by Jeff Willis
I recently had the privilege of officiating a wedding in Illinois. As I led premarital counseling and prepared for the wedding, I realized Christian marriage is more than a contract; it's a covenant relationship. In this second part of our "Going Deeper in Worship" series, let's look at some symbolic parallels to the covenant God made with Abraham (and essentially makes with us). My prayer is that our relationship with the Groom of all grooms will lead us to go deeper in worship and surrender.
THE COVENANT CEREMONY
Easton's Bible Dictionary explains that the Hebrew word for covenant is berith, which comes from the root meaning "to cut." A blood covenant was a formal, solemn, and binding agreement—a vow or pledge—between two parties made by "cutting" or dividing of animals into two parts.
In Genesis 15:9-10 , the blood covenant began with the sacrifice of animals. After splitting them precisely in half, the animal halves were arranged opposite each other on the ground, leaving a pathway between them. The two parties making the covenant would walk from either end of the path, meeting in the middle.
The meeting ground between the animal pieces was regarded as holy ground. There the two individuals would cut the palms of their right hands and then join these hands together as they mutually pledged a vow, promising all of their rights, possessions, and benefits to the other. Next, the two would exchange their belt and outer coat, and in so doing, take some part of the other person's name.
SEATING OF THE FAMILY ON OPPOSITE SIDES
Family and friends of the bride and groom are seated on opposite sides of the church to symbolize the cutting of the blood covenant. These witnesses—the family, friends, and invited guests—are all participants in the wedding covenant, and many of them have made sacrifices to help prepare the couple for marriage and to support them in their holy union.
CENTER AISLE AND WHITE RUNNER
The center aisle represents the meeting ground, or the pathway between the animal pieces where the blood covenant is established. The white runner symbolizes holy ground where two lives are joined as one by God. (Exodus 3:5 , Matthew 19:6 )
GROOM ENTERS FIRST
Ephesians 5:23-32 reveals that earthly marriages are a picture of the church's union with Christ. God initiated the relationship through Jesus, who called and came for his bride, the Church. Christ is the Groom, who established the blood covenant first initiated by God. For this reason, the groom enters the church auditorium first.
EXCHANGING OF THE RINGS
While the wedding ring is an outward symbol of the couple's inward bond, illustrating with an unending circle the eternal quality of love, it signifies so much more in light of the blood covenant.
A ring was used as a seal of authority. When pressed into hot wax, the impression of the ring left an official seal on legal documents. Therefore, when the couple wears a wedding ring, they demonstrate their submission to God's authority over their marriage. The couple recognizes that God brought them together and that He is intricately involved in every part of their covenant relationship.
A ring also represents resources. When the couple exchanges wedding rings, it symbolizes the giving of all their resources—their wealth, possessions, talents, and emotions—to the other in marriage. Remember, in the blood covenant, the two parties exchanged belts, which form a circle when worn. Thus, the exchanging of the rings is another sign of their covenant relationship. Similarly, God chose a rainbow, which forms a circle, as a sign of his covenant with Noah. (Genesis 9:12-16 )
PRONOUNCEMENT OF HUSBAND AND WIFE
The pronouncement officially declares that the bride and groom are now husband and wife. This moment establishes the exact beginning of their covenant. The two are now one in the eyes of God.
PRESENTATION OF THE COUPLE
When the minister introduces the couple to the wedding guests, he is drawing attention to their new identity and the name change brought about through the marriage. Similarly, in the blood covenant, the two parties would exchange some part of their names. In Genesis 15, God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, by adding letters from his own name, Yahweh.
We have been given a free invitation to enter a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. The big difference here is that we did not have to do anything to "cut" this covenant. Our covenant with God exists because God loves us and sent Jesus to us and for us. Jesus willingly laid down His life so you and I could have peace, joy, and the promise of fellowship with Him for all eternity.
If you want to go deeper in your worship, you must fall in love with the Groom and say “I Do” to His invitation. Without a relationship with Christ, we just go through the motions of doing church and never really experience BEING the church, the bride of Christ, for whom He will one day return.
Say ‘I Do’ to Jesus and go deeper today.
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