“Here Comes the Bride all fat and wide” is a rather undignified song sometimes playfully sung by children in England when play acting a wedding. But it reminds us of a much more serious moment when “the Bride has made herself ready” Rev 19 v 7 and the Bridegroom returns to collect His beloved. Yesterday we reminded ourselves that Jesus, our Bridegroom, is returning for us, His Bride, and we too must ‘make ourselves ready’ and that a key element to being ready is to begin a journey or ‘rite of passage’ towards our marital identity which is only realised within an ever-deepening sense of intimacy with Him. We like the ‘dove’ must also be like this bird of passage. We too must arise and go on a journey of self-discovery.
“Arise My darling, My beautiful one and Come!” SOS 2 v 10
It is helpful here to point out how some Jewish wedding customs are significant for the Christian in the same way in which the other feasts of Israel are.
The ancient practice of taking a wife was just simple but rather unromantic. A man would take his chosen woman home, have relationship with her and she would be his wife. Details such as the willingness of the woman or her parents are not clear. However, God had better plans and gave guidance to His people on these matters in the Torah. Jesus referred a number of times to these practices in order to help us understand the nature of the relationship He has with us, His Bride.
The passage towards Intimacy begins with the betrothal or engagement and was binding and could only be undone by a divorce with proper grounds, such as the bride being found not to be a virgin, (Joseph and Mary – Matt 1 v18-19 ) The young man prepared a Ketubah, or marriage contract or covenant which he presented to the intended bride and her father at a short ceremony that he prepared. Included in this was the presentation of the” Bride Price “, which was appropriate in that society to compensate the young woman’s parents for the cost of raising her, as well as being an expression of his love for her. For Jesus and His disciples, the embryonic Church/Bride, this took place at the Last Supper Passover meal. The dowry or Bride price was His blood. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”.1Cor 6 v 19 and For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.“ 1 Pet 1 v 19
To see if the proposal was accepted, the young man would pour a cup of wine for his beloved and wait to see if she drank it. This cup represents a blood covenant. If she drank the cup she would have accepted the proposal and they would be betrothed and ‘the journey’ would have begun. The young man would then give gifts to his beloved, and then take his leave. The young woman would have to wait for him to return and collect her. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jn 14 v 3
The wedding chamber and the Chuppah
Before leaving the young man would announce, “I will return for you when it is ready”. The usual practice was for the young man to return to his father’s house and build a honeymoon room there and this was symbolized by the chuppah or canopy that is characteristic of Jewish weddings and under which the Jewish couple will stand during the wedding ceremony. He was not allowed to skimp on the work of either the house or the Chuppah and had to get his father’s approval before he could consider it ready for his bride. If asked the date of his wedding he would have to reply, “Only my father knows.” Meanwhile the bride would be making herself ready so that she would be pure and beautiful for her bridegroom. During this time she would wear a veil whenever she went out to show she was spoken for ….she has been bought with a price. She had accepted her bridal identity.
When the wedding chamber was ready the bridegroom could collect his bride. He could do this at any time so the bride would make special arrangements. It was the custom for a bride to keep a lamp, her veil and her other things beside her bed. Her bridesmaids were also waiting and had to have oil ready for their lamps. It’s a reminder to us to remain full of the Holy Spirit and to be continually ready.
When the groom and his friends got close to the bride’s house they would give a shout and blow a shofar to let her know to be ready. “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” 1Cor 15 v 52
When the wedding party arrived at father’s house the newly weds went into the wedding chamber for a seven day honeymoon and the groom’s best friend stood outside waiting for the groom to tell him that the marriage had been consummated. The journey towards Intimacy has reached a significant point. Intimacy had been experienced and the “two have become one”.
Then all the friends really started celebrating for the seven days that the couple were honeymooning. When the couple emerged there would be much congratulation and the Marriage Supper could begin.
What a journey! What a rite of passage! What a privilege! What a Saviour!
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
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”— Rev 19 v 6 – 8