Image: Love Knocks at the Door by Lucy Stothard
One of the most powerful and prevailing images from the book of Revelation is that of Christ standing at the door, knocking. Like many things in Sacred Scripture, it’s symbolic, speaking of the mystery that is God’s desire for relationship with human beings.
This theme of God as pursuer is a thread which throughout the Bible and is expressed most beautifully in the Song of Songs. The book’s title alone speaks of its prophetic significance, the construction of ‘noun + of + noun’ being commonly used in Hebraic writing to signify the epitome of a particular thing. Just as Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this is the Song of all Songs, the greatest ever written, superficially a text about the beauty of marital love but long cherished by God’s people as an illustration of the divine intimacy to which all souls are invited.
The above drawing was the end result of my meditations on the following scene from the Song:
I sleep, but my heart is awake.
I hear my Beloved knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is covered with dew,
my locks with the drops of night.”
- “I have taken off my tunic,
am I to put it on again?
I have washed my feet,
am I to dirty them again?”
My Beloved thrust his hand
through the hole in the door;
I trembled to the core of my being.
Then I rose
to open to my Beloved,
myrrh ran off my hands,
pure myrrh off my fingers,
on to the handle of the bolt.
I opened to my Beloved,
But he had turned his back and gone!
My soul failed at his flight.
I sought him but I did not find him,
I called to him but he did not answer.
(Song of Songs 5: 2-6)
The Beloved, representative of Christ, approaches the door of the Shulamite maiden’s home and seeks entry. The urgency and ardency of his request speak of the intensity of God’s desire to enter into and occupy the human heart, possessing it fully for Himself. He is damp and cold from the night air, speaking of the suffering and physical discomfort He has undergone to get to this point. His language speaks of how Christ views the redeemed soul: she is His sister by the virtue of adoption, His dove, a symbol of marital faithfulness and chastity. Yet just as the Beloved will not force his way in, desiring that the maiden should open the door to him willingly, so God waits for us to freely respond to His invitation to union with Him (Guzik, D.: online).
The maiden, however, is hesitant: she is in bed, presumably warm and comfortable and ready for sleep. It’s late, and she is reluctant to get up and go through the trouble of redressing and having to wash her feet again. When she finally gets up to answer the door, she does so slowly, reluctantly – only to find that she has missed her opportunity and the Beloved is gone. It’s not that she doesn’t love him or desire to be close to him; rather, she wants it on her own terms and isn’t yet ready to make the sacrifices necessary for a mature and truly fulfilling relationship (Guzik, D.: online).
These verses, then, illustrate how our own selfishness and an unwillingness to inconvenience ourselves can kill intimacy with God. Being relatively young in my walk with the Lord, it’s an image I can identify all too closely with! It’s human nature to seek to maximise pleasure and ease while minimising discomfort and difficulty, yet this nature must, by grace, be transcended if we are to ascend to the heights of mystical union.
As we prepare to enter Holy Week, let’s try to set aside some extra time for silence so that we can more clearly hear the voice of the Beloved as He stands at the door and knocks. Where is he asking us to step outside of our comfort zones and die to ourselves so that we can let Him in? I’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences, so please don’t hesitate to share these in the comments.
By Lucy Stothard
Guzik, D., 2018: Commentary on Song of Solomon Ch 5, Enduring Word (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/song-of-solomon-5/)