I love it when I get just a glimpse of God's love for me! Even just a smidgen. I'm so excited about it, and I DO NOT want to forget any of the details; so, I'm writing it all right now while it's fresh in my mind. Even if it is 1:30 in the morn!!
So, I'm studying Revelation, chapter 19, preparing for tomorrow's Bible study lesson. If you don't know, chapter 19 is about the wedding supper of the Lamb. Beth Moore already had an awesome lesson on this with more than enough information for me to share with the ladies in my class, but I wanted more. I wanted to know, what exactly did a wedding supper look like in Jesus' days? When Jesus stated that he is the bridegroom and we are the bride, what thoughts did that conjure up in His Jewish listeners' brains? What kind of things do I have to look forward to? If there are details I'm missing by not knowing the Jewish traditions, then I want to know them!
Well, hang on to your hats, because this is goooooooood!
"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." (A little Sound of Music for ya.) Betrothal. This is when the young man basically draws up a contract (a ketubah) stating the particulars of his proposal, and most importantly, the price he is willing to pay for his bride. Ah! I get cold chills right there! The man was expected to pay a high price for his bride, and after the proposal was made, he had to wait to see if the father and bride would accept it. Can you imagine putting a price on your daughter??!!
"Um, no, I'm sorry, you can not pay me enough to have her. But thanks for asking."
Jesus agreed. No amount of money was enough to buy His bride. So, he just offered his life.
Often times, the ketubah was submitted by a friend of the young man, rather than the young man himself. One site I looked at during my "research" likened this friend to the Holy Spirit, who is sent by our Bridegroom to offer His proposal, which, in short, could look something like this...In reality, He has given us a whole book for a ketubah--the Scriptures--telling us all He has done for us, all He will do for us, and how He loves us. But for our story's sake, we'll sum it up like this:
"I promise to always provide for you; my father has cattle on a thousand hills and He says what is His is mine. I will share it ALL with you. I will be with you every second of every day; I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will give you comfort, strength, joy, peace, and you will live in the finest land, flowing with milk and honey. I promise to love you with an ever-lasting love; I will be faithful. Always. I will always tell you the truth; I can not lie; it is not in my nature. So, rest assured, you can trust me. I will always listen. I will always help you. And I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. I treasure you above everything. You--you are worth far more than rubies! No amount of money is enough to buy you. So, I will die for you."
"Yes! Yes, Daddy! Pleeeeeease say yes!" I can almost see the bride begging her father to accept this man's offer. What young lady wouldn't jump into the arms of a man like this?
(And yet, he stands at the door and knocks.)
The bridegroom, or his representative, pours a cup of wine and sets it before his bride. If the marriage proposal is accepted, she drinks.
Remind you of something?
"This cup is the new covenant between God and His people--an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you." (Luke 22:20) He has set the cup before us by way of the cross. Will we accept it?
When the bride drinks her acceptance, she is betrothed to the bridegroom; they are in a binding agreement that can only be undone by divorce on proper grounds, such as the bride being found to not be a virgin. (Remember Joseph and Mary? See Matthew 1:18-24.) If we accept Jesus' offer, it is extremely comforting to know that His contract, too, is unbreakable. He can not break His promises; it's not in His nature. We are sealed with His Holy Name. We are His, and He is ours.
When the bridegroom leaves his betrothed, he tells her, "I am going to prepare a place for you and I will return for you when it's ready." Jesus used the same words when he was speaking to his disciples. (See John 14:2-3.) He will come back for us. Period.
So, the bridegroom goes to his father's house to build basically a honeymoon suite. It has to be basic (it will only be used for 7 days) but exquisite and beautiful (to show his love for her). The bridegroom has to get his father's approval of the room before he can go back to get his bride. One site said the room usually took about a year to complete. And if the bridegroom was asked when the wedding was to take place, he would have to reply, "Only my father knows." Sounds familiar, huh? "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36)
While the bridegroom is building a room for his bride, the bride is preparing herself. (Aren't we doing the same, as he changes us into His likeness? He will come back for a bride who is spotless and blameless. See 2 Peter 3:14.) And, most importantly, she is ever-ready. She doesn't know when her man will return; he could come at any time, day or night. "Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42) So, she keeps a lamp, a veil, and other necessities by her bed, just like the virgins in Jesus' parable. (See Matthew 25.) Her bridesmaids are also waiting with oil in their lamps. (The friends in Song of Songs seem to fit the scene now that I know this!)
When the bridegroom gets close, he or one of his friends gives a shout so the bride knows to be ready. And a shofar is sounded. If you aren't sure what a shofar is, it is a ram's horn, used like a trumpet. I have had the privilege of hearing one and it has a very distinct sound. The sound would have been unmistakable for a bride who was eagerly awaiting her groom! Just as Jesus says His coming will be unmistakable for those of us who await Him. "And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect..." (Matthew 24:31)
The bridegroom will give his bride her wedding garments (just as ours gives us "fine linen, clean and bright" Revelation 19:8) and take her back to his father's house. The guests will follow. Once there, the guests will enter the father's house, while the couple enters the room prepared by the groom for a 7 day honeymoon. (Some believe this equates to a 7 year period with Christ in heaven during the 7 year tribulation on earth, before Christ returns to earth for His final victory battle and millennial reign.) The groom's best friend will stand outside, waiting for the groom to tell him that the marriage has been consummated. ("Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12) And the bed sheet would be given to the bride's parents; the blood stained sheet would be kept to prove that their daughter had been a virgin. Thankfully, it is Christ's blood that covers us; we do not have to shed blood to be acceptable to Him.
After the 7 day honeymoon, the couple would come out and the wedding supper would begin. The Jewish feast would have been primarily focused on entertaining the couple. There would have been dancing and great celebrating. I love this quote from David Guzik:
In Jewish culture, the marriage supper was the best banquet or party anyone knew; it always was an occasion of tremendous joy. According to Rabbinical teaching, obedience to the commandments was suspended during a wedding celebration if obeying a commandment might lessen the joy of the occasion.
First of all, can you imagine the entertainment that awaits us in heaven? The music, the sights, the angels singing! Then, to top it all off, I think we will all get to experience a little freedom there that we have denied ourselves here. Obedience to self-imposed commandments will be thrown off as we come face to face with the One that proclaims, "It is for freedom that I have set you free!" (Galatians 5:1) As we all partake of the fruit of the vine and join in "some raucous praise," as Beth says, we will finally know what it means to "rejoice and be glad!" (Rev 19:7) Hands high in the air, reaching up to the One who loves us, the One Who Is Love, we will be so excited that I dare say WE WILL NOT STAND STILL!
Go ahead! I know you want to. Rejoice and be glad now. =)