Hope in a Pre-Arranged Marriage?

I love weddings.  Perhaps your experience has been different, but I’ve experienced them as bringing out the best in people.  As the aroma of fresh cut flowers fills the air and the beautiful environment heightens both senses and emotions, something more significant draws our souls into the moment.  The presence of HOPE.

Engaged couples plan their big day for years and spend small fortunes making them memorable, but hope is what makes a wedding.  Cultures come together, dividing lines fall, and people stand together and agree that it is good for two lives be merged as one.

Dressed in their best and present with anticipation, guests experience weddings as a mystical banquet of sorts.  Together all are participants in a celebration that echoes deep into the soul of every attendee. The wedding ceremony is unmistakably a tradition of ritual and covenant that has stood the test of time.

At the cross-section of beauty and mystery is the merging of two souls.  As loved ones witness the promises exchanged, Jesus’ participation is also felt “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). This is His design. For two to create a family, to multiply and to fill the earth. We agree the plan is good, even if we miss the mystery hidden in it all.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.’” Ephesians 5:31-32

This mystery was the very purpose of creation. The earthly marriage is God’s design of a type and shadow of His ultimate union. He gave it all to ensure this will happen. It is the final cry of His heart in John 17 just before being to the cross and ushering in the closing act of the previous age.

“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me… that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me… and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-26

Jesus’ words are clear. Unity is our destiny. No word God speaks becomes void. He doesn’t simply “hope” things, He speaks things. When He spoke “let there be light” there was light. Light didn’t have a choice of whether to shine forth, it just followed the command. We don’t have a choice about this union, it will simply be.

We now live in a time between the Word and its fulfillment. After its fulfillment faith will not be required. But faith is required in this space between. True faith is to believe God before the completion or outcome of a promise. He accounts that to us as righteousness. Without this faith, it is impossible to please God.

By questioning the necessity of marriage, we partner with an adversary who hopelessly tries to stop an outcome that is inevitable. God has welcomed us into the mystery through the covenant of marriage, but when its value is denied or its commitment is broken, the mystery of union tears away the hope written on our hearts. So undoubtedly marriage is a target of the divider.

In spite of the brokenness and attacks we’ve all seen in marriage, the evidence of hopefulness is still found on the faces I see at weddings.  Even in our age of “progress”, many still believe two people can make and honor a lifelong commitment.  The institution has prevailed regardless of the world’s move against it.  We still believe honor will prevail in the vows exchanged, and that each couple can make it.

We still pause our lives, travel great distances and block out distractions to do what has become the hardest of tasks in modern society: be present.  The baggage of relational challenges, weight of despair and tyranny of the urgent is set aside in honor of the ceremony. We attend, and forsake all else, to witness a miracle and experience a mystery.

When we look at marriage in the context of the story God is telling throughout history, part of the veil is lifted.  We see that the mystery goes far deeper than a ceremony.  God’s purpose in marriage was established right from the beginning.  In the most foundational of stories, God officiates creation’s original wedding.

The man said “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:23-25

Adam describes real intimacy which was made possible by the absence of shame.  The two became one.  Two personalities, two histories, two futures, two beings joined together for the very first time.  The meaning of Adam’s name is “to make” or “earth” and Eve’s is “life.” Adam and Eve were called to make life on the earth. They were formed and joined by God, who blessed them as their original parent.  

Jesus expanded on the original account

“…they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate Mark 10:8-9.

He designed and blessed a process that makes us more like Him by becoming one. The design has permanence because each union foreshadows ours with Him. If this be true, then it must be tested to be proven so.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

The truth about God’s heart for them and their union was quickly called into question. If your marriage was attacked right from the start, you’re not alone. Satan opposed the original marriage, and every union since. His job is to test what’s true. In the testing, God’s children learn and mature. What is true will survive and stand in the end. You see, the story of the bride is about the ones who overcome.

The promises for her are displayed in Revelation 2 and 3 are available for all to see. Even the adversary and his counterparts have been able to see them for over 1,900 years.

“I will give them (those who overcome) a white stone with a new name written on it…I will give authority over the nations…They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy…I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 2-3

Pure beginnings, purified through trials, and a glorious outcome. The bride, her journey and ultimate destiny seems to be the focal point of God’s chosen narrative. Many questions arise. How far can the adversary go to disrupt this outcome? Or better question, has God allowed him a place in the story to test, refine and purify His chosen? What else is God speaking to us through the mystery of marriage and its opposition?  Why and how has the celebration and ceremony of two becoming one been preserved throughout the ages?  

God’s chosen story, recorded through history and in the Scriptures brings us answers. Echoes of his desire for union sing throughout His Word and world. The Law, the prophets, and the stories of Jesus Himself give us details of what’s ahead.  The culmination of our destiny is a very real happily ever after, but currently we find ourselves locked in the battle between God’s words and their ultimate fulfillment.

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