What do weddings have to do with Sunday/Sabbath practices? Two weddings in my family—a cousin’s and our youngest son’s (age 31)— several years back caused me to think about how good marriages on Earth are a sign of the covenant agreement God makes with His children.
The New Testament teaching is that Christ, the Lamb of God, will marry His Bride, the Church, at His Second Coming. And our relationship to Him now is similar to that of betrothal. In the Middle East, a marriage began (sometimes years before the actual ceremony) with formal betrothal, in which a man in the eyes of the community was as good as married to his betrothed. This arrangement, though unconsummated, could only be dissolved by divorce such as when Joseph realized that Mary was with child without any intimacies with him and he “resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:9). Betrothal was considered complete except for the privilege of sexual intimacy.
But when finally the time for betrothal was ended, and the wedding ceremony was near, the bridegroom would leave his house which was the center of the festivities, and with all his friends—musicians and celebrants and dancers—he would make his way to the bride’s house, where a simple marriage ritual took place. Then, taking her by the hand, he would bring her back to his house for the wedding feast, which would sometimes last for days.
All earthly weddings foreshadow the eschatological reality that one day our Heavenly Bridegroom will come and gather His Bride into His household.
Consequently, practicing the Sabbath principle is like the engagement ring a woman puts on her finger to remind herself and the watching world that she is taken. In a sense, we Christians wear the Sabbath ring (and polish it each week) to remind ourselves of the consummation in which our Lord will come for His bride-to-be, the Church.
Sunday, celebrated with delight, captures a taste of the distant future: Indeed, it is a prophetic practice of what eternity spent in Christ’s presence will be like. We are betrothed to Christ and as married to Him as though we had taken wedding vows. How dare we pull dour faces and downcast eyes. According to the Levitical law, no fasting was allowed on Sabbath. The one psalm specifically assigned in intertestamental times to Sabbath worship, Psalm 92, is a song of thanksgiving, sung in festive mood with musical instruments, “…to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.”
In 18th-century American, Jonathan Edwards preached that the Sabbath, “a pleasurable and joyful day, was an image of the future heavenly rest of the church.” So let us become accustomed to resting in the arms of the Beloved. Let us frame our Sunday/Sabbath practice in such a way we will be ready for that eternal rest of which Hebrews 4:9 promises: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
In truth, when the Bride is finally is brought into the household of the Bridegroom, every day will be Sabbath. Eternity will be a Sabbath without end. As we place this wedding ring of Sabbath upon our finger now, it is a sign that we are betrothed to Him, awaiting the consummation of a final marriage act; we are remembering God’s act of creation, His bold impregnation of souls with spiritual nativity; we are looking forward to a final re-creation, a perfect world in a perfect time, a utopia that can no longer be spoiled by infidelity.
In truth, this marriage celebration will be the ultimate wedding in the family.
This marriage metaphor makes sense to me; it resonates deeply within and makes me look forward with anticipation. Remembering the divine prototype and its earthly parallel, I am more than eager to “observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.”
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Continuing to promote Hungry Souls, a ministry that is a laboratory for those who seek to develop spiritual growth tools that work. Designing a Webinar that will mentor writing wanabees. Wading through research data gathered from participants in Listening Groups. (Karen has been a spiritual coach to many through her years of ministry and is excited about the replication potential of Listening Groups.)
Also, Karen is preparing for the upcoming (Advent) Silent Retreat, which is still open for registration (see the Hungry Souls Web site for more information).
Making Sunday Special by Karen Mains
(inside-flap copy, hardcover edition)
Whatever happened to the spirit of Sabbath-keeping? Many Christians in this secular age have reacted so strongly against secular rules for Sunday that they retain no sense of its spiritual, sacred opportunity. This lively yet practical book by noted Christian leader Karen Mains calls us to restore the sacred meaning of the Lord’s Day—a choice that will make for a richer, fuller life.
Making Sunday Special is available for purchase through Sunday Solutions, the Webstore of Mainstay Ministries.