In the middle bronze age, around about 1800 BC, the Hebrews emerged from a culture where the gods were controllers; they were too transcendent, too beyond humans to care. Gods played games with people and were capricious, unpredictable, and often malicious.
Then, Abraham had an experience of a God he called the LORD. This God had one, sole purpose – to bless him, and his descendants; to have a relationship with him based on kindness and love. It’s no surprise that, according to the book of Revelation, the final act in that relationship will be a wedding between His Son, Jesus, and His people……
The Epistle Reading – Revelation 19.7-9. Our Marriage to Jesus
“7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; 8 to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”
The Promises of Bridegroom – the Ketubah
In this picture, the Rabbi at this Jewish wedding is reading out the Ketubah or marriage covenant. In it, the Bridegroom promises to honour his wife, to feed and support her and to look after all her necessities of life.
This is a holy covenant (and legally binding too) made by the man and responded to by the woman. This is only an echo of the LORD’s covenant – His promise and plan to bless Abraham, and Jesus’ promises to prepare a place, and be with us forever.
The Bride Circles the Bridegroom
This beautiful service can take place at night, outside in the open and by candlelight. The Groom arrives first, then the Bride is brought under the canopy by her mother, who leads her in seven circles around the Groom. The number seven always represents fullness, perfection and completion. And so the Bride and Groom will complete each other, living in mutual love and support. Augustine points out that our sense of restlessness and detachment ends when we find our perfect fulfilment in the Lord. In Philippians 1, Paul tells us that their completion will come in the Day of the Lord.
The Joining together of Bride and Groom
What is the destination of our relationship with the Lord? After the service, and before anything else, the couple are given time to be together alone. Jews call this Yichud – it’s the Hebrew word for “one,” so this is the moment when they first become conscious of their unity and oneness. This reminds me of Jesus’ words: “Rest in Me and I in you…” – that spiritual experience of the utter nearness of the Lord; our resting and our security within Him.
The Covenant Sign – the Ring
This is a Jewish wedding ring. It is inscribed in Hebrew with the words: Ani le dodi ve dodi le ee. They are words taken from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament – “I am my beloved’s, and he is mine.”
In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul writes:
“The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”
Paul says the indwelling presence of the Spirit assures us of Jesus’ promise to return for us. Strange, but true – the word guarantee is the ancient Greek word arrabon. In modern Greek, arrabon means an engagement ring! As if the Holy Ghost is inside us to reassure that we will be the Bride at the great wedding feast at the end of time.
“Knowing You Jesus – There is no Greater Thing”
The beginning of the whole ceremony is called the “Bedecken” – not a Hebrew word but a Yiddish word, which means “the uncovering,” where the Groom lifts the Bride’s veil to see her. This is a symbol of the man and woman knowing and understanding each other.
We only need to read of the woman who came to Jesus to wash his feet with her tears (Luke 7.38) to sense that Jesus knew everything about her; He understood everything about her; and loved her. This is His bedecken – the uncovering of a life. There is a bedecken for both me and you, too. He knows and understands what’s going on inside us …… and loves us.
Paul writes these words about our perception of life:
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
(1 Corinthians 13.12)
At the marriage supper, our understanding will also change. All that was strange, and disturbing and tragic in our thoughts and experiences will be resolved. Above all, we will know Jesus in all His fullness.
What will this be like? In this hymn to Jesus, Charles Wesley distils his thoughts about heaven:
“The heavenly manna faith imparts, faith makes Thy fulness all our own. We feed upon Thee in our hearts, and find that heaven and Thou art one.”
The Seventh Blessing at a Jewish Wedding
Blessed are You, O LORD our God, King of the universe, who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, song, delight and rejoicing, love and harmony and peace and companionship.
Mar anatha! Come soon Lord! Amen.