IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: HIS BANNER OVER ME IS LOVE
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM.
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”
What an arresting figure of speech the bride uses! In the greatest love poem ever written, the only one divinely inspired, the Bride uses a metaphor from war to describe the bridegroom: “his banner over me is love” (Song 2:4). And with apologies to those who read the Song of Solomon exclusively as an inspired text on marital love, I must confess that I see Jesus Christ here (and everywhere).
Banners are identifying flags or streamers attached to the end of a standard. Throughout history they have served three main purposes: to identify a group, to claim possession of a space or territory and to lend festivity to a celebration. Banners are rallying points, physically and/or emotionally. The Bible contains fewer than a dozen direct references to banners, and the context is almost entirely military. More often than not the banner of victory is ascribed to God. The earliest example is Exodus 17:15, where Moses celebrates the victory of the Amalekites by building an altar, calling the name of it “the Lord is my banner” and saying, “a hand upon the banner of the Lord” (RSV). In the Psalms too it is God who sets up a banner for his people (Ps 60:4), who for their part ascribe their triumph to God by setting up banners “in the name of our God” (Ps 20:5). Jeremiah’s prediction of Babylon’s destruction is prefaced by the statement, “Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not” (Jer 50:2 RSV), along the lines of a warrior boldly planting a banner as a sign of taking possession. The remaining instances of the word banner are in the Song of Songs. In the Shulamite woman’s picture of Solomon’s taking her into the court harem, the climactic note of triumph is that “he brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song 2:4). Here the banner is an image of both festivity or celebration and claiming possession. In a courtly and military world, one of the supreme images of exhilaration is the sight of an army advancing with its banners unfurled. This supplies the emotional context for the lover’s declaration that his beloved’s beauty is as “terrible as an army with banners” (Song 6:4, 10).
It is not difficult to see the applicability of this metaphor to Christ and the church. His banner identifies His Bride, the church, as the object of His great love. Most particularly His death but also all that He gives and all that He withholds expresses His infinite love for us. When we are drawn to Him according to the wooing of His grace, we come under a banner that declares: “I am His, and He is mine.” The banner of His love identifies and unites us with Him in righteousness, in purpose, in fellowship, and in glory (e.g., Col. 3:4). It also warns the enemy that to attack us is to attack the Son of God. His banner tacitly declares: This one belongs to me; try to harm him at your own risk! But it also warns us that the enemy has identified us and knows whom to attack. Satan furiously assaults the army of the Lord.
So the whole Covenant of
Grace is, within, garnished and beautified and made delightful to the Believer’s soul by the sweet love of God in Christ. The Covenant is love in its secret places, all love, unalloyed love, invisible love, nothing else but love. When one comes to know most of the Covenant and admires the wisdom, the power, the purity, the eternity of all that God has done, yet the most striking characteristic of it to the advanced Christian is the love, the mighty love of God, by which he is brought by Jesus Christ into eternal salvation! You have crowned me with loving kindness. You have loved my soul out of the Pit! You have loved me and given Yourself for me. Your love has redeemed me with a price most precious. Your love has made me what I am.
I catch a glimpse of the purple above my head and remember the unspeakable Love which bled and died for sinners! I look at the silver pillars which support the covering and how Infinite Holiness stands fast, and in love to me secures my perfection! I place my foot on the golden floor of the chariot and know that Divine power is pledged by love to preserve and bear me through. I see above me, and around me, and beneath me, nothing but love—the free, unbounded love of God!
Now, Beloved, indulge yourselves with a glance around you for a minute. Look back to old eternity. Let your eyes peer through the mists which hide that ancient age before the ages began! What do you see there but love, “according to His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus or ever the earth was”? Look a little closer. See the Garden of Eden and the Fall—what strikes your eyes there, but love? The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. Look to the Cross and at God Incarnate here below! Behold Jesus living in suffering and dying in shame! Here Love comes to her climax and lays bare all her matchless charms. Look to the time of your own life. Was not Love present at your birth, perfuming your first breath? Were you not nursed in love, cradled in love and swaddled in love? Have you not, since then, even in your sinfulness, been loved with an exceedingly great and wondrous love?
Did not Love turn your heart of stone into flesh? Has not Love dwelt in you since then, even to this day? Have not even your trials been sent in love? Blind Unbelief called it severity. Look, now, as Jesus sits at your side and say, was it not the wisest form of love that smote you and made you cry out in bitterness? Oh, I do remember at this day nothing in the dealings of God to me but love! I sat down last night, as this text charmed my spirit, and tried to think over my whole life, if, perhaps, I might light upon some unkindness of my God to me. But my solemn witness is that from the first day my life began to beat, from the first hour I knew anything of the Lord whatever, all His dealings have been love, love, love, love, love, love alone—nothing else but love!
Oh, unregenerate Hearer, you will never know how sweet the Gospel is—it is impossible you should while you remain in the state you now are in! But I tell you, if you could get half a glimpse of the joy which even the poorest Christian has, you would never rest content until you enjoyed it, too. If men have said concerning Naples, “See Naples and die,” because of its beauty, I might say to you it were worthwhile dying a thousand deaths to get a glimpse of Christ! When once your faith has perceived His beauty you will wonder how you could have been satisfied to be blinded so long.
What must it be to be forgiven all your sins and to know it? What must it be never to be afraid of death, to be able to look forward to departing from this world as a thing to be longed for, and not to be dreaded? What must it be to be able to look up and say, “God is my Father, and I feel that I am His child”? What must be the joy and bliss of having familiar communion with God so that you are called His friends, as Abraham was of old? I wish I could set your mouths watering after these things! If you had but a little taste of them you would long for more! But until the Lord shall grant you that taste, all we can say of the love of Christ will have no charm for you. The love which lines the chariot of salvation is not to be known by those who remain outside. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His Covenant.”
Camping under God’s banner reminds us that we are eternally safe, secured by His everlasting love. No one and nothing can harm us apart from His will and our good. But it is also a reminder that we have been called to be soldiers. And as Paul enjoined Timothy: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 2:3). Apart from the marital relationship, few bonds are as strong as those between men who have fought together. We are fellow-soldiers and one with Jesus Christ, Who loved us and gave Himself for us. May we love and give ourselves for Him.
Oh, Lord Jesus, what an amazing sight that cross was up in the sky! Thank You for being a banner of love over us. Thank You for being God’s gift of love, and for being Love itself. I give thanks that Your love covers our sins, and that through You we are not only forgiven and freed, we are also given eternal life with You in the glorious place we know as heaven. In honor of You, please help me to be about love always in Your holy name I pray. Amen.
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