The Bride now emerging from the wilderness is learning one thing above all others: what it means to lean on the Bridegroom. To “lean on” means to shift our weight entirely to something else, wholly trusting that specific ‘something else’ to hold or carry us safely and securely. We do this every time we sit in a chair or a car, enter an elevator or a plane, or lay down on a bed or sofa.
Similarly, the Bride is in the process of becoming “weightless”. As she chooses to surrender control of every detail of life to the Bridegroom, she is being shifted by the Holy Spirit from mere survival to abundant life. Self-conscious focus on her own perceived shortcomings, failures, and incompleteness is giving way to a conscious awareness of His deep desire and profound ability to meet her every spiritual, physical and emotional need.
Song of Songs puts it this way:
His left hand is under my head, His right hand embraces me.(SOS 8:3)
Within the Bridegrooms’ hands reside all the attributes of kingship: justice, authority, power, blessing and favour. These are freely lavished on her as she learns to live daily in the very embrace of God. This indeed is what it means to lean on the Beloved.
God’s just grievance against Israel in the wilderness was ‘they do not know My ways” (Ps. 95:10). They had failed to allow the wilderness to do its work in them. In forty years of wilderness wandering with God, and despite His many merciful provisions, Israel had not come to know their God nor discern that His ways were not like their ways. Israel knew God only through His acts, but only Moses knew His ways.
He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. (Ps. 103:7)
The generation of Israelites who had come out of Egypt wasted their wilderness years and failed to learn to lean. Therefore God withheld the revelation of His rest from them (Heb. 3:7-11.)
In contrast, the corporate Bride now emerging, having been driven into the wilderness by the Spirit to learn the ways of God, is coming up from her wilderness season leaning on her Beloved. The next stage of her journey, living and functioning from within His rest, can only be known by those who have learned to lean.
Learning how to live in this restful leaning is to learn to surrender to the embrace of God. Jesus, our divine Bridegroom, spoke of it in this way:
Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Mat. 11:28-30)
Notice the progressive stages: “come”, “take”, “learn”, “find”! To learn from Him is to gain knowledge of His ways, and to discover that His ways are infinitely different to ours. Without such a shifting in heart attitude we cannot enter the rest He offers us. This rest is not something He gives; it is something He IS. Christ Himself is our Promised Land.
What is it we need rest from? From the temptation to sin, from the pressures of the world? Partly, but mostly from ourselves and our efforts to deserve salvation. Is there a cost to this rest? Yes: the yoke of separation unto the Beloved. And what is the burden our Bridegroom spoke about? To take up our Cross and follow Him. That doesn’t mean there is anything insufficient in His finished work on the Cross. We don’t take up our cross to earn anything; we take it up to fellowship with our Beloved. To truly follow Christ will always be costly in some form or another because as the world hated Him, so His Bride will be hated (John 15:18). Don’t want to be hated? Don’t follow.
The greater news is that His yoke is easy and His burden is light! Why? Because His Bride has wisely used her wilderness season to learn His ways and is coming up with her head resting on the Bridegroom’s breast, wrapped in the very embrace of God. The Holy Spirit even caused the apostle John to provide us with a prophetic picture of this fully reclining, leaning Bride, who is the ‘one Jesus loves’:
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (John 13:23).
So unrecognizable is this Bride from she who went down into the wilderness that those who knew her can hardly discern her transformed features.
“Who is this?” they question one another. “This one coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved? (SOS 8:5) Surely she is not the one who went down there all that time ago, sure of her beauty, confident in her calling, self-reliant in her abilities and brash in her ways? No, this one has been broken, tested and sifted by the wilderness, yet there is a beautiful serenity upon her like we have seen on no other. And behold the way she entrusts herself to her Beloved! ”
Wrapped within His embrace, this emerging Bride is learning that she is betrothed to a Bridegroom whose faithfulness is beyond question, whose sufficiency is without measure and whose fellowship is unspeakably exquisite.