2)The Bride: Her Betrothal (Called)
Part Two of Four
Betrothal is an old fashioned idea not spoken about much these days. Biblically, however, betrothal between a man and a woman was considered a binding contract, or a covenant. In order to understand the Bride’s betrothal we need first to understand that God takes covenant seriously (Psalm 25:10). It will also help to understand a little about the ancient Jewish betrothal process because it is within that cultural context Christ chose to betrothe Himself a Bride.
Traditional Jewish betrothal and marriage took place in two stages. When a Jewish man had his heart set on marrying a young woman he would discuss his choice with his father. With his father’s approval he would then journey to the young woman’s home with three important items: a marriage contract, a suitable bridal gift and a skin of wine. The marriage contract or covenant was a joint effort between the groom and his father, and would lay out the groom’s promises to the bride and the conditions of their marriage. The gift would be his ‘bride price’ and was the best he could afford. This gift became the property of the young woman, regardless of whether or not she consented to the marriage. Initially, the man would seek the approval of the young woman’s father and/or brothers, but the young woman had the final say on whether or not she would consent to the marriage. (See Genesis 24:57,58). Finally, the wine was used for sealing the betrothal in a ceremony in which both drank from the same cup, the Cup of Blessing.
From the moment the potential bride and groom drank from the Cup of Blessing, their betrothal was sealed and under Jewish law they were considered legally married, although the marriage was not to be consummated until a future date. The young bride covered her face with a veil as a symbol that she had entered a betrothal covenant and was now unavailable to any other. She would also light an oil filled lamp which she kept burning in a strategic place, perhaps a window, so the bridegroom could see she was mindful of their covenant. The bridegroom would then return to his father’s home for a period of around one year to prepare for the arrival of his bride. This time-period was never less than nine months in order to test the sexual faithfulness of the bride, and to give her sufficient time to make herself ready for the second stage of the marriage. During this time he would be erecting a ‘chadar’ or bridal chamber. This would be overseen by his father and if he were asked how long before his wedding he would traditionally reply that only his father knew the day and hour. Significantly, before leaving his newly betrothed bride, the bridegroom would make the following statement to her:
In my father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
How does all this apply to the Bride of Christ? As Christ gathered with His followers at their last Passover meal together before His crucifixion, He ‘took the cup after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in My Blood which is shed for you.”’ (Luke 22:20) The cup that was always drunk after the Passover Meal was the Cup of Blessing used on only one other occasion in Jewish tradition: during the betrothal ceremony.
The gospel of Luke records the events: “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said “Take this and divide it among yourselves, for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise, He also took the cup after supper saying “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:14-20). Matthew adds “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying “Drink from it, all of you. (Matt. 26:27).
All drank from the same Cup of Blessing, with Christ promising He would not drink again of the fruit of the vine until He could drink it with them in the Kingdom. Later that evening, before His arrest and separation from them, John records Jesus’ words to those with Him: In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2, 3
The Bride’s betrothal took place at Christ’s final Passover meal in an ordinary Middle Eastern room in Jerusalem just prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. All over the Christian world this event is remembered in various forms through the sharing of bread and wine as we participate in the sacrament of communion.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). Again, there were only two occasions when the Cup of Blessing was used, during Passover and to seal the betrothal covenant.
When we understand that Jesus was in effect betrothing to Himself a Bride at that first celebration of communion, we also begin to understand the deep covenantal symbolism of the bread and the wine. The celebration of communion is a celebration of spiritual intimacy with our Bridegroom. Each time we partake of the communion meal we are re-affirming our bridal covenant and renewing our pledge of faithfulness to Him.
From the Bridegroom’s viewpoint:
**The marriage contract has been delivered (Word of God, John 17:14, Col. 3:16);
**The Bridegroom has bestowed His finest gift (the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38);
**The Cup has been drunk and the covenant sealed (2 Cor. 1:22; Ephesians 1:13,14; Heb. 13:20,21);
Many in the church call themselves the Bride of Christ without understanding the obligation of covenant that Brideship implies. Like a young immature girl showing off her engagement ring, choosing her bridal gown and dreaming of a wedding where she will be greatly admired, this betrothal-stage Bride is caught up with her newly found status, and as yet knows little about her Bridegroom. When she thinks on their relationship it is still in terms of her own needs and desires, rather than the Bridegroom’s. Sadly, many in the church choose to remain at this immature stage of betrothal.
God takes covenant seriously; so should we. Not very much longer after that intimate Passover meal, the church was born as the blood and water gushed from the side of Christ, the last Adam, just as the very first bride, Eve, had been brought forth from the side of the first Adam (1 Cor. 15:45; John 19:34).
Jesus “fervently desired” to partake of that first communion with His followers. How much more must He fervently desire to celebrate with His Bride at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?
To be continued…
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.