Have you ever compared and contrasted the ancient Jewish tradition of marriage proposal and wedding preparation with the many references in scripture to the Church as the bride of Christ? I had not, and on the first day of the new year, one of our pastors delivered a most excellent and challenging word to our church on this topic.
In a nutshell, Jewish custom was that the bridegroom would first propose to his bride by extending to her a cup of wine. If she accepted it, and drank, she accepted him. He then would return to his father’s house and begin to build a chuppah, their honeymoon suite (which was far more elaborate than today’s wedding canopy). This typically could take a year. During this time his father supervised the construction. It wasn’t finished until the father declared it ready. The groom, if asked about the wedding date, would reply, “only my father knows.” Meanwhile, the bride would prepare herself. Because she did not know when he would return to ‘abduct’ her, she would have her wedding clothes, lamp, oil and other necessities, constantly beside her bed so she could be ready at a moment’s notice. During this waiting period the groom would send gifts to his bride, signaling his constant care and love for her. During this waiting period she did not go out without a veil, signaling that she was taken, spoken for, and was interested in no other.
One thing could break off the engagement: If the bride deceived her betrothed and did not remain pure. She could callously disregard and disrespect his promise of marriage and go after another. This was grounds for divorce, even though the wedding had not yet taken place. The engagement was serious stuff.
By now, anyone familiar with scripture is familiar with all of the many parallels between Christ and His promise to His bride, the Church. We have accepted His proposal and we now wait for Him to come for us. He is preparing a place for us and only the Father knows when it will be ready. But what about us? Are we prepared? Are we waiting expectantly? Do we appear separated for Him or are we going after other things, placing them in higher importance? Are we interested in the place our groom is preparing or in the groom Himself? Are we complacent or committed? Invested or apathetic? Passionate or preoccupied with distractions? What kind of bride are we?
Jesus has extended His hand, and we the Church, His bride, has accepted the proposal. Now we wait for Him to come for us and we must wait like the expectant bride, keeping herself pure, obviously appearing ‘taken’—we are not available to any other. We wait like the ready bride, excited, prepared, ready to go to the party. We wait like the engaged bride, thinking constantly about our current and future relationship. We don’t lose hope, we don’t get lazy, we don’t take off our veil. We must be found dressed and ready to go to the most important, exciting, amazing feast of all time.
In a recent post I briefly discussed the concept of covenant. In the Driscoll/Breshears book, “Doctrine” in their chapter, Covenant: God Pursues, they say, “Through covenant with God we enjoy a relationship that is akin to marriage and includes protection from Satan our enemy, peace with God though we declared war on him through sin, material provision in life and the life to come, and a coming perfect kingdom as our home where Jesus will forever rule over all as our gracious covenant king.” Now who would not want to be part of a marriage covenant like that? SO: What kind of bride are we? What kind of bride am I? A challenging word, for sure.