When history tells the story of Covid someday, I am sure that one of plots that will stand out is the tale of the sudden elopement. My daughter, just finishing up her college degree, has many friends who were in the joyful process of wedding planning when quarantine hit mid March of 2020.
So many joyous preparations like bridal showers, special bridesmaid trips and elaborate wedding day festivities suddenly came to a stand still on March 15th. With the uncertainly of the future, and questions about when they would be able to gather together with friends and family to celebrate, many couples opted for elopement – with a future formal ceremony to be shared with loved ones.
Other couples opted for FaceTime weddings in parks with 10 cherished guests standing socially distanced with masks. Plans were thrown aside and restructured quickly. Yet, the brides still prepared themselves.
The wedding ceremony is one of the most cherished and sacred in our world. It is the union of two people from two different backgrounds into one family. The Lord says the two will become one flesh. There is no unity more sacred to the Lord than what happens in marriage when a man and a woman covenant together and begin a family. It is a reflection of what will happen between Jesus and the church when he returns to take his bride at the final trumpet.
All through scripture, Israel is described as the Father’s wife. In fact, in the book of Hosea, the Lord instructs the prophet Hosea to take a wife who is a prostitute, so he can understand what it feels like to have a wife who is unfaithful. This is what God experienced when Israel was unfaithful- worshipping false gods and turning their hearts from him. The breech of relationship was extremely painful to the Lord.
In the New Testament, the world-wide collective people of God who trust in his son Jesus Christ and belong to him are called the Bride of Christ. This isn’t just a metaphor found in one passage. It is a spiritual reality thematically laced through the entire body of scripture. God created us for relationship with him and he is longing for the day that the wedding will culminate in an eternal union celebrated at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
So now, we wait. We are uncertain as to the time or day of our wedding feast. Yet, are we ready?
Revelation 19:6-8 says, “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
Are you making yourself ready? How do we do this? Instead of saying, “I think this means…. or I feel getting ready is…,” we need understand what God tells us getting ready means in scripture. Verse 8 tells us clearly.
“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
Many believers in Jesus today have trusted in him, but have not heard a complete gospel. They have heard a very, very watered down gospel. When you read this scripture in Revelation, you may wonder how being clothed in righteousness is being clothed in righteous acts. We know that Isaiah says our righteousness is as filthy rags. How can filthy rags of works be fit to make a beautiful wedding dress?
Yet, here is this scripture.
What about the passage that says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith it is a gift of God, not by works lest any man boast?” Yes! That is in Ephesians. Let us read that passage in context.
Ephesians 2:4-10, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
In the context of the scripture we are saved by grace. We don’t deserve it. Our works cannot earn it. We can only receive it by faith- AND we are to keep reading. We are saved, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the works of God that God prepared for us to do. He prepared us to live as children of God, not children of the devil.
We live for our bridegroom- preparing ourselves for our wedding day. Also in Revelation 3:14-18 Jesus tells his bride, “‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works (emphasis mine), that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”
This is what Jesus tells the Laodicean church. We need a humility that doesn’t settle for business as usual Christianity. We should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. In the Western church, many people are taught to judge their righteousness from God by their physical blessings. Once I was listening to a popular Christian radio show and I heard a very misguided host say, “Poverty is really connected with sin. If someone is poor, there is probably a sin issue.” This is a prevalent attitude in the church in America. (This is actually more in alignment with the cast system in India that teaches the poor deserve to be poor and the rich are those with the spiritual strength.)
Those with more in the American dream can be tempted to look down on those with less as lazy and probably having a sin problem. However, most of the warnings in the scripture are to the rich- that those with more should take care not to assume that because they are blessed in the physical realm they are spiritually right with God. Only God knows the heart. Rich or poor- our wealth or lack of wealth is not a sign of where we are with God. What we do with our wealth or lack of wealth is more of a reflection the state of our hearts than our abundance.
As I have heard a wise man say, “It’s not an issue of having money- it’s an issue of does your money have you.” Also Jesus said, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” We need to continue to excitedly prepare ourselves for the return of our bridegroom. Jesus teaches us here that physical abundance can give us the illusion that we have all we need. We really need to ask the Lord to prepare our hearts and to forgive us for trusting in money, instead of trusting in God.
What will we do when all of the financial security vanishes? Will we have the faith to trust the Lord?
You may still be reading and wondering what all of this has to do with fasting. In Isaiah 58:6-9 the Lord gives us a picture of what kind of fast he listens to:
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
While you are fasting and seeking the Lord, part of your preparation for his return is to financially take care of those who are in need. The bride of Christ makes herself beautiful by loving and sharing. We are purchased by the blood of Jesus. We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. We are saved by the blood of Jesus. We are prepared for the great day of the wedding supper of the Lamb by the righteous acts which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Notice that we are taught to share- to help- to encourage- to cover. We start with our own family. Are we loving our own family? Are we helping those we are related to who are in financial or emotional need? Are we turning our hearts to our spouses and children, to take care of their spiritual and emotional needs? Are we asking God to help us to love them more and to teach us to love them?
These are the ways we are made beautiful. These a few of the many ways we purchase fine garments from Jesus. We do these things in the power of the Spirit out of obedience to the Lord. Are we willing to give our money and resources to those in need? Are we generous or are we stingy?
In Revelation 3:19-20 Jesus says,” As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”
Do you have an ear to hear? Prepare yourself for the return of the Lord! Get your wedding dress ready. What are you decorating yourself with? 1 Peter 3:3-5 speaks about what adorning ourselves looks like. Aside from the application in marriage, look at the heart of what adorning looks like.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves…”
Those who are fasting, seek to adorn themselves with the beautiful things of the Lord- the righteous acts of the saints that come from a redeemed heart- cleansed by the Lamb of God. These outward expressions of an inward faith in Christ are beautiful. They touch the world around us. They heal relationships. And as it says in Isaiah 58- when we do these things in our fast- our healing will quickly appear.