What Will You See in the Shulamite?
Message by former World Language Secretary Bishop Felix Garcia during the 84th Assembly, edited for publication by the White Wing Messenger for the November 11, 1989 issue.
“Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded. Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:10-13).
I started my ministry a little more than 33 years ago in 1956. I remember thinking when I started that it would not be long until all of us would be perfect. I really thought that we would reach perfection in no time at all. What I saw and heard made me think that time was really short. I thought that by now we would be walking on grounds of perfection. Of course, it is not so. We are still struggling with things that were apparent way back in those days. As a matter of fact, there are those who think that the Church was better in those days than she is today. Listening to some reminiscing on the past, one gets the impression that they would rather be living in the good old days than now. Perhaps that would be all right for some, but it is not for me. I am happy to be part of the Church in these last days. We are living in exciting times. These are times of climax and times of fulfillment in God’s holy schedule for the Church.
The role of the Church and its dramatic finale will be the most exhilarating and emotion-filled period of her life. Expectancy fills the Church today like never before.
In spite of the dull situation that may surround us, the Church, as a whole, is not about to be consumed by sin. She will not be captivated by evil. She will not erode and disintegrate. She will not be overpowered by evil men to be derailed from God’s divine calling and mission. No, I do not see this in the Scripture. What I see in the Scripture is a glorious Church.
“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” (Ephesians 5:26, 27). This is what I see in the Bible about the Church of God.
God’s plan for the Church may not be altered, neither by man’s design nor by the forces of the devil. What He has pre-ordained for her in His Holy Word will not be changed. Not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Such is the destiny of the general Church structure. This Church, the Church of God, was uniquely created by a holy, divine, and eternal Creator, and because of her unique origin and because of her unique creation effected by this holy, divine, and eternal Creator and because she is one with the Creator she has those same virtues today. She therefore is a holy Church, a divine Church, an eternal Church.
“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:30-32).
Again, I must say that the Church is not yet perfect. You notice I said YET. All one has to do is to look around him to find numerous discrepancies in her. But God’s intent is to change her. He is going to change her and make her what He wants her to be. He will do that, even if He has to replace all of us. What you see in the Church of God today may not be what He will eventually get, because if you are not willing to change you’ll be replaced. He will do that even if He has to replace all of us with people who will obey and follow the leading of the Holy Ghost. The administrative personnel may change. He may call other men and women to the leadership of this Church. The divine and holy structure and its biblical design will not change, because it is in the Bible. The Word changes not; God changes not, and He will fulfill it to every dot and every tiny bit. His peculiar message of one God, one faith and one Church for all cannot change. And we cannot drop it from our preaching repertoire of messages, because we did not originate such an idea. That idea came from the Author of the Bible. The uniqueness of being His one and only Church will not change, because once He chose her He chose her forever. These biblical facts are reserved for His holy and glorious Church.
The Song of Solomon is known to be an allegory, depicting the relationship that exist, or that should exist, or that will exist between Christ and the Church. From the very beginning in the Song of Solomon the Lord is wooing or trying to get her attention by being complimentary of her beauty. The flattery of His words fill her with wonderment; however, her aroused passion and the surging emotions within her are timidly and shyly restrained so He calls her. In chapter two He says, “…Rise up, my love…and come away” (V. 10), but she continues to hide in the cleft of the rocks and in the secret places. He entreats her:
“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” (Song of Solomon 2:10-14).
Finally, her stimulated passion for His love is too much and she embarks on a search for Him. “I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth…” (3:2).
The love affair continues in expression of intense passion. He delicately describes her anatomy by using comparisons of things considered beautiful in His eyes. Things are getting very serious, and in chapter 5 there is an attempt by her suitor to be with her, but, because of her vain considerations and her concern for her self-comfort, she misses her life-long desire to see her beloved and to be with Him.
“I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (5:2).
She responds: “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer” (5:3-6).
What a tremendous story! I believe we too have missed such an opportunity by being too concerned about our personal comfort and being negligent enough to forfeit a divine visitation. How could anybody be so proud and so foolish? O God, help us to put You first! I believe the Holy Ghost, has been trying to get our attention. I believe God has been trying to call us to repentance, to acknowledgment, to a closer walk with Him. To let Him in would mean the greatest fellowship with the Lord we have ever experienced. Our pride and our self-concern got in the way and foolishly and recklessly we went on thinking that we had things under control, until the Holy Ghost had to call it to our attention.
For such a long time, there was no answer. “I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” Isn’t that awful! She continues though. Shocked by the realization that she just missed the chance of a lifetime she embarks on a search for her Beloved that will see her through some adversity. She lost dignity, much comfort and suffered beatings and was wounded. “…I called him, but he gave me no answer. The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me” (5:6, 7).
It was a pitiful moment for her but it was not over. Possessed by the great desire to see Him, she obviously repents of her neglect to His calling and begins to seriously shape up and regains her beauty and dignity, and receives healing for all her inner and physical hurts. Praise God for forgiveness!
I see forgiveness in the Church today, because I see the Church repenting. I believe we realize that our folly has been costly and we are interested in seeing an end to this. Our altars have been empty too long. Our services have been dry and lifeless too long. Our ministry has, in many areas, been too ineffective. We have experienced little or no growth, no miracles, no true manifestations of the Holy Ghost. Particularly, and for the most part, I am speaking of here in the United States. This has been a troubling ordeal.
I visited a pastor last year just before the Assembly. When we arrived at his local church I admired his building. It was nice with all the facilities, and I said, “Oh brother, this is nice, oh what a nice building – classrooms, a cafeteria.” He replied, “This is a nice place but, would you believe that I have not baptized anyone in that baptistery for months and months? Would you believe that no one has been saved at this altar for months and months? Would you believe we are not doing any good here?” If I asked how many of you have experienced that in your local churches these past few years, you would know what I mean. We are all heartbroken but we know where the answer is. Get hold of God! Get hold of God!
I heard they had a revival in that local church and God has blessed them with new members – people being saved, baptized in water and added to the Church. This is what has to take place. We must have a great desire to be close to God. He loves us and the Holy Ghost has brought this to our attention saying, “Repent! Repent! Repent!” I believe the Church has decided that we must get hold of God. There may be a few “die-hards” who would like to hang on to their arrogance and, erringly, are trying to bring a worldly remedy to a spiritual problem. We need to get hold of God. I believe the Church is in an attitude of contrition.
To be continued…