Embracing Grace: The New Covenant, Part 1

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 62

Scripture: Malachi 2:15-16; Proverbs 2:17; Matthew 19:7-8, Psalm 135:4; Psalm 105:42-43; Psalm 132:12-14; Matthew 3:3; Matthew 12:17-18; Luke 1:75-77; John 15:16,19; Mark 13:20; Genesis 2:24; Matthew 2:14; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31; John 17:22-23; John 14:23, 25-26; 1 Peter 1:8, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1-2; Matthew 13:45.

Photo courtesy Vera Kratochvil. Public Domain.

Easter marks the culmination of a period of time we call “Lent” for traditional Christianity in the west. It lasts forty days (not including Sundays) and is a time generally set aside for fasting, penance, and prayer. The Lenten season is not fixed but is based on the lunisolar calendar. The name in most European languages that we translate as “Easter” is their word for Passover, for the two are inexorably linked. In some western churches like mine, the shift toward renaming the holiday “Resurrection Sunday” was made in order to return the emphasis of the day back to its original intent, to the resurrection of Jesus.

If you did not grow up in a liturgical setting, however, you might wonder what all the fuss is about, and that is understandable. Wikipedia has a good summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Easter&oldid=424860356 and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_customs

An overview of the history of the church calendar is helpful, but you will quickly see it has little to do with the Judaic origins of Christianity. I’d like to set liturgy aside for the time being and introduce to Holy Week (the week prior to Resurrection Sunday) something we do not hear much about during this time, and that is how this week parallels the marriage rituals common during the time Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, and subsequently, the marriage of the church to Jesus. Because I found such rich symbolism in these ancient Jewish rituals and because Jesus used it to communicate what our relationship to God is and will be, I’d like to set aside a few days and share what I found in this analogy with you.

The subject of marriage brings up heartache for many today, and if you have been through divorce, I would like to encourage you to remember God’s love for you is and always will be unconditional. He likened Israel many times to an unfaithful wife and even instructed the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot, so that he would be a living example of God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful bride. Rather than closing your heart to this subject, consider allowing Truth in God’s Word to penetrate and bring healing.

In the darkest reaches of the heart, we all believe true love is worth pursuing, for God planted the seeds of this desire in us.

Marriage is revered in Judaism and, with the exception of ascetic groups like the Essenes, is considered to be so holy that in order to be a rabbi, you must be married. The home and family life is central to Jewish culture. In fact, it may not be off mark to say that all religious observances of the Hebrews revolve around one central theme, that of the covenant, specifically, marriage.

The ancient Jewish wedding ritual contained numerous components and could last a year or two before completion, but the only ones we typically think of are the betrothal and wedding ceremony. God the Father followed each of these steps as would the father of a Jewish bridegroom when choosing His bride, the church. This rich analogy has long been forgotten. It is a pearl of great price which has been hidden in plain view for over two millennia, because most of us do not come from a Jewish heritage. So let’s pull out the Word and dust off these gems.

The marriage contract was termed a “covenant before God” or “covenant of the Lord” because it was made before God and in His name. The Hebrew word berith is translated “covenant.” It is derived from the root word meaning “to cut” and refers to a covenant being a “cutting,” which is a reference to the division of a sacrificial animal into two parts, whereby the parties involved would then pass between the two parts, covenanting with each other in a binding oath, or promise.1

The marriage covenant was intended to last forever, not broken until the death of one party, and therefore was entered into with both great solemnity and rejoicing.

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one?  He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.2

She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God.3

The Pharisees tested Jesus on this issue on several occasions.

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.4

In ancient Israel, the father of the bridegroom chose the bride. We see this reflected in God’s own words, that He chose Israel.

Photo courtesy Michael Drummond. Public Domain.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.5 (Psalm 135:4)

For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant. He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness.6

“If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.” For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: “This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.7

In some cases, the father would send a highly trusted servant to search out a bride for his son, preparing the way for him. Abraham sent his servant to seek out a bride for Isaac. The Father of our bridegroom (Jesus) is God himself. He sent John the Baptist, who said “Prepare the way of the Lord,” quoting from Isaiah 40.8

God also sent His son to search out His bride, calling Him Servant, the King’s attendant, or minister.9

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.10

Jesus said “You did not choose Me, but I chose you,” and “I chose you out of the world.”11 Mark writes in his gospel, “but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose…”12 and Matthew wrote, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”13

Scripture says a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. (See Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31.) When Jesus prayed to the Father, He prayed for us to be ONE. This means more than simply the unity of the body of Christ. Sure, it has been interpreted this way, but I submit to you that unity in that regard is not what Jesus was praying about. Rather, it was the union of the bride to the bridegroom. Not only this, but that the New Covenant is more than salvation, it is a marriage covenant:

And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.14

When the groom married, he left his Father’s home for the new home he had built for his bride. Jesus said “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word [covenant]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”15

Any serious follower of Jesus will be familiar with most of these scriptures, but how many times do we think of them in terms of the ancient protocol for seeking a bride?

In Bible times, the father of the bridegroom, or his trusted servant, would speak to the chosen bride and her father about marriage. For us (the bride) today, we are those who never actually saw or spoke with Jesus (God the Father’s trusted Servant) on the earth, so who now speaks to us about being His Son’s bride?

The Holy Spirit.

Remember the trusted servant, the one the father of the bridegroom sends in his name? God sent a third servant…

These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.16

…the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. 17

We in the west today are familiar with a bride’s dowry, but in ancient times, it was the father of the groom who paid a purchase price to the father of the bride. The price reflected the wealth of the bridegroom’s father and the level of his son’s love for the bride, how greatly he cherished her.

Photo courtesy Petr Kratochvil. Public Domain.

Jacob served his father-in-law, Laban,  fourteen years for the bride he loved.

This may sound like steep payment for a bride, yet we honor the greatest price ever paid for a bride in the history of mankind when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

 

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.18

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.19

…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.20 (1 Peter 1:18-19)

If you look at this allegory through the eyes of the trusted servant seeking a bride for the Father’s son, you can even see it in the statement Jesus made regarding the kingdom of heaven:

Photo courtesy Mila Zinkova / CC Attr-Share Alike 3

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.21

You are that one pearl of great price. God values you higher than any other. Not only did He send His prophets to prepare the way, His Son to pay the bride price for you, the Holy Spirit to be with us in this world, but He did it so that you may become one in Him.

Read: Malachi 2:15-16; Proverbs 2:17; Matthew 19:7-8, Psalm 135:4; Psalm 105:42-43; Psalm 132:12-14; Matthew 3:3; Matthew 12:17-18; Luke 1:75-77; John 15:16,19; Mark 13:20; Genesis 2:24; Matthew 2:14; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31; John 17:22-23; John 14:23, 25-26; 1 Peter 1:8, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1-2; Matthew 13:45. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, it truly boggles my mind the depth of Your love for me. Open my eyes to see just how much You do love me, for I know in my heart the freedom Your Truth brings. You sent Your Son to pay the purchase price of a bride for me. For me. Help me to understand, truly, for Jesus’ sake, amen.

_____________________
1 covenant. Dictionary.com. Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/covenant (accessed: April 19, 2011).
2Malachi 2:15-16. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
Proverbs 2:17. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.tyndale.com
4 Matthew 19:7-8. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
5Psalm 135:4. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,  Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
6Psalm 105:42-43. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,  Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
7Psalm 132:12-14. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
8Matthew 3:3b. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
9Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for pais (Strong’s 3816)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 19 Apr 2011. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3816&t=NASB
10Matthew 12:17-18 (See also Luke 1:75-77) Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
11John 15:16, 19b. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
12Mark 13:20b. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
13Matthew 22:14. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
14John 17:22-23. Emphasis mine. (Also see Jeremiah 31:31; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6-7; Hebrews 8:7-8, 13; 9:15; 12:24.) Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
15John 14:23. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
16John 14:25-26. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
171 Peter 1:7-8. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
181 Corinthians 6:20. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
191 Corinthians 7:23. (See also 2 Peter 2:1-2.) Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
201 Peter 1:18-19. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
21Matthew 13:45. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,    Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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One Response to Embracing Grace: The New Covenant, Part 1

  1. Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.