I remember a good many years ago I heard for the first time someone stating how important it is for a Christian to know as much as possible about ancient Jewish customs and traditions. Such knowledge can significantly improve and increase our understanding of the Bible and of our faith in general. One of those ancient Jewish traditions that has always fascinated me is the wedding. After all, it is this sacrament the one that most clearly projects the relationship of Christ with His church…
Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
Revelation 19: 9
"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son."
Matthew 22: 2
However, to be honest, before I had a better understanding of the customs and traditions of this celebration during Biblical times, I had no real clue as to why the analogy was so important…I always wondered why the Bible used it so often to illustrate the bond between Jesus and His people.
Anyway… after reading a bit about it, here’s what I figured:
Apparently, there were three major steps in the ancient wedding:
1. Contract – also called Covenant. Here’s where the marriage is arranged. The Father of the groom made the payment for the bride and the agreement became sealed. The timing of this step varied. Sometimes it would be in the couple’s infancy. Some other times it would be in their teen years. But it was typically done in early youth. After the contract or covenant is sealed, the groom returns to his father’s house to prepare a place for his future bride and family to live. This could take years. Nobody really knew how long. It all depended on how early the contract was made. Another interesting aspect of this step is that the exact date of the actual wedding would be determined by the father of the groom and it was not truly known to either of them until the moment arrived.
2. Consummation – this is when the groom went to fetch the bride. Although the bride would have a general idea of when this would happen, she never knew for sure the exact day or time of the day that the groom would show up, so she had to be ready ahead of time. There would be ceremonial cleansing and a beautification process. She would be waiting with her bride’s maids who would be the ones holding the lamps to light the grooms path whenever he’d show up if it was night time. Of course it was expected that the bride was a virgin. No exceptions to this rule. This was the whole point of the consummation step. Once the groom finally arrived, the couple would take care of the consummation of their union right away and pure/virgin blood was expected. I know…
3. Celebration- then the real party began! The wedding feast! And it lasted for about a week.
Well…in case this doesn’t make you think a bit about this ancient ritual being a metaphor for Christ relationship with the church, here’s this chart I found online at: http://www.bible.ca/marriage/ancient-jewish-three-stage-weddings-and-marriage-customs-ceremony-in-the-bible.htm and partially reproduced here.
The three C's Marriage in the Bible:
Church is the bride of Christ
We come into contract and covenant with Christ when we are saved.
Mk 16:16 believe and be baptized to be saved
Romans 5:8-10 While we were worthless sinners the blood of Christ made us pure virgins.
Ephesians 5:25–27 Christ offered a dowry for the bride in that He died for her and shed his blood.
Jesus returns for his virgin bride after preparing a place for us to live together in heaven.
2 Corinthians 11:2 the virgin blood we lack is supplied by the blood of Christ. Our proof of virginity is the blood of Christ.
John 3:29 Joyful voice of Christ at second coming
John 5:28-29 voice of Jesus
Revelation 19:7-9 wedding feast in heaven
The rich imagery contained in God’s promise is meant to make it easier for us to understand who He is and what His plan entails. It is up to us to dig in and, guided by the Holy Spirit, discover the revelation contained in such images. May the God who created the universe and all that it contains illuminate our path and unveil the truth…the truth that will set us free!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.
Song of Songs 1: 4
Here's a song that I love and partly inspired me to write this post: Even So Come by Kristian Stanfill