Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Marriage Made in Heaven

I love weddings and I am always excited when I get an invitation to one!

I have an invitation to a wedding that will eclipse all weddings I have ever attended; I believe you have an invitation too.
“Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev.19:9)

When Jesus spoke of Himself as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride, he used imagery drawn from the Jewish customs of the time. His followers understood His references perfectly but we have lost the ‘picture’.
Looking back at the Jewish wedding customs is an exercise that adds incredible richness to Jesus words about our relationship with Him as our heavenly Bridegroom.

In bible times it was the father who had the responsibility to choose a bride for his son and it was with incredible care that he searched to find the most suitable girl. When he found her, he and his son would work through all the details with the girl’s parents to arrange the marriage between the two young people.
The bridegroom would choose for himself a friend or best man to be the go-between himself and his bride, since there was no ‘courtship’ allowed.

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you!” (John 15:16)
God chose us to be the bride for His Son.
Just as the Jewish bridegroom chose a ‘friend’ as a go-between, so Jesus also had a “friend of the bridegroom” to prepare the way before him. -- John the Baptist. (John 3:29)

The bride had no part in the negotiations, she was only aware of what she could discern from unusual activity or covert glances behind her back.
Finally, with the preliminary planning finished, the bridegroom and his family would meet at the bride’s parents’ home to seal the contract. The bride is called out of her bedroom and for the first time she lays eyes on her bridegroom.
The marriage contract is sealed by the bridegroom and the bride drinking from the same cup of wine.

We also, as the bride of Christ, had no part to play in the arrangements necessary for us to have a relationship. We have no idea until we hear His declared love for us. (John 3:16)
We can only watch, until we ‘meet’ at the cross and share His cup. “You shall indeed drink of my cup” (Matt.20:23)

When the bride willingly drinks from the cup, she is now ‘betrothed’ or legally married, even though the groom will not physically take possession of his bride until the wedding night which is approximately a year away.
From that time on she wears a veil to show that she is ‘taken’ – she is ‘sanctified’ – set apart.

We too are separated from our bridegroom for an undisclosed period of time. Even though we are ‘espoused’ to him, we must wait until he returns to claim us as His wife. And we too, are sanctified, set apart, belonging to Him and no other. "to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ." (Jude 1)

After the contract is sealed the groom rushes home to begin work on the bridal chamber – most often a separate building on his father’s property. This is where they will spend their honeymoon.
The groom draws on all his creative energy to make this ‘mansion’ as beautiful as he can, as luxurious and comfortable as he can afford and stocks it with all the special provisions they will need for the seven days they will spend there – alone.

Is this not a beautiful picture of our time of waiting until our bridegroom comes for us? Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us. “In my father’s house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you !” ( John 14:2,3) Did you ever think that Jesus was delighting in preparing your 'mansion' as a Bridegroom eager for His bride?

The bridegroom does not know the day of his wedding – his father will tell him the day when the bridal chamber is complete , and only when it is finished to the father's satisfaction.

Does this not immediately bring to mind the verse that says, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matt.24:26)
Only God knows the day that Jesus will come back, He will declare the day!

The building would usually continue for almost a year, tensions mounting as the year end approached.

In waiting for Jesus return we do not know the day or the hour, but we have been given signs to watch for. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

During this time of waiting, the bride is also busy preparing herself to be a wife.
She spends her time wisely, learning all she can so she will be a worthy wife.
She applies herself to learn the skills necessary to manage a household and how to be pleasing to her husband.

We are also to be busy, while we are waiting for Jesus to come back, using our time wisely. "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27) When Jesus comes for us He is looking for “a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2) for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." (Rev. 19:7) Are you ready for your Bridegroom?

Along with the contract that passed between the two families there was also the matter of the ‘bride price’. This was the ‘price’ the bridegroom had to pay the bride’s parents for their daughter's hand in marrage. The amount was based on the social standing of the bride’s family as well as her character and appearance. Sometimes the price would be set unreasonably high to scare away an undesirable suitor. If the price was too low it was humiliating for the bride.

We are hardly a suitable bride for the King of Kings and the bride price should have been humiliatingly low… but what do we have? We have a King who was willing to pay the ultimate price – the giving of His own life to win us for His own. The highest ‘bride-price’ ever paid. Our Bridegroom who loved us so much that He “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Heb.12:2)

The groom would also give a gift to his bride, a special gift that was exclusively the bride’s to make her feel ‘secure’, a deposit ensuring her of her bridegrooms sincerity. It was a valuable ornament – ten coins hanging from a silver chain but more than the monetary security it gave her, she valued it because it enhanced her beauty and she wore it over her veil to signify she was married – much the same way we wear our wedding ring.

We of course are all familiar with the parable Jesus told of the woman who lost one of her coins. (Luke 15:8) Understanding the significance of the ‘jewelry’ and how losing one coin destroyed not only the monetary value but also its beauty brings much more meaning to the parable. Jesus also gave us a gift – a guarantee, or ‘earnest’ - a promise that He would fulfill His marriage contract – “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Cor. 1:22)

When the betrothal year was drawing to its close, the bride’s excitement would mount. Over the year she had carefully chosen special friends who would be her marriage companions or bridesmaids. Now these friends come with increasing frequency to her home. While the bride knew the wedding would take place on a Wednesday she did not know WHICH Wednesday so every Tuesday evening her bridesmaids would come to wait with her far into the night talking and giggling until they could no longer stay awake.
The bride would often wait wearing her wedding clothes; she did not want to be caught unaware when her bridegroom would appear. It was also important to have extra oil for their lamps so they could light the way for the bridal couple on their way to their bridal chamber.
They coming of the bridegroom to snatch her away would be sudden and secret. There would be no warning other than a loud triumphant shout when the groom neared the home of the bride.

Finally one night it would happen. The shout would awaken the bride and her maids out of their slumber and they would jump up waiting for the bridegroom to burst through the door and snatch away his bride. People in the village were also waiting for the announcement of the wedding…and when they would hear the loud shout they would pour out into the streets ready for the merry making to begin and to follow the bridegroom to the wedding chamber.
But the bridegroom was focused on his bride and he would carry her away to the ‘mansion’ he had prepared for her and there he would share an intimate marriage supper with her. There they would stay for the seven days of intimacy, then they would join the other wedding guests for the marriage feast!!

We all know the parable of the ten virgins. (Matt. 25) The Jews would have instantly understood what Jesus was talking about and did not need to have the parable explained. They had grown up with the excitement of waiting for the bridegroom to suddenly come to kidnap his bride!
We are also waiting for Jesus, our bridegroom to come and snatch us away. "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." (Thess.5:2) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”
(I Thess. 4:16)
Are we ready and waiting? Do we have our lamps trimmed with enough oil? Oil is always symbolic of the Holy Spirit - “be filled with the Spirit;” ( Eph. 5:18) Jesus admonishes us to be ready and watching for “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching” (Luke 12:37)

Does your heart not yearn for your Heavenly Bridegroom to come and take you unto Himself?
Do you find your voice joined with those who cry in Rev. 21:17 ?
“And the Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!!’"
Even so , come, Lord Jesus!”
(Rev. 21:20)

(info on Jewish wedding customs gleaned from "A Marrage made in Heaven" by Glenn Greenwood and Latyne C. Scott)


Lovella said...

Such a beautiful picture into our Lord's return.
I also love weddings and enjoyed the part of being mother of the groom. One thing I noticed though, was the day after the wedding, I felt a bit blue,
the wedding that we still await will be only the beginning, I won't feel blue the day after that one.

Carolanne said...

Guess what the pastor preached about in our service this morning?!~ Yep, he preached about Jesus returning to take back His bride. He talked about how involved the parents are in the wedding ceremony and how we are not to be bystanders. I read your post before I went to church this morning, so it all fit together nicely. :)

Laura said...

Funny you should mention brides and grooms. There seem to be so many running around lately. I will see them and be reminded of your words and those verses. Awesome!