“With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow” – Book of Common Prayer, 1662.
The covenant and privilege of marriage takes such a beating in our society. People nonchalantly enter into it with the idea that if it doesn’t work, they’ll “just get a divorce.” Couples choose to live together without ever getting married at all. The world demands an “official” definition of marriage that can be stretched to fit any situation. And so forth, and so on. I am convinced that a – THE – official definition, while not “one size fits all,” is the antidote to divorce and cohabitation, would people merely accept it.
So what is THE official definition, in my mind? I think Ephesians sums it up pretty well: 31” As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” (NLT)
Did you catch that? It’s an illustration of Christ and the Church as one. (This is the reason that marriage is between a man and a woman, incidentally: the Church is ALWAYS referred to as a feminine entity and she is half of the relationship, Christ being the other, masculine, half.) Marriage denotes intimacy; this is EXACTLY what Jesus wants with His Bride. That concept is a little scary to many members of the Church. They don’t like thinking about intimacy with Jesus because the word “intimacy” has been so bastardized in our society. But we need to remember that the world’s views are counterfeits of God’s views. You may or may not know that the word used to describe Adam “knowing” Eve is also used many, many times throughout Scripture in reference to our “knowing” God and vice versa. The word is yadha, and it denotes an interactive, emotional, personal knowing. It is used 943 times in the OT, twelve of which referred to sexual activity. It’s also the equivalent to the Greek ginosko, which refers to sexual intimacy.
What? Well, that just muddies the waters, doesn’t it? In a word, no. Scripture is merely telling us that the Lord desires an intentional, interactive, emotional, personal intimacy with us. Sexual activity between a husband and wife is about as interactive as you can get, and it’s another part of the illustration. The key here is all-encompassing intimacy, throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the relationship. The Lord wants nothing less from us. Why do you think that the God who created all will one day say to some, “I never had knowledge of you; go from me, you workers of evil” (Matt 7:23, Bible in Basic English)? How could He not have knowledge of His own creation? If you realize the word for knowledge in that verse is yadha, you then understand that there was no interactive, personal intimacy with those particular people. That was the choice they made.
Think for a minute about the phrase above from the Book of Common Prayer. What if those were the vows Jesus was saying to His Bride? I can’t make a case for the Biblical sanctioning of wedding rings, but I can say that rings indicate fidelity and commitment. And what about “with my body I thee worship”? The word “worship” comes from the Middle English worshipe and means “to regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion, to honor.” Is this not exactly what Jesus did for us with His own body, when it was broken and scourged on our behalf? I mean, you’d have to reeeeally honor and esteem someone to go through something like that for him or her. And what about endowing us with all His worldly goods? If worldly goods are “any tangible or intangible possession owned by someone,” and Jesus gave us wisdom (Dan 2:21), strength and power (Is 40:29), desires of our heart (Ps 37:4), the ability to do greater things than He (Jn 14:12), and peace (Jn 14:27), among other things, I’d say He did.
If our society could just grasp the fact that marriage is a beautiful living portrait of Jesus and His Bride that we get to actively create and enjoy on multiple levels, we might not be so flippant about it. But unfortunately, people also enter into relationship with God in much the same way as they do marriage. Some “divorce” Him if they don’t like the way things are going. Others live peripherally with Him for years without ever making a covenant. I don’t know how to get from here to there. I just know the clear picture Scripture describes for us of what marriage should be.
As for myself, I am profoundly grateful to be creating that living portrait with a man who knows he will always be second in my affections (as I am in his), and he’s okay with that. Together, we grow closer to each other every day, and we also grow in our personal knowledge of the Lord. It truly is beautiful.
Oh, and just in case you didn’t know where the title came from, it’s from The Princess Bride: “Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove…” -Impressive Clergyman