Bride and Bridegroom
As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.Isaiah 62:5
By Michael Brann
In thinking about the Memorial season, our thoughts often lie in two main areas: (1) what the Lord has done for us; and (2) what is my personal relationship to him on account of this?
We are very thankful to recall with deep sentiment the fact of our heavenly Fathers sending his only begotten Son into the world to die on behalf of Adam and his fallen race. We are likewise thankful that Jesus faithfully carried out his Fathers plans and died as a ransom sacrifice. To us, this means every human being who has ever lived shall be given a full and complete opportunity for everlasting life.
However wonderful these things are, they are not the full end of blessings for which we are thankful! Our personal relationship with him in these things adds another dimension which we do well to investigate.
The Apostle Paul describes a very special relationship between Christ and his footstep followers in 1 Corinthians 10:16 with these words: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [common union] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [common union] of the body of Christ?" The word communion is from the Greek word koinonia (Strongs #2842) and has the idea of partnership. Other words which give the same meaning are associate, sharer, and fellowship.
There are many areas in which we may have communion, participation, or fellowship with one another. We may be associated together by birth as fathers and mothers are to sons and daughters, or we might be brother and sister. We may choose certain friends with whom we enjoy spending time. In the ecclesia we are related spiritually and thus have spiritual union or fellowship with one another.
In the holy Scriptures there are many different pictures and illustrations used to help us understand our relationship to the Lord. Each one in itself serves to teach us certain features which no single picture or illustration could do. For instance: the captain and soldiers picture stresses to us loyalty and strict obedience; the master and pupils picture teaches humility and subjection; the shepherd and sheep show implicit trust and confidence; and the vine and branches demonstrate permanent dependency.
On the natural plane, there is not much doubt that the closest type of communion or association is that of husband and wife. Genesis 2:23, 24 describes it this way: "And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." The Scriptures further develop this relationship between husband and wife, drawing many parallels to that union which exists between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:21-23).
Everyone who has entered into such a union as husband and wife are immediately struck regarding the intimacy of such a picture between Christ and his church. The marriage union carries with it many beautiful qualities which are intended to help us understand the depth of our relationship to the Lord. Qualities such as love, joy, loyalty, faithfulness, trust, and commitment are all elements of this union.
There is one further aspect related to this close relationship of husband and wife which puts before our mental vision an unparalleled picture of a wonderfully unique communion with the Lord. It is the picture of a bridegroom and his bride.
Bride and Bridegroom
The illustration of a bride and bridegroom pictures a time when plans are being made for the wedding day. Both are often in a state of nearly mindless bliss and joy. Both bride and groom are so eagerly anticipating their marriage and their new life together that they are often said to be "floating on air" or "love-struck." Some lose their appetite, others find it hard to concentrate on simple tasks. They seem to ignore the world and those around them, not out of spite but simply because their minds are so excited and stimulated by their love towards each other.
Anyone who has chosen to love and then to marry has gone through some of these similar feelings and emotions. As strange as it may seem to think of our Lord having such strong and tender feelings towards us as his prospective bride members, it seems this is exactly the idea the scriptural picture of bride and bridegroom is intended to convey to us. Hopefully this intense love which he has towards us, in spite of all our faults and blemishes, will inspire us to become transformed into the character which each final member of that bride class must have to partake in the marriage to him.
According to eastern custom, it was often the father who selected a bride for his son. Oftentimes the intended pair would meet to approve of his choice. It is apparent in the Scriptures that it is the heavenly Father who has been selecting the bride members for his Son (John 17:24). They, in turn, are mutually attracted to one another and desire to become united as husband and wife. Probably the most beautiful and striking picture of this is the account of Isaac and Rebekah, found in Genesis 24.
As we examine this passage and other Scriptures in detail, we find that both the bridegroom and the bride are actively engaged in certain activities in preparation for the most joyous of all occasions, the marriage of the Lamb. We have no doubt that our Lord is doing his part of the preparation. All that remains is to see if we are doing our part!
Preparations of the Groom
There are two noticeable things a bridegroom often does in preparation for his marriage: (1) he establishes himself, and (2) he prepares a home for them to live in together.
In modern society a man establishes himself with a good job and education, with hopeful plans for the future. This is quite attractive to a prospective bride. Likewise, having a place to live where the two can discover the joys and experiences of becoming one is important to the prospective bride.
Our Lord, as our bridegroom to be, is doing these things on a spiritual level. Isaiah 61:10 states: "as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments [margin, priestly coronet]." This has the idea of both priestly and kingly garments. He has established himself as far superior to any earthly being. He is to be not only a priest to bring all mankind back into relationship with the Father, but he is also to wear the garments of a king, to have power and authority to rule the world in righteousness. How attractive he is to us! How worthy he is for us to long to be his bride! He is the one altogether lovely, the chiefest of ten thousand (Song of Solomon 5:10, 16).
Our Lord told us himself that he is now performing the second duty of preparing a home for his bride. John 14:1, 2 says: "In my Fathers house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
What a glorious home awaits us, understanding that the Lord himself has been preparing it for nearly two thousand years! Our finite minds can only approximate what conditions, joys, amd comforts are there to welcome his faithful bride.
Preparations of the Bride
There are likewise two special preparations the bride makes as she anticipates he forthcoming marriage: (1) she prepares to leave home; and (2) she makes a wedding dress.
In modern day society a young woman will often build up a "hope chest" filled with things to make her new home pleasant and comfortable. These things are indications that some day she will leave the home of her parents to live in a new home with her husband. For that special day she wants to be dressed as beautifully as possible and thus she prepares a finely woven and decorative dress befitting the joyful occasion.
Both of these aspects are drawn to our attention in Psalm 45. Verses 10 and 11 say: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy fathers house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord." For us, his bride to be, we are asked to consider the magnitude and scope of such a glorious and magnificent prospect. It is nearly beyond belief that the Lord offers us such a hope.
After appreciating this hope, we are advised to begin plans to leave our earthly ties and associations behind us as we anticipate our union with the Lord. Are any earthly ties or any sins and fleshly desires too valuable to keep if by keeping them it would mean our marriage to the Lord would be canceled? We can well imagine the disappointment of an earthly bride whose impending marriage had to be called off. We gladly suffer some measure of earthly loss and disappointment now in the putting away of these things rather than to suffer such irreparable spiritual disappointment in the future.
Verses 13 and 14 say: "The kings daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework." This part of the preparation describes the necessity to work with painstakingly slow and meticulous care intricate design and brocade into the dress. Small precious jewels were often interwoven into the lace and trim (Isa. 61:10). All of this symbolizes to us the need to develop in us the fruits and graces of the holy spirit. These are qualities and character marks which are very pleasing to the Lord. This "design work" is the work we are to be engaged in every day as we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). It takes time, hard work, and patience to accomplish this.
Motivated for the Marriage
We must find great inspiration to keep us busy in developing the necessary qualities for our upcoming marriage. How is it that we might accomplish such a tremendous task as this? Let "the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Neh. 8:10) be our daily motto. Reflect on the power, love, wisdom, and justice of the Lord. See these displayed in the universe, in creation, in the divine plan of the ages, in your brethren, in yourself. Do not let the past rob you of the future. Do not allow our present conditions and circumstances (as good or bad as they may appear) alter our bright prospects of a bright future with the Lord. Exercise faith in the exceeding great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). Communicate with the Lords people (Mal. 3:16).
Rejoicing and celebration are associated with nearly all references to the bride and bridegroom. As we prepare our hearts for the Memorial, may this special relationship as above described refresh and encourage us to greater faithfulness to keep our wedding garment spotless and free of wrinkles (Eph. 5:25-27). Take care to remove any stains of sin by applying to the throne of grace for forgiveness and strength to overcome. Be active not just fighting against sin but find ways to actively serve the Lord and his people. As one has said, "wrinkles come from sitting," so let us be up and energetically engaged in being about our wedding preparations.