Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, September 11, 2022
Why Is a Believer Called the “Bride of Messiah?” (Part 1 of 2)
by Dr. Raymond Finney
KEY SCRIPTURE (Revelation 19:6-9): Then I [John] heard something like the voice of a great multitude– like the roar of rushing waters or like the rumbling of powerful thunder– saying, “Halleluyah! For Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot [translated: ‘Lord God of Hosts’] reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him! For the wedding of the Lamb [Lamb = Yeshua] has come, and His bride [Believers in Paradise, or saints] has made herself ready. She was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the kedoshim [translated: ‘holy ones, saints’].” Then the angel tells me, “Write: How fortunate are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!” He also tells me, “These are the true words of God.”
INTRODUCTION: In last Sunday’s RR, I noted that Believers are called the “bride of Messiah” (that is, the bride of the Bridegroom Yeshua). I have always considered myself as husband to Linda, and it takes some mental re-adjustment to think of myself as a bride. (In today’s “woke” culture, of course, I can apparently call myself anything I choose.)
To understand this bride-Bridegroom relationship, we need to review the first-century Jewish wedding. Marriage is a sacred institution of God. Marriage was a model for Yeshua’s ministry. God the Father, Yeshua, and the ancient Jews all held marriage in much greater esteem than we do today.
SIDELIGHT (LENGTHY): Thinking of marriage, recall the Marriage at Cana (John 2:1-11). Here, Yeshua performed His first miracle. It had to be His first miracle because it set the tone for His entire ministry. The miracle announced: “As Son of God, I am supernatural and I have come to perform supernatural acts. Blood must be shed for the remission of sin, and I will shed My blood for your sins.”
Recall John’s writing about these important features of the Cana wedding feast:
● Yeshua and His mother, Miriam (Mary), attended a wedding in Cana in Galilee.
● A first-century Jewish wedding feast (banquet) lasted for days. Much food, the symbol of provision in the new marriage, would be eaten; much wine, the symbol of joy in the new marriage, would be drunk. It was most likely the happiest time in the lives of the new bridegroom and bride. It was an important event for their families. Forming a new family to carry on the lineage, beliefs, and teachings of ancestors was the dream of any family. First-century Jews regarded marriage and family much more highly than we do today.
● John recorded a most embarrassing problem for this bridegroom’s family– all of the wine had been consumed. In the first century, relatives could not hop in the family automobile and drive to the nearest liquor store or grocery store. The families, bride, and bridegroom would be humiliated and embarrassed by this hospitality breach on the day meant to be a most joyous, memorable day.
● In desperation, the family told Miriam of their problem. Miriam showed she was not a co-equal (co-redemptrix) with Yeshua, as some teach or imply. (I have tried to determine whether the Roman Catholic Church teaches Mary is or is not co-equal with Yeshua. I cannot find a straight answer. The official answer seems to be: “No, she is not co-equal, BUT….”) Realizing she was powerless to help, Miriam told the family, “Go tell [Yeshua].”
● John carefully informed us there were present six water jars of the type used for Jewish purification rituals (that is, purification rituals established in Tanakh writings). In Jewish numerology, six was the number for humankind. Does this numerology suggest that the water purification rituals had been co-opted by man, but Yeshua was sent to introduce God’s new plan?
● Yeshua told the servants to serve the “water” in the stone jars. To everyone’s amazement, the water had been transformed into wine of the best quality.
● Yeshua did not perform a “parlor trick” by changing water to wine. By this miracle, Yeshua announced (even if not then fully understood by others) that He was the blood sacrifice intended for the remission of the sins of humankind and that older acts for sin forgiveness (water immersion, water bathing) would be replaced by newer acts for sin forgiveness (Yeshua’s shedding His blood on Golgotha’s cross, commemorated in subsequent generations by drinking Communion wine). Whether a sacrifice was acceptable or unacceptable to Adonai began with the sacrifices of Cain and Abel (Genesis, chapter 4), where only an animal sacrifice (with shedding of blood) was accepted by Adonai. For centuries, the Jews sacrificed animals to God (Passover, etc.). We are told of God’s desire for blood sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22): And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Yeshua is called our “Passover Lamb.” He, the Passover Lamb, was the acceptable blood sacrifice to be sacrificed once on Golgotha’s cross, rather than many Passover lambs sacrificed yearly in the Temple. Can you imagine PETA’s response if Rabbi Weiner sacrificed and burned dozens of lambs in Shomair’s parking lot? END sidelight.
Yeshua explained that the old teachings were not adequate for the new teachings (several passages, including Mark 2:21-22): [Yeshua said] “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise the patch pulls away from the old, and a worse tear happens. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins; and the wine is lost, also the skins. But one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” In the RRs today and next Sunday, I will discuss the “new wine” of Yeshua being stored not in the “old wineskin” of ancient teachings (covenants) but in the “new wineskin” of God’s new and final plan for humankind (the New Covenant). Read the New Covenant in Hebrews 8:8-12.
In this series, I recycle a Sunday School lesson I taught many years ago. I cannot remember if I have written a previous RR on this subject. I keep no records of the RRs I write. If I have written on this subject before and you actually remember it, please excuse me and do something else with your time. For the remaining readers, you may find something of interest. I should promise to keep records to avoid future duplications, but I am not that organized.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND: Put this RR series in relevance by understanding:
● God so loves His children that He foretold the future through the Holy Bible. An old adage applies to today’s RR: “The Tanakh is the mystery of the Messiah concealed; the B’rit Chadashah is the mystery of the Messiah revealed.”
● God wove into the Jews’ ancient wedding ceremony a prophecy of Yeshua HaMashiach. By studying this first-century ceremony, we can gain two important insights: (1) God’s message to us extends from ancient times to the present and into the future. God caused the Jews to adopt marriage customs which prophesied precisely and in great detail Yeshua’s ministry. The Jewish wedding was a foreshadow of the coming Messiah– a rehearsal for His life. (2) There is controversy among Bible students when Yeshua will return to call His Believers/ Followers home (especially, whether before, during, or after the Tribulation). It seems to me the marriage ceremony favors a pre-Tribulation Resurrection/ Rapture, but Bible students have different views. Most views have some Scriptural backing– except for amillennialism (no hope, rejection of the last parts of The Revelation) or preterism (historically absurd, omission of major portions of promises of the B’rit Chadashah). You decide for yourself. The timing of Yeshua’s wedding is not important. Whether you are invited to His wedding is most important!
MARRIAGE– GOD’S MODEL FOR HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HUMANKIND: God chose the most intimate of human relationships– marriage, the union of a man (husband) and woman (wife) into “one flesh” – as the model of His relationship with humankind (Genesis 2:24, confirmed by Yeshua in Matthew 19:5): This is why a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife; and they become one flesh.
When the Bible speaks of “marriage” to God or Yeshua or that people become the “wife” or “bride” of God or Yeshua, such language is spiritual (symbolic), not physical (sexual). In Scriptures, Israel is called the “wife of God;” when she sins against Him, she commits “spiritual adultery.” Believers joined in the Body of the Messiah are called the “Bride of Yeshua,” and Yeshua is called the “Bridegroom.”
By studying the fourteen steps in a first-century Jewish wedding and correlating these steps with Scriptures, we can better understand our relationship with Yeshua. I lack space to print the text of most cited Scriptures. Please read them in your own Bible. The Scriptures build a pathway from our present life to eternal life, based on the model of Bridegroom Yeshua joined with us in marriage.
Step 1. SELECTION OF A BRIDE:
● First century: When a young Jewish man sought a wife, he traveled from his village (actually, his father’s village) to another village to search the public streets and marketplace for a maiden to whom he was attracted. The Jews had enough common sense to know marriage within one’s own village (especially small villages) increased the possibility of genetic defects due to close relatives marrying. Actually, the Torah established certain marriages as forbidden for a man, including: marriage between close blood relatives, ex-wives of certain blood relatives, a woman not validly divorced from her previous husband, the daughter or granddaughter of his ex-wife, or the sister of his ex-wife during the ex-wife’s lifetime. Children born out of these forbidden marriages were mamzerim (“bastards”), but children born out of wedlock bore no stigma of bastardization. There was no dating or courtship in the first century in the sense we understand these practices today. Life could be short and unpredictable. It was necessary to start a family as quickly as possible. In general, the minimum age for marriage for boys was 13 years, and for girls 12 years (although betrothal could occur at an earlier age). The Talmud recommended that a man marry at age 18 years (between 16 to 24 years). This age is young by today’s customs, but one of the parents could die early in ancient times, leaving the family short of one parent. The young man would approach a young woman to see if she might be interested in discussing marriage. See: Marriage in Judaism Table of Contents (jewishvirtuallibrary.org) for an interesting discussion of Judaic marriage practices.
● Now: Yeshua, Son of God, came and still comes from His “village” (Heaven) to our “village” (Earth) to seek out men, women, boys, and girls willing to marry Him (read John 15:16a). In Yeshua’s physical absence, He sends the Ruach ha-Kodesh to offer a proposal for “marriage” to Yeshua. If you have experienced salvation, you probably know by personal experience that this invitation from the Ruach is compelling and unmistakable.
Step 2. PAYMENT OF THE PURCHASE PRICE (THE MOHAR):
● First century: After the young man found a maiden to whom he was attracted, he would inquire if she might be interested in marrying him. If interested in discussing marriage, a meeting was set up with the couple and the man’s father. The young man was expected to pay a price, the mohar, before the betrothal. The mohar, indicating how valuable she was to him, could consist of money or other valuables. If the woman accepted the mohar, the man had “purchased” her, and she became his be’ulah (“the owned one”). (Feminism and political correctness were not of much concern in the first century, it seems.)
● Now: As the bride of the Messiah, every Believer has been bought by Him (read 1 Corinthians 6:20a). This price (the mohar Yeshua paid for a Believer) was His blood shed on the cross for the atonement of our sins. Yeshua’s perfect sacrifice is intended to transform a sinner into a worthy bride– a bride free of blemish or spot (read 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Step 3. PRESENTATION OF THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT (THE KETUBAH):
● First century: The betrothal of a man and woman was a legal process. Both parties needed to understand what expectations each required of the other in marriage, just as we need to know the conditions and obligations of a contract before we sign it. The young man, young woman, and the man’s father sat at a table, upon which were placed two items– the ketubah and a cup of wine. The man would present the woman his ketubah. The ketubah, written on a small scroll, was a marriage contract. It recorded the woman’s mohar (her purchase price) and what both the wife and the husband would be expected to bring to the marriage. The woman read the ketubah, before deciding whether to accept the marriage proposal. All obligations and responsibilities were clearly spelled out, in order that neither party would enter into the marriage in ignorance. The ketubah was signed, just as we sign legal contracts today.
● Now: The Holy Bible is our ketubah (read 2 Timothy 3:16-17). God has written in great detail into His Word, The Holy Bible, what He will do for us in our spiritual marriage (His covenants and promises) and what He expects of us (commandments and teachings). No one needs to be ignorant of God’s intentions for His children.
Step 4. DECISION OF THE WOMAN (BRIDE):
● First century: After reading the ketubah, the woman accepted or rejected the man’s offer of marriage. To accept the man’s proposal of marriage and to agree to the terms of marriage presented in the ketubah, the woman would be required to agree verbally to the marriage.
● Now: A person must agree to the terms of The Holy Bible (his/ her ketubah) and the proposal of the Bridegroom Yeshua HaMashiach to be His bride before he/ she is saved (read Romans 10:9, Matthew 10:32, and Revelation 3:20). The bride’s verbal agreement reminds us of this verse (Romans 10:13, quoting Joel):
[For the Scripture says] “For Everyone who calls upon the name of Adonai shall be saved.”
Step 5. SEALING OF THE BETROTHAL:
● First century: A cup of wine was placed on the table. If both the man and the woman agreed to the terms of the ketubah (that is, agreed to marry each other), both sipped wine from this cup. If the woman declined to drink from the cup and walked out of the room, she obviously rejected the man’s proposal, and the marriage would not take place. (This reminds me of high school. If a girl did not want to date someone, she had to “wash her hair” that night. It seems I called many fastidious girls who needed to wash their hair instead of going on a date with me. Hmmmm.) Upon agreeing verbally to the ketubah and drinking from the cup, the couple was betrothed. Betrothal was more than our engagement. A betrothed couple was legally married, except that the marriage had not been consummated by sexual intercourse. Miriam (Mary) and Joseph were betrothed when Yeshua was conceived through the Ruach ha-Kodesh. Except for sexual intercourse and living in the same house, the man and woman (here, Miriam and Joseph) were legally and morally married to each other in every other way. Betrothal could be broken only by death (an adulterous betrothed woman could actually be stoned to death) or by divorce (read Matthew 1:19). [“Betrothal” = Hebrew kiddushin || “marriage” = Hebrew nisuin. Kiddushin (“betrothal”) comes from a Hebrew root meaning “sanctified,” indicating that the betrothal and marriage reflected the sanctity of a man-woman relationship. Marriage is holy before God.]
● Now: The basis of the New Covenant– the basis of our faith and hope– is the shedding of Yeshua’s blood on Golgotha’s cross. There are too many Scriptures concerned with Yeshua’s blood sacrifice for the remission of sins to recount here, but read a sample: Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7, 2:13; Colossians 1:14, 20; Hebrews 9:12-14, 10:19, 29; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7; and Revelation 1:5. Immediately before His sacrificial crucifixion, Yeshua left us a symbol (a remembrance) of His blood sacrifice. This symbol is embodied in the drinking of wine (fruit of the vine) during Communion (read Matthew 26:27-28). Yeshua commanded that each of His followers– each of His brides– drink from the cup of the fruit of the vine, the cup representing His blood sacrifice, as a sign of the person’s willingness for Him to be the Bridegroom and as a sign of his/ her fidelity in marriage to Him. When the man and woman drank from the cup in the ancient betrothal process, it symbolized the joining of two individuals into one body (read 1 Corinthians 10:16a and 1 Corinthians 11:25-26). A purpose of Communion is for each Believer to become as one with Yeshua. “Communion” comes from a Latin word meaning “sharing as one.” When a Believer partakes Communion, he/ she should share in the wonder and mystery of Yeshua’s crucifixion; he/ she should share in the acknowledgment that it is his/ her sins that made Yeshua’s crucifixion necessary. Communion should bring a Believer and follower of Yeshua (Yeshua’s bride) to be as one with Him (the Bridegroom), which was God’s original intention of marriage between a man and a woman (read Genesis 2:22, 24). When you take Communion, remember with great reverence and awe that by drinking the fruit of the vine you are sealing once again your betrothal vows to your Bridegroom, Yeshua MaMashiach.
Step 6. THE BRIDEGROOM’S GIFTS TO THE BRIDE:
● First century: The man presented gifts to the his betrothed wife to show how valuable she was to him. These gifts were the best that he and his family could afford. The gifts also helped the young woman remember her bridegroom while he was away from her. A ring customarily was placed on the woman’s index finger as a sign of betrothal.
● Now: The Holy Spirit’s presence for each follower is a gift Yeshua gave, when He ascended to Heaven (read John 14:16-17 and John 16:7). Yeshua’s most important gift for each follower is the inheritance of eternal life (read Ephesians 1:13-14). Marvel at the goodness of God! We are never separated from the Holy Trinity! While living on Earth, a Believer has a Divine presence (the Holy Spirit) with him/ her at all times. This Spirit is described as a Paraclete (Paraclete, from Greek Parakletos = “One who walks alongside.”) God the Father indwells in a person’s body, creating His temple there, not on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem. Yeshua is as close as prayer. After death, a true Believer is accepted into God’s home (Paradise, to become Heaven), as a beloved child– a possibly prodigal child who has finally returned home. However, a Believer has more to do after betrothal than sit around basking in God’s glory waiting to be called home. (Such lazy activity in a Believer has been called, “So heavenly minded, he/ she is of no earthly good.”) God has jobs– ministries– for every Believer to accomplish throughout his/ her life. The active Believer is the “wise virgin” in Yeshua’s Parable o the Virgins (Matthew 25:1 ff). God does not set anyone on a ministry without equipping him/ her for the task. As Yeshua’s beloved bride, you are given precious gifts (spiritual gifts, the ever-presence of God in all three Persons) for your use until Yeshua returns for you.
I will continue this topic next Sunday. The Bridegroom is calling for His brides. Have you accepted His call? Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 11-Sep-2022 15th of Elul, 5782
De 26:1-11 Ob 2 Ch 10 (Ac 4) Heb 12:1-14