I’ve read the Song of Songs before, but it was only about a month and a half ago that I saw something of the verses in chapter 7 (initially through reading a picture book, actually — ask me if you’re interested). This, together with the Spirit’s speaking in Revelation to the church in Ephesus, has been deeply impressing me for a while…
Revelation 2:4-5 reads:
But I have one thing against you, that you have left your first love.
Remember therefore where you have fallen from and repent and do the first works; but if not, I am coming to you and will your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.
The first love precedes the first works. Without the motivation of love, any “service” we do is in vain. First Corinthians 3:13 tells us that in the day of Christ’s second coming, all our work will become manifest, for the fire will prove each one’s work, of what sort it is. Surely this fire will consume any work that did not issue out of the first and best love for the Lord, however well meant the intentions were.
But what, really, are the first works? What does it mean to do the first works? Song of Songs 7:10-12 sheds light:
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields; let us lodge in the villages.
Let us rise up early for the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded, if the blossom is open, if the pomegranates are in bloom; there I will give you my love.
As in the verses in Revelation, the love comes before the work. But there’s something more here: “there will I give you my love.” The work is not only the issue of the love; it’s also where this love is expressed. As R.K. puts it, working with the Lord takes place in the context of the divine romance. Because of love, the maiden (the speaker of these verses) sees the vineyard in a whole new light. Taking care of the vineyard is no longer a mere responsibility, a dull chore; she now has the motivation of love. The vineyard hasn’t changed, the things she has to do haven’t changed, but her work is entirely different. There’s now genuine interest in the condition of the vine, for she’s able to relate the work she’s doing for her beloved to her beloved himself. Every little sign of life — whether at the stage of “in bloom” or “barely blossoming” or “only budding” — is now an object of her concern.
I think this poetic language communicates the point better than any literal language could, so I’ll refrain from “translating” it and just conclude: that is the perhaps-not-so-outwardly-visible difference between the first works and the former works of the Ephesians. I certainly can’t say that I’ve experienced the reality of this to any significant degree, but I think we can all at least aspire to be those giving the Lord our love in the midst of His work.