Having experienced the tabernacle and the union with God found in the Holy of Holies, it seemed fitting to me to look at another type and shadow that accentuates the oneness which God desires to have with His people. I am often intrigued with the picture that has been painted for us of Jesus as our Bridegroom and His people as His Bride. Scripture is replete with examples, symbols, and metaphors concerning the sacrament of marriage to represent our relationship with Christ, and, therefore, it seems the Lord would have us to more fully understand its spiritual implications.
What does it mean to be called the “Bride of Christ?” Jesus, who referred to Himself as the Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15), lovingly and sacrificially gave His life for His Bride. It is with a desire to more intimately know God that we will study some of the customs of the Jewish wedding and strive to discover how they have a current application and spiritual relevance for our lives today.
In light of this analogy, my hope is that we will come away with a better understanding of how God sees us and what He expects of us. God’s desire for us is plainly stated when He says, “that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead.” (Romans 7:4)
It is God who instituted the covenant of marriage. Yet the earthly bonds between a man and a woman are only temporary, while the spiritual union of marriage to Jesus is for a lifetime that spans eternity. God is working in His bride that quality of faithfulness, to the degree that there should be no relationship or possession that takes the place of relationship with our heavenly husband.
It is important that the concept of the Bride is grasped with our spiritual understanding, however, and not our literal and physical senses. If taken with only our natural understanding, the term “bride” would leave out a large percentage of the body of Christ. The Lord applies the word “Bride” to all His people, both men and women, and it is seen no differently than the term “Sons of God” is used to refer to both genders.
In ancient Israel, a young man and a young woman’s engagement, or betrothal, was legally binding. The relationship was considered to be sealed by means of a contract from that point forward, except that they lived apart without physical union until the actual marriage ceremony. The betrothal period could last about a year or more.
The first aspect in the betrothal process is how the bride is chosen. It is the Bridegroom’s father who chooses the Bride, by way of sending his trusted servant and messenger. The bride may never have even laid eyes on her husband-to-be. We see this arrangement exemplified in Genesis 24 when Abraham sent his right-hand man, Eliezer, to fetch a bride for Isaac.
Abraham represents the Father who sends the servant of the Holy Spirit to acquire a bride for His Son, Jesus. I had never quite made the connection until I found that Eliezer’s name means “God of help.” The Hebrew word “ezer” is the same word used in Gen. 2:18. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a help (ezer) meet for him.” The Holy Spirit is called our Helper (John 14:16, 26), also rendered Comforter and Advocate, meaning one called to the side of another for help or counsel. It is the Holy Spirit as Helper who helps us to see our sinful nature and convicts us of our need for a Savior. (John 16:7-8)
We, the Bride, have not yet seen with our eyes our Heavenly Bridegroom. Jesus, “whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” 1 Peter 1:8. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
Consent of the Bride
It was important to Abraham that the servant obtained the woman’s consent. “And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath.” Genesis 24:8 Once the Holy Spirit had located Rebekah as the potential bride, she was asked by her family, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” Genesis 24:58 There was no coercion or obligation involved in her decision.
God created us to function with the gift of free will. Even though He has chosen us, relationship is incomplete unless we “choose to be chosen.” It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to choose His way and His will so that we belong to Him. Behind the person of the Holy Spirit is the heart of God that woos and draws us to respond with “I do” and “I will.”
To what exactly are we saying “I do” and “I will?” We will continue to explore the elements of the betrothal in our next study by looking into the nature of the bridal contract and its present significance for us, all for the purpose of understanding afresh the oneness that our Bridegroom desires for us to experience with Him.