The Shulamite was coming uncorked.
She was upset with those close to her (“my mother’s children were angry with me” SS 1:6b), while not yet realizing that her frustration resulted from some erringly placed attachments.
All she knew is that she was laboring hard, trying her best, working long hours guarding the vineyard, and feeling the burn in the heat of the day (“the sun has burned me” SS 1:6a). She further fretted that “they made me caretaker of the vineyards…” (can you hear the faintest hint of ancient whining?)
The Shulamite’s resentment was growing as recognition was dawning. Here she was, a true branch firmly attached to another branch (the Daughters of Jerusalem – other believers, those who represent the Lord). As part of the kingdom’s kin, she had centered her life around that which she believed represented her new identity, just as she had been invited and encouraged to do as “the kingdom way.” She was diligent to learn well what she needed to do and she was doing it.
However, something was not right. In fact, left unattended it had the capacity to go terribly wrong.
It was then, right in the midst of her restless living and working that the biblical equivalent of a light bulb got switched on. “…but I have not taken care of (kept) my own vineyard.” (SS 1:6b)
There is no ‘keeping’ our vineyard in a manner that brings about a full and bountiful spiritual harvest if we are not firmly and properly attached to the Vine. Regardless of what we tell ourselves or choose to believe of what others tell us, a successful life as a functioning Christian is not our golden ticket to the heart of God.
Neither is community when it becomes the substitute for a relationship of intimacy (‘into me see’) with the Lord, the Bridegroom King.
We can have success without relationship. Even the Shulamite had this available to her as Solomon’s queen. Yet it was in this situation that her restlessness hit...
Moreover, we receive blessing through the grace of God, yet the blessing is not the relationship.
Being a part of the vineyard (the Church) provides support and encouragement and a sense of belonging to the greater whole, yet it is the lesser half of the two great commandments:
“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,'” He answered, “‘with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost Commandment. And the second is similar to it: ‘Thou shalt love thy fellow man as much as thyself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39 WNT, emphasis mine)
Two commands, that in our minds can get too easily translated into two options. The living power of the Word gets further lost in translation as ‘Thou shalt love thy fellow man…’ becomes interpreted as ‘Do unto others…’ It feels more palatable to do, especially if we do not easily take to being told what to do (‘thou shalt’). Even when it is for our own good, health and welfare. Even when it is the Lord giving the commands.
By now, ‘thyself’ has taken a convenient backseat because whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind is just too scary to contemplate. Being selective is an easier – and safer – way to content oneself in the vineyard. We may not love everything about our or others’ rock piles, but we’re attached to them…
…until we determine the need for becoming unattached from other branches and joining to the Vine. Continuing life and health only comes from drawing on the strength of the Vine, not other branches.
The Shulamite’s restlessness was being provoked. On the surface, it was easy to attribute the source of that provocation to those with whom she was surrounded and to an environment that was out of her control. Her terroir, if you will.
But there was something far greater at work behind the scenes. More properly, Someone. Her Shepherd Lover knew what she did not yet fully comprehend. He was plowing up her soil and exposing the rocks that lay hidden within. He was responsible for this upheaval; she was answerable for her response.
Once again, the Shulamite models for us a growth point to developing spiritually. She awakened to the fact that all her working for the Lord, whether zealously or in staying the mundane course of ‘have to’ – depending on her circumstances – could not please Him for she had based it on lesser dependencies than Him. Though her flesh was alternately being satisfied or functioning out of frustration – depending on her circumstances – she was coming to realize that her operating for Him did not and could not satisfy her spiritual hunger.
Gnawing hunger will make one go searching for satisfying sustenance.
She had prayed “Draw me.” He was answering that prayer, using carefully selected implements in the form of the Daughters of Jerusalem (other Christians) and the Watchmen (with whom she later tangled).
Shepherd Lover, the Bridegroom, was intent on the vision He carried within. Her slightest response in His direction compelled His ongoing activity within her. Where she yet saw only rocks, He saw what He was busily about…developing within her lively stones of faith, courage, hope, wisdom, strength, holy imagination and vision…
With these He could build.
From the tool shed, Gracefully Free
Shammahs Field LLC/Shammah Ministries is the biblical counseling, life coaching, and spiritual growth ministry entrusted to Wayne & Nancy Bentz. You can learn more about the resources they have to offer at www.shammahsfield.com.
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