I am thinking today that the Shulammite Bride in the Song of Songs merits some further thought. She couldn’t accept that she was, to her lover, ‘the most beautiful of women’ Song of Songs 1:8, because she had been out working in the fields. It was probably not just that she had got sunburnt, but she probably felt scruffy and very ‘unglamorous’. She wasn’t, at that point, dressed in her bridle attire, and I am wondering if that is why some of us find it hard to believe that the Lord rejoices and sings over us, Zephaniah 3:17. We haven’t yet fully grasped that we are clothed in a beauty that earth cannot comprehend.
If you are seeking to follow the Lord, you will be aware that you are being transformed little by little into the likeness of Jesus, ‘transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory’ 2 Corinthians 3:18. But you will also be aware of the failures and faults that still seem to ‘hang around you’, and our enemy will do his best to keep you conscious of those things on a daily basis. His weapon in this area is discouragement, and often he is right as he whispers to us, pointing to our shortcomings.
Like the Shulammite, we can feel ‘I’ve been working very hard, but I feel rather dirty and scruffy right now spiritually speaking’. If so, it is time that we listened to our heavenly bridegroom and put on our ‘robes of righteousness’. We need to join Isaiah in his song to the Lord, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” And in the next verse we see why, ‘for as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seed to grow, so the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all the nations’. Isaiah 61:10,11.
Isaiah was speaking long before Jesus and the cross, and yet he knew that God’s people were to be a demonstration to the world of the Lord’s righteousness and praise. How much more should we, who are part of the divine exchange, His righteousness for my sinfulness, celebrate that we are now clothed in His righteousness before the throne of God.
‘For if by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.’ Romans 5:17. The plan is that we put on that robe of righteousness by faith, so that we can reign in life and be a demonstration to the world of the goodness of God. It is not to His glory that we go around feeling grubby!!
Jesus told a wonderful story to confirm His Fathers intention for us. The parable of the prodigal son, which actually tells us more about the Father’s heart. After the boy had come back and there was the wonderful reunion, a significant part of his restoration was having ‘the best robe’ put around his shoulders. Luke 15:22. I find that incredibly moving. No more dirty pig sty clothes for this lad. His dignity was totally restored and his status and sonship, in that simple act.
Being clothed in His righteousness, even when I still keep making mistakes and messing up, is part of the ‘outrageous grace of God’ that the elder brother in the story couldn’t cope with, but we need to see the love in the eyes of our Saviour and wear the beautiful garments that He has for us with great joy.
God spoke to an apostate nation calling them back to Himself through Isaiah, “Awake, awake. O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem…….. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned , O Jerusalem.” Isaiah 52:1,2. Today let us fill our hearts with thanksgiving for the beautiful robes that the Lord has given us and wear them boldly. As we express our gratitude, it will alter how we walk through the day. As Jarrod Cooper wrote in his beautiful song, ‘King of Kings’ 25 years ago, ‘In Royal robes, I don’t deserve, I live to serve your majesty’.