The wedding was the most important event in the life cycle in the Middle East and the very heart of the family. It is no accident that Jesus’ ministry on earth started when he was invited to a wedding feast in Canna. There He turned water into wine in His first public miracle.
The Father Chose the Bride
The Hebrew father of the groom did all the wedding preparation and would even choose his son’s bride. Abraham sending his trusted servant to gain a wife for Isaac is a truly romantic story, Genesis 24)-.
Imagine leaving your family behind and going off to a strange country to marry a man you have never met. Not only that, it was also a long, uncomfortable journey. A lot of time for Rebekah to worry about all the things that could go wrong. What if Jacob didn’t find her acceptable? Maybe she wouldn’t like him? What was the country like she was going to have to live in for the rest of her life?
First, there was the bride price to be given and accepted. This is reflected when the bible says you were purchased for a price, 1 Corinthians 6:20.
A dowry was a guarantee that the bride would be taken care of should anything happen to her beloved. The size of the bride price, or mohar, reflected the father of the groom’s honour, integrity and stature. The bride’s family were losing an asset, while the groom’s family gained one, with the promise of a new generation.
According to the Hebrew custom, there were numerous things to arrange before the wedding could take place.
The groom helped in the building of a new home for the couple in accordance with the stature of the father. Only when the father declared the new home was ‘good enough’ was it time for the wedding ceremony to begin.
The bride would undergo a ritual cleaning, signifying the passing of the old and the promise of the new. She had to be completely immersed and strictly cleansed, ready to receive her groom.
This purification process was reflected in the Persian empire. For Jewish Esther, living in a pagan world, it was six months with oil of myrrh and six months purification with sweet odours and other things, Esther 2:12.
When the Hebrew father decided all was in order he commanded the shofars be blown, announcing the wedding ceremony was about to take place. He would then direct the groom’s party to progress to the bride’s house, telling his son to “Go and get your bride and bring her to the wedding”. This usually took place at night, so she had to be prepared and wait patiently for her groom.
The next day everyone rushed to the city gate to witness the wedding, as a covenant requires witnesses to ratify the covenant. The gate was where the city elders sat, who would legally ratify the agreement.
The written agreement between the two families would be publicly read and presented to the bride. The couple would then be asked if they agreed to the terms of the document, and they would answer “We do”. The sealed contract was irrefutable and would only be broken by death, or the unthinkable act of divorce.
The biblical bride has a covenant written in blood that was shed at Calvary, Luke 22:20.
The Cup of Joy and the Importance of a Wedding
The bridegroom was handed a pitcher of wine, which he poured into a ceremonial cup and reverently offered it to his bride. This was known as the ‘Cup of Joy’.
At that point the bride had the power to stop the wedding by refusing to accept the cup, as she alone had the power to accept or reject the offer from the groom. Once she drank from the cup the betrothal was sealed. The groom then took the cup and drank as well, solidifying the covenant saying publicly so everyone could hear, “You are now consecrated to me by the law of Moses and I will not drink of this cup again until I drink it anew with you in my father’s house.”
Gifts were then exchanged, with the most extravagant being given to the bride.
There would be a weeklong celebration of the wedding, known as the marriage supper, or festival. The bridal couple retired to the seclusion of the bridal chamber.
The purpose and importance of the wedding and marriage was to provide a secure environment for procreation and the nurturing of children.
The Last Supper and the Importance of a Wedding
There is a spiritual significance in the first cup at a wedding as accepted by the bride, then confirmation when the groom drank from the same cup. The cup Jesus offered and was accepted at the Last Supper, represented the blood of the new covenant, signifying a new covenant. He then said the same thing as a bridegroom, “I will not drink of this cup again until I drink it anew with you in my father’s house,” Matthew 26:29.
The breaking of bread and an offering of wine were the seal of forming a new union, a new covenant, a new promise, forsaking all others, 1 Cor 11:24ff. Jesus didn’t remove the law but fulfilled, as was prophesied by the old prophets.
Jesus said He went to prepare a place for his believers in His Father’s house, John 14:3. The second cup at a wedding was taken at the consummation of the marriage and drunk in the newly prepared home. This cup is still in the future for believers, and according to the signs of the time, that is close.
Adam and Eve began with the ‘wedding’ or joining together in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 1. This theme of the bride/wedding runs throughout the bible and ends in the book of Revelation with the Spirit and the Bride saying “Come.”
The importance of the wedding theme is all about that ‘which was, that which is, and that which is to come’. It is about a contractual bond in a new and eternal relationship. This is a joyous relationship involving commitment, responsibility, duty and loyalty. Spiritually, it involves eternity in a plan that was formed before the foundation of the world.
The Two Cups
Jesus prayed ‘Let this cup pass by me, but not my will but thine be done”, Luke 22:42. The heavenly groom accepted the cup of agony that the Lamb of God might be sacrificed at the time of the evening sacrifice, according to the law of Moses.
The law could only represent God’s will, it could not forgive sins or change lives. Only the shed blood of the Messiah could do that, Ephesians 1:7.
John wrote about the marriage supper of the Lamb, Revelation 19:7ff. Like the ancient marriage ceremony at the gate, anyone can be seated at the marriage supper of the Lamb and partake of the second cup, if they will personally accept the work of Jesus, the Messiah, on Calvary.
However, many are called but few are chosen, Matthew 22:14. Few accept the invitation.
Conclusion in the Importance of a Wedding
The majority of people underestimate the importance of a wedding, physically or spiritually. It’s not about dressing up in a glamorous gown, etc. There is a greater depth to the ceremony than what appears on the surface.
There is a marriage supper being prepared in the heavenly realm, Revelation 19:7-14, for all who accept that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who died for all. Are you ready, for the Father could tell the Son to bring His Bride to the marriage any time now?
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