July 18, 2007

To Be A Bride...

What does it mean to be a Bride? What kind of images come to mind? Are there certain traditions or cultural rituals passed down through your family or religion that often take place during a wedding?

I have to say that after my rough couple of weeks -the one thought that pulled me back out was remembering that I was a Bride... not just any Bride... but HIS Bride! He adores me more than I adore Him... He longs to spend time with me and to bless me, more than I desire to spend time with Him and bless His heart! He is for me... and the things that concern me - the things that consume me, well - He is ALL OVER those things!

So - as I prepared to lead on Tuesday, I knew that He was opening up the floor for me to share a very personal experience I had with Him in regards to being betrothed to Him! I have hinted at it here and there... but I don't know that I had actually talked about it and really dug into much of the study I have done regarding weddings and Scripture! So - it was a lot of fun... and in the end, He did not disappoint! He showed up and loved on us and I believe He is still up to a bit of Romancing this week!

Oh how we women LOVE to talk Weddings!!! We are all over the details and romance of it all! I don't know about you... but I am coming up on my 15th Anniversary this year and when we got engaged - I had less than 3 months to plan and prepare! I crammed a year or more worth of details and touches into those 3 months and what hit me most as I was preparing to walk down the aisle was the realization that none of that stuff mattered... what mattered most to me in that moment was hoping that I had focused enough on my bridegroom and what I needed to do to make him happy! I had a relatively short engagement, which has it's good and bad points! My niece recently got married after a short engagement as well! At the last minute, she called me in to be her unofficial Wedding Planner and photographer... I had been giving hints and offering a hand for weeks and weeks... so as soon as she asked - I was on my way!!!

We love a good romance… a fairytale ending… a happily ever after! Life doesn’t always turn out that way – but as believers, we are promised a fairytale, happily ever after, romantic never-ending love in the end! Jesus Himself is our betrothed – our Bridegroom… and one day – we will celebrate in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! One day, He will return for us and we must be ready, waiting, expecting Him – and we must be ready and prepared to go with Him immediately!

In Jewish culture, it is the custom for an engaged couple to seal the engagement with wine and a meal (like Communion!) with the parents of the Bride and then the Groom would leave – to build a house onto his parents home. The engagement could last up to a year or so… but no one except the Grooms' Father knew when the wedding date would be! So – as the year came to an end, and the house was near completion – the Bride had to say her goodbyes, pack, and be ready to leave whenever she heard her Groom and his groomsmen coming down the road.

In fact, let’s open our Bibles and read Matthew 25:1-13 (The Parable of the Ten Virgins)

"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Also – let’s read Matthew 26:26-29:
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

And John 14:1-3
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.”

These are the Four Phases of the Jewish Marriage in Bible times:
(Now it is condensed into one day by most modern Jews)
1. Matchmaking 2. Betrothal 3. The return of the Groom 4. Week of celebrating

The matchmaker was often a rabbi or scholar and they would seek out eligible mates and work up a fair Bride Price. They would draw up this marriage contract and this was most often brought by the Groom to the prospective Brides' parents home for the Engagement dinner.

For the Betrothal - (this is so cool!) - If the Groom agreed to the contract, he would go to a dinner at the Bride's parents' home. He would then pour a cup of wine and offer it to the woman – this symbolized his offer of marriage. If she drank it, she was accepting proposal! After drinking the wine, the groom gave bride a coin - a token to show that she was spoken for. (During Middle Ages substituted a ring – the engagement ring).

This began an apx. one-year engagement. This is like Joseph and Mary - they were betrothed and for all purposes, it was a legal binding marriage - but the year had not been completed and they had not yet been alone or officially celebrated their union! A betrothal was not entered lightly - it was not something that you could simply break off or change your mind about!

During the year (or so) the husband built a bridal chamber onto his father’s house. During this time – he did not drink wine again until his Wedding day! If someone saw the groom working on the bridal chamber (or the addition to his fathers' house), and they asked him when the wedding would be – he honestly could not tell them - it was his father that made the decision of when bridal chamber was finished. This reminds me of the verse in Matthew. I love how this is drawn out for us when Jesus Himself said: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matt 26:28-29)

They KNEW what He was saying when He spoke this… they had a very strong cultural visual of the intimacy and promise He was making!

The next Phase of the Jewish wedding is when the Groom returns for His Bride!

When groom’s father gave the nod, the groom and groomsmen would go to the bride’s house, usually unexpectedly at night. They called out and blew a ram’s horn before entering the house to get the bride and her bridesmaids. The women would be watching and waiting for him – probably for several days, or even weeks, as they saw the bridal chamber completed and the year near or come to an end.

The groom took the bride to the bridal chamber, with wedding party accompanying them through the streets. The Group waited as the bride and groom spent time alone together. The "groom’s friend" and other witnesses wait for a signal from the groom. The couple doesn’t necessarily consummate, they just have the opportunity (as it is their first time alone). After the groom gives the signal, the rest of the group begins celebrating. The bride and groom come out of the bridal chamber seven days later to celebrate with friends and family at the wedding supper.

Lastly, the week of celebrating - a WEEK!? That blows away my reception - in which I was busy getting my photo's taken and I missed most of our guests?! This, for me, stirs up the visual from Revelation 19!

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God.”

These basic four phases are still present in Jewish ceremonies today - all taking place within the service... another thing that is often done is when the Bride enters in and walk to the groom - she circles him three times! They site Hosea for this tradition and I love it because it was the Book of Hosea that brought me to the realization that God desired intimacy!

About nine years ago, I had an encounter with the Lord that changed the very way I approach Him and drew me closer to His heart than I thought was even possible! I will try to skim over the details and get to the point here... after a few years of being a Christian and really plugging in and being on fire for God - I began to feel a bit burnt out and drained... I wanted more of God but it seemed those around me who were older in the Lord were not necessarily CLOSER to Him - but just more religious!? I found myself fighting against a spirit of religion - within me, and all around me!

I felt Him telling me to read the book of Hosea... but I was tired... and I wanted a word or something more personal... besides, I had read that book before!? I was thinking, "Yeah yeah yeah... minor prophet... married a prostitute... I've read it...?!" I can be pretty stubborn and I sort of waited for another word from Him for some time... So - I was at a women's conference and somehow found myself up front at the altar and I can't really remember why - but amazingly enough I found myself slain in the Spirit underneath a pew... miraculously uninjured!? I realized that my body was shaking and it seemed as though I would end up with a concussion and a black eye as I kept hitting the pew as I shook. Anyway - at one point I was sort of feeling like a show and was afraid of what others would be thinking! The Lord then told me it didn't matter - He was shaking the religion out of me! After while, He asked if He could hold me hand and I realized that Jesus was lying down beside me. Of course, I said yes and we laid there together talking for it seemed like hours! He was correcting my thinking and revealing things that were true and things that were not... at the end of our conversation, the Lord looked me in the eyes and He said, "Now, Karri, my Beloved, GO READ the Book of Hosea!"

Needless to say - I did go home and read the whole book! The verse that He pointed out to me was Hosea 2:16 which says: “And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “ That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master’.”

It is interesting to note that the original Hebrew word for “Husband” is Ishi & the Hebrew word for “Master” is Baali – a variation of Baal… many people this year have talked about the spirit of Baal and how God is dealing with that in this year!

What I love about Hosea is how much he is a clear picture of our patient and loving Bridegroom! He sacrificed his heart over and over only to be pushed aside and disregarded, again and again… when he had every right to walk away and give up on this harlot – Father God called him back and sent Him to her… three times he pledged to betroth her… even paying a Bride Price to her live-in lover… just as Christ was willing to pay a Bride Price for us – to the one whom we pledged our love. …whether or not we knew that we had aligned ourselves up with the enemy – Jesus knew! And yet – He was willing to pay the price for us… not just because He wants us to pledge allegiance… not just because He wants us to obey and serve Him – but because of His great LOVE for us… Because He desires intimacy and passion… Our Bride Price was the Blood of Jesus – that is what we are Worth to Him!

After that experience, the Lord became more tangible to me... not because I saw Him as much as because He shared with me that He desires and looks forward to spending time together too!

“And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:5

He is our Bridegroom – the very best example of a husband on earth still pales in comparison to our heavenly Husband.

A few weeks ago, I was battling with what I first thought was a Word from the Lord… I heard a verse in the midst of prayer and it messed me up… I was praying for someone special and all of the sudden I felt the Lord impress a scripture reference on my heart. I was unaware what it was so I looked it up… I didn’t like it – so I decided maybe I had mixed up the numbers – so I looked up the OTHER reference… hmm?! Said the EXACT same thing!? This is not a verse you want to hear… I really struggled with this on my own for days… I told my husband and he sort of shrugged it off, not taking it seriously. Unfortunately – it happened at my weekly Prayer Meeting – in a place where I am expectant to hear from God and I had my guard down against the enemy here… and it was the Word – so it was not so easily disregarded… I actually went through a few days of not praying… not reading the Word… not even really wanting to hear from Him for fear of what ELSE He may ask of me! I ended up being angry with God – not something I am proud of or something that I advise!?

The thing that finally brought breakthrough and the realization that this ‘voice’ was not the Lord was remembering that Jesus is my Husband… His desire is for me and my desires become His desires… now I knew in general – our desires for this person are the same… so of course, this harsh Word was not for her… because He is my Husband – and He is HER Husband …

And then this thought – once again – took my breath away:
As much as I desire and want to be a Good Wife for Him…
He wants to be a Good Husband for me!

Isn’t that an amazing thought?! He is FOR us… He desires to bless us and lavish His love upon us! He loves to surprise us and overwhelm us… He is our Bridegroom… and as much as we put all that time and attention into preparing for our earthly wedding… all the thoughts and details we were obsessed with, we need to remember that one day, we will have another Wedding Day! One day we will Wed again… and we must remember that our preparing now deals more with readying ourselves and learning to call Him “My Husband” rather than merely “My Master”! While the ceremony is already planned for us, what we most want for our wedding day is a romance story with a fairytale ending! For our earthly wedding, we wanted the look of love and adoration in our husband’s eyes as we walked down the aisle, … and don’t we still want that from Jesus too!? Don’t we want to walk down the aisle, pure and spotless in our wedding gown, and let everyone see the love that we have for each other by simply looking at us!

I believe that NOW is the season for intimacy… NOW is the season to be assured of His great love for you… NOW is the season to draw nearer to Him and to have that open communication with Him so that when the enemy comes, you will have the assurance that your Husband is for you and you can trust in Him!

Another one of my favorite scriptures is found in the book of Revelation:
“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” - Rev 22:17

I believe that in the midst of planning for weddings and watching love stories come to life all around us – the Lord is desiring for us to know and remember that the greatest love story – the great ROMANCE – is the divine romance that we have with Him!

I pray he romances you this week and reminds you of your beauty, your value, your worth!


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