A fluffy and lacy white ball gown with a cascading train, opera length gloves, a pearl and crystal encrusted tiara, an aisle of multiple tulle and vine-wrapped archways, urns of candles and flowers—these are just a few of the things that I envisioned for my only daughter’s wedding day. Yes, these are the things I labored over to create a beautiful ceremony. And after a few months of planning on paper, I rolled up my sleeves and worked for one week to transform the church sanctuary into a fantasy land. But the truth is that I had labored on my knees for nineteen years for something far more important…My true “work” had been praying for a groom who would love my daughter as Christ loved the church. And as she walked down the aisle on that November afternoon to the strains of how beautiful is the body of Christ, I watched the eyes of her groom in anticipation of his bride, and I knew that God had heard my prayers!
Ladies, we love romance—don’t we?! We cry at the first sight of the doors swinging open to reveal a beautiful bride, and we sigh when the groom kisses her tenderly. Even the toughest gal among us wants to be swept off her feet, if she is honest. And yet, for many ladies, knights in shining armor and romance aren’t a reality. Along with countless other women, we’ve listened to many a sermon about marriage. However, usually a disclaimer is made at some point to the single gals in the crowd—“Now, for you ladies who aren’t married, remember that Jesus is your husband.” What is wrong with that statement? Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that there is ONE who desires to be the great love of our lives--the true lover of our souls. Yes, Jesus is our husband—whether we are married, widowed, divorced, or single. And when we come to recognize Him as such and fall in love with HIM, every other earthly relationship becomes grander and richer! Ohhhhhhh, yes, YOU are the bride of Christ…You are His intended—His beloved….You take His breath away…The truth is that He longs for YOU! Isaiah 62:5b tells us—“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
Ahhhh, beloved sisters, nothing is wasted on God. If you take a look back at Jewish history, you will see how our Heavenly Father sketches a beautiful portrait of His relationship with His people through the marriage ceremony. Sit back and let me paint you a picture of what God has planned for each of you…
Can you picture a young man who has picked out the woman of his dreams? Well, in ancient Israel, the man would prepare a contract to take to the home of the young lady he had picked. Yes, he would include in this the bride price—the money he would pay to the gal’s father in exchange for permission to marry her. This would be quite high. After all, the family must be compensated for the cost of raising this young woman and also the young man wanted to demonstrate his love for her! Oh, but you, the bride of Christ, have also been bought with a price! You see, our groom—our Jesus—came to our house…Yes, He came to earth and presented His marriage contract. Ladies, He paid for YOU with His very life. Each time you take the Lord’s Supper you are remembering that “this is my body given for you…” (Luke 22:20).
Well, dear ones, let’s continue to paint a picture of God’s plan through the Jewish wedding ceremony. Next, if the young woman’s earthly father agreed to the bride price offered, the young man would pour a glass of wine. As soon as the young woman drank from the cup, she became betrothed—or what we call today engaged. Does this remind you of anything? Oh, the beauty of the night Jesus poured wine for His disciples and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…” (see Matthew 26:28-29).
Today, we celebrate the engagement of a couple with dinner parties and wedding showers, as the couple spends hours together awaiting their wedding day. And sadly, sometimes, couples today end their engagement with nothing more than a few tears shed. Oh, but the Jewish practice was far different! Once betrothed, the couple was legally bound and a divorce had to take place to end a betrothal. It is also interesting to note that a betrothed couple parted ways for one to two years. That’s right—they did not see each other at all during this time! The young man would go to his father’s house to prepare a special room for his bride. This place was always built on his father’s property or as an addition to his father’s house. And the young woman went her way to begin working on her beautiful wedding garment. She purchased cosmetics to make herself beautiful for her bridegroom. She did not know when her groom would come for her. In fact, the groom did not know when he would come for his bride. Only the groom’s father knew when the time was right for him to take his bride home! However, before the young man and young woman parted ways, the man would present his future bride with special gifts to remind her of him. Please don’t let the spiritual significance of all this slip past you, ladies! Yes, our Savior has gone ahead to prepare a place for us (see John 14). We do not know when HE will come back for us. In fact, Scripture tells us, “No one knows about the day or the hour…but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert!” (see Mark 13:32-33). However, as we await His return, our Savior has not left us without a special gift… “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things…” (see John 14:26).
As you try to picture the imagery, can’t you imagine the moment when the groom’s father tells him to go and get his bride? It would typically be at night around midnight. And so, the young woman had to be ready with her lamp trimmed. As the young man came near the young woman’s dwelling, he would shout and a shofar would be blown. The couple would go to the wedding chamber he had prepared. They would stay there for seven days. A friend of the groom would wait outside for word that they marriage had been consummated. The couple would emerge from the chamber and then share a feast with their assembled family and friends. Even as I reflect on this ancient custom, I find myself looking ahead to our GROOM. You see, ladies, the seven days they spent in the wedding chamber is a picture of the seven years of tribulation that Scripture tell us will come upon the earth. Oh, but just as they are safe in the wedding chamber, we shall be safe with our Heavenly Groom! Did you catch the imagery of the blown shofar, or ram’s horn trumpet? Yes, Scripture tells us of what we call the rapture—“for the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are alive…will meet the Lord in the air” (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). And lastly, but far from unimportant, we see the feast they shared pointing us to the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelation 19—“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns…for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’”
Beloved sisters in Christ, do you truly know that you are the Bride of Christ? Are you falling more deeply in love with your Heavenly Groom or has your relationship with Him lost its spark? Perhaps, you have been looking for love in all the wrong places while all the while Jesus wants you to come to understand the truth spoken in Song of Songs 1:2—“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.”
Each time I replay the video of my daughter’s wedding or open the upstairs closet to the large bag that encases her beautiful wedding gown, I am reminded that my Heavenly Groom is coming for me! Let me close with one of my favorite stories that reminds me of this truth…Yes, it takes place at The Shepherd’s Home---a special home for children and teenagers with Down’s Syndrome. It seems that this place has a maintenance problem. You see, as hard they try, the janitors cannot keep the windows in this home clean…They are ever dirty. Why? Well, the youngsters have been told about Jesus from the moment they came to live there…And their noses are ever pressed against the glass in anticipation of His return! Ahhhhhhh, the beauty of simple faith…Will the Savior find you—His bride—waiting and longing and living for Him and His return?! I pray so!