“Cosmic Implications” – Ephesians 5:21-33

April 6th, 2014

“Cosmic Implications”

Ephesians 5:21-33

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(For further study see Bk Song of Solomon; Hosea; Jer chps 2; 3; Ezek chps 16; 23; Jam 4:4-6; Rev chps 19-22 or pretty much the whole Bible)

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  James 4:4

 

The question to be answered is . . . What do we mean when we say that love, marriage and divorce have cosmic implications?

 

Answer: Because they are mysteriously connected to the God of the Universe and His jealousy wants to protect His covenant relationship with His Bride the Church.  In many ways we will never really come to know God’s grace and love towards us until we better understand marriage.  Reciprocally, we will never come to understand marriage better until we understand God’s grace and love for us his Bride the Church.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Jealous

 

There is a distinction between jealousy and envy. To envy is to want something which belongs to another person. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife or his servant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” In contrast, jealousy is the fear that something which we possess will be taken away by another person.  Although jealousy can apply to our jobs, our possessions, or our reputations, the word more often refers to anxiety which comes when we are afraid that the affections of a loved one might be lost to a rival.  We fear that our mates, or perhaps our children, will be lured away by some other person who, when compared to us, seems to be more attractive, capable and successful. (Dr. Gary Collins; Homemade, July, 1985)

 

Although the word jealous is frequently used in a negative sense in English, it also takes a positive sense at times.  For example, Paul says to the Corinthians, “I feel a divine jealousy for you” (2 Cor 11:2).  Here the sense is “earnestly protective or watchful.”  It has the meaning of being deeply committed to seeking the honor or welfare of someone, whether oneself or someone else.

Scripture represents God as being jealous in this way.  He continually and earnestly seeks to protect his own honor.  He commands his people not to bow down to idols or serve them, saying, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (Ex 20:5).  He desires that worship be given to himself and not to false gods in the land of Canaan, giving the following reason: “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex 34:14; cf. Dt 4:24; 5:9).

Thus, God’s jealousy may be defined as follows: God’s jealousy means that God continually seeks to protect his own honor.

People sometimes have trouble thinking that jealousy is a desirable attribute in God.  This is because jealousy for our own honor as human beings is almost always wrong.  We are not to be proud, but humble.  Yet we must realize that the reason pride is wrong is a theological reason: it is that we do not deserve the honor that belongs to God alone (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; Rv 4:11).

It is not wrong for God to seek his own honor, however, for he deserves it fully.  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 205)

 

Jealousy is the intense emotion aroused by the infringement of one’s right (or presumed right) to exclusive possession or loyalty.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume One, 971)

 

The word-group to which zēlōtēs belongs refers to a passionate devotion to a person or a cause, combining within its semantic range senses both of “jealousy” and of “zeal”.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. 4,  1175)

 

Ardor or zeal for something believed to belong properly to one.  (Merrill C. Tenny, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible–Volume 3, 410)

 

If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—“OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless.  Just how far can I go with other women?  Can I hug them?  Kiss them?  Go to bed with them?  How often?  How many?”—we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man.  If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love.  And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way—“Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance.  What can I get away with?  How far can I push it?”—that Christian will end up equally impoverished.  Paul’s response says it all: “God forbid!” (Philip Yancey;  Finding God in Unexpected Places, 186)

 

What can we learn from the Bible about our relationship with Christ through its discussion of love, marriage and divorce?:

I-         The Bible is replete with examples showing that the closest earthly example of God’s intimate relationship to mankind is demonstrated in an ideal marriage.  (Mt Sinai marriage covenant; Dt 7:9; Bk of Sng of Sol.; Isa 50:1; 54:4-6; 61:10; 62:5; Jer 2:20; ch 3; Ez ch 16; ch 23; bk of Hos; 2 Cor 11:1-6; Eph 5:21-33)

 

Adam and Christ each had a bride.  The bride of Adam was Eve, the bride of Christ is the Church.  The Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and took from his side a rib, out of which He formed the woman to be his companion.  The Lord Jesus Christ was put to death on the cross, and in that sleep of death one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear.  Out of the wound came blood and water, but out of that wounded side of Christ also came the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For you and I are thus taken from the side of Christ.  Oh, how wonderful!  As Eve came out of the side of Adam, so you and I come out of the side of Christ!  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 55)

 

Sex is glorious.  We would know that even if we didn’t have the Bible.  Sex leads us to words of adoration–it literally evokes shouts of joy and praise.  Through the Bible, we know why this is true.  John 17 tells us that from all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been adoring and glorifying each other, living in high devotion to each other, pouring love and joy into one another’s hearts continually (cf. Jn 1:18; 17;5, 21, 24-25).  Sex between a man and a woman points to the love between the Father and the Son (1 Cor 11:3).  It is a reflection of the joyous self-giving and pleasure of love within the very life of the triune God.

Sex is glorious not only because it reflects the joy of the Trinity but also because it points to the eternal delight of soul that we will have in heaven, in our loving relationships with God and one another.  Rom 7:1ff tells us that the best marriages are pointers to the deep, infinitely fulfilling, and final union we will have with Christ in love. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 270-71)

 

BRIDE (OF CHRIST): A term used in the NT to refer metaphorically to the Church, with Christ as the bridegroom (2 Cor 11:2; Rv 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).  In the OT Israel is sometimes referred to as the wife of Jehovah (Isa 54:6; Ez 16:8; Hos 2:19, 20).  The figure is used to show how close God intends the relationship between Him and His people to be.  Disloyalty to Him is called harlotry.  (Merrill C. Tenny, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible–Volume 1, 655)

 

Exodus begins with the God of compassion, the God of justice, hearing the cry of slaves in Egypt and setting out to do something about it. God sends a man named Moses to rescue them, and it’s through Moses that God makes four promises to these slaves.

“I will take you out.”

“I will rescue you.”

“I will redeem you.”

“I will take you to me.”

There’s a reason why these four promises are so significant–they’re the promises a Jewish groom makes to a Jewish bride. This is wedding language. Somebody hearing this story in its original context would realize that some sort of marriage is going to take place.  (Rob Bell; Sex God, pgs.131-132)

 

The ancient Jewish text The Holy Letter (written by Nahmanides in the thirteenth century) sees sex as a mystical experience of meeting with God: “Through the act [of intercourse] they become partners with God in the act of creation.  This is the mystery of what the sages said, ‘When a man unites with his wife in holiness, the Shekinah is between them in the mystery of man and woman.’” The breadth of this statement is sobering when you consider that this shekinah glory is the same presence experienced by Moses when God met with him face-to-face (see Ex 24:15-18).  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 206)

 

If Paul tells us that a man is not to join himself to a prostitute because his body is a holy temple–that is, if we are to use such imagery to avoid sinning–can a Christian not use the same imagery to be drawn into God’s presence in a unique way as he joins his body with his wife?  Isn’t he somehow entering God’s temple–knocking on the door of shekinah glory–when he joins himself to a fellow believer?  And isn’t this a tacit encouragement to perhaps even think about God as your body is joined with your spouse?  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 209-10)

 

Thomas Hart observes that “our fascination with sex is closely related to our fascination with God.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 211)

 

God tells them, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” “Treasured possession” is the phrase a groom would call his bride.  More wedding language. (Rob Bell; Sex God, 132)

 

Throughout Christian history, teachers have explored the similarities between the marital union and the various mysteries of faith that also involve a union:  Besides the Trinity there is the joining of divinity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ; the Eucharist, in which the bread and the wine are joined to signify the body and blood of Christ; Christ’s union with his church; and other similar analogies.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 29)

 

One of these early thinkers, Augustine (A.D. 354-430), suggested that there are three benefits of marriage: offspring, faith (fidelity), and sacrament.  Of the three benefits, he clearly points to the latter (sacrament) as the greatest.  This is because it is possible to be married without either offspring or faith, but it is not possible to be (still) married without indissolubility, which is what a sacrament points toward.  As long as a couple is married, they continue to display–however imperfectly–the ongoing commitment between Christ and his church.  Thus, simply “sticking it out” becomes vitally important.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 31)

 

We were made to worship.  If we don’t grow in our worship of God, we will descend to worship something or someone else–power, money, our reputation, a sports team–it could be anything.  In the same way, if we are not creating in our marriage–if we are not filling our souls with the meaning that comes from doing what we were made to do–we will become dissatisfied very quickly.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 242-43)

 

“You shall have no other gods before me” is a sublimely positive grace, because at bottom line God says, “You shall have Me!” (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace,  88)

 

Ezekiel’s vision is called “the image of jealousy” because it provoked Yahweh to jealousy.  Frequently the metaphor of a marriage was used to describe the relationship between Yahweh and His people, with Yahweh depicted as the jealous husband and Israel as the adulterous wife (cf. Ezk. 36:41f.).  There is another side, however, to Yahweh’s qinhâ, namely, His jealousy for His covenant people, which is expressed in pity and zeal for Israel’s renewal and results in judgment upon Israel’s enemies and the restoration of Jerusalem (e.g., Ez 36:5-7; 38:18f.; 39:25; Joel 2:18f.; Zec 1:14-17; 8:2f.).  (3) Yahweh’s claim to the exclusive allegiance of His people arises out of His unique nature as the only true God, the sovereign Lord of all creation.  No other gods can rival Him; thus Yahweh alone is deserving of His creatures’ exclusive and wholehearted devotion (cf. Ps 95-97, etc.; Dt 6:4f.).  Yahweh’s jealousy is an expression of His holiness (cf. Josh 24:19; Ez 39:25).  His very name is Jealous (Ex 34:14).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume 1, 972)

 

The most frequent reference in the NT to the Church as the bride of Christ occurs in Revelation.  John applies the image not to the redeemed community directly, but rather to the heavenly Jerusalem which descends from heaven to a transformed earth.  The heavenly Jerusalem is itself a symbol for the Church (Aune, 146-48).  The appropriateness of the bridal imagery in the context of the eschatological consummation lies in the fact that Judaism compared the messianic age to a marriage of God and Israel (SB, I, 500ff.), as well as to a wedding feast.  The fine clothing of the bride symbolizes the righteous deeds of the saints (Rv 19:8), and the comparison of the heavenly Jerusalem with a bride adorned for her husband (alluding to Isa 61:10) emphasizes the readiness and anxious anticipation of the Church for Christ (Rv 21:2; 22:17).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume 1, 547)

 

The OT pictures Yahweh as the husband of Israel.  For example, Israel and Judah are depicted as faithless sisters who play the harlot, being unfaithful to their beloved (see esp. Jer 3:1-3 and Ez 23).  The deep religious significance of such a figure is apparent when we see the close connection between idolatry and religious prostitution.  To demonstrate the faithlessness of Israel, Yahweh commanded the prophet Hosea to take a wife who had been a harlot.  Unable to break the habit of her former life, she became a living representation of Israel’s faithlessness to Yahweh.  Hosea filled the role of God, who was always willing to forgive.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume Two, 617)

 

As Israel’s sovereign, Yahweh had a right to demand His people’s exclusive loyalty.  This was the first and most basic stipulation of the covenant (cf. the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me,” Ex 20:3).  Nonetheless, the OT records Israel’s perpetual lapses into idolatry, and it was this unfaithfulness that provoked Yahweh’s jealous wrath (cf. Nm 25:3, 11; Dt 29:18-20; 32:16, 21; 1 Kg 14:22f.; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; cf. also Ez 8:3, 5, where the idol in Ezekiel’s vision is called “the image of jealousy” because it provoked Yahweh to jealousy.  Frequently the metaphor of a marriage was used to describe the relationship between Yahweh and His people, with Yahweh depicted as the jealous husband and Israel as the adulterous wife (cf. Ez 36:41f.).  There is another side, however, to Yahweh’s qinhâ, namely, His jealousy for His covenant people, which is expressed in pity and zeal for Israel’s renewal and results in judgment upon Israel’s enemies and the restoration of Jerusalem (e.g., Ez 36:5-7; 38:18f.; 39:25; Joel 2:18f.; Zec 1:14-17; 8:2f.).  (3) Yahweh’s claim to the exclusive allegiance of His people arises out of His unique nature as the only true God, the sovereign Lord of all creation.  No other gods can rival Him; thus Yahweh alone is deserving of His creatures’ exclusive and wholehearted devotion (cf. Ps 95-97, etc.; Dt 6:4f.).  Yahweh’s jealousy is an expression of His holiness (cf. Josh 24:19; Ez 39:25).  His very name is Jealous (Ex 34:14).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume 1, 972)

 

It is this spiritual intercourse with God that is the ecstasy that is imagined and hinted at in all earthly intercourse; physical or spiritual.   And I think that is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong and so different from other passion; so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that always just elude our grasp.  I don’t think any practical need can account for it.  I don’t think any animal drive can explain it.  No animal falls in love or writes profound romantic poetry or sees sex as a symbol of ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God.  Not just sexuality, but human sexuality is that image.   And human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, losing and finding the whole self, a foretaste of that oneness and manyness that is the very life of the Trinity and the joy of the Trinity.   And what is why we long for without knowing it.  That is why we tremble to stand outside of ourselves in the other.  That is why we long to give our whole selves, body and soul, because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.  And this early love is so passionate because heaven is full of passion, of energy, and dynamism.  That is one of the reasons God invented families.  You can’t love or hate anybody as much as your own family.  Families are full of passion.  Heaven is not boring or blasaise.  It is passionate because God is passionate.  Jesus Christ who is our window to God was not a stoic or a Scribe or a Scholar.  He was a lover.  I think we correctly deny that God has passions in a passive sense. He is not moved or driven or conditioned by them as we are.  He cannot fall in love for the same reason the ocean cannot get wet.  He is love.  (Peter Kreeft lecture “Sex in Heaven”)

 

II-        The Bible is equally replete in demonstrating that God is jealous for His Bride and her glorification.  (Ex 20:5; 34:14-16; Dt 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16-21; Josh 24:19; 1 Kgs 14:22; Ps 78:58;  Isa 30:1-2; 31:1-3; Ez 6:9; ch 16; 23:25; 36:5; 39:25; Joel 2:18; Nah 1:2; 3:4; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Zech 1:14; 8:2; Eph 5:21-33)

 

God is a Jealous God – Ex 20:5: 34:14; Dt 4:24; Josh 24:19:   God created – therefore He is jealous of His creation that it be and remain what He created it to be.  God’s jealousy is an emotional response to a perversion of what is right in His relationship to His creation.  NOTE: Ex 20:1-12.  “It was I that brought you out of the house of slavery.  I am jealous of you because I am the one who rescued you so you owe me.  For me to save you and love you and liberate you and then you turn your back on me but to serve other gods, makes me jealous.  I am jealous for the people that I created, saved, liberated and called, to be mine and not another’s.”

 

God is several times described as jealous for His honor, His holy name.  He desires fervently that His due status and honor be preserved, that the worship that belongs to Him should be given to Him.  The analogy frequently used is a husband’s concern for the love of his wife.  This is an expression of the holiness of God, which cannot endure any unfaithfulness.  Just as a husband cannot be indulgent of adultery on the part of his wife, so no infidelity is endured by God.  It was this exclusiveness of concern that underlay the strong emphasis upon monotheistic worship among the Jews.  Because Yahweh is the only true God, He alone is deserving of man’s worship and devotion.  It motivated the prohibition of intermarriage with the heathen nations around Israel, lest they should depart from the exclusive worship of the one true God.  An OT example of God’s jealousy is found in Exodus 32, where God was angered by the Israelites’ worshiping the golden calf.  Herod was struck dead because he did not disavow the attribution of deity to himself (Acts 12:21-23).  Similarly, the exclusiveness is reflected to the teachings of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).  “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).  To determine that a potential follower really was giving to Him his supremacy, Jesus would put such a person to a test, as when He asked the rich young man to sell all that he had, and come and follow Him.  Because Jesus, like the Father, is the only true God, and because He is the only mediator, He could rightfully exercise this jealousy.   (Merrill C. Tenny, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible–Volume Three, 410)

 

“God loves you just the way you are.   God loves you too much to allow you to stay there.”  — Buddy Greene

 

It is important to recognize that the description of Yahweh as jealous is an anthropomorphism, i.e., it is the attribution to God of a human emotion.  It should therefore not be assumed that Yahweh’s jealousy is identical with the human emotion of jealousy.  The analogy between divine and human jealousy lies in the demand for exclusive possession or devotion.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume 1, 972)

 

Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems.  It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.

Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook.  “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.”  A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.”  A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”

The message is obvious: Government is the solution to every social need.

Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up.  Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived.  They wanted richer, fuller lives.  They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.”  

This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic.  And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”: the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.

This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.

But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine.  A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God.  The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 125-26)

 

We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.  Why do we fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly?  Of course, the general answer is “because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself.  We would not lie unless we first had made something – human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage – more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God.  The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 166)

 

III-      We will never know what kind of a harlot we really are and the extent of God’s grace, patience, forgiveness, mercy and love towards us until we see God as jealous for our affections, faithfulness, devotion, commitment and love.  (Ex 20:5; 34:14-16; Nm 15:39; Dt 5:9; 32:16-21; 1 Kgs 14:22; Ps 50:18; 78:58; Jer 2:20; ch 3; 5:1-11; 9:2; 13:27; ch 23; Ez ch 16; ch 23; Bk of Hos; Joel 2:18; Nah 3:4; Zech 8:2; Mt 5:27-28; 12:39; 16:4; Lk 7:40-50; Jas 4:4; 2 Pt 2:1-22; Rv 2:20-25; 14:8; 17:2-4; 18:3)

 

WHEN WE sin, we are in essence saying to God:  I love what this other thing does for me more than what YOU do for me God.   We are like a spouse who is found in adultery with another lover.   Repentance can only be seen properly when we see ourselves as an adulterer going back to our faithful mate when we have sought the arms of another.

 

A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ. — Vance Havner.

 

God is jealous.   God doesn’t want to lose to another what He possesses.  He knows He is the best for us and so He is jealous when we give our time, resources, money, or our affections to anything else other than Him.  Why is God jealous?  Because He loves you so much He wants you to have the best.  And the best is God.

 

He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake (Augustine).  In other words, if created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry—if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker. (John Piper; Desiring God, 143)

 

What other gods could we have besides the Lord?  Plenty.  For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution.  For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).  Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some.  Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion.  In the matter of life’s basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster.  (James Packer; Your Father Loves You)

 

Every time a church family gathers for worship, we come as idolaters or recovering idolaters.  We all fight allegiances to someone or something other than God that make a claim on our lives.  To pretend otherwise is to be naive and unprepared for the serious work of realignment we need.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 62)

 

If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me.  — Buddy Briggs

 

What the OT calls idolatry, enlightened Westerners call addictions. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 15)

 

As our husband, God is jealous of our “incense burning” to anyone other than Himself (Lv 26:30-31; 1 Kgs 3:3; 11:8; 2 Kgs 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 15:35; 16:4; 17:11; 18:4; 22:17; 23:5; 2 Chr 14:5; Isa 63:3; 66:3; Jer 1:16; 6:20; 11:12; 17:26; 18:15; 32:29; 44:15, 21; Ez 6:4, 13; Hos 2:13)

 

If you think your greatest vice is lust, you’re wrong.  It is adultery.

If you think your greatest vice is impatience, you’re wrong.  It is idolatry.

If you think your greatest vice is anger, you’re wrong.  It is murder.   (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)

 

Hubris (pride) is the first and most popular form of idolatry.  But all forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly.  All idolatry is not only treacherous but also futile.  Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy.  If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but under-nourished, and we find that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being.   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 122-23)

 

Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.  —Augustine.

 

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake.  The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.”  Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness.  This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace.  Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 131)

 

Idolatry:  God  Substitutes   “We do not eliminate God but we erect God substitutes in His place. —  Richard Keyes.

 

What you see when the veil is drawn back on the many “spiritualities” of our day is that they are so many versions of idolatry.  They are nothing but human attempts to use human means to achieve identity and power for the individual.  Idolatry is marked by the will to use God for our purposes.  So many of our “spiritualities” today, including many that go under the name of “Christian,” are really forms of idolatry. (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 48)

 

The only means for keeping worship free of idolatries is to keep God the subject.  God frequently loses that role if churches insist on catering to the cultural idolatry of choice.   Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby shows that “some churches today may be declining not because they offer too few choices but too many.”  (Marva Dawn; Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 285)

 

One of the saddest instances of false hope occurs when people trust in what God has worked in them instead of trusting God himself.  For example, God says, “When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered” (Ez 33:13).  It is possible to trust in your own goodness in such a way that it produces iniquity.  Any trust, except in God, brings about sin.  “You trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame” (Ez 16;15).  God had made Israel beautiful.  But when she because satisfied with her beauty, instead of her Beautifier, the result was harlotries.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 325)

 

Idolatry 1 Jn 5:21 – everything that we do that is sin is based on idolatry.

 

Idols subvert what precious revelation we have of God through nature, conscience, and Scripture, thereby effectively burgling the knowledge of God from our very souls!  (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace,  48)

 

Our coins read, “In God we trust.”  But someone has suggested that we should alter today’s inscription to read, “In this god we trust.”  Job wisely said, “If I have put my trust in gold or aid to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained…then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high” (Job 31:24, 25, 28) This is idolatry!  Jesus put it with supreme simplicity:  “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mt 6;24).  In what, then, do we really trust?  (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 37)

 

Father Zossima, a character in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, comments, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.”  The real thing wants the best for the beloved, and that may mean a mother denying her child’s insistent plea for more candy, or a social worker holding his client responsible for destructive behavior, or a wife demanding a change in the behavior of her abusive husband–or God damning to hell the sin that is destroying creation.  (Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God, 94)

 

“Idolatry = worshiping the creature at the expense of the Creator.”  (Stewart Briscoe)

 

The thing you fear the most is probably the thing that you are counting on to earn your righteousness before God.  It is your idol, your work, your merit before God.  Give it up.  You can never be that righteous.  (Tim Keller)

 

“Either this is a radical change of thought, or the ENTIRE LETTER (1 John) IS ABOUT IDOLS!”  Yes! Yes! Yes!   The essences of walking in Christ and the essence of the entire Christian life is staying away from idols.  (Martin Lloyd-Jones)

 

Idols are the root of all sin.  Martin Luther, Treatise Concerning Good Works.   . . .  “This commandment (The first) is the very first, highest, and best from which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which they are directed and measured.

 

The idol under adultery is I can get more satisfaction from a lover than from God.  The essence of the lyrics of love songs is that a lover is everything to me.  You bring me life.  You are my life.  You are everything to me.

 

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xvii)

 

Today’s idols are more in the self than on the shelf.

 

Goudzwaard’s three basic Biblical rules:

1. Every person is serving god(s) in his life.

2. Every person is transformed into an image of his god.

3. Mankind creates and forms a structure of society in its own image.

That for which I would give anything and accept nothing in exchange is the most important thing in my life.  Whatever that is is my god (cf. Isa 44:6-20).  (J. McMath)

 

In view of Israel’s recrudescent tendency to seek illegitimate foreign alliances and to participate in the fertility rites of Canaanite religion, an even more frequent–though pejorative–image is that of the harlot or adulteress (Hos 2:2-3:5; 4:14f; Jer 3:1; Ez 16:6-63; 23:1-49).  These prophets use this negative image to condemn Israel’s behavior as a heinous violation of the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume 1, 546)

 

The church is a prostitute, but she is my mother.”  (St. Augustine)

 

“You asked for a loving God:  You have one.  The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “Lord of terrible aspect,” is present:  not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes . . .  It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”  (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain, 46-47)

 

The Lord held the Israelites accountable for their “promiscuity” (zenut), that is, their faithless disobedience at Kadesh following the report of the scouts, even though no religious “paramour” (e.g., another god) was identified in this instance (Nm 14:33).  Because they rejected their spiritual “husband,” they were unfaithful, even if the Lord’s competitor was nothing more than human inclinations guided by hearts and eyes.  The fact that human inclinations could be the functional equivalent of another god in the sense of violating the divine-human covenant means that modern Christians are not immune to the possibility of committing spiritual promiscuity by failing to follow the Lord, even if we do not touch idolatry or the occult.  “Until our passion for finding God is deeper than any other passion, we will arrange life according to our taste, not God’s.

Our discussion of spiritual promiscuity has prepared us to better grasp the force of the zeal/jealousy (Piel of qn’; noun qin’ah) of God and Phinehas in 25:11, 13.  As an Israelite husband who suspected that his wife had committed adultery could experience zeal/jealousy (noun qin’ah; Piel of qn’; 5:14, 30), so the Lord’s anger at the religious promiscuity of his people can be characterized in the same way.  This is not petty jealousy, but rightful zeal to protect the exclusive intimacy of a relationship.  Because Phinehas identifies with the Lord, he is motivated by zeal to defend God’s exclusive prerogative with Israel.  It is striking that in Numbers 25 the targets of divine and priestly retribution are engaged in a combination of literal (sexual) and metaphorical (religious) promiscuity.  (Roy Gane, The NIV Application Commentary: Leviticus, Numbers, 724-25)

 

The Lord, who had loved his people like a husband, was now being asked to tolerate rivals inside his own house (Jer 31:32).  Surely he whose name is Jealous (Ex 34:14) wouldn’t put up with this!  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 385)

 

“Jealousy” and “wrath” are feelings we regard as unlovely in persons.  But in the nature of God they are always expressions of his will to fulfill his saving purpose and bring in his Kingdom; they describe the action of God in his very real involvement with human beings.  “Jealousy” or “zeal” is the Lord’s passionate caring that his people be devoted to him alone.  (James L. Mays, The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 129-31)

 

“Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit . . .  Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit . . . [Grace] is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God.  (Samuel Storms; Grandeur of God, 125)

 

Grace has meaning only when we are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation & liable to eternal wrath.  (Samuel Storms; Grandeur of God, 124)  

 

God says to Hosea, “Hosea, you see this woman over here name Gomer?  Marry her.”

So Hosea says, “Sure.  I‘m a prophet.  You’re God.  You spoke to me.  I’ll marry her.”

And it is not long after he is married to her that he realizes that she has wayward feet.  That she is not being faithful to him, that she is being sexually unfaithful to him.

And as she begins to have children, he realizes that they are not his children. In fact, he names one of them not mine.

And finally her unfaithfulness gets worse and worse and worse, until eventually she leaves him and leaves the kids, and goes off to one man and goes off to another man and goes off to another man.  And finally that last man, because she is so faithless, she is breaking every promise, she is lying) and finally he sells her into slavery.

Hosea turns to God and says, “Remind me why you asked me to marry her”.

And God basically says, “So you will know something about my relationship to you.  Now you will know what it is like for me. So you will know what it is like to be me.  And here is what I want you to do Hosea.  I want you to go where she is being bid on and I want you to purchase her freedom and I want you to take her back and then you will know what it is like to be me”.

And so there is poor  Gomer.  From what we can tell she is probably being bid on as a slave and she is probably stripped naked as they were so that the buyers could see what they were buying.  And she is standing there and suddenly to her shock she hears her husband’s voice bidding and he purchases her freedom.  And he walks up to her and instead of berating her, he takes his cloak off and covers her nakedness and says, “Now you will come home and be my wife.”

This story is nothing compared to what God has done for you.  Hosea had to go to the next city but God had to come to earth from heaven to find you.  Jesus didn’t purchase you back with money, but went to the cross and paid with his life blood. Jesus was stripped naked in order for us to be covered with the robe of righteousness.  (Tim Keller sermon “No One Seeks God”)

 

Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God:  To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)

 

If in the presence of human superlativeness your self image comes crashing down around your ears, then even if you got into the presence of God who is pure love you would hate yourself.  You would say, I’m so cruel, I’m so unloving, I used to think that I loved people but now I know that I have never loved anybody.

Think about it.  If in the presence of human superlativeness your self image comes crashing down around your ears, how could it be different with God?  How could it be otherwise with God?  Here’s how you know when you have begun to get into the presence of the real God, that you’ve begun to have God move into reality.  You see that you are a sinner.  You think you’re lost.  You see you are more capable of cruelty, more capable of evil, more selfish, more petty, more small minded, more impatient than you ever thought you were.  And you know you are a sinner and you know you need to be rescued by grace.  And if you say, “O that’s real negative.”

Come on, I just said to you, “If there is a real God (who is holy ) it would have to feel like that.”  How could it be otherwise?   It couldn’t be otherwise.

And if you say, “Well I just don’t believe, that you know, that people should feel sinful.”  Well then you haven’t been near God. (Tim Keller, “The Gospel and Yourself”)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:  How does the life and death of Christ give us a better understanding of the ideal marriage and God’s love for us?:

A.  Christ loved His Bride and was jealous for her glorification.  (Mt 12:39; 16:4; Jn 17:19; Acts 26:18; Rom 12:1-2; 15:16; 1 Cor 1:2, 8; 6:11; 2 Cor 11:1-3; Eph 1:4; 5:21-33; Phil 1:10; 2:15; Col 1:22; 1 Thes 3:13; 2 Pt 3:14; 1Jn 3:3;  Rv 14:4-5; 19:7; 21:2-9; 22:17)

 

The Bible says that as the head of his bride, the church, Christ serves as her Savior (Eph 5:23).  Jesus gave himself out of love to make the church holy, radiant, and blameless (5:25-27).  Christ’s example shows that headship involves taking responsibility–even to the point of personal sacrifice–for the well-being of another.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 26)

 

B.  Christ is jealous for the intimate affections of His Bride. (Ex 20:5; 34:14-16; Dt 32:16-21; Ezek ch 16; Mt 10:37-38; Lk 14:26; 1 Cor 7:32-35)  

 

Paul further elaborates the Adam-Eve typology in Eph 5:22-31, and he interprets the “mystery” of Gn 2:24 (“the two shall become one flesh”) as a reference to Christ and His Church (Eph 5:32), thereby implying that the union of the first couple (as well as all subsequent monogamous unions) foreshadows the marriage of Christ and His Church (Chavesse, 75).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume 1, 547)

 

What I’m suggesting is that we connect our marriages with our faith in such a way that our experience in each feeds the other.  The next time you caress your spouse, think about how that caress might open up new avenues for your prayer life.  The next time you are virtually overcome by passion for your spouse, consider how you can offer yourself with equal abandon to your God.  Don’t be afraid to use all aspects of marriage–even sexual expression–to expand your prayer life.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 86-87)

 

Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.

The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.  When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases.  That’s why Paul says in Col 3:5 (RSV) that covetousness is idolatry.  “Put to death what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 221)

 

When your loyalty is to God on weekends but only to the bottom line on weekdays, you’re driving a wedge between yourself and God.  It would be like saying to your spouse, “As long as I’m home, I’m committed to you.  But when I go off to work, well, I might fool around a little.”  That would create a rift in your relationship, wouldn’t it?  Similarly, if you’re living a fragmented faith, you’re saying to God, “I’m committed to you in certain areas of my life.  But you need to know that when I’m at work, I’ve got a mistress called my career.”  Doesn’t it make sense that this would stymie your relationship with him?  (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 52)

 

I wonder if it isn’t possible for the marriage relationship to reawaken this humility within us.  If we experience a shadow of this surrender before a sinful human being during a sexual encounter, can we not learn to offer ourselves equally unreservedly to a perfectly loving and absolutely benevolent God?  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 86)

 

Gifts of a loving Creator, our bodies are not barriers to grace.  If we could truly accept this, then we would know God even in the ambiguous delights of our sexuality.  (Evelyn and James Whitehead)

 

Because we become like what we worship; for us to worship or focus on any idol other than God will end up perverting our love, for only God is agape love.

 

Our emotions respond to and reflect our inner thoughts, and it’s only as we center these thoughts on God’s character that we find joyful praises springing up from our heart.  Are your emotions ever warmed by thoughts about God’s majesty?  If your thoughts and desires are consumed with Him, your emotions will respond.  If you never find yourself moved emotionally, then you must ask whether you desire Him passionately.  (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart, 199)

 

“Give up your old way of life, and trust me for a new one.”  Jesus then calls those who have repented and believed to “follow” him.  Similarly, in Jesus’ day a disciple would give up his own plans in life to follow and live with a rabbi, learning the Torah and all the rabbi’s ways.  In choosing these words, Jesus gives an invitation that is familiar to his Jewish hearers: “Come.  Be with me.  Learn from me.  Give up your own way of life.  Do what I do.  Learn to live as I do.”  However, though these words in one way are quite familiar to the first-century Jews who hear them, in another way they are strange.  For Jesus is much more than a rabbi: he is Lord and Christ.  The lives of those who choose to hear and follow Jesus are not to center in the Torah, but in Jesus himself.  His disciples are to give full allegiance and devotion to him.  Few images express more vividly the total commitment and absolute loyalty Jesus demands:  loyalty to God’s kingdom is expressed in loyalty to Jesus.  (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 136-37)

 

To those who submit gladly to the truth of God about themselves as sinners, and about Christ as the Savior, and about the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifer, and about God the Father as Creator–to them sex and food are sanctified.  That is, they are pure.  They are not unclean idols competing for our affections, which belong supremely to God.  They are instead pure partners in the revelation of God’s glory.  They are beams of his goodness along which the pure in heart see God (Mt 5:8).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 189)

 

The opposite of covet is contentment  (Tim Keller)

 

C.  In recognition of God’s agape love for His Bride; the Church faithfully and loyally submits to Christ.   (Jn 3:16; Rom 12:1-2;  Eph 5:21-33; 1 Jn 4:7-21)

 

“God is most glorified in us when we are  most satisfied in Him.”  (John Piper, Desiring God)

 

If a husband is not secure in his relationship with his Savior–if a man needs to have control over another to have some confidence in himself–then he cannot love as God requires.  Christ’s love is our relational fuel.  If our spiritual lives are running on empty, then we will inevitably suck energy from the life of our marriages.  Men who assert or confirm their manhood by the psychological, physical, or sexual control of their spouses actually reveal deep insecurities of the soul that leech personal esteem from the misery of others.  Until the certainty of God’s approval fills the wells of need in a man’s heart, he will always be tempted to drain life from others, including those nearest and dearest to him.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 70-71)

 

James warned double-minded people to purify their hearts (Jas 4:8).  Failure to find the wholeness to which Jesus invited people results from trying to face in two directions at once, from trying to gain the benefits of conflicting loyalties.  That is double-mindedness.  It conjures up a picture of straddling the fence.

E. Stanley Jones says that people’s spiritual failures result from being inwardly divided.  In The Christ of the Mount (p. 200), he lists nine expressions of human dividedness that Jesus pointed out:

(1) You do your beautiful religious acts with divided motives–you give to God, but also “to be seen of men” (6:1-4).

(2) You pray in two directions–to be heard of God and to be overheard of people (6:5-15).

(3) You fast with divided purpose–you do it before God and yet you hope that people will give you credit for being abstemious (6:16-18).

(4) You try to lay up treasure in two directions–upon earth and in heaven (6:19-21).

(5) You see in two directions–your outlook is divided (6:22-23).

(6) You are trying to be loyal in two directions–trying to serve God and mammon(6:24).

(7) You are anxious in two directions–toward what you shall eat and drink and be clothed with, and also toward the kingdom of God (6:25-34).

(8) You are criticizing in two directions–toward your sister or brother with rather heavy emphasis and toward yourself rather lightly (7:1-5).

(9) You are giving yourself–giving yourself to God and also giving that holy thing called personality to the dogs of appetite and the swine of desire (7:6). (Jason Martin; The Sermon on the Mount, 130)

 

“Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.  The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another.   We double our delights in God as we expand it in the lives of others.   If our ultimate goal were anything less than joy in God, we would be idolaters and would be no eternal help to anyone.  Therefore, the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed.   And if you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God.” (John Piper; Desiring God, 121)

 

D.  When His Bride failed, Christ suffered, forgave and graciously redeemed His repentant and contrite Bride to facilitate reconciliation and restoration.  (2 Chr 7:14; Neh 9:17; Isa 54:4-6; Jer ch 3; 15:19; Ez 16:60-63; 18:21-23, 32; Bk of Hosea; Hos 14:1-2; Zech 1:3; Mal 3:7; Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15; Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2 Pt 3:9; 1 Jn 1:9)

 

We cannot successfully demand the love of a woman or the love of God.  We have to wait.  And just as a woman’s heart is melted when she encounters in us weakness accompanied by our humble admission of it, so God’s heart is melted and he is most tender and gracious to us when he encounters in us weakness accompanied by our humble admission of it.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 49)

 

The wedding day is regarded in Jewish law as sacred, a sort of mini-Yom Kippur.  The bride and groom are encouraged to fast, and even to recite certain penitential prayers that are also said on the Day of Atonement.  (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 614)

 

Fellowship with the Father and the Son, that intimate, holy, and unceasing communion, is the reason for man’s creation.  That fellowship has been restored to us in Christ Jesus. (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 42)

 

John Boys, a Puritan divine, said, “The best way to reconcile two disagreeing families is to make some marriage between them:  even so, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us in the world that He might hereby make our peace, reconciling man to God.  By this happy match the Son of God is become the Son of Man, even flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones.”  (John Boys, The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, 47)

 

If it can be lost – it is not grace

If it has to be earned – it is not grace

 

To receive God’s Grace all you have to do is humbly admit that you need it.  James 4:7.

 

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 70)

 

Love in response to goodness is not love, it is reward.  You don’t earn love.  If you earn it, it isn’t love.  So when the Bible talks about love and grace, it is always in the context of sin and rebellion.  The Prodigal Son is not the exception of love, but the very definition of it.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 138)

 

I know, from my own life, how diligently I have tried to be good, acceptable, likable, and a worthy example for others.  There was always the conscious effort to avoid the pitfalls of sin and the constant fear of giving in to temptation.  But with all of that there came a seriousness, a moralistic intensity—and even a touch of fanaticism—that made it increasingly difficult to feel at home in my Father’s house.  I became less free, less spontaneous, less playful. . . .

The more I reflect on the elder son in me (from the story of the prodigal son), the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there.  Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being.

The spiritual games we play, many of which begin with the best of motives, can perversely lead us away from God, because they lead us away from grace.  Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace.  And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 205-06)

 

Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace…Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness…By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side. (Kent and Barbara Hughes;  Common Sense Parenting , 113)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Learn to read the entire Bible as God’s work to redeem, restore and renew His relationship with His Bride Israel or the Church.  As you better understand what harlots and prostitutes we are, the better you will understand God’s great love and grace towards us treacherous sinners.

 

Worship point:  The more you understand God’s love and grace the better your worship.

 

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 119-20)

 

In the first century, generally a young woman would be married in her early teens, often at thirteen or fourteen.  It would become known that she was not “of age,” and her father would entertain offers from the fathers of young men who were interested in marrying her. If the fathers agreed on the terms of the marriage, there would be a celebration to honor the couple and announce their engagement. At this celebration, the groom would offer the young girl a cup of wine to drink.

But she didn’t have to drink it.

She can reject the cup. She can say no to his offer of marriage. Even though everything has already been arranged, she can still say no. It’s up to her.

Can you imagine the pressure on the young fella?

Here is everybody you love the most, friends and parents and relatives, gathered in a room, watching to see if she will accept the cup.

If she says yes, the groom gives a sort of prepared speech about their future together.

Because if she takes the cup and drinks from it, that only means that they are engaged. They aren’t married yet. Something still has to happen.

Or to be more precise, something has to be built.

If she says yes, then the groom goes home and begins building an addition onto his family’s home. This is where he and his bride will start their new family together. And so he works and works and works, building a place that they can call home. And here’s the interesting part: he doesn’t know when he’s going to finish.  Because he doesn’t have the final say on whether it’s ready. That’s his father’s decision. And so his father periodically inspects his work, looking to see if the quality of what the son is building properly honors his future bride. The father has considerations as well. If he has many sons, and they’ve all built additions, then his house is getting quite large. There are many rooms in it. This was called an insula, a large multifamily dwelling. If the father had build his addition onto his father’s house, then by now, several generations later, this is a large dwelling with rooms for a lot of people.

Back to the story.

The future bride is at home, learning how to run a household. She also doesn’t know when the work will be done, so she’s prepared herself for a date that’s coming, she just doesn’t know when.

And then the day comes. The father inspects and tells the son that it’s time.  So the son gets his friends, and they set out for her house to get her.  But how will he know what room is hers?

He’ll know because she has filled her lamp with oil each night and set it in the window, so that when he comes, he’ll know which room is hers.

And so he goes to get her, and they gather their friends and family, and there’s a giant procession back to his house, where the party starts.

And so when she takes the glass of wine at their engagement party and drinks from it, the groom says to her: “My father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Does his speech sound familiar? This is what Jesus says to his disciples in Jn 14:2-4.

When Jesus wants to assure his followers that they’re going to be okay, that their future is secure, that they shouldn’t let their hearts be troubled, he uses the wedding metaphor.

They would have known exactly what he was talking about. They would have heard the groom’s speech growing up, the ones who were married would have given it to their brides, and they would have taken part in numerous wedding celebrations. (Rob Bell; Sex God, 169-71)

 

Quotes to Note:

We need to further explore the power of human love to feed our divine love.  Rather than seeing marriage as a cosmic competitor with heaven, we can embrace it as a school of faith.  Maximus the confessor (580-662) observed that the love we have for God and the love we have for others are not two distinct loves, but “two aspects of a single total love.”  Jesus suggested the same thing, when in response to a question about the “greatest” commandment he declared that there is not just one, but two–not only must we love God, but also our neighbors.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 267)

 

There is a strong connection between idolatry and social injustice.  Isa 29:17-21; 46:5-13; 48:17-18; 56:9-57:12; Jer 23:13-14; Ez 16:47-52; Hos 4:1-14; Amos 2:6-8; Mal 3:5.

 

Yes, it is difficult to love your spouse.  But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there.

It just may be one of the most spiritual things you can do.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 51)

 

 

Christ:

 Our Groom

 

 

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