I have been fascinated for years with the concept of the Jewish covenant. There are several covenants between God and His people in the Old Testament (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David), and of course, in the New Testament there is the new covenant between Jesus Christ and all who believe on His name. There is little in our culture today to compare to the Jewish concept of the covenant. Most agreements today are made by contracts; not covenants. While contracts are “made to be broken”, a biblical covenant was marked by complete devotion between two parties.
One area in which we sometimes still use covenant language is in marriage. As a church, we considered this Jewish custom in light of the covenant meal Christ shared with His disciples, what we now call The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29). Here are some details of the Jewish marriage covenant:
The first major step in a Jewish marriage was betrothal. Betrothal involved the establishment of a marriage covenant. By Jesus’ time it was usual for such a covenant to be established as the result of the prospective bridegroom taking the initiative. The prospective bridegroom would travel from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride. There he would negotiate with the father of the young woman to determine the price (mohar) that he must pay to purchase his bride. Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was thereby established, and the young man and woman were regarded to be husband and wife. From that moment on the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified, set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced. After the marriage covenant had been established, the groom would leave the home of the bride and return to his father’s house. There he would remain separate from his bride for a period of twelve months. This period of separation afforded the bride time to gather her trousseau and to prepare for married life. The groom occupied himself with the preparation of living accommodations in his father’s house to which he could bring his bride. At the end of the period of separation the groom would come to take his bride to live with him. (Ref: http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/jewish_marriage_customs.htm)
When we behold the church as the bride of Christ and Christ as the Bridegroom, this comparison is staggering. So, as a church, we planned a big Lord’s Supper event for the whole church to coincide with Easter weekend, where we shared the new covenant bread and cup with each other and Christ as the establishing of a marriage covenant.
This was a beautiful time together. We rented a hall and dressed up as though we were attending a wedding. We began by singing in celebration and then partook of the bread together; the Groom’s Body broken for His Bride. As we ate dinner together and passed the cup of Christ’s covenant, the saints shared wedding vows, poems, new songs, artwork, and their very hearts with our Lord as the Bridegroom.
On that night, we, together as one body, received and accepted our Lord’s betrothal as His glorious bride!