The Church is the Bride of Christ.
Ephesians 5:22-23, 32 (NKJV)22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
This passage is an expression of God's ideal for marriage. The marriage relationship was designed by him to be symbolic of the spiritual relationship between Christ and the Church. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NKJV)1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly--and indeed you do bear with me.2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted--you may well put up with it!
The 'espousal' took place at conversion; the presentation' will be consummated at the Second Coming - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Over 1500 years before these words were written God Himself chose a people to become His. He refers to the nation of Israel in symbolic terms as His wife.
Jeremiah 3:14 (NKJV) "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
Hosea 2:16 (NKJV) "And it shall be, in that day," Says the LORD, "That you will call Me 'My Husband,' And no longer call Me 'My Master,'
When someone asks another person to marry them it's called a proposal. After God miraculously delivered the people from Egypt, and transformed them into a nation, He symbolically proposed to them at Mt. Sinai.
The nation of Israel that God delivered from Egypt are descendants of Abraham and the Apostle Paul says that those who believe God, as Abraham did, are his the spiritual descendants. There is the seed of Abraham physically (descendants of Abraham according to the flesh); and there is the seed of Abraham spiritually (those who, like Abraham, have faith in God). So God’s proposal to those descendants of Abraham according to the flesh was also to those spiritual descendants of Abraham, the Church
Galatians 3:16 (NKJV)16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.
Galatians 3:29 (NKJV)29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The following is God’s proposal as described in a YouVersion Reading Plan, Discover God’s Heart
Two months after the rescue from Egypt, God leads his people to Mount Sinai. Speaking to Moses from the mountain, God tells him that out of all of the peoples on the earth, God wants to make a covenant with the Israelites. He wants them to be his special treasure, his people who follow him and his ways. The people unanimously agree — they will be his.
For two days, the people prepare themselves — clothes scrubbed, faces washed. The Most Holy God is going to speak to them. There is no room for impurity in the presence of the perfect.
On the morning of the third day, their knees knock as lightning strikes. Thunder claps. A loud trumpet blasts. Mount Sinai can hardly handle God’s glory as it violently shudders. God comes down in fire, and thick smoke billows.
In the midst of the thundering skies and the trembling knees, the Holy One speaks. God gives the people his holy ways — the Ten Commandments, commands about how to live. Overwhelmed by God’s power and presence, the people beg Moses to speak to God so they don’t have to. The Holy One is overwhelming.
Exodus 20:1-6 (NKJV)1 And God spoke all these words, saying:2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.3 You shall have no other gods before Me.4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Many Biblical scholars consider the scene at Mount Sinai to be a proposal — and the rest of Scripture as a record of God’s relationship with his people.
The King’s Heart
“I am the God who chooses you,” God said to the childless Abraham. “I am the God of all power,” he said as he mocked Egypt’s false gods through the ten plagues. “I am the God who rescues you,” he said as he parted the sea and drowned the Egyptians. “I am the God who provides for you,” he said in the daily delivery of manna.
The people at the foot of Mount Sinai had been chosen, claimed, healed, fought for and provided for — all before they had ever heard or kept a single commandment.
The events of Mount Sinai are akin to a betrothal. God proposes that the people are to be his — in essence, to take his name. And while keeping commandments was a part of the covenant, it wasn’t the entirety of it. God does want his people to follow his ways. But keeping commandments is just outward evidence that their hearts are his.
We follow God’s ways because we love who he is. We love his character and his perfect goodness, and we trust him. Like the Israelites, we are not to live rightly in order to be God’s. We are to live rightly because we already are his.
It’s no coincidence that our story ends in a wedding celebration
Revelation 19:6-9 (NKJV)6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready."8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.9 Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."
From YouVersion Reading Plan Discover God’s Heart by Zondervan Publishers
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.