(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” –Revelation 19:7-9
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The LORD will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD your Redeemer. –Isaiah 54:4-8
This is a continuation of my series based on the JLI course Toward a Meaningful Life. If you haven’t done so already, before going on, review yesterday’s “morning meditation” Shattered Fragments. Then come back and continue reading here.
There are “marriage metaphors” recorded many places in the Bible. We see an example here of Israel being God’s “wife” but also in Revelation we have a picture of “the church” as “the bride of Christ”. Given the traditional Christian viewpoint that Jesus is part of the Trinity and thus is God as much as God the Father is God, how do we reconcile this? Does God have two brides? Is God the bridegroom of Israel and Jesus the husband of the church? Or do we have to entertain the idea that as “co-heirs”, both Jews and Christians become “one new man” and the difference between Jews and non-Jews becomes obliterated under the Kingship and glory of Jesus Christ?
I reject that last option out of hand because I see too much evidence in the Bible for the Jewish people; the nation of Israel being the beneficiaries of an eternal covenant relationship with God, while the other people of the earth can “approach the Throne” through the covenant made available through Christ.
But where does that leave us in terms of these seemingly contradictory “wedding images”?
I’ll tell you right now, that I don’t have an answer. I don’t believe that God has two brides but I don’t know how to make these different parts of the Bible fit together, either.
What I do know is that God is saying something important when he describes His relationship with people as a marital relationship.
Consider yesterday’s morning meditation. We saw a very compelling (though probably flawed) picture of a man and a woman who were “joined” since the beginning. We have an archetype of humanity, created as a single being at the dawn of Creation, and then literally split in half to become man and woman. How could any two people ever get any closer than the two who had been one?
What is God trying to tell us here? Does He really want to be that close to any of us?
The “marriage metaphor” breaks down pretty quickly when we consider that a married couple are supposed to be two equal halves of the same whole. After all, how can we even remotely consider ourselves equal to God? And since we’re not, what sort of “marriage” do we have to a groom who is infinite, all-powerful, and needs nothing from His “bride”? What can we contribute when God does the vast, vast majority of the “heavy lifting” and, by comparison, our efforts amount to a symbolic token, like allowing a four-year old to “help” set the table for dinner?
Am I being cynical?
I mentioned yesterday that only God is a unique One. Only God stands alone with no equal or peer (speaking of why marriage metaphors break down). Ideally, people are created to bond with another in marriage, and to live out the model God designed for living creatures in general and for human beings specifically.
When I started this series, it was with the intent to illustrate, if possible, that the life of each individual has a special meaning and purpose in the world and that we; each and every one of us, is loved by God for who we are and who He created us to be. Part of what I’ve written seems to show that every one of us has something unique to contribute to the world, to each other, and to God, that no one else can provide. The only real mystery involved is discovering what that purpose happens to be and then figuring out how we can possibly live up to our purpose day by day for the rest of our lives.
Put that way, just being here is kind of intimidating. After all, who wants to fail “Life 101”, right?
People’s lives are supposed to have meaning. If meaning doesn’t exist, then God just created a large cosmic maze, made a bunch of white lab rats (humanity), dumped us into the maze, and now He’s sitting back, collecting data, and seeing what we’ll come up with next.
So we decide God created us with a purpose because the alternative is to say nothing matters, life is meaningless, and we might as well devour each other alive because it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world.
Yet, as we saw in the comments section of yesterday’s “morning mediation”, if we aren’t created for one special person, if we could potentially successfully mate with any number of people; having thousands or even tens of thousands (or more) possible selections, then how “special” are our marital relationships? Extending the metaphor back to being God’s “bride”, what does this perspective do to the “specialness” of our relationship with Him? Even if there is a “bride of Christ” or of God, we always see it expressed in the Bible in terms of groups and not individuals. God chooses Israel as a wife, all of Israel, not the individual Jew. And it’s “the church” who is the bride of Christ, not individual Christians.
I can’t see this vast landscape from God’s point of view, so I have no idea how He really perceives all this and all of us. Frankly, even if I could see God’s perspective, I doubt I could comprehend it for even a second. All I can see of Creation is through the other end of the telescope and the image is small and indistinct. I don’t know why the Bible has marriage metaphors unless God, in some manner or fashion, is trying to communicate that He does want to be close to us. He wants some form of intimacy with people, either with the mass of human kind or with each of us as specific individuals (or both), but He desires something and we don’t understand what it is.
We know what we want, or we think we do. We want shelter in an uncertain world. We want to be taken care of and protected in a dangerous and violent universe. We want someone or something more powerful than us to care whether we live or die, and to care about what happens to us in-between birth and death (and beyond). It’s easy to see why people would try to imagine our relationship with God as Him being a loving and protective bridegroom. But it’s hard to see the motivation from God’s point of view.
I gratefully thank You, living and existing King
for returning my soul to me with compassion.
Abundant is your faithfulness. –Modeh Ani
Thank you that I woke up alive this morning, God. Now please tell me what I’m supposed to do.