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  • Writer's pictureJacob Mamachan

Marriage - A Messianic and Theological Approach

Wedding sermon at the wedding ceremony of Sangeeth and Tanya (7th May 2022)

Zai Ha’yom asah Adonai (Yahweh). 
This is the day that the Lord has made Psalm. 118:24a

This Psalm was used at the passover meal on the eight day of the Passover celebration and quoting this Psalm, the New Testament authors pointed to Jesus Christ and His resurrection. However, in modernity, this section of the Psalm has appeared on numerous wedding cards implying that “the day that the Lord has made" as being one’s wedding day or birthday or some other special day. Realistically the Psalm has never carried such meaning, but always had clear Messianic overtones.

So the pressing question is - How did many get this verse and many other verses so wrong, that not even the early Christian writers maintained any such meaning? The plain sailing answer being an acontextual reading of scripture and misguided theology.

The 3rd century writing of Cyprian of Carthage, for example, in his treatises on prayer quotes this very Psalm and calls Christ ‘the Day’, and again, the 4th century writing of Augustine of Hippo weighs in -

This obvious prophetic Scripture wanted us to understand something, some day not of the common sort, not visible to eyes of flesh; not the kind of day that has a sunrise and sunset but a day that could know a dawn but never know a setting. Let us take the cornerstone as introducing us to this day.

My friends, the greatest day that the Lord has made is not the wedding day but the day that Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification, becoming the Lord and Savior of our salvation. This is the day we believe to be the greatest day of our lives and we rejoice in it! All other days dwarf in comparison to the day of our salvation! As the song writer notes -

Oh what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget. After I’d wandered in darkness away Jesus my Savior I met.

May the message of the cross dominate your life so that every other person, event or day pales in

comparison to it. Peter reminds us in his First epistle -

1 Peter 1:24–25 (ESV) - All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever

I will do my best to convey a simple, biblical and contextual view of marriage to engage you intellectually and spiritually by keeping in regard the below three points :

  1. The Ancient world and the Old Testament

  2. The New Testament

  3. Some concluding remarks

My sincere prayer is that you will return home with a biblical perspective on marriage. ⸻⸻

What was marriage in the Ancient world? In the Ancient Near East and by extension in the Israelite community, marriage was called a covenant (Berith).

A “contract” - involving payments, stipulations and penalties. Marriage was simply viewed as a contract. The key Hebrew word berith, was also used in contexts of covenant with God. For example, Jeremiah the prophet speaking about a new covenant writes -

Jeremiah. 31:32 not like the covenant (Berith) I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant (Berith) that they broke, though I was their Husband, declares the Lord

What was the connection of a marriage covenant between God and Israel in the Old Testament? To understand this we will have to travel back in time to the Genesis account. God created the world in six days and instituted marriage with the intention to make the entire earth His Holy temple and residence.

The seven summary points of Genesis chapters 1 & 2 read as follows -

-God said,”Let us make man in our image and after our likeness” -God created man in His own image -God said, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion.” -The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden -The Lord said, “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him. The man gave names to all livestock but for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him" -So God made a woman and brought her to the man

God did not plant the garden of Eden so that Adam and Eve could eat all day and run around crazy like children in a candy shop (atleast that is pretty much the lay readers impression!). Rather the garden of Eden was a sophisticated imagery of the holy temple of Yahweh, where Adam and Eve were supposed to protect the microcosm in their capacity as priests. As the story goes, the serpent (a divine sinister being) deceived the first human pair, and God justly decommissioned them from office and subsequently exiled them from the garden, placing a curse upon them. God promised them a Messiah to reorder and resolve what we call theologically - The Fall. Later, in Genesis 12, God called out Abraham as Father of nations, made a covenant with him and promised to save the world through him.

Genesis 12:1–3 Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Eventually Yahweh formed the nation of Israel through the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and set in motion His covenant plan.

The Israelites were commissioned under Moses to build a tabernacle “the dwelling of God”, and Yahweh commissioned them as priests saying, “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” Exodus 19:6 (ESV). Therefore, the Israelites were to be the instruments by which God would save the world. It is in this very rich and robust context starting from creation to God’s own nation building, that the prophets of the Old Testament, primarily during the second temple period, started weaving the biblical story in marital language and wrote about the greatest love story of all time - not between man and a woman - but between Yahweh and His bride “Israel”.

The prophet Hosea, the first of the twelve minor prophets, wrote circa 8th century BCE -

Hosea 2:19–20 And I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

The prophet Jeremiah, one of the major prophets (quoted earlier) wrote circa 6th century BCE -

Jeremiah 2:2 Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride,

It is in the story of Israel that a common act like marriage takes on a theological meaning. Somehow marriage sheds its physical role of husband and wife and takes on a truer meaning - God and His people! It is the physical aspect of marriage between husband and wife that guided the people of Israel to see what they could not otherwise see - Yahweh's love for the people!

Why is the marital metaphor and language between Yahweh and Israel so important?

The marital language of Yahweh and Israel was -

  • Not so that Israel could possess a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ or in other words - material prosperity!

  • Not even so that they could have an army so big that the surrounding nations would tremble at their name.

It is because the marriage of Yahweh to Israel ushered in the long awaited messianic king - Jesus Christ! Simply conveyed - God with Israel resulted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord of all the earth.

The concept of marriage is filled with theology. The two parallel stories - Adam and Eve, Yahweh and Israel - like two streams of water run simultaneously, one from the physical point of view and the other from the spiritual perspective, as one for the birth of the Messiah “Emmanuel, God with us!” and the other, as during Christmas season the resounding “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King!”, respectively.

Marriage is messianic! Marriage is theological! Unfortunately this is not how an average Christian understands marriage in our generation or particularly in churches.

This theology of marriage is so distant from the modern perceptions which are either because -

  • we are primarily dominated by our emotions

  • influences from the media regarding marriage - where we think we can marry whom we please, where we please, when we please and adding to this ever growing list - for how long we please!

  • some marry as part of a status symbol (I’m pointing at those who meticulously search for educational qualifications, that is, somehow marriage has become all about what degree a person has!).

  • some marry because it was a prophet who told them so! There is no “perfect” marriage but only “right” marriage, you need wisdom not prophecy! Prophets according to the bible are not marriage brokers!

  • some even marry because that is the norm and there is no other way out of it

  • yet some because they are aging and may not find a partner if they wait any longer (like applying to Canada, where your points reduce as you age.)

  • some delay marriage to “enjoy the world” and focus on their careers.

I am not saying the above is wrong for a gentile (or a non-christian), but for those who bear the cross of Christ, this is a serious and devastating deviation!

A sidestep from biblical truth!

A breaking of the covenant with God!

You see, a Christian marriage is to essentially fulfill Yahweh’s Genesis mandate and thereby through the union of the Man and the Woman, bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Therefore, Marriage has a theological framework at its core and this is key in understanding the deeper meaning of a Christian marriage!

What does the New Testament say in the matter of marriage? Under the New Testament, the principle is the same as the Old Testament. Jesus Christ has become the lens through which we interpret the bible, even marriage!

Scholars use phrases such as “High Christology”, “Christocentric”, and in the New Testament Paul uses “en Christo” - i.e. “in Christ”, a key theological phrase, to represent the centrality of Jesus Christ. Therefore, marriage should be seen “In Christ” as well. Any other manner is inferior and does no justice to the theology of the New Testament. Strikingly Paul employs the same exegesis of marriage in the New Testament as I have laid out for you from the Old Testament. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, in the section on husbands and wives, Paul quotes the same verse from Genesis and makes a striking comment -

Ephesians 5:31–32 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

What Paul essentially indicates is that the New Testament marriage incorporates the elements of Yahweh's marriage to Israel from the Old Testament. For Paul, marriage has a much greater motif than just learning how to cook, where to stay, how many children to bear, which car to buy and such mundane decisions (that every married couple eventually makes).

He is concerned about the dual function:

  • of saving the lost and

  • maturing the church - body of Christ.

If we continue reading Ephesians chapter 5-6, we can see that Paul has used the same word ‘mystery’ that he used for marriage but this time he uses it with reference to the Gospel -

Ephesians 6:19 pray also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

In his most difficult and challenging letter to Corinth where he discussed a swathe of topics including marriage, Paul made some pretty bold statements that our minds may struggle to comprehend -

1 Corinthians 7:28–31 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away

Paul linchpins the eschatology of Christ to the Christian brother and sister, even in the topic of marriage! Simply Amazing! I pray such scriptures will be the cornerstone of all wedding ceremonies. ⸻⸻ My Final section have some concluding remarks, but first let me present an analogy of the Old Testament and the New Testament -

​Old Testament

​New Testament

Marriage is portrayed between Yahweh and Israel

Marriage is portrayed between Christ and His Church

Marriage birthed the Messiah

Marriage birthed salvation through the gospel

Marriage waits for the Messiah, Jesus Christ

Marriage waits for the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ

My beloved readers, we live in a secular world, where we tend to be governed by television, friends, youtubers, facebook, money making enterprises and so on. This unhealthy spread of a shortcut and uncritical reading of the scriptures has weakened our spiritual senses and as James says, in due course we become friends of the world. I urge my readers, those of a Christian persuasion especially, to understand that marriage is not only two people coming together for some earthly fulfillment, but let marriage be biblical, salvific and a hopeful expectation of the ‘Return of Jesus Christ'.

Ephesians 5:25–27, Paul writes Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Marriage is Messianic! Marriage is theological!

May this understanding of marriage dominate your attitudes.

Thank you for your attention and may God bless you with these scriptures.


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