When Jerry I asked if I would marry him, I said “Yes.” We knew that marriage wouldn’t just be a smooth ride. When he asked, he was asking if I would commit to a life fraught with mistakes, short-comings, disagreements, annoyances times two, and double consequences. He was saying “yes” to all this and I said “yes” too. During this engagement period, we are continuing to learn about the blessing of marriage and preparing to receive it all. The Australian Institute of Family Studies has written a summary about divorce and separation stating that the “instability of marriages and other relationships has been one of the hallmarks of the last quarter of the 20th century”. The summary blames divorce rates on a wide range of factors – age, culture, race, education, profession etc. It also found that couples who co-habited before marriage had higher marital instability and a higher risk of divorce. The top perceived reasons for marriage breakdown for both men and women were communication problems, incompatibility or “drifting apart”, affairs, alcohol and drug abuse.
It is inevitable that marriage comes with difficulties – encompassing the wants and needs of another person, joint-decision making and finance, the question of children and how to raise them etc. Yet, a vast number of people still take joy in saying “yes” – yes to marriage or yes to partnership. With some places requiring a 2-year advance booking for wedding receptions, there must be some pleasure in saying “yes”. Why did I say “yes” to Jerry? I said “yes” because I wanted to share my life with Jerry even in my weakness and vulnerability. We want to know each other fully, even in times of trial and we have made a decision to love each other and submit to one another. Before we make our vows to one another, we are going to declare our covenant of marriage before God. I once told Jesus how I anticipate understanding more about His intimate marriage with the church when I get married myself. Let me explain.
Jesus is coming to claim His bride, that is, His church. These are the people He asked the Father for as an inheritance to be with Him in oneness for eternity [John 17:24]. He will give them a new name, His new name [Revelation 3:12, 22:4]. We have a glimpse of Jesus’ affection for his bride in Song of Songs, and a glimpse of his promise to protect and redeem her in Revelation. As the traditional role of the husband comes with the promise to lead, protect, provide and nurture his wife and family, Jesus promises He will guide, protect, provide and grow His bride. Just as in marriage, possessions, habitation and lives are shared between husband and wife, Jesus will share everything He has with His bride. On His wedding day, this is the declaration that will be made – “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God himself will be with them and be their God.” [Revelation 21:3]. We can understand this more by understanding the function of the tabernacle for Israel – it was a holy place, beautifully and elaborately adorned exactly as God Himself prescribed, a place where the presence of God would dwell, and where God would cover the sins of the people, and speak with them. The wedding vow of Christ to His church is this – “I will be with you forever, I will give you My name, My righteous and glorious covering, and you will see my face. You will have full share in all that is mine, in all the kingdom, and will experience the fullness of my love.” This is the offer Jesus holds out, free of charge to anyone who would say “yes” to Him.
Is it important to understand the pleasure of saying “yes”. Often, we are hesitant to say “yes” to Jesus and there’s reason for this. Jesus himself warns us that it won’t be easy. There will be trials and tribulation, wilderness to wander through, persecution and rejection. Jesus knew this when He asked for the church as His bride. He was rejected by Israel and rejected by the Gentiles. He has been humiliated on a cross, cast down and scorned. Isaiah 53:3 describes Him as a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” Knowing all this, Jesus still says “yes”. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” [2 Corinthians 1:20] When we really say “yes” to Christ, we are choosing the narrow road. We may be wanderers, without family, and without possessions [Matthew 8:19-22, 19:29]. We may be hated and persecuted [John 15:18-21, 2 Timothy 3:12]. BUT we have a helper, the promise which guarantees our inheritance in Christ. Just like an engagement ring represents a coming wedding, and a marriage ring symbolises a promise of undying love, the Holy Spirit is our reminder that Jesus is faithful, and is coming soon. When we say “yes”, the Holy Spirit is given to us and He strengthens us in faith [2 Timothy 1:13-14, Ephesians 3:16-17]. We remember that when we see His face, “it’s gonna be worth it all.” (lyrics “Worth it all” by Rita Springer).
The pleasure, joy and blessing of saying “yes” is found in the promise of eternal life spent now and forever with a faithful, loving Saviour.
“…you shall be called Hephzibah (My Delight is in Her),
and your land Beulah (Married);
For the Lord delights in you…
as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.”