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Leaning on Christ

June 2003 | by Don Fortner

Faith towards Christ has nothing whatsoever to do with physical acts, physical posture, or physical movement. But, in the Word of God, faith is often described symbolically by bodily actions.

Looking, coming, fleeing

Saving faith is looking to Christ, as the perishing Israelites looked to the brazen serpent and were healed. The Lord Jesus declares: ‘Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other’ (Isaiah 45:22).

Faith is also coming to Christ – for pardon, redemption, righteousness and life, acknowledging him as Lord and trusting him as Saviour: ‘He who comes to me shall never hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst … All that the Father gives me will come to me; and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out’ (John 6:35-37).

Again, faith is fleeing to Christ. (Hebrews 6:18; Proverbs 18:10). Realising that we are under the wrath of God, and knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s only appointed place of refuge for guilty sinners, we venture our souls on the merits of his blood and righteousness.

And so we could continue.

Leaning on Christ

But in the Song of Solomon (8:5-7) we see faith described in richer, more intimate terms: ‘Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?’ Here is faith – intimate, confident, loving, admiring, adoring faith – leaning on Christ. It pictures the church of God and every true believer.

There is no better description of true faith – as a cripple depends upon his crutches, so the children of God lean on Christ.

We lean on him because he has proven his love for us and his faithfulness to us – because he is mighty and able to protect us. The more we trust him, the more constant and real our fellowship with him will be.

From the wilderness

The people of God are passing through a wilderness. To the heavenly pilgrim, this world is a barren and desolate place.

Sometimes our path leads through waters of affliction and seas of temptation. There are dangers to be overcome, snares to avoid, and enemies to face.

The world, the flesh and the devil oppose us. The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life make our journey troublesome.

Believers must never forget that they are pilgrims. Our hearts are fixed upon Immanuel’s land, not on the things of this world (Hebrews 11:8-10, 14-16; 1 John 2:15-17; Colossians 3:1-3).

But the bride is not alone. Her Beloved is with her. Every soul that journeys towards heaven has Christ as its companion. He walks with us in tender, deeply-felt sympathy.

The Lord is at hand

Whatever our temptations may be, Christ Jesus has been tempted in every point, just as we are. Whatever our afflictions, he has been so afflicted. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

Our Saviour is also with us in reality (Isaiah 43:2-5; 41:10). He is always at hand (Philippians 4:5). This is not a dream, or a piece of fiction. It is fact, a blessed, glorious fact.

And though our pilgrimage sometimes seems long, we are passing through this bleak land. ‘Who is this coming up from the wilderness?’ We shall not be in this wilderness for ever.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come:
Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Posture of faith

Do you know anything about this posture of faith? About leaning on Christ? That is what faith is – leaning on Christ.

Faith leans on him for all things and at all times. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Trust Christ; lean on him for all your salvation, for daily providence, and regarding the future.

Every hour of every day,
Every moment, and in every way,
I’m leaning on Jesus, he’s the Rock of my soul,
I’m singing his praises wherever I go!

We lean on the person of Christ for acceptance with God. We lean on the righteousness of Christ for justification. We lean on the blood of Christ for pardon and cleansing.

We lean on the fulness of Christ to supply all our needs, both physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal (Lamentations 3:23-26).

The Beloved

The bride leans on her Beloved. Christ is the Beloved. He is beloved of the Father, beloved of the angels, beloved of the saints in heaven.

He is the Beloved of every saved, believing soul. Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Beloved? (1 Peter 2:7; 1 Corinthians 16:22).

In prayer, we lean on Christ. In worship, we lean on Christ. In giving, we lean on Christ. In praise, we lean on Christ. All our hope of acceptance with God is Christ, so we lean on him.

Go ahead and lean on him! He can bear all the weight of your soul.

This word ‘leaning’ has many overtones. It suggests a picture of the bride casting herself upon her Beloved, joining herself to her Beloved, associating with her Beloved, cleaving to her Beloved, rejoicing in her Beloved, strengthening herself in her Beloved, and clinging to her Beloved.

Remembering

Secondly, faith not only leans but also remembers: ‘I awakened you under the apple tree. There your mother brought you forth’ (v. 5).

Reading only the English translation, we might assume that these words were spoken by Christ to the church. But in the Hebrew the pronoun ‘you’ is masculine. So again, the bride is speaking to her Beloved.

She remembers the past. ‘I awakened you’; that is to say – I have wrestled with you in prayer and prevailed upon you to help and comfort me (Psalm 34:1-6; 44:23). As the disciples awoke Christ to help them in the storm, so the children of God ‘awaken’ him in prayer.

Not that he is asleep. He is ready and willing to yield to our importunate cries of faith. But Christ awaits our cry, and is found in the soul in the travail of conviction and repentance – like one born of his mother’s travail into the world. Believing sinners call on Christ in times of trouble – and awaken him to help.

Praying

Thirdly, we see faith praying (v. 6) – ‘Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm’.

As she makes her pilgrimage through this world, the bride prays that her union with him might be confirmed, that her communion with him might be constant, and that her fellowship with him might be intimate.

The allusion may be to the High Priest who bore the names of the tribes of Israel before the Lord on his shoulders and his breastplate (Exodus 28:9-12, 15-30).

It is enough for me that Christ should be my sin-atoning High Priest, that he carry me upon his heart when he stands before God. Let me never lose the place that I have in your heart.

Let your love be secured to me, as a deed that is sealed cannot be broken (Ephesians 1:14; 4:30). Let me always be near and dear to you.

‘Set me as a seal upon your arm’ – the High Priest also carried the names of God’s people on his shoulders. Oh my Beloved, defend me and protect me with the right arm of your power!

Let your power be engaged for me as token of your love for me.

Persevering

Fourthly, we see faith persevering (vv. 6-7) – ‘love is strong as death; jealousy as cruel as the grave: its flames are flames of fire…

‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.’

All true faith is persevering faith. If ever a man comes to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, he will continue in both faith and love towards him.

Love for Christ is the passion of the believing heart. His love for us was stronger than death, and the love of a true believer for Christ is strong as death.

We are jealous of anything that might draw us away from him. We are jealous of ourselves, lest we should do anything to provoke him to leave us. Love for Christ is the unquenchable passion of the believing heart, an all-consuming fire (v.7).

Neither the substance of this world nor the swelling floods of death could quench our Saviour’s love for us (Romans 8:38-39). And when we truly love Christ, that love is also indestructible.

Waters of affliction cannot quench love – it only grows stronger and clings more firmly to its object.

All the riches of the world cannot buy love. Even life itself would be despised before love could be sacrificed.

May the Lord graciously grant us this holy faith and the love for Christ that rises from it – a love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, constraining us to lean on him alone.