earth come forth. A further fall became impossible, because the new creation is now united to the Creator, as the body to the head. He, the Creator, becomes the Head of a New Creation, where another Fall is impossible, Christ, the incarnate Deity, being the Head of it. The Body of Christ is the Church. She is also the Bride of Christ. She is the Shulamite of the Song of Solomon. She waits in the Song for the great consummation—the marriage of the Lamb, when His Bride is complete. She is proven by her faithfulness and steadfastness of love for Him who is her Beloved. She will reign with Him for ever. Creation is (or will be) stabilised. There will be no discordant voice, for Christ rules over all. His writ runs in hell as surely as He reigns in heaven, for at His name every knee must bow, “of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth” (i.e., the hell of Satan’s everlasting shame) Philippians 2.
It is of this that David speaks with dying voice in Psalm 72, as the Spirit of prophecy moved him in his last hours, to utter those immortal words in the great peroration of the 72nd Psalm. We like it well in the Scottish metrical version:
His name for ever shall endure;
Last like the sun it shall:
Men shall be bless’d in him, and bless’d
All nations shall him call.
Now blessed be the Lord our God,
The God of Israel,
For he alone doth wondrous works,
In glory that excel.
And blessed be his glorious name
To all eternity.
The whole earth let his glory fill,
Amen, so let it be.
The last two verses above are the Doxology which closes the second section of the Book of Psalms. A glance shows that the Doxology is perfectly suited in a remarkable way, to the psalm to which it is appended. The first verse of the three (which is the last verse of the actual psalm), is perfectly matched to the Doxology even to the corresponding use of the word “NAME” and the “all nations” of the first verse to the “whole earth” of the last verse.
Yet the confusion persists among the commentators, that the Doxology, with its all-important appendage (“the words of David the son of Jesse are ended”) has no relevance to the psalm! We have no doubt whatever that in view of the simple facts we have indicated the reader will be convinced of the Davidic authorship of this great psalm, and consequently that it was ascribed “for Solomon” because of the relevance of the latter to the Messianic purpose. Let us return to those words “His name shall endure for ever—His name shall be continued as long as the Sun ...” — and let us hear once again the swelling chorus of the Church in all ages, as the light of the divine purpose of love shines brighter even unto the perfect day--and let us join with the virgin chorus of the Song of Songs in the spiritual music of love eternal, giving praise to that Matchless Redeemer whom they love so well:
“Because of the savour of thy good ointments, Thy Name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee.”
And now we know the source and quality and meaning of their love. We also know the meanness and the degradation of those views so strenuously persisted in by “divines”, writers and commentators, who see in the Song only an ancient charade of love indulged by a man supposedly wise but pictured (by those who take the literal view), as an arrant fool.
Let us see further. Our verse 17 in the 72nd Psalm declares: “His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed”.
So deep, so profound, so mysterious is this language, that men have wrestled long (and sometimes not very fruitfully) to solve its meaning.
“His name shall endure forever”—no earthly monarch or kinglet is in view—there is only one Name which can endure for ever, and that is the divine Name of the Son of God. His name is written in the foreheads of all His redeemed (Rev. 22:4) that means, they are His, they are like Him, they bear His image. He is the heavenly Solomon, whose name means “Peace” and who in the days of His humiliation, was able to declare to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you ....” (John 14, verses 18 and 27).
“I HAVE DECLARED UNTO THEM THY NAME ....”
Again, as the sorrowing company of apostles arose to accompany Him to the Garden, the Agony, the Betrayal, the Shame, the Cross, the Dying—He first of all committed Himself to the Father and with Himself, the faithful if trembling apostles, and committed all who should hereafter believe in Him, in those imperishable sentences of John’s Gospel, chapter 17.
Four times in that great prayer the Lord refers to the Father’s “NAME”, as follows: “I have manifested thy Name unto the men which thou gayest me out of the world” (v.6); “Holy Father keep through thine own Name those whom thou hast given me” (v.11); “While I was with them in the world I kept them in thy Name” (v.12) and finally in the closing verse of the prayer, “I have declared unto them thy NAME, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them”. That “Name” so oft repeated by the Lord in John 17, is the Name which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit—the Name which ravishes the soul of the “virgins”, the Churches.
In declaring the Father’s Name, Christ surely declared His own. The Godhead is One, the Persons are three, therefore the Persons are inseparable and each bears the same Eternal and Glorious Name JEHOVAH in the unity of the Godhead.
That Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the Name which Christ has “declared” by His obedience unto death. By declaring that Name, and by the constant undertaking—“and will declare it” (that is, to manifest that Name perpetually) Christ fulfills not only the mission He came into the world to accomplish, but uncovers the secret of eternity. To all eternity God’s name will be known and declared—that is, the redeemed in Christ will bear that Name, and perceive the wonder of the divine Being. They shall love what they see and understand fully the beauty and glory of the Godhead in Christ. Christ in turn, will
everlastingly bear the scars of love in hands and feet and side (see Revelation 5:6). Thus the Church, in her eternal marriage state, will not only adore her Husband but will share in the Divine Name because she is His body mystical, for ever.
“They shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads”. (Rev. 22:4.)
The giving of the divine Name to the Church as the Bride of Christ is the ultimate end of Creation, and the realisation by our God and Saviour of all that He set out to do in Creation and Redemption. As we have borne the name of our first parent, Adam, so in the Second Adam, the Son of God, we realise not only all that was lost in our first parent, but much more, we enter into Christ’s triumph over sin, and death, and the grave, and with Him take the Throne and reign with Him for ever, as partakers of the divine nature.
We proceed to the next sentence of the last words of David: “His Name shall be continued as long as the Sun”. This is a sentence of mysterious depth, which has given endless trouble to translators and divines. The difficulty arises out of the use of a Hebrew verb which is found nowhere else in the Bible. That verb (YANIN or YINNON) has led our translators (of the Authorised Version) to introduce the marginal rendering—“He shall be as a Son to continue His Father's name for ever”. A note in the Speaker’s Bible refers to the use of this word by the ancient rabbis, who asked, “Why shall Messiah be called YINNON? Because He shall raise those who sleep in the earth”. The commentator in the Speaker’s Bible adds the note “They (the Rabbis) rightly apprehended the meaning of regeneration, applying it however, not to the creation of a new people but to the resurrection, which our Lord calls the regeneration”. (Matt. 19:28)
Calvin comes close, with the rendering: “His Name shall bear children, and as the sun rises daily to enlighten the world, so shall the strength of this King be continually renewed and thus will continue from age to age for ever”.
In our view the thought of “propagation” enters into this remarkable verse. Just as the sun warms and fructifies the ground and brings forth fruit abundantly and perpetually, so Christ, by the energy of the Holy Spirit in propagating the Name which He bears, brings forth salvation in that endless succession of converted souls by which His Church on earth is perpetuated and His kingdom replenished until all shall be consummated and the work completed, which the Father gave Him to do.
To this interpretation surely belongs the word of Solomon, “Thy Name is as ointment poured forth—therefore do the virgins love thee”. New life comes through Christ alone, even as the sun’s rays replenish the earth and crown creation with fruitfulness and beauty. So is the Name He bears—a healing balm for the sinful soul; a source of joy, an elixir of love, to the Church of the redeemed.
The remainder of David’s peroration—“All nations shall call him blessed”—shows the worldwide nature of the Church which the Lord gathers not only from the Hebrew people but from all kindreds of the earth—a promise literally fulfilled in the testimony of Christ being spread from pole to pole, and from utmost East to utmost West.
“It follows” writes John Calvin, “that this cannot be understood of the earthly kingdom (of Israel) which flourished only for a short time in the house of David, and not only lost its vigour in the third successor (namely, Rehoboam)—but was at last ignominiously extinguished. It properly applies to the kingdom of Christ, and although that kingdom often suffers upon the earth when assailed with the furious hatred of the whole world, is battered by the most formidable engines of Satan, it is yet wonderfully upheld and sustained by God, that it may not altogether fail.”
Let us leave it there. The inspired Solomon has committed unto us this legacy of a Redeemer whose Name inspires the love of the mystic virgins of the Song of Songs, to whom He calls without ceasing from His most meritorious throne in heaven:
I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.
He receives the answering testimony;
“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
“Lord, thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:17).
THE TEMPLE BEGGAR AND THE SEVENFOLD NAME
(Acts, chapters 3 and 4)
The Name which is as ointment poured forth has in the New Testament a very special place in the inauguration of the Gospel era. The first miracle after Pentecost (recorded at length in Acts, chapter 3) was the healing of the cripple—the man who never had walked, but who was carried daily to the Gate Beautiful of the temple at Jerusalem, there to spend his daylight hours advertising his physical incompetence, and holding out his hand for sympathetic gratuities. There cannot be any doubt that the remarkable healing of this impotent man—the first miracle of the new order after Pentecost—has a profound and prophetic significance. This poor man was Israel after the flesh. The forty years span of his life (Acts 4:22) is unmistakable evidence of this. For forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness until those who came out of Egypt with Moses were wasted away, and the new generation under their leader Joshua (whose name in the Greek is Jesus, see Hebrews 5:8), led the tribes victoriously into their ‘rest’.
Moses was forty years old when he fled from Egypt to escape the wrath of Pharaoh, and forty years later he returned to lead Israel out of bondage. The next forty years of his life he spent with the tribes in the wilderness, and during that time he received the Law at Horeb, and was twice forty days and nights in the mount with God, receiving that Law which was broken even as it was received.
We cannot escape the significance of this child of the Law (Acts 3) who sat at the Temple gate till he was forty years old, and then received a glorious deliverance when Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour of prayer. This representative man exhibited in his sad and beggarly condition the failure of the Law to bring life and peace and healing of the soul in righteousness. The Temple at the gate of which he sat was the symbol of that temporary state of the Law of Moses which was to pass away when the fulness of time was come—that is, the coming of Christ to suffer and to die, to overcome sin and death, and to inaugurate that gospel day in which the Church has rejoiced for the past 2000 years.
The temple had already been destroyed once (by Nebuchadnezzar) on account of the sinfulness of the people and their apostasy from God, and it was about to be destroyed again when the 70 years of probation stretching from the birth of Christ to the terrible judgment of AD 70, would finally put to an end the era of the Law, as the Roman legions executed the decree of God.
The forbearance of God in thus delaying the final stroke of judgment upon the sinful nation is to be duly noted. The enthusiasm of sincere Christians for the restoration of the temple and its sacrifices and sacerdotal priesthood, is also to be noted as a mistaken view based upon a method of interpretation of Holy Scripture which in our opinion cannot be sustained. There can be no return to a Jewish order, for in the Gospel all distinction between Jew and gentile has been abolished. The “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) is the Church.
The impotent man stood for that Law which could neither heal nor save, and which came to an end with the death of Christ, when the temple veil was rent, to indicate that the way into the holiest was open freely to all who should come in that Name which is above every name. He—the impotent man—in his encounter with Peter and John, the representatives of the New Covenant, is about to exhibit the passing of the Old Covenant with all its temporality and bondage. In its place is established the Gospel which is mighty to save and heal the soul. Central to this great event is the Name above all names—that same Name beloved of the virgins of the Song of Songs, that Name which is as ointment poured forth, the savour .of which fills the Church with joy and peace—the Name which calls forth the love and devotion of all the redeemed. “We love him because he first loved us” declares the seraphic John (1 John 4:19).
Let us therefore look more closely at this great event, the healing of the temple cripple—the first miracle after Pentecost, with its spiritual significance demonstrating the new day which had dawned, and the nature and divine power of that new order which was breaking into history.
The impotent man sees Peter and John entering the temple precinct by the gate at which he (the cripple) keeps his perpetual vigil. We hear again the inspired words of Peter in reply to the poor man’s request. “Silver and gold have I none” (Are Peter’s alleged successors at Rome listening?)—“But such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:1-11).
The first miracle of the New Testament after Pentecost was thus wrought upon a descendant of Abraham who from his mother’s womb had never walked. We look beyond the poor cripple and perceive he represented all other of Abraham’s earthly family. He represented Israel under the Law, for whom that instrument could offer no comfort, no strength, and no hope, except to point forward to the coming of the Son of God—for whom indeed the whole of creation waited. The poor man now hears pronounced, the Name above all names and under the power of that Name he springs to his feet, and accompanies Peter and John into the Temple area, “walking and leaping and praising God”. The crowd which rapidly assembled to see the wonder which had been wrought heard Peter proclaim that He whom they as a nation had but lately spurned and rejected, was the Holy One of God. “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life—whom God raised from the dead ....”
Then to the astonished and fearful crowd, Peter boldly declares, “His name, through faith in his Name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all”.
The rulers of Israel promptly arrested the two apostles and put them in ward until the next day “being grieved that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead”—but 5,000 of the people believed and were added to the Church at one time.
BY WHAT NAME?
Being brought before the Jewish council the next day, Peter and John were required to answer the question, “By what power or by what NAME” they had performed this great miracle.
Peter boldly declares, not to that court of deceivers and time-servers alone, but to that guilty nation as a whole, and in effect to all nations and peoples to the end of the world:
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 3:10-12)
Marveling at the boldness of the apostles, the council contented itself by dismissing them with a caution that they speak henceforth to no man “in this Name”.
The disciples, released, proceed to “their own company” who lift up their voices in triumphant prayer, faithfully recorded (no doubt by Luke the physician)—one of the greatest of all prayers, based on the words of the Second Psalm, with the petition that God would grant them grace to speak the word of God with boldness—concluding with the highly significant words, “that signs and wonders might be done by the name of thy holy Child Jesus”. (Acts 4:30)
Those who give heed to these things will not be surprised to find that in the complete story of this great miracle and its aftermath, in chapters 3 and 4 of Acts, “the Name” occurs precisely seven times (the number of divine completeness). This seals with special significance the entire transaction as being a kind of monitor to the entire history of the Church in relation to the testimony of Christ. The importance of this event, the first miracle performed in the history of the Church following the outpouring of the divine Spirit at Pentecost, cannot be exaggerated. The healing of the soul, the preservation of the Church, her testimony to that Name which is above every name, the powerlessness of devil or apostate priest, worldly authority or mighty empire, to arrest the progress of the all-conquering Name of Jesus—beyond question this was the object of this marvelous work of power, grace and truth at the inauguration of the Church’s testimony in the world.
Happy we shall be if in our measure we can enter into the meaning of it, with the Lord’s assurance that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church which is founded on that impregnable rock—
THE NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD.