|Sons To Glory Newsletter #5||
Tabernacles - October 10, 2009
God's Betrothal & Marriage Covenant with His Bride
by Paul Jablonowski
Happy final day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth)! Jesus celebrated this feast where the Scriptures record, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7: 2,37). Tabernacles was the most joyous of all the feasts and lasted eight days. I have been blessed enough to take off from work this entire week and have been writing this newsletter and studying the subject of covenant as my family and I have been traveling on vacation all week.
This matter of COVENANT is very important to God, because covenant is how God operates with His people. Whenever Yahweh God decides to move to restore a right relationship with mankind which we lost through sin, He does it by covenant. Covenant is much more than just a contract or legal document, because it is relationship based. Rather than a legalistic set of rules and regulations, true God ordained covenant is an organic growing process of interaction between God and mankind. It is based on real life situations and concrete relationship oriented commitments. The Hebrew word for "covenant" is "Brit" and means, "to eat together, to share food, to prepare a banquet," and is further defined as "an ongoing relationship with no appointed end." (1)
The western culture and mindset does not understand this Hebraic definition of covenant. But we must start thinking along these lines of covenant if we truly desire to be a part of the Bride of Christ that God is raising up in our generation. Because the Bride of Christ is an organic relational body of people in the earth and not some religious organization. This ancient Hebrew mindset will also help us to understand the Bible much better. The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) are literally the marriage contract between God and His prospective bride! The Hebrew word for "marriage contract" is Ketubah, and the ancient Hebrew ketubah had five parts which coincide exactly with the Torah:
But in the full definition of covenant, this ketubah marriage contract was only one small part of God's betrothal and marriage covenant with His bride. There were four other covenants that relate to Yahweh's more relationship oriented aspect to His Bride which are found clearly in the ancient Hebrew wedding and in the ancient Hebrew betrothal dinner. Since Hebrew covenants are eternal and progressive building upon each other, the first three covenants were included in the betrothal dinner ceremony. The chart below shows these three covenants along with the final fourth marriage covenant which can only occur after the first three:
As this chart shows, there were four cups of wine taken during the betrothal & wedding ceremony. Each cup represented one of the four main Hebrew covenants of servanthood, friendship, sonship and marriage. These covenants were witnessed and experienced by the Hebrew patriarchs in the same order. Adam and Noah made covenant with Yahweh which resulted in servanthood. Abraham and Moses were considered "friends" of God with the friendship covenants they witnessed. King David was in a covenant of sonship with God to inherit a throne. And Jesus drank the third Cup of Redemption during His Passover meal with his disciples to also inherit something - A BRIDE!
But Jesus did not drink the fourth cup of Praise during His last Passover meal, because He said He would not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God fully comes. This was a common Hebrew tradition after the betrothal dinner for the groom not to drink wine until the day of his wedding. The exciting part is that we now live in the generation that will see this final covenant of Marriage fulfilled! Jesus will drink this final fourth cup during the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! In the ancient Hebrew wedding, this final cup of Praise was shared only between the bride and bridegroom on the wedding day. Then the cup was crushed underneath their feet to signify that no one else could share this cup except the bride and bridegroom alone.
The first two betrothal cups were shared with other family members during the betrothal dinner, but the fourth cup was shared between bride and groom alone on their wedding day to signify this ultimate covenant of intimacy. This fourth covenant can be compared to what the Bible refers to as the Covenant of Peace which was foreshadowed by Phinehas who was given Yahweh's everlasting covenant of peace. This covenant of peace has yet to be fulfilled! But it will be fulfilled when Jesus consummates covenant with His Bride just like He made covenant with the Hebrew patriarchs.
So we have an incredible opportunity to participate in the outworking of God's final covenant with mankind! This final Marriage Covenant will fully restore our inheritance which we lost through sin. This Covenant of Peace or Covenant of Marriage only builds upon the other covenants that God has made with His people. Therefore, it is only wisdom to take a brief look at these earlier covenants. Then we can look at the betrothal and wedding ceremonies and see how they reflect these same four basic relationship oriented covenants.
Notice how these covenants were revealed in chronological order through people whom God had chosen. (2) This is because these covenants are progressive, meaning they each build upon one another. Each patriarch shown above was living out through covenant an aspect of the Christ-like character that we all can walk in. Our lives in Christ will reflect the same progression. Therefore, a newborn Christian does not automatically become the bride of Christ. There is a maturity process that we each must live out to grow in the greater covenants with Yahweh. There is some content overlap in these covenants, and even some continuations such as Isaac and Jacob who confirmed the covenant that Yahweh made with their father Abraham. But all of these covenants find their purpose and fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The shed blood of Jesus validates all of the covenants which God the Father initiated with mankind to restore our relationship back to Him.
One very important truth regarding the coming Kingdom, is that there are levels of authority and levels of reward based on our obedience to the light we have walked in during our life. God does not make covenant with just anyone. While the invitation is to ALL mankind, not everyone cooperates with the covenant precepts of Yahweh. It is God's desire that all of His people would be a part of His Bride body with whom He will consummate the final Marriage Covenant. But God creates these covenant principles and not us. We can obey and walk in them, but we cannot change them. Since they involve issues of the heart, we cannot judge who is a participant and who is not. God alone chooses, but we can bear witness of the fruit in the lives of those who have obeyed and taken up their cross to wholeheartedly follow Jesus. To whom much is given, much will be required. And God is the perfect judge of His people. But as individuals, how close we are to God is up to us and not God.
The first level of covenant is Servanthood. After we have accepted and confessed Christ Jesus as our savior, we are offered this opportunity to become a servant of God. Servanthood is the foundation for the other three covenants. Friendship is the next level of walking with God. Then the third major level of covenant relationship with God is that of Sonship or inheritance. And the final major level of walking with God is the covenant of Marriage in becoming His bride who will rule and reign the earth with Him in an everlasting Covenant of Peace. The truth is that not many people are willing to pay the price in order to walk in this higher covenant with God because "many are called but few are chosen." In other words, everyone is invited to the wedding, but just like in the wedding parable of Jesus, only few attend the wedding, much less pay the price to actually become a part of the Bride body in the wedding party.
The purpose of this newsletter is to stir up the believer in Jesus to seek Him with all of your heart so that you can be on that narrow path of becoming a part of the Bride body of Christ. As the Scripture says, those who will become a part of the Bride will not have any wrinkle or stain or any such thing: "Christ so 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." (Ephesians 5:25-27). Are you willing to give up any sin, or hindrances or earthly honor or pleasure to obey Christ and become part of His bride body? One thing is for certain, there WILL be a bride body. The only question is: who will be a part?
Now that we have established that the main point of making covenant with God is about relationship and not ritual, let's take a look at the actual betrothal ceremony and wedding customs in the ancient Hebrew tradition. This will help establish and confirm what has already been said regarding the importance of covenant in the eyes of God.
A Hebrew Betrothal Supper was the culmination of often years of already established relationship, haggling and planning between both the families of the bride and groom. The bride had the final say in whether or not she desired to marry the groom and this was played out in the first step of the betrothal ceremony. The groom and His father would come to the bride's house on that special prearranged night and knock on the door of their home. The father of the bride would inquire who was there and then ask the bride if he should let them in. When she said, "Yes," the open door for the process of covenant had begun. This can be compared to our acceptance of Christ when He knocks on the door of our hearts. Revelation 3:10 reflects this beginning of the Hebrew betrothal process when Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."
After entering the bride's house, the families sat down for a dinner meal and almost immediately the first of the four cups of wine were shared together. Wine is considered the blood of the grape and appropriately symbolizes this first Blood Covenant similar to our modern day communion cup. This Cup of Sanctification involves setting ourselves apart for service unto God, and likewise all the members of the families participated in drinking this cup to symbolize their commitment to serve one another as one big family. Hence the family support for the young married couple was strong and sustaining because they were vowing to help them have a successful married life together. The very word "Betrothal" means to "Be Truthful" and a coming into the place of transparency with one another. This first cup was the first step in being truthful and trustworthy. In our lives, if we prove ourselves faithful, then we will get the opportunity to move on to the next covenant. (3)
The second Cup of Dedication was shared only after usually long and often heated discussion over the marriage contract or ketubah. This cup was also called the Cup of Betrothal and was shared only between the bride and groom and their two fathers. This was the most difficult part of the betrothal ceremony and if issues of disagreement or irreconcilable differences were going to stop the wedding, then this is the point when it usually happened. This second cup represented the Salt Covenant of both hospitality and friendship. Breaking bread and having a meal together in itself is a symbol of being in covenant with one another, but the salt covenant took it one step further. Each person mixed their own bag of salt into a common dish and dipped their bread together into this dish as they ate their meal. At the end of the meal they would each take some salt back into their bag. Their grains of salt were forever mixed in each others pouches symbolizing this eternal covenant of friendship.
The third cup, the Cup of Redemption, was shared only between the bride and groom at the end of the betrothal meal. This is exactly what Jesus did at His last Passover meal with His disciples and because of their culture, they knew He was acting out a Betrothal dinner ceremony with them. Jesus enacted out all three of the Betrothal Covenants during this meal when He also dipped bread with them in a Salt Covenant and washed the disciples feet symbolizing the third Sandal Covenant. By washing their feet, He was saying, "I give you an inheritance in my coming kingdom." This third cup of wine sealed the marriage agreement between the bride and groom and the Betrothal dinner was pretty much finished at this point. Before drinking this last cup of wine, the scribe had already finished writing the ketubah marriage contract. Once the marriage contract was signed, there was great celebration throughout the community for this engaged couple! They were legally married at this point.
The final thing that they were now awaiting before the wedding could begin was for the groom to finish building a house for them to live (John 14:2-3). And only the father of the groom could determine (from the wedding contract) when the house was ready. This would usually take about a year or two, but once the Father said the house was finished, the groom went late in the evening to get His bride who was to be ready and waiting with a lamp in her window at all times. All night long, the wedding party of bridesmaids and groomsmen would celebrate with the bride and groom. Then the bride would leave with her bridesmaids to undergo four different mikvah's or baptisms before dawn which correlated exactly with these four covenants and the four betrothal cups!
Then the next day, the community wide wedding celebration would begin with many guests and relatives invited for seven days. The bride and groom declared their marriage vows under a canopy with four poles called a chuppah (kupah). They performed the ceremony themselves saying seven blessings over each other. The final fourth Cup of Praise (Cup of Blessing, Marriage Cup, or Cup of the Covenant) was then shared between bride and groom reminding them of the Blood Covenant. Challah (kallah) bread was also eaten and dipped in salt to remember the Salt Covenant. Finally the groom would give His bride new sandals and wash her feet to remember the Sandal Covenant (sandals were used in ancient days to mark the boundaries of land inheritance). The final symbolic event of the wedding ceremony was the exchanging of rings which symbolized the eternal union of this Marriage Covenant that they had now completed. The only thing left was to consummate the marriage in physical unity. This was done in a secluded place prepared beforehand while the community continued the celebration.
The only problem with this brideship analogy is that we ALL have been unfaithful to our heavenly bridegroom at some point, and the law requires perfection. But thanks be to God, there is also a way provided in the Hebrew ketubah where a kinsman redeemer can redeem his bride! The book of Ruth is just one example from the Scriptures of how Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, redeemed Ruth who desired to be a bride. The book of Hosea also tells a love story of a Hebrew man redeeming his unfaithful wife which is prophetic of Jesus redeeming His bride: "I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD." (Hosea 2:19-20)
The exciting part, is that we now live in the day and age when this unfaithful wife will turn from her unfaithfulness and become a cleansed bride to Jesus for all of eternity because Jesus has redeemed us according to the Hebrew law for an unfaithful wife! Jesus paid the price of death for an unfaithful wife, so that we can stand as a pure virgin before God the Father. Jesus has been longing to come back for His bride. He is awaiting that perfect time when the Father says, "The house is ready, go and get your bride!"
"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)
Come Lord Jesus, prepare and then get your bride!
(1) These definitions of "covenant," among other historical facts in this newsletter, were taken from the book "Lost in Translation Series Volume 1 - Rediscovering the Hebrew Roots of our Faith," by John Klein & Adam Spears with Michael Christopher; pgs 35-36. Also, Chapters 2 and 3 in this book contain more excellent detail on this subject of covenant and the Hebrew betrothal process. For more information visit - www.lostintranslation.org
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