Jacob and Rebekah

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One of the things that we see throughout all Scripture is how weddings are associated with joy. Before the Fall of our first parents, Scripture opens its pages with a wedding, beautiful in its promise and innocence. At the conclusion of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, we see another wedding, even more beautiful. All of God’s Word to us is bracketed by these two weddings, in Genesis and in Revelation, and these weddings are expressions of joy.

John the Baptist points to this same reality when He answers a question about who Jesus was. Jesus had been drawing many to follow Him, and John was asked about it:

“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29).

John is saying here that the joy of the best man or groomsman is great, but still derivative. His joy depends on something and someone else. It depends upon the joy that can be heard in the bridegroom’s voice. In the same way, the joy of this entire occasion radiates outward from this central joy, the joy of the bride and groom.

And in a similar way, this occasion, this wedding, is like an attendant at a much greater wedding. We have a goodly number of attendants here, but it is nothing compared to the number of attendants that are present in principle for the wedding supper of the Lamb. The apostle Paul tells us that every one of our marriages is a declaration of the kind of derivative joy we are talking about. Every Christian marriage is therefore a groomsman and a bridesmaid, standing off to the side of the central marriage with nothing but unalloyed joy.

A husband loving his wife, and a wife respecting her husband, are the appointed ways that we—attendants at Christ’s wedding—share in His joy. This is the way we are asked to reflect his joy. Our weddings are reflections of His wedding, and our marriages are reflections of His marriage. This reflection can be an accurate one, or not, but that is the role we have to play. When John the Baptist was called upon to play the role of groomsman, he did it well. He humbled himself. He reminded the others that he was not the bridegroom, and he did not want to be. He wanted to share in the central joy, and not try to be the source of central joy himself. Humility is therefore key.

Picture a wedding—not this one, certainly—but a hypothetical wedding where the groomsmen and bridesmaids were arguing and quarreling through the whole ceremony. If such an absurd thing were to happen, it would show the congregation that they did not know where they were, or what they were supposed to be doing. But this is what happens every time a husband and wife do not display—in their treatment of one another—the derivative joy that everyone in a bridal party should have. When a Christian man and a Christian woman do not treat each other right that is exactly what is happening.

Think of it another way. Every Christian marriage is a toast at the reception. If you have attended a good number of weddings, you know that some toasts are done very well, and that others are somewhat embarrassing. What is the difference? A good toast is one that makes the person being toasted look good. Done well, it honors. Done poorly, it creates an awkward moment for everyone.

So every Christian marriage should be a declaration of how we know and love the bride and groom. In this central case, the bride and groom are the Church and the Lord Jesus. Our marriages should be a toast to the Marriage.

A toast is lifted up. A glass is raised. Is your marriage lifted up in that way to honor the one who defines marriage? Is your joy reflecting the central joy that the Lord Jesus displays in His care for His bride? He bled for her. He died for her. He took on sin for her. How shall we honor that? How shall we respond in joy?

The Bible teaches us that husbands are to do this by loving their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Scripture tells us that wives are to do this by respecting and honoring their husbands, as the Church honors Christ. This is not the pathway of raw duty. This is not the way of religious or ascetic rigor. This is not an assigned legalism. No, this is the path of joy. There are many paths that people take as they try to figure marriage out, but there is only one path to take where it is possible to sing as you go. Husbands, to reject the way of obedience is to reject this musical joy. Wives, to reject the way of obedience is to reject this musical joy.

Jacob, you are not taking Rebekah’s vows. You are taking your own. Rebekah, you are not taking Jacob’s vows. You are taking your own. As each of you does this, you are providing the greatest help possible in aiding your spouse in completing what they have undertaken.

So Jacob, this is a relationship that you, in imitation of Jesus, have initiated. You intend, by the grace of God, to keep the vows that you are just about to make here. You are standing with a woman who has every intention of doing the same thing. She will keep her vows. Part of your task is to love her in such a way that her faithfulness in this is highlighted. As you love her, it ought not to be done in such a way as to make people notice how you are loving her. That is not loving your wife, it is showing off. You should love her in such a way as to make it easy for people to see how she is respecting you. Do not obey in such a way as to spotlight your own obedience. Spotlight hers. Love her.

Rebekah, in just a moment you will be taking your vows. Your demeanor should be the same spiritual demeanor that your husband has, but your task is different. When a man and woman dance together, it is the same dance, even though he and she may be doing completely different things. The steps might be reversed in a mirror-image kind of way, or they might simply be different. But however different they are, if they are to be the same dance, they must be complementary. You are appointed to be your husband’s glory. You are to be his crown. And just as he highlights your fulfillment of your vows, so also you should highlight his fulfillment of his. In this, your dance is the same as your husband’s. But your steps are different. You focus on honoring him, in the Lord, and he is to focus on loving you, in the Lord.

The end result will be a wonderful, glorious, joy.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

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10 years ago

As St. Paul said, a husband and wife, or a marriage, serves as a signpost to the Marriage: Christ and his church.