Lesson 12: The Cost to Follow Jesus

The maiden discovers it costs to follow Jesus who gave His all for her. He asks if she is willing to give her all for Him. Will she follow Him even if the journey is difficult?
Beloved
5:2 I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.”

Jesus knocks on the door of her heart in answer to her prayer in Song 4:16 for the north winds. But after her mountaintop experience, she did what many of us do. Perhaps she became contented with her past experiences of grace. She seemed to be somewhat self-indulgent and self-occupied.

When Jesus spoke to the Laodicean church, he was speaking to His people who had grown lukewarm, and He stood outside the door hoping for admittance. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). It is sad that He is outside a closed door and should need to knock. But love of ease always closes the door. Yet her heart is not far from Him, and when He spoke, she was close enough to hear Him.

He begins in a most loving way describing her with four endearments. She was His sister and He could identify with her. “I, too, was tempted, so I understand.”

She was His darling. “How I love you! Let My love for you be your motivation.”

She was His dove. “I am so pleased that in you I see sincerity, purity, gentleness, and the single-minded beauty of the dove.”

She was His flawless one. “I see Your desire to please me and that makes you perfect in My eyes.”

His head drenched with dew and His hair with the dampness of the night remind us of the hours He spent in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is coming to her as a Man of Sorrows calling her to experience sacrifice and rejection. (Isaiah 53:4b) Will she welcome and go with this aspect of her Lover? Will she be willing to share in His sufferings? (Philippians 3:10)

Earlier she had enjoyed Him as the sweet Savior with whom she enjoyed communion under the apple tree. Then He had said, “Come with me” (2:13). To do that she had to get rid of the little foxes that were causing the shadows in her life. She obeyed after a painful separation.

Now He is asking for a closer intimacy than she had ever known. He comes with a different call: “Open to me.” He is asking to be permitted to come into her.

This is what He asks of us. Will we allow Him to fully indwell us, to abide in us? No longer will we decide what to do, where to go, where to live. He’s asking us to give Him the right to make those and all other choices for us.

Several weeks after Elsie Blake (later Kinlaw) met Jesus as a student at Asbury College, Elsie heard Jesus whisper, “You have given me your heart; would you give me your whole life?” She answered quickly: “Oh, Jesus, Yes!”

After that, Elsie’s life was marked by a passionate love for Jesus, for people, and for service. Those commitments that Elsie made to Jesus determined every other decision she made, and became the cornerstone for all that Jesus would do with her life. (Read more of Elsie’s commitment to Jesus in Appendix D.)
Selah: This is the question confronting every one who has given her heart to Jesus. Write your commitment to give Him your whole life. What will that include for you?

 


5:3 I have taken off my robe—must I put it on again? I have washed my feet—must I soil them again?
It seems that she is counting the cost. She felt she had good reasons not to go.

The little word “I” appears four times in this verse. She is saying to the One to whom she had pledged her love, “You know I love You, but I need to sleep right now.” She speaks of “my robe” and “my feet” showing she has not totally yielded control of them. Perhaps her surrender was not as complete as she had thought.

Jesus was in all points tempted as we are, and in the garden of Gethsemane he said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).

It is here that many Christians fail to go on and experience the deep life Christ has for them. Through fear of consequences, fear of the unknown, fear of being deprived of familiar comforts, and fear of suffering, they hesitate and some never open the door when the nail scarred hand knocks. Today in many places, they know that if they follow Jesus, they may lose their jobs or even their lives.

Jesus will never force anyone to open to Him and to follow when persecuted. He will only knock and ask. But neither is He ever vague about His requirements. He knows exactly what we must surrender in order for us to be completely open to His reign in our hearts. He wants to know, “Do you love me more than this?”

Vickie and her boyfriend knelt in our family room, asked Jesus into their hearts, and found the joy of having their sins forgiven. A few months later Vickie learned of the need to allow the Spirit to have full control of her life. As she prayed, the Holy Spirit asked if she would be willing not to wear the beautiful wedding dress she had purchased. Vickie said that as a girl she had not had a lot of pretty clothes, and her wedding dress was dear to her heart.

It was a struggle, but finally she surrendered the wedding dress. If God said not to wear it, she would not. With that surrender, she opened her heart to Him with no reservations. His Spirit filled her spirit. She realized later that God had not forbid her to wear the dress but had asked if she was willing not to wear it. Vickie walked down the aisle in a very sacred ceremony in her beautiful wedding dress.

God knows what our “wedding dress” is. For Abraham, it was Isaac, his much-loved son of promise. God was asking Abraham to surrender all his ideas about how God was going to fulfill His promise to bless him.

When Abraham surrendered Isaac, God didn’t need to ask, “Now, Abraham, what about that land or those sheep?” God knew Isaac represented Abraham’s total surrender. That is always what He seeks. He knows if we surrender what is most dear, He is welcome to come in as Lord of all.
 

Selah: “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12). Rewrite this verse inserting what you believe the Holy Spirit would say represents your Isaac or your wedding dress. Do you love Jesus more than your “wedding dress” or your “Isaac?”

 

5:4 My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him.
The doors had holes in them allowing a person to reach through and unlock the door. He puts His nail-pierced hand through the door letting her know He is doing all He can to reveal Himself to her. She had been so overwhelmed with His love for her, is she ready to go wherever He leads her? She promised to do whatever He asked. Is she truly willing? She’s learning that there is a price for intimacy with God. Is she willing to pay it?

The words “my heart began to pound for him” means “my inner being was moved for Him.” The phrase is used to express sympathy and affection, especially with tender regret. She was sad she had wounded His heart. She had counted the cost. Yes, she truly loves Him more than all else and all others.
Selah: Are you willing to pay the price for intimacy with God? What do you think it might cost you?


What will be the benefits?


5:5 I arose to open for my lover, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the lock.
She does arise! She will open to Him! The myrrh on the doorknob that then drips from her hand reminds her of the suffering of her Bridegroom. It is now on her hands, and her response is a wholehearted “Yes!” She is willing to suffer with Him. Myrrh, the ointment that was a fragrant burial spice with a bitter taste, speaks of death to self and of the commitment to embrace the cross.

She has decided to follow Him no matter the cost. When she looked at the nail scarred hand, she could not ignore Him. She arises in obedience.

Living for Christ is like the wine mingled with myrrh. If we take the cup the Lord gives us to drink, even though it may appear to represent hardship, pain or loneliness, we shall find that the aroma of it in the end is incredibly sweet.
5:6 I opened for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer.
Her heart sank because He had departed. This is not an attack of the devil but the sovereign purpose of God being worked out in her life to cause her to mature.

He had invited her to go out into the night with Him—the night is where the lost and broken people are. She hesitated as she counted the cost, but her answer is, “Yes!” She loves Him and will follow. He saw that her hesitation to open was not because she was unwilling. In the center of her will she is steadfastly purposed to follow Him at any cost.

We may have times when it seems God has forsaken us, but God never does forsake us. It is only that He seems to be away. “Truly you are a God who hides himself” (Isaiah 45:15).

The primary thing Satan wants to destroy when we go through a testing time is our faith. When it seems God is not aware of our struggles, will we continue to trust that He is in control, that He loves us, and that He allows only what is best?
 Selah: When have you gone through a dark place in which it seems that God did not answer your prayers? Did your faith remain strong during the test?


In what way do such struggles benefit us?


5:7 The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my cloak, those watchmen of the walls!
The leaders of the church, who should have protected her, persecuted her. They took away her cloak exposing her sorrows to others. Her sensitive spirit knew that they whispered about her and wholly misjudged the cause of her suffering. They should have shielded her from Satan’s attacks by assuring her of God’s promises to keep her and to reassure her that His presence would return.

Instead, they assumed she had done something wrong and so they hit her with their accusations. Rather than shield her from others, they exposed her failure for all to see as they said to others in the church, “You need to pray for her. Did you know...?”

Like Job’s friends they gathered round her, intending to help or comfort, but they wounded her all the more. The psalmist said, “I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69:20).

True keepers of the wall say, “You are loved! Your Lord is coming! He is delighted with your earnest desire to find Him. He has something good in this for you. Don’t give up.”

But Satan accuses. “You failed Him now. He doesn’t want to help you. You don’t deserve His presence. You might as well give up.”

Sometimes our Sovereign Lord sees that to delay is giving us His best answer.  We should not believe that delay means denial, and we should refuse to allow Satan to shake our confidence in God. Unanswered prayers are not unheard. God keeps a record of every prayer we pray.

The Lord had captivated her heart, and she was earnestly searching for Him, rather than frantically seeking His blessings, as in the past. She recognized that the Lord was allowing her to be chastened for her good. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens” (Hebrews 12:6).

The Lord left her in this difficulty until He brought about the necessary changes in her. She was now able to believe that the Lord works “all things together for good” and was able to maintain a good attitude despite the watchmen. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

There is value in suffering. One lady wrote: “Many times I have tried to run from suffering. But God seems to keep bringing the suffering my way until I learn to suffer for Him. I am learning to grab hold of the suffering, realizing that it cleanses me of myself. I want to be like Him!  Suffering is the only way.

“I heard that when we get to heaven, God won't look for the applause we had on this earth, or the diplomas, or wealth. He will only be looking for the scars. I want to bear the scars of suffering for Him.

“I am learning that I can have joy, even in the midst of the suffering.  He is teaching me to rest under His wing; there I find peace.”

She signed it “Rejoicing in my portion…”

“Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT).
Selah: Can you think of a time when you had only God to depend on? Perhaps others didn’t know or understand your situation. What is most helpful—or damaging—to faith in such times?


5:8 O daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you—if you find my lover, what will you tell him? Tell him I am faint with love.
His presence is nowhere to be found. She is as Job was when he said, “So I looked for good, but evil came instead. I waited for the light, but darkness fell” (Job 30:26 NLT). Still despite all of the hurt and rejection, she does not blame Him. Instead, she calls to the daughters of Jerusalem to tell Him that she is faint with love. She wants Him more than she wants anything else. Perhaps they would find Him and give Him a message for her.

She had earlier said she was sick of love because the joy of His love was almost too great for her. But that time His banner over her was love. Now He is absent, and it is her longing for the absent Bridegroom that produces her heart-sickness. Her love for Him is so intense that she cannot bear the prospect of losing Him. If He only knew her yearning for Him, He would return.

It is remarkable that she does not say one word of bitterness or complaint toward those who heaped criticisms upon her. When we have been wounded by a spouse, a son or daughter, a parent, a friend, a church minister or fellow worker, it can be almost unbearable. As Proverbs 18:14 states, “A crushed spirit who can bear?” Yet it is possible to forgive because Jesus has carried all of our sorrows and griefs (Isaiah 53:4-5). “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Romans 15:3).
Selah: If there is someone you can’t forgive, ask Jesus for grace to say, “I allow You to forgive through me as You forgave Your persecutors while hanging on the cross. I will be a channel of Your forgiveness.”