"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Messiah and the Jewish Wedding, Part 2
Waiting for the Bridegroom
In our last newsletter, we looked at the ancient Hebrew marriage customs and how they relate to us as the Bride of Yeshua. We ended with the Bride and Groom betrothed and each going back to their parents to live till all was ready for the marriage ceremony. The time period of the betrothal is represented in the Spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. This time of separation is where we are today as we wait for the return of our Bridegroom. We are going to take a closer look at this time that we are in, waiting for our Bridegroom's return.
So while the bride waits for the coming of her groom, she takes this time to prepare for him. In the story of Esther, we see that she prepared one year before she met the king. Esther had to learn how to be a queen and she had to look like a queen. Esther 2:12-13 tells us, "The end of the twelve months under the regulations for the women for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women - the young lady would go in to the king in this way." So how do we prepare for our coming King and Groom?
It's Time for a Bath
Paul tells us that whoever has this hope will purify himself. It is the custom that a bride, before her wedding, will go into the Mikvah. A mikvah was a body of water designed like a pool, though it could even be a body of water such as a lake or river; either way it had to be natural, flowing water. The purpose of the mikvah was to purify oneself from ritual impurity. Since ritual impurity is used as a metaphor for sin, it's natural then for the mikvah to be symbolic of repentance, even rebirth, leaving behind the old man and putting on the new man. This is where we get the concept of baptism from, one being submerged in water to show that they have repented and now will follow Yeshua. In Exodus 19, "Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, 'Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.'" The people had to be cleansed, and so God gave them three days, a reference to the time between the betrothal and the marriage, the first coming and the second coming of Messiah, and even the time between the Spring and Fall Feasts. Titus writes, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." John tells us, "If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin."
Have you been washed in the blood? To prepare for the second coming of Yeshua, we must start by repenting of our adulterous ways. We must turn our lives around and no longer be unfaithful to our husband. For the Bible tells us that we can only serve and obey one husband; we cannot be married to Him and serve the world. Paul tells us to lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us. The church today does not think that it needs to repent. We are taught that when we accept Yeshua as Lord and Savior that we have sealed the deal. But as we saw with Mary and Joseph and throughout the Jewish wedding customs, when one is unfaithful, the marriage can be annulled before the final ceremony. Yeshua is a loving husband and He has made the way for us to repent, to turn our lives around and come back to our faithful standing with Him. This is called righteousness, and that righteousness is provided by His grace because of His great mercy and His love for us. Peter tells us, "According to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Yeshua the Messiah and be sprinkled with His blood." Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, "Husbands love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the assembly of believers and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the assembly in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless." The Christian life is all about looking and acting like Yeshua, not the world. God has given us His Word and we must live by that Word and let the Holy Spirit wash us in that Word by the renewing of our minds and hearts.
Well, we have washed; now it's time to get dressed.
Time to Iron Out the Wrinkles
Every Bride wants to look her best. She will shop until she finds that perfect dress. Well, this wedding is no different. We must look our best also. We read in Revelations 19:7-8, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." So how do we get the wrinkles out? Paul tells us to love and not pay back evil for evil, to be generous in giving, and contributing to the needs of the saints; we are to bless and not curse and to be of the same mind. To the Colossians he says, "Be devoted to prayer, praying continually with thanksgiving," and that we are to put on the new man and take off the old. Why? Because we are now married and washed, so we must have a pure heart, one that consists of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving one another because love is the bond of peace and unity. Our speech must be seasoned with grace, as it were with salt, conducting ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders. We do this all by the gifts and talents that our Husband has given us and so in our doing good, we reflect who we are in Him and the world knows who we belong to by what we reflect. Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we are to present our bodies as holy living sacrifices acceptable to God. He tells us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Peter tells us also that we are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. He says that we are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The garments of the bride are reflected in the garments of the priesthood. The bride adorns herself for her husband, and so too the garments of the priesthood are garments of glory and holiness. We can not serve at the altar of the Lord without these garments. Yeshua tells a parable about a king who comes into the gathering and looks at his guests and he sees a man without wedding garments and he says to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without wedding garments?" and the man was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:11-14). The bride has been chosen and it is her responsibility to make herself ready, for she knows not when her groom will call for her.
So that day finally comes. All things have been made ready and the father now tells his son to go and fetch his bride like a thief in the night.
The Bridegroom Comes for His Bride
It's time now for the celebration. The final wedding day, the day that all have been waiting anxiously for, the reuniting of the Bride and Groom. This time is represented by the Fall Feasts. Yeshua tells His listeners, "Be dressed in readiness and keep your lamps alight." The groom is first escorted to the chuppah, or canopy, and is crowned like a king. Then he goes to get his bride. The parable of the Ten Virgins gives a good account of what takes place when the bridegroom comes for his bride. It was usually at midnight when the groom came. The procession began with the shout. One would go before the bridegroom and shout, "Blessed is he who comes!" This is what Yeshua meant when He said, "For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" Then, the shofar (trumpet) is blown (l Thessalonians 4: 16-17). The shout will be like a military command and the trumpet will sound to give the orders to arise and those from the dead will arise from the grave, and those who are alive will rise together with them and meet Yeshua our Bridegroom under the canopy. In the parable, the shout is given that the bridegroom is coming and all the virgins were awakened and trimmed their lamps. The trimming of their lamps gave light for the groom to see his way to the brides' home, and he takes his bride and returns to his home with her. He would carry his bride through the door over the threshold into their new house. Yeshua said that He was the door, and all must go through Him. John on Patmos went through the door (Revelation 4:1): "After these things I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking to me, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.'"
But just as this door is opened to the righteous, it will be shut to those who did not prepare themselves, those who did not ready their wedding garments and make them white, removing all spots and wrinkles, and as we see in the parable, did not have enough oil in their lamps. To this I quote Yeshua: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near." In other words, as we see Yeshua tells the churches in Revelations several things which need to be done before His coming. He tells the Church in Ephesus, "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have fallen . . . repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lamp stand out of its place unless you repent." To the Church in Sardis He says, "Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you . . . He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before My angels." The Church of Philadelphia: "I know your deeds. Behold I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My Word, and have not denied My name." To the Church in Laodicea: "Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have no need of anything,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and I will dine with him and he with Me."
And so this takes us to the marriage supper with the bride and the groom.
The Marriage Supper
The bride and the groom spend seven days in the wedding chamber; afterwards there is a great feast, a marriage supper to celebrate the happy occasion. The Bride of Yeshua will spend those seven days in the Bridal Chamber with Yeshua during those dreadful days known as the Great Tribulation and after those days we will celebrate at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the Marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready . . . And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And He said to me, 'Write, blessed are those who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb,' and He said to me, 'These are true words of God.'"
When the Fall Feasts come, should we not celebrate them? Does it not behoove us to recall these things year after year to prepare us and make us ready for that day when Yeshua will come like a thief in the night without warning, when the trumpet will blow, and the shout will be heard that the bridegroom is coming? How happy we will be that we have enough oil in our lamps when we trim our wicks to welcome Him, for truly blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! May we be ready for Yeshua as the Bride who has readied herself for her Husband. "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come,' and let the one who hears say, 'Come,' and let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost . . . Come Lord Yeshua come!"