"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
May 8, 2013
Happy Mother's Day!
I recently began studying and reading about what it truly means to be the bride of Christ. I began researching ancient Jewish betrothal and marriage customs and found that there was a lot that correlated with various scripture references regarding believers being the bride of Christ. This ended up being too lengthy for one week, so I will begin writing on this subject this week and will conclude it next week.
Throughout scripture the church is referred to as the "bride of Christ". Examples of such verses are:
"Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure -- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true words of God.'" (Revelation 19:7-9)
"And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Revelation 21:2)
"I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him." (2 Corinthians 11:2)
What does it really mean to be "the bride of Christ"? If we understand the ancient Jewish wedding customs then it is easier to make the correlation. I will preface this by saying that while researching I did find a bit of variation, but what I'm using seems to fit with the majority of what I read.
1. In ancient Israel, brides were usually chosen by the father of the groom.
In Genesis 24 Abraham made arrangements for his son Isaac's wedding. While the father usually had the responsibility of choosing his son's bride, due to Abrahams advanced age, he was unable to travel to his home country and find a wife for Issac. Therefore, he designated a representative to go in his place. Abraham gave very specific instructions to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, and sent him to choose a bride for Isaac.
Jesus said in John 15:16, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain."
We are all chosen by Jesus to be His bride. Jesus pursues us and sends His representative, the Holy Spirit, to speak to our heart on His behalf. The offer to become His bride is made to all, with no exceptions.
2. Although a bride was selected for a particular bridegroom, she had a choice whether or not to consent to the betrothal and marriage. An example is found in Genesis 24:57-58 when Rebekah was asked, "Will you go with this man (meaning Isaac)?" She answered, "I will go." Rebekah gave her consent or her "I do".
God never forces anyone to say "I do" to His Son. Although He has chosen us as the bride of Christ, we have to willingly consent to the commitment. We are told that we have to believe in our heart and confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord; that He died for our sins; and was raised from the dead. We must repent of our sins and turn away from those things that would separate us from the Bridegroom. When we say "I do" to Jesus, we are committing to be a faithful bride to Him.
3. In Bible times, brides were purchased. This is often called the bride price. It was a gift paid by the groom to the bride's family. It changed her status and set her free from her parent's household.
1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us, "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from our aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
Jesus paid the ultimate "bride price" for each of us, for He shed His blood and gave His very life so that we could become His bride. When the bride price is accepted, it changes our status from sinner to saint and sets us free from our old life.
4. The ancient Jewish marriage began with two main parts, beginning with the betrothal. Unlike our engagement today, the betrothal had a much greater sense of commitment. The couple actually entered into a covenant, which was serious and binding. Once a couple was betrothed, they were legally married in all aspects except for the physical consummation of the marriage. The betrothal was so binding that the couple would need a religious divorce in order to annul the contract.
The betrothal actually entailed a ceremony where some items of value were exchanged -- such as rings. A contract was presented to the bride's father. The contract (or Ketubah) consisted of all the bridegroom's promises to support his bride. The bride also stipulates the contents of her dowry.
One of the greatest examples of the betrothal is shown in the story of Joseph and Mary. Matthew 1:18 says, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.'"
Joseph and Mary had gone through the betrothal ceremony, therefore were legally married in all aspects except for the physical consummation. Most betrothal periods lasted one year while the groom prepared a home for his bride. During this period is when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and placed the seed of the Messiah within her womb. The bride becoming pregnant during the betrothal period would have been a legitimate reason for a religious divorce. But the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him what had happened and that it was God's plan. When Joseph awoke, he went and got Mary and brought her to his home as his wife, which is why they travelled together to Bethlehem for the census as husband and wife. But Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph did not know her (or consummate the marriage) until after the birth of Jesus.
The contract, or Ketubah, that God gives us is His Word. It shows us all that we are entitled to as the bride of Christ. As the bride of Christ we have the right to claim all the promises contained within God's Word.
When we enter into a covenant with Jesus, we are accepting His terms of the betrothal, which are all listed within His Word. If we truly realized the seriousness of that covenant that we've entered into, perhaps we would be more diligent in our faithfulness to honor our commitment. When we break our betrothal covenant with Jesus and choose to live in rebellion to Him, we experience a spiritual divorce. That doesn't mean that the relationship can never be reconciled and healed, but it can only be done when we repent and choose to honor our betrothal contract with our Bridegroom, Jesus.
5. After the terms of the betrothal was accepted, a cup of wine was shared to seal the marriage covenant. A second cup of wine was shared during the marriage ceremony.
During the last supper with His disciples, Jesus took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you." The first cup He shared with us represented the shedding of His blood for forgiveness of our sins.
Jesus said in Matthew 26:29, "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom."
In this scripture Jesus is speaking of the second cup that the bride of Christ will share with Him that glorious day at the second part of our marriage ceremony when we are all united with Him for eternity.
6. Following the betrothal ceremony, just prior to the bridegroom leaving to return to his home to fulfill obligations during the betrothal period, he would give his wife-to-be a bridal gift. The gift was a pledge of his love for her. This gift would be a coin or an item of value which would help her remember him while they were apart in that interim period between the betrothal and marriage ceremony. This is much like the engagement ring that the bride-to-be is given today. When the woman looked at it, it was a symbol of love and commitment and reminded her of the man who gave it to her. It also reminded her of his promise to return for her.
Jesus gives us, His bride, many gifts: forgiveness, mercy, hope, fruits of the spirit, and many more. When a bridegroom presents his bride special gifts, she doesn't say, "No! I refuse to accept them!" Yet many of us refuse the gifts that Jesus, our Bridegroom, gives to us.
Jesus also sent the Holy Spirit as a gift to us just prior to His ascension into heaven. In John 14:16 Jesus says, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth." Then in verse 26 Jesus says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." In verse 28, He promises that even though He is going away, that He will return again.
7. Brides in ancient Israel experienced a mikvah prior to actually entering into the formal betrothal period. Mikvah was a pool which was used for ritual purification. The ritual immersion was symbolic of spiritual cleansing. The mikvah represented a separation from the old life to a new life.
Mark 16:16 says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe, will be condemned." Being baptized represents the living water of the mikvah. When believers are immersed in water, it represents a separation from the old life to a new life.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
When we accept Jesus into our heart we embark upon a relationship that not only changes our lives, but has eternal benefits. We can look upon our time on earth as the betrothal period as we wait for the return of our Bridegroom. We know not the day nor hour when He will return, but we remain faithful to the covenant we made with Him and eagerly look forward to becoming the true bride of Christ.
(Next week will conclude this study.)
Sometimes it's hard for men to relate to being the bride of Christ. But for one thing, the church is the bride of Christ. We each make the same commitment, but we as a whole become the bride.
The bride is committed to the Groom, and has no others before Him. Just as the Groom is committed to His bride.
The bride has a Groom to take care of her, and provide her every need. The Groom dotes on His bride.
The Groom is proud of His bride. And the bride gives Him reason to be proud.
The bride is to be presented without spot or wrinkle to Jesus. Don't be a spot or a wrinkle.
1 carton heavy Whipping Cream
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. Onion Salt
Blend all ingredients in a skillet and heat thoroughly. Serve over fettuccine or ravioli noodles. If you need to make a larger quantity, you will need to double or triple the ingredients. You can add pre-cooked fajita chicken strips or shrimp to the sauce if you like.
We would like to wish all the mothers "Happy Mother's Day!" And of course a very special "Happy Mother's Day" to Jon's mother.
It is interesting to watch your sisters in the role of mother. It is even more interesting to see them take on the role of being a grandmother. It is interesting to watch your niece, whom you have watched grow up from a baby, take on the role of motherhood. Many times the younger mothers will ask advice and questions of their own mothers regarding issues that arise in rearing their child. They suddenly see the wisdom that their mom has, even though it often wasn't recognized when they were a child themselves. I recently found the chart below that perhaps sums up the progression of how "children" think:
6 years: Mom knows everything!
8 years: Mom knows a lot!
12 years: Mom really doesn't know everything!
14 years: Mom knows nothing!
16 years: Mom? What mom?
18 years: Mom is outdated!
25 years: Maybe Mom does know!
35 years: Before deciding, let's ask Mom!
45 years: I wonder what Mom thinks!
75 years: I wish Mom was here to ask her!
Mother's hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon