Yesterday, I shared a letter from God to the church and an introduction to the Bible Study. Today is about the traditional marriage vows which were made in the Bible. This gives an overview of what is expected from the bride and the groom. Please do take some time to think about and look over the verses mentioned in this section. God bless you.
The Marriage Vows
The guests have arrived. Anticipation is in the air. Pews are lined with bows and beautiful colours. Candles are burning, the organ is playing. The men are lined at the front with the groom waiting nervously. The music slows. The first one to come in is a small girl throwing flowers onto the floor. Several other ladies follow close behind. Then with tears in eyes, everyone begins to rise. The long wait has come to a close. The march begins and the bride makes her way down the aisle. She is beautiful, radiant, dressed in white. There can be no flaws today, for this is the day she has always dreamed of.
She arrives to meet her groom face to face and the vows are then exchanged. Their love for each other is made known publicly. This would be the beginning of the rest of their lives. The preacher pronounces them man and wife. The kiss seals this claim. Then hand in hand they meet the crowd as Mr. and Mrs. She takes his name.
In the Old Testament, festivities before a wedding lasted a week. The bride and groom were dressed and treated like a king and queen. The father of the groom selected the bride, but she had the right to refuse him. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The groom agreed to pay the father of the bride a price to compensate him for the loss of his daughter. Jacob gave up fourteen years of work in order to have Rachel as his wife (see Genesis 29:15-30). The father gave a dowry for his daughter; a gift of money, slaves or land. During the betrothal, the groom prepared a home for the bride and the bride kept herself busy. When it was time for the wedding day, the groom came to the bride’s house to escort her to his home.
There is much preparation today for weddings. The chapel, officiator, presider, music, dress, tuxedos, meal, wedding party, place for the honeymoon, etc. all have to be chosen with much thought. But before that preparation even begins to take place, there has to be a proposal. The groom to be chooses his bride, the one he wants to share the rest of his life with. She has a choice to join him or refuse his proposal.
God chose us before Creation. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). It is our choice to choose a relationship with Him or refuse His invitation to everlasting life. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). God has given us the proposal. He is asking us if we will join in an intimate relationship with Him.
The church will find fulfillment when Christ comes back for her, just like a bride anticipates her husband. “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). As a bride looks forward to her wedding day, are we really anticipating Christ’s return? Is our heart’s desire to be filled with Him, to be bathed in His love, to be overflowing with His living water, to be lavished by His kisses and embrace? “My lover is mine and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16).
Oh church, if we could just see how much He loves us. “The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses but men” (A. W. Tozer). Once we realize His love for us on a personal level, it will be easy to say yes. Yes, Lord, I accept Your proposal. Yes, Lord, I love you. Yes, Lord, I am Yours and You are mine.
The first response that we need to give is accepting Him as Lord and Saviour. When we do, we then become heirs of the kingdom of God. He accepts us as one of His own. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The basic purpose of marriage is found in the bond it creates and the context for mutual growth it provides (Revell p. 694). Out of this growth in our love for God, we will begin to reject our former things and put on Christlikeness. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
When we begin to change, we will seek more of Christ and He will give more of Himself to us. We will be transformed. This transformation can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit who resides in us. When we get to the point that we realize that we are nothing without Christ, and allow Him to have everything, the real journey continues as a man and wife.
The Hebrew word for husband was Baal meaning lord or master, possessor, owner, and obtainer. How interesting that this was the name given to the Canaanite deity that many began to worship. The word also implied ownership rather than relationship. What is our Baal? What replaces our time that should be spent with God? God wanted to be called “ishi” meaning “my husband, being revered and adored by his wife.” He wants an exclusive relationship with Him. Anything else is considered adultery.
The husband was required to have weekly sexual relations with his wife but could not force her. He was to supply her with food and money whenever he went on a journey. He could not move from one part of the country to another without his wife’s permission. He could not forbid his wife to visit her parents even if they lived far apart. Christ tells us that the primary responsibility of the husband is to love and cherish his wife. As the head of the marriage, the husband is to imitate Christ and accept responsibility for his wife’s nurture. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body’” (Ephesians 5:23).
The wife’s duties were to grind flour, bake, launder, cook, make the beds, spin wool, and nurse her children. She could also operate a home workshop, sell its products and keep the income. She was to prepare their children for school. She had the privilege to discipline the children. She also cared for guests. Christ wants wives to be submissive to their husbands. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
Christ gave us this example on how the marriage should work, to represent how the church should be as the bride. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:25-31).
Will we allow God to be our “ishi”? “Marriage is not a fence to hem you in; it’s a guardrail to protect what’s inside” (Zig Ziglar). God loves and cherishes us. He wants to protect us in His embrace. Our love and honor for Him will be evident in how we submit ourselves to Him. He is the head of the church. May we be presented as holy and virtuous to Him.