It helps for Christians to study the uniqueness of the betrothal and the relationship in the Old Testament, to see how the Lord embraced the ancient principles in his outreach to the church, His bride.
Rev. 3:20….Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.
Most of us have our own interpretation of that very familiar verse. It’s easy to visualize the Lord, standing at the door of your heart and knocking —– but the ancient meaning goes in a different direction.
In Jewish formality the pre-marriage betrothal takes place a year before the wedding and it is affirmed in the presence of two witnesses. I like to feel the witnesses are the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In modern terms the betrothal is equivalent to an engagement. The Encyclopaedia of Jewish Life and Thought says: “The term ‘betrothed’ is also involved in the custom described in some circles as ‘tena’im’ (conditions) in which the two families stipulate the financial help each side undertakes to give the couple.
“When the tena’im are written and signed, it is customary for the families to break a pottery dish to symbolically suggest that just as the dish can never be repaired, so may the couple strive to never break their matrimonial bond.”
When the bridegroom made his initial move towards marriage, he arrived at the house of his beloved and his father came with him. Picture Him, approaching the home of His beloved. “Behold I stand at the door and knock ….” When the two men arrive, they knock on the door. Now the intended’s father, before he opens the door, checks through a little window to establish the identity of the men outside.
“If any man hears my voice …” Once the man is appropriately identified, the dad turns to his daughter to make certain she is okay with the imminent marriage proposal.
Should he open the door? When that decision is confirmed, the betrothal process officially begins. The marriage can only be confirmed if appropriate terms are approved.
Opening the door is just the first step and that’s indicated by the verse in Revelation. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.”
In this one sentence the Lord is offering a deep, personal relationship, which goes much further than a mere acceptance one to the other.
The significance of this process asks us if we will enter into a covenant of betrothal with Him? Will we seek to work with Him to ensure that this bond of agreement will not be broken?
The choice is always with the bride. If she does not approve the opening of the door, the groom and his father will leave.
Once that door is opened and she considers the details of the offer, she can withdraw her approval at any stage. In fact, she can withdraw at any time up to the actual consummation of the relationship.
Now to an ancient symbol of this tradition…. The Jewish marriage contract is called ‘ketubah’, which is Hebrew for “document”. When the marriage details were finalized the bride and groom called in a rabbi or scribe to write the actual agreement in the ketubah.
There are five parts to this document.
1) First came a combined family history of the bride and groom, which included detailed family trees and anecdotes.
2) Second came a personal and family history of the bride, with a detailed family tree and anecdotes.
3) Third came a personal and family history of the groom, also with a family tree and anecdotes.
4) Fourth came the story of how the bride and groom met, with related anecdotes.
5) Fifth came a final section detailing both the bride’s and the groom’s responsibilities before and after the wedding.
Now consider the first five books of the Bible – the Torah.
1) Genesis provides the combined family history of the bride and groom.
2) Exodus gives the personal and family history of the bride.
3) Leviticus provides the history of God’s family, the Levites.
4) Numbers tells of God’s love affair with His people in the wilderness and records His joys and sorrows as He reaches out to His bride.
5) Deuteronomy specifies the responsibilities that both bride and groom must fulfill.
What is this saying? The first five books of the Bible are written as a marriage contract between God and His people. The Torah (the first five books of the Bible) is their ketubah.
How significant is this? According to rabbinic regulation, issued in the first century, all of the groom’s property should be regarded as collateral for the payment of the ketubah.
Even more powerful is the simple fact, a man and a woman are forbidden, in Jewish society, to live together in marriage, without a ketubah. We are not invited into a part-time relationship with the Lord. Without genuine commitment there is no intimate fellowship with Him.
Even further, it is impossible to ignore the special relationship God has always ordained for His chosen people. The covenant God made with Israel in Exodus 19 is a marriage contract.
God spoke to Moses, saying:
“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19: 5,6)
He chose them, He gave the stipulations, and Israel accepted!
Exodus 19:7-8 “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
The acceptance of the Ketubah, meant that Israel was in agreement and they would enter this marriage contract with Almighty God.
Please complete these thoughts by reading the Bride Part Two