THE bride of the Lord Jesus Christ
(Reading: Proverbs chapter 31)
When we undertook to learn the truth and we made the decision to be baptised, we would have had someone, using common vernacular, say to us that we were to become a part of “The Bride of Christ”. It is a common statement, even used to refer by the apostasy to the Nuns of the Catholic Church.
Do we therefore understand the majesty of the term and the gravity of being one of the group termed by the scriptures, and by believers, as The Bride of The Lord Jesus Christ?
To be a bride in the literal sense implies that one is of the female gender, therefore it is appropriate that we look at the way the Scriptures treat women in relation to marriage and service in the truth.
We may then relate the principals involved to our relationship with our “Bridegroom”.
In our reading Proverbs 31, Solomon enumerates the characteristics of the ideal wife and mother.
Every sister would surely love to emulate such a character, and every brother would dearly love to find such an one as his helpmeet.
We have collectively read the passage concerned – Proverbs 31:10-31, so let us see what the wise man saw as his ideal. There is no doubt that he did not have a specific woman as his role model, but based his Virtuous woman upon his estimation of the ideal woman, helped by Divine inspiration.
It is interesting to note that the great and wise King Solomon had just written of the prophesy of his mother and the great lessons of life she imparted to him in his childhood in the beginning of the chapter. He must have used the memories of the upbringing his mother gave him when he was thinking of what to write in the chapter we have just read.
We would all be aware that the mother had the most influence upon the child rearing process in the society of the Kings of Israel of those days.
The Virtuous Woman has her various virtues expounded for us in chapter 31, so let us see how the bride of The Lord Jesus Christ should present herself.
As a Bride or wife:
- Her husband can trust her implicitly; she is chaste and faithful, v 11.
- She has a good influence upon him – all throughout her life she is consistent in her goodliness. v 12.
- She, through her example, enhances the family’s name and reputation, and stabilises her husband’s reputation among the elders, – in v 23 we are told that he does sit with the elders of the land.
- Her family has nothing but love and praise for her, as vv 28 & 29 tell us.
As a mother in Israel.
- She is a dedicated mother, working all hours of the day and night – in verse 15 she is rising while it is yet night, and verse 18, her candle goeth not out by night, that is she works all hours to support her family.
- She fears not for her household’s health as she clothes them well, as verse 21 indicates, the Jerusalem Bible translates it – “Snow may come, she has no fears for her household, with all her servants warmly clothed.”
The verse indicates that her concern goes beyond her immediate family and encompasses her employees as well. Imagine the employers of today being concerned about the health and welfare of their employees.
As a manager of her home and family.
- She makes clothes, both for home consumption and for sale, v 13.
- Her skills are many, culminating in the praise given her in verse 31.
- verse 19, Weaving
- verse 22, Sewing
- verse 24, Weaving, manufacturing and marketing;
- She helps with the family economy, selling merchandise as well as providing for the family needs, as we have seen in verse 22, 24.
- She is not idle as seen in verse 27, but she keeps a constant “good” watch upon the conduct of the household.
- She is economically prudent – v 14 she buys from afar, – v 18 she knows the value of the goods she produces for sale, – verse 16, she invests her earnings well, buying a field and establishing a vineyard with her earnings.
We are then shown the personal characteristics desirable in the virtuous woman:
- She is not weak, verse 16.
- She is dignified, well respected and confident of the future for her family and herself — verse 25.
- She dresses appropriately and modestly, although well, — verse 22.
- She is generous and sympathetic to others not as well off as herself, — verse 20.
- She speaks wisdom and with kindness, or as one modern translation puts it “with a gentle wisdom”, verse 26.
Her greatest characteristic is her fear of Yahweh, for which she is to be praised, as is expressed in verse 30.
The woman so described, as we have said, is the “Ideal”, and Solomon would most surely have had drawn together the characteristics of many to develop the Virtuous Woman.
That is not to say that there have not been, or will be, many Sisters who are not worthy of such a description, but I think you will agree that it would be a hard task to be at all near to the mark. That applies to the Brethren as well as they walk as part of the multitudinous Bride of The Lord Jesus Christ, a point we hope to develop later.
Paul mentions many Sisters in his various letters and epistles that he left for us, many of whom he speaks highly.
Such Sisters as Phoebe, in Romans 16, who was a sister of great works within her ecclesia of Cenchrea, the eastern seaport of Corinth, about nine miles from the city centre.
THE EXAMPLE OF PHOEBE
A magnificent example is Phoebe, whose name means “bright” and therefore relates to shining brightly or making manifest. Phoebe manifested Yahweh with her works, having a prominent and active position within the ecclesia.
Paul had so much respect for her that he appointed her the bearer of the epistle to the Romans, being for a time the sole custodian of the letter, a great responsibility.
He describes her as “an assistant of many, and especially of me”; in Romans 16:2 and I quote from the Diaglot, which gives the most accurate translation. An assistant, one who can take the pressure off the one assisted, a great help if done with skill, and Paul who emphasises her skill gives Phoebe great praise.
Paul also mentions Priscilla in the next verse, one who along with her husband Aquilla, had made the ultimate sacrifice for their Lord and for Paul’s life, that of giving their own lives.
On his second journey, Paul along with Timothy, Silas and Luke arrived at Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
On the Sabbath day they made their way down to the river which was close by, “where prayer was wont to be made,” (Acts 16:12-13).
“And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony, and we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. (Acts 16:12-13).
If the assumption that Philippi was Luke’s hometown is correct, he surely would have been aware that prayers were regularly held at the river.
It was also where the women resorted, whether for prayer, or for social reasons, we are not told, but they did hear the words of Paul and his disciples. Those words made a great impression on one of them – Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, and she worshipped Yahweh.
THE EXAMPLE OF LYDIA
A seller of purple—again a sister who seems to have had to support herself and her family by working, a circumstance not unique to our society, although it has increased in my lifetime, an indication, is it not, that we are in that time frame described in Luke 17:26:
“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man”.
Lydia in all probability sold garments dyed in the royal colour, a dye made from a tiny mollusc found in the Mediterranean waters along the Phoenician coast, with the waters of the river Lycus in Thyatira in Central Asia being the best for producing the most brilliant colouring, hence her product was a world renowned one – an example of Lydia’s astuteness. Lydia was a native of Thyatira who had evidently moved to Philippi and had established her business importing and reselling Thyatirian cloth, no doubt using her knowledge and contacts from her home town.
Lydia worshipped Yahweh, – as Acts 16:14 tells us, that is, she was a proselyte. The Lord Jesus Christ then opened her heart so that she attended the things which were spoken of by Paul, and she became what we could call “a Christadelphian”.
I repeat the question as put by our late Bro Tony Newton at a Mid-week class some time ago;
“Brethren and Sisters, do we know why Yahweh called us to the Truth?”
Both Lydia and her household accepted the truth and were baptised, – remember the Virtuous Woman, how she looked after the needs of her household – including their spiritual needs, – as did Lydia.
After her baptism Lydia did not leave Paul and his fellow travellers to fend for themselves but she ‘besought’ them to abide in her household a while, no doubt using the time together to dwell upon those things new and precious to the household. She was truly a mother in Israel, although not of Jewish blood. She was a true Sister of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our quest to become a part of the multitudinous Bride of The Lord Jesus Christ, Lydia is a great example for all of us to take to heart.
Let us now look at the act of Marriage and its Spiritual Significance, as we look towards Him whom we have chosen, and whom we know who’s coming is near at hand.
Yahweh ordained marriage early in the scriptural message; in Gen. 2:18 it says;
“And Yahweh Elohim said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him”.
The implication of the words is clear and unmistakable, it proves beyond all doubt that the institution of marriage between male and female (the help meet for man) is not a human institution, but Yahweh ordained it, and he stands behind every true marriage. Our Lord Jesus Christ refers to this with His answer to the Pharisees when they asked Him about the putting away of wives in Matthew 19:3-6:
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore Elohim hath joined together, let not man put asunder”
The Pharisees were then stupid enough to carry on with their line of questioning and were then given the most succinct answer, as was The Lord Jesus Christ’s way with words, straight to the point and leaving no room for question. The words of The Lord Jesus Christ emphasize the sanctity of the marriage union and elevate it above all other human relationships. Therefore, marriage is of Yahweh, and the laws relating to marriage and the marriage state are designed to give the maximum of happiness and joy to the human race.
The reason that most marriages break up in the world, especially today, is because the marriage was undertaken for the wrong reasons. The main reason being self-gratification. Selfishness and greed are the characteristics of today’s society that appear to be coming to the forefront in all aspects of life, but they are definitely the main reason for the breakup of relationships of today. The male partner still wants his independence to do what he wants to, to go to the hotel, to go fishing, to buy a new car when there are other priorities to be taken into account. The female still wants the new clothes, the career path (even when small children are involved), the holidays, the new house in the flash suburb, and all the time the family is suffering because both parties are working, sometimes two or more jobs to finance all these selfish wants, not needs, wants.
Another reason for the failing marriage is much more base.
Physical attraction may at the time seem to be a good reason to enter into a marriage, with the hope that love and respect will develop with time, usually, unfortunately, that does not occur, and a totally incompatible couple end up in misery. There are a lot of other reasons people marry incompatible partners, loneliness, forced or arranged marriages, peer pressure. Even people changing character through illness can cause the breakdown of marriages, but this means nothing to Yahweh.
There are great lessons for us to glean from the experiences of those around us, what used to be solely a thing in the world around us but now sadly has burst into Ecclesial life with vengeance. We pray that we are not affected as they, but if circumstances place us in such a situation, we plead that we can remain strong in our faith and place our trust and reliance upon the Father to guide us along that narrow path to His glory.