Guest writer Melissa Bickish has been teaching a girls class for the past few months. I asked if she would share her thoughts with us on Maid Arise. I know this will be a blessing.
“A Garden Enclosed”:
or The PROTECTED Garden.
The Lord has given me a lot of thoughts recently on gardens. I believe that the illustration of our lives being a garden or vineyard is one of His personal favorites. Spurgeon said in his book “ Evening by Evening” that “Sin ruined that fair abode of all delights( the garden of Eden) … There is another garden which the King watered with His bloody sweat- Gethsemane…. At Gethsemane, the mischief of the serpent in the first garden was undone…. This is the garden of gardens where the soul may see the guilt of sin and the power of love. My heart should also be His garden. How do the flowers flourish? Do any choice fruits appear? Does the King walk within and rest in the shelter of my spirit?...let the spices of Your garden flow abroad.” - Spurgeon
The greatest events in the history of the world were wrought in a garden! It was in a garden that the life of man first began, in a garden that sin and separation first separated us from God, it was in a garden that the struggle to submit to the plan of salvation was won, and in another that death and the grave were conquered at the resurrection. God loves gardens! He makes them all over the world, even ones that no one sees unless that happen to step into some remote glen untouched by human eye or hand. He loves beautiful things. He has a special place in His heart for gardens.
Gen 2: 8 says, “And the LORD God planted a garden..” God loves to plant gardens and vineyards and then cultivate them to be what He sees them becoming.
Joh 19:41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. Just an interesting note to think about, throughout the Bible gardens are often listed a Burial places. Sepulchres were most often found in gardens.
Kings almost always had a private garden. God just happens to have a very vast multitude of gardens. He calls Himself the Husbandman in so many verse, in other words the ‘keeper’ of the garden, the gardener if you will.
The Lord loves to take barren waste land and plots of dry ground and transform them into beautiful gardens for His own Glory.
Isa 51:3“ For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”
Is. 58:11 “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Jer. 31:12 “…and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.”
Ezek. 36:35, “And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.”
Is 5:1, “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes,..”
Jesus when he walked on earth often retired to a garden, or a place alone with nature to refresh Himself. He loved gardens. John 18:1 “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.”
After all, what is a garden? Webster defines it as: an enclosure, a plot of ground where herbs, flowers, fruits or vegetables are cultivated. To cultivate is: to prepare, to loosen or break up soil, to foster, to grow, improve, refine, encourage or further.
-A garden is Property:
This means they are pieces of land that belong to Someone. When we were lost the garden or plot of land in our heart belonged to us. Now that Christ has created our land, paid for our land, and redeemed our land, our garden no longer belongs to us. .It has been purchased and paid for It is His garden, His fruit, His place to abide.
S.S 6:2 and 11 “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies…. 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.”
Our hearts are God’s little plot of land to be grown, encouraged and furthered in order to bring forth something useful. He considers this to be one of the most beloved of His walking places.
The Lord is the dweller of our garden. We are to be enclosed from the things outside and ‘shut up’ to His own personal Presence. God delights in walking though His garden, talking to His plants and personally cultivating us! We are HIS garden.
Francis Ridley Havergal says in her book, “kept for the master’s use.” That we are like a plot of land that needs care.
“ Suppose you make over a piece of ground to another person. You give it up, then and there, entirely to that other; it is no longer in your own possession; you no longer dig and sow, plant and reap, at your discretion or for your own profit. His occupation of it is total; no other has any right to an inch of it: it is His affair thenceforth what crops to arrange for and how to make the most of it. But His practical occupation of it may not appear all at once. There may be waste land which He will take into full cultivation only by degrees, space wasted for want of draining or by over-fencing, and odd corners lost for want of enclosing; because of hedgerows too wide and shady, and trees too many and spreading, and strips of good soil trampled into uselessness for want of defined pathways. Just so it is with our lives. The transaction of , so to speak, making them over to God is definite and complete. But then begins the practical development of consecration. And here He leads on softly, according as the children be able to endure…And so, season by season, we shall be sometimes not a little startled, yet always very glad, as we find that bit by bit the Master shows how much more may be made of our ground, how much more He is able to make of it than we did; and we shall be willing to work under Him and do exactly what He points out, even if it comes to cutting down a shady tree or clearing out a ditch full of pretty weeds and wild-flowers. “
- Protected (or Enclosed).
Malachi 3:11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.” This one is a BEAUTIFUL thought. God hedges us in and protects our ‘tender grapes’ from the foxes of this world and Satan! Here He says He will keep us protected from the ‘spoiler’. God never allows anything to touch your garden that isn’t His will for your garden. If you ‘wall’ is under siege by Satan, rest assured, God hasn’t left you undefended. He always takes care of his own.
Let’s read from Song of Solomon Chapter 4 verses 9 through 5:1.
“Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”
Verse 12 calls His beloved “A garden inclosed, a spring shut up and a fountain sealed.” I want to talk about the meaning of this in the garden of our hearts.
A. We are to be protected in purity! We do have the ability to open this wall, tear it down, or unlock this gate and allow impure thoughts to enter… thereby ‘cheating’ upon our gardener. We sometimes willingly allow these ‘foxes’ of IMAGINATION to damage our tender grapes and destroy the small plants by digging at their roots. I recently researched what Foxes actually do to grapevines due to curiosity about the verses about “little foxes” spoiling the vines. This is what I found out.
Foxes or little foxes could also be jackals. Foxes destroy vines by…
“…gnawing the branches, biting the bark, making bare the roots, devouring the ripe grapes… jackals eat only grapes, not the vine flowers; but they need to be driven out in time before the grapes are ripe.”
This reference is talking about both when the grapes are RIPE and when they are still TENDER… meaning not yet ripe. The Foxes destroy the plant itself, damaging the ability to produce fruit… and when there is fruit it also consumes it. Jackals don’t destroy the vine, but eat all the fruit.
I want to talk about the importance of being an Enclosed Garden when you are younger. The habits you form before you become a woman help you in continuing in these habits of purity whenever you are faced with strong physical temptations. The older you grow the stronger the natural desire for human love grows. Beginning at a young age in casting down imaginations can make a HUGE difference when there is ‘fruit’ at stake.
What does a garden that is enclosed look like? Webster defines being Enclosed as: to close in, surround, to fence off for individual use, to hold in, or confine. For some reason when I read this definition my heart doesn’t like the sound of being confined, or restrained… or what might feel lonely. The Lord doesn’t view our garden this way though. In the Bible He calls us His beloved. When we are enclosed FROM the world and harms and enclose TO Him in safety. God’s rules are never to harm us, they are always to protect us. When He thus mentions “evil imaginations” and “falsehoods” or things that aren’t true: we know that these are not acceptable because they can harm us. Jer. 13:10, 25 and 10:14 say…
“This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing….thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood….every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.”
The Lord rebukes Israel as a nation over and over for the evil imaginations of their own hearts. This is where the rubber-meets-the-road so to speak about purity. None of us ever intend to actually physically LOSE our purity, but do we truly guard it in all areas? Are we just as convicted from a frivolous, untrue thought that is ‘romantically based’ as we would blush to think of the actual act of love? They are truly the beginning, the ‘tender grapes” if you will, or our heart’s imaginations. We are to have our minds submitted to Chrsit! This is the purity-war-zone… the battle is fought and LOST or WON in your mind first before it ever moves to actions. God requires purity of heart, and thought, not just action. He knows better than we do, how our thoughts affect and lead to actions. If you are thinking how un-contented you are with being single, it will affect your actions.. you may notice shortness of temper, irritability, and outward actions that symbolize a deeper heart issue… it is the same with purity. Before you would ever actually sin physically in impurity, you will think a ‘romantic’ thought that Satan convinces us in ‘enjoyable’ and ‘harmless’. These thoughts are not harmless! They have an affect. If nothing else they will make you un-content that your Gardener hasn’t decided that you are ready to be joined to someone else’s garden yet. These are SERIOUS issues. In Song of Solomon there is ONE verse that is REAPEATED over and over again.
It says ” I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.” (S.s.2:7, 3:5, and 8:4)
Why would the Lord repeat this same verse to the DAUGHTERS ( the unmarried single women) of Jerusalem 3 times if it wasn’t important. To “Stir up” implies a purposeful, curiosity and intentionally awakening something that is to remain dormant and or asleep. The Greek word carries a connotation of ‘WHY” stir up? What good will it do? Also in Song of Solomon we find the principle of the younger woman’s purity carrying her through her later years.
“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.”
This is a perfect example of a younger women and how her desire for purity is protected. Her FAMILY was a part of protecting her. In verse 9 If she is only a wall, we’ll enclose it all the way around… if she be but a door… we’ll frame it. It shows a joint protection. She is a wall, she is trying to guard herself and needs to be surrounded completely around by safety. If she is a door and trying to block out the world and it’s impure ways then we’ll help by building a frame. Look at verse 10… It is a joyful declaration of being a WALL when we are older. We have practiced at a younger age this casting down imaginations and it has lead us to be Wall of strength for purity when we are older. The same DESIRE for purity in her youth held her through her days of temptations. And because of this she has found favor in the eyes of her beloved. Are you keeping yourself pure for your future husband or for Christ???
Stir not up… but what if they are ‘stirred up’ and I struggle with this feeling of wanting to be loved, cherished, kissed, held, by a man? Let me just say you are NORMAL! Just because we are not to purpously awaken these desires for physical love, does not mean that we won’t ever have any. As a matter of fact we all do! You aren’t alone if you’ve ever had this desire. It is truly more than a desire, it is a natural, God-given instinct to be loved this way. We are created with it built into who we are. The truth is that this natural, God-given instinct needs to be submitted, surrendered and given back to the one who gave it to you. It isn’t wrong…. if you’re married. However, we obviously aren’t. To desire this love outside of marriage is dangerous. The God who gave you these desires and instincts knows better than you how to deal with them. Purity is attacked, because it’s beautiful, innocent and Godly. Satan hates you for being pure!!! And if he can’t destroy you’re literal physical purity, he’ll try and destroy your purity of heart. We don’t HAVE pure hearts, instead our hearts are deceitful and wicked. They must as our garden plots be submitted and yielded to the God of all purity and entrusted to Him to be kept safe. I’d like to quote Toni Hutto here and read what she recently wrote that encouraged my heart so much.
The enemy often attacks us in places God has chosen to prove strong in. If your thought life is under attack, and your purity under siege, know that it is because God has a plan for your life... It's okay to be weak in these areas. It only means we will rely all the more readily on Someone mightier than we are!"
We are ALL weak in this area of protecting our own purity. We are ALL attacked in our purity, We ALL desire to be married and loved, We ALL struggle to surrender this are. You aren’t alone, and most certainly not left UNPROTECTED by God and your family.
C. We are to be protected by our Priest.
How do you respond whenever the Lord asks of you a higher standard in your conduct and what He allows in your life than He may ask in someone else’s life? Do you feel ‘restricted’ or do you feel ‘protected’? However you heart honestly answers this question makes a huge difference on how you will respond to the Lord. God PROTECTS us by removing IDOLS from our hearts. It is never a pleasant experience to have an idol revealed to you and be asked to let go of it altogether… however this is the primary way that Christ protects us as individuals. You may have heard people talking about how they are permitted to do things that you are not, perhaps your Keeper seems to be a very Jealous one indeed and you feel you’ve been ‘restricted’ from so many things… let me encourage your heart… you must be very precious to the Lord indeed if He is so JEALOUS over you!!!!
Deut. 5:9a “Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God,..”
I’d like to talk about idols here… because these are those little “images” of the heart that truly DAMAGE our walk with God more than anything. We have idolatrous hearts by nature! We are made with the innate desire to ADMIRE and WORSHIP SOMEONE.
I want you to think about the word IDOL and divide its individual letters in your mind. An idol is an..
If we were to seriously get on our knees and ask that there be ‘nothing between’ our souls and our Savior we are almost always faced with something to confess, repent of and forsake!
An Idol is ANYTHING or ANYONE who has an Inordinate Degree Of Love in your heart. Idols are most easily recognized in our responses to being asked to relinquish them. They are most easily discerned whenever you FEEL THAT RELUCTANCE TO LET GO of something.
These idols can be literally anything: from a garment that you like that is ‘questionable’ as far as it’s modesty, to a man you are desperately in ‘like’ with and seem to constantly think about. I’m not saying that attraction for someone is an idol, it is when we are asked to let go of our hold over that emotion that it becomes an idol. A feeling of attraction once handed to the Lord becomes HIS PROBLEM!
Whenever you feel you are STUBBORNLY holding onto anything it is an Idol.
1 Sam. 15:23 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” The proof of iniquity and idolatry is your stubborn tenacious clinging onto them. For fun I found a ‘p-word’ for stubbornness. ;)
Pertinacious: “holding firmly to an opinion or a course of action.”
Whenever you are pertinaciously clinging to something Christ has asked you to free from you are guilty of the sin of idolatry.
The only reason that the Lord desires your heart to be only, always, all for Him is because He is a Jealous God who protects His bride even whenever she accuses Him of being ‘unfair’ in the process. CHRIST ONLY EVER ASKS YOU TO GIVE UP WHAT IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU!!!!
I get this image of a garden with a wretched Thorn-bush right in the middle… and the gardener is attempting to uproot this ugly thorn bush and the whole time the garden is resisting and crying that it’s beloved and special thorn-bush be spared… He will never forcibly remove your thorn bush without your consent and yielding… Is there a bush that is prickly, harmful and painful to you that you are stubbornly refusing to allow God to uproot from your garden?
I’d like to end with the thought that the only safe IDOL you can have in your life is one that is worthy of all praise and glory. Christ can be our idol! We can worship, love and adore Him as having the first place in our heart whenever we truly believe He only ever removes what is harmful to HIS GARDEN.