Monday, February 18, 2019

The Marriage Covenant - Part 9


Foundation Stone Six - Betrothal

We now are come to look at the beautiful pattern and parable of betrothal. I hesitate to describe this as Hebrew betrothal, or a Jewish betrothal custom, for the pattern to be examined here is one that Yahweh Himself uses to describe the relation between His Son and the Bride of Christ.

In our modern society we have little to compare with betrothal. Engagements are as different from Biblical betrothal as co-habitation is from the marriage covenant. Following is an excerpt from the online Jewish Encyclopedia.

The term "betrothal" in Jewish law must not be understood in its modern sense; that is, the agreement of a man and a woman to marry, by which the parties are not, however, definitely bound, but which may be broken or dissolved without formal divorce. Betrothal or engagement such as this is not known either to the Bible or to the Talmud, and only crept in among the medieval and modern Jews through the influence of the example of the Occidental nations among whom they dwelt...

Although there are varying examples of the way in which betrothals and marriages were conducted in Scripture, there are certain foundational precepts that were established by Yahweh, and written about in the Law. Beyond this, we have the very definite pattern manifested in the relationship between Christ and His Bride.

Most Christians are familiar with the symbolism of Christ being a Bridegroom, and the Church (Ekklesia, the Called-Out ones), being His bride. The apostle Paul speaks of the saints being “betrothed” to Christ.

II Corinthians 11:2
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

The betrothal spoken of here refers to a marriage contract. It is not the same as becoming engaged today, for modern engagements are not considered legally binding. The betrothal would be more akin to a bride and groom signing the marriage certificate, and filing it with the court. A betrothal was a binding agreement. Once a man and woman were betrothed, they were considered husband and wife, though they would not live together, nor the union be consummated until the wedding night.In the Old Testament, a betrothed virgin was referred to as the wife of the man to whom she was espoused.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24
"If there is a girl who is a virgin betrothed to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor's wife.

One thing we observe repeatedly in the Scriptural references to betrothal is that the woman betrothed is described as a virgin. Paul said that he had betrothed the church to Christ that he might present her to him “as a chaste virgin.” The passage just cited from Deuteronomy 22 speaks of “a virgin betrothed.” The will and design of Yahweh is revealed in these words. He intended for a young woman to remain a virgin until her wedding night. This alone constitutes righteous behavior.

As we have seen in previous chapters of this series, the first experience of sexual intercourse for a woman fulfills the types and patterns of a blood covenant. It is an aberration, an unseemly and entirely inappropriate action for a young woman to give her virginity to one man and then to marry another. It is unthinkable that she should cut a blood covenant with a man that is not her husband for life.

Consider the example of two men cutting covenant with one another. It would be considered an act of treachery to go through all the forms of the blood covenant, signifying that two souls are joined as one, while there is no intent in the heart of those joined to honor the covenant. You cut covenant with a person to whom you are committed for life, binding yourself in blood. Yet men and women commit such absurdities and unseemly and treacherous actions without batting an eye. Such ones are testifying that they have no regard for the righteous and holy ways of God.

It was so important that a woman remain a virgin in order that she might enter into the blood covenant with her husband on her wedding night, that severe penalties were associated with any man who would dare to violate a virgin. If a man forced a virgin to lie with him before she were betrothed, he was required to marry her and could never divorce her? Why? He had entered into a blood covenant with the virgin.

If a man violated a virgin who had been betrothed, the man was to be stoned to death. He had robbed another man of the opportunity to cut covenant with his own bride. From antiquity, the knowledge of the great evil of defiling a virgin and robbing her of the opportunity to cut covenant with her husband, was well known. The oldest book in the Bible is Job, and we read his confession in the following words.

Job 31:1
"I Have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?”

The writer of the book of Job uses the Hebrew word “bethulah,” meaning “virgin” to describe this covenant that Job made with his eyes. Job is not saying that he made a covenant to not look upon a woman with lust, although I am sure that he walked in integrity in this matter as well. What he specifically states is that he will not look upon a virgin with lust.Job is testifying that he has covenanted to not commit great wickedness in the eyes of Yahweh. It would be a great wickedness for him to take a pure virgin to himself and to lie with her. Though many men with the wealth he had may consider doing such things, he would not violate a virgin in this way, destroying her one opportunity to cut covenant with a man. Although it was wrong for a man to commit any act of fornication, it was especially reprehensible to do so with a virgin. God would see, and He would judge.

I know that many who read these words have transgressed in this area. There are women who gave their virginity to one who was not their husband. They cut covenant with a man that they did not marry. They deprived their future husband of the opportunity to establish a blood covenant with themselves. Many men have taken away the virginity of a woman that they had no intention of marrying. These are great transgressions, destroying the purity, innocence, and fidelity of what marriage was intended to be.

If reading this teaching causes a deep grieving in your spirit, then this writing is accomplishing one aim for which it is presented. It is the desire of this writer that the people of God would understand the holiness of the marriage covenant and that they would loathe all that would mar its sacredness.

But what then? Are those who sinned forever to suffer loss and regret for their transgressions? Is there no forgiveness, no recovery of that which was carelessly discarded? We should remember the words cited in the previous post.

A woman was brought before Christ who was caught in the very act of adultery. This woman was close to having been stoned to death. She heard the charges of the men who had caught her committing a great transgression. She knew what Moses had written concerning adultery. She stood condemned. She stood before the righteous judge of Israel, and He saw her filth and uncleanness.

Christ told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone.” There were no men present among those to whom Christ spoke who could cast a stone. They were all transgressors and stood condemned before Yahweh.  Christ, however, was without sin. He could have hurled a stone at the adulteress had He chosen to do so. She was a sinner; He was not. She had violated Yahweh’s holiness; He had fulfilled it.

Yet the only One who was able to execute the judgment of the Law said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” We all stand in need of the mercy of God. We would all do well to consider the peril that our transgressions have placed us in. We all stand within a hair’s breath of the executioner, and we are guilty. Our only hope is that the Judge of all mankind might be merciful. We deserve the sentence of death, but He took the sentence upon Himself. He stood in our place and received the just condemnation for every woman who has cast away her virginity as if it was an unholy thing. Yahshua received the lashes and the cross for every man who has violated a virgin.

God has not changed the penalty of the Law. He merely changed who would pay the penalty. Let us weep and lament over the sins we have committed. Let us repent, and firmly commit ourselves to “Go and sin no more.” Let us be grieved at those things we cast away and cannot get back. A woman cannot regain her physical virginity once it is gone, but she can become a virgin in her heart. Those who were once fornicators and adulterers can be cleansed and purified.

I Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Yahshua Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

“You were washed.” The stain of sin has been removed. Those who were unclean have been declared righteous through the blood of Christ.

Titus 3:5
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit...

“You were sanctified.” You have now been set aside to walk as one who is holy and righteous. Having been freed from sin you have been made a bondslave to righteousness.

Romans 6:22
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

“You were justified.” God has made a way that we might lawfully be declared righteous in His sight. He has placed our condemnation upon His Son and has placed His Son’s righteousness upon is. The great exchange has taken place.

II Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

What should be the result of this knowledge? Are we to continue in sin? God forbid. How can those who have been freed from sin at so high a cost continue any longer in it? Will we trample on the blood of Christ and act despitefully toward the Holy Spirit that has been given?

Hebrews 10:28-31
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This passage is speaking of those who have been sanctified, and who continue to transgress willfully. What can such ones expect? God will judge His people. If you have continued in the same transgressions that required Christ to go to the cross for you, have you not regarded as a common thing the precious blood of Christ? Have you not offended the Spirit of grace? Do you believe there will be no reaping of that which is sown to the flesh?

People of God, we have become accustomed to living carelessly, without any fear of God’s righteous judgment. We should fear greatly if we persist in sins that He has redeemed us from at the cost of the life of His beloved Son.

Perhaps you find yourself in this situation. Having been redeemed from a life of transgression and sin, you continued in it as one insensitive to the great cost of your salvation. Is there yet hope? Having acted with such carelessness and continued license, having trampled on all that is holy, can you yet be restored?

The apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth among which there were many who were continuing in sin. Some were sick as a result, and some had died. Some men were visiting temple prostitutes. One man had even taken his father’s wife to be his own. There was great transgression as many were partaking of the blood and body of Christ in an unworthy manner. (I am speaking here of the substance of what the bread and wine point to.)

Paul chastised them severely, and even declared that he had determined to turn the transgressor over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his soul might be saved in the day of Christ (I Corinthians 5:5). If you continue in sin, do you suppose that God will not turn you over to Satan for the destruction of your body? He surely will. Even now, many are sick, and some will die, because they have treated the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing.

Yet, a remarkable thing is observed in Paul’s next epistle. The man who had taken his father’s wife to be his own, bringing great shame to the name of Christ, had repented and put away his father’s wife. There was yet room for repentance in the eyes of God. The man was restored to God and to fellowship with the body of Christ.

II Corinthians 2:6-10
Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ.

If you are experiencing conviction of your sin, then God’s Spirit is yet striving with you, seeking to turn you to righteousness. There is yet room for repentance. If Yahweh had forsaken you due to continual transgression, then you would not be able to repent. He would give you over to your sin, and you would remain hardened until the stroke of judgment fell.

This is a serious matter. Do not delay to repent of your sins. Confess them to God and to those you have transgressed against. Fear God and pursue righteousness. If you shrug off the conviction, God will not strive with you forever. He will send upon you a spirit of delusion so that you will believe a lie and will be hardened until His judgment falls.

II Thessalonians 2:10-12
Because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved... for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

I have strayed somewhat from the subject of betrothal, but the Spirit convinces me that I have not strayed from His message. Let us now return to our examination of betrothal.

According to the custom of the Jews, which is also the pattern demonstrated by Christ, a man would enter into a marriage agreement and would then depart to prepare a home in which to live with his bride. During this period following the betrothal much activity would be going on. As the Groom was preparing a Bridal chamber, his father was also making plans for a wedding feast. The Bride too was busy. She was preparing herself to be taken into the Bridegroom’s home to be his wife. We see all activities revealed in Christ’s relationship to the church.

Christ, The Bridegroom, Preparing a Dwelling

John 14:2-4
"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

God the Father, Preparing a Wedding Feast

Matthew 22:2-3
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

The Ekklessia, the Bride, Making Herself Ready

Revelation 19:7-9
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'”

A typical betrothal period lasted approximately one year. The Bride, having been espoused, was to wait in readiness, for she would not know the exact time that her Bridegroom would come for her.

Matthew 25:1-6
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom... Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'”

Not even the Bridegroom knows the precise time when His Father will send Him to get His Bride. He waits in readiness, having prepared a dwelling place for His Bride.

Mark 13:32-33
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.”

As the people of God, we have been espoused to Christ as a pure virgin. Christ has gone away to prepare a place to receive us unto Himself. The Father is preparing a great wedding feast to mark the day of our gathering to Christ to Tabernacle with Him forevermore.

What will Christ be looking for when He returns? He will be looking for those who have made themselves ready. Many in the church have failed to do so. They are not clothing themselves in white linen, which is the righteous acts of the saints. They are continuing in unrighteous acts. Many are involved in sexual immorality. Some are fornicating and committing adultery. Some are divorcing and remarrying according to their own soul’s desire. Many are harlots in their affections, loving the world and the things in it. The majority of the church today are unclean. They have not washed their garments and made themselves ready to meet the Bridegroom. What will happen to them at His appearing?

Yahshua spoke of this matter in the parable of the ten virgins. The ten virgins are not the bride. They are attendants of the Bride. The Bride is depicted as alert and watchful.

I Thessalonians 5:4-7
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.

Revelation 16:15
"Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame."

The one who stays awake is the Bride. In the parable of the ten virgins, all ten had fallen asleep when the Bridegroom delayed. None of these were the Bride of Christ. It is common to find the people of God divided into three groups. There is always the overcomers. There are those who have some fruit, but not unto perfection. And there are the disobedient servants who bring forth no increase for the Kingdom of God. We see these three groups in the following:

Three Sections of the Tabernacle and Temple (which the people of God are)
The Holy of Holies (the inner chamber of the Bride)
The Holy Place
The Outer Court

The Three Main Feasts. Each was associated with a harvest, which is symbolic of resurrection - the ingathering of men from the earth.
Passover (those who are passed over by the second death - The overcomers - the Bride - Revelation 2:11)
Pentecost
Tabernacles

The Disciples of Christ
The Beloved Disciple who leaned upon Christ’s breast (the Bride)
The Three
The Twelve

Many more examples of this three-fold division of God’s people could be given, such as those who bring forth some an hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty; the three servants given talents who are called to give an account of their stewardship; and of course:

The Bride
The five wise virgins (who awoke at the last moment and had oil)
The five foolish virgins (who awoke at the last moment and had no oil)

What does the oil represent? It is the righteous acts of the saints. The oil in the lamps was for the purpose of giving light. The wise virgins rose and trimmed their lamps, showing that they had some good works at the end, but the foolish had no oil in their lamps and could not be seen as lights in the darkness. The Bride did not let her lamp go out, neither did she sleep.

What is the character of your life at this time? Is your life a manifestation of the righteous acts of the saints? Or have you taken that which has been entrusted to you (the Holy Spirit) and buried it in the earth (of your flesh) to be given back to Christ at His appearing? Are you asleep in the light, performing works of darkness, even despising the holiness of the marriage covenant? Are you fornicating, or divorcing and remarrying to satisfy your own soul?

Remember that God equates idolatry with adultery. Christ will not return to take an adulteress into His bridal chamber. Such ones will be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Christ is coming back for a pure virgin, one who has been cleansed of her adulteries, and is waiting with patience and chastity for His appearing.

What then is idolatry today? We must know if we are to identify those who are engaged in spiritual adultery.

Colossians 3:5-7
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

All of the things in this list “amount to idolatry.” This is revealed in that the apostle says “in THEM you also once walked.” We once walked as idolaters, but must do so no more. You are not walking as a chaste virgin if you are engaging in these things. The Amplified Bible renders this Scripture in the following manner:

Colossians 3:5
So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God).

While the Church’s Bridegroom is off preparing a dwelling place, and while the Father is preparing the wedding place, what is the Bride doing? Are you making yourself ready? Will you be adorned with linen, clean and white, at His appearing.

Let all who have this hope of being included in the Bride of Christ, purify themselves as He is pure.

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