Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nahum 1:9-13 (Part 2)

This idea that God takes an attack on His people as a personal attack upon Himself ties in with the earlier idea in verse 2 of Divine jealousy. Nahum’s employment of the idea of jealousy, then, is in harmony with the familiar scriptural motif of ‘husband and wife.’ This motif is often applied to God’s relation to His people. Israel had been the object of God’s eternal love. They had been brought into the family of God in the Exodus from Egypt. He had cared for them and nourished them in the testings of the wilderness and had brought them safely into the land of inheritance. God recalled their total devotion and the loving warmth and pristine purity of those early wedding days. Living in the land of promise, a thoughtful and happy wife ought to have been what God had intended her to be: holy to the Lord (Jer. 2:2-3). But such scarcely had been the case. Jeremiah 2:4-3:5 recounts the sorry tale of the bride who had become God’s wayward wife.

Jeremiah’s portrayal of the spiritual odyssey of Israel/Judah is in harmony with the same theme sung by other prophets. Hosea’s marriage was to picture God’s relation to Israel. It emphasized that Israel’s wanton apostasy would gain her only the loss of her freedom, until God would pay the price for her sin and bring her back to Himself in the latter days (Hos. 1-3).

Isaiah (Isa. 54:4-17) relates that Israel had been forsaken by God because of her wickedness. Nevertheless she was yet God’s wife and, as a repentant nation, would yet be forgiven and re-gathered in righteousness and so enjoy the everlasting acceptance and protection of her divine husband.

Ezekiel 16 is devoted to the same theme. Jerusalem is likened to a bride (v. 8) who had become a brazen harlot (vv. 15, 43), even outdoing Sodom in her iniquity (vv. 44-52). Because she had broken her marriage oath, she incurred God’s chastisement (vv. 53-59). But God, a forgiving and loyal husband, would yet receive her back and remove her humiliation forever (vv. 60-63).

It is no surprise, then, that the theme of the bride is taken up again by Christ and the apostles, whose Bible was largely still the Old Testament. The relationship now, however, is between Christ and the church (cf. Mark 2:19) and, as such, complements the relationship of God the Father with Israel.

Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christ loved the church as a husband loves his bride. Accordingly He sacrificed Himself for her so that she might be pure and holy and seen in all her God-given beauty (Eph. 5:25-27). Paul rehearses to the Corinthian believers how he (the friend of the bridegroom) had introduced them (the bride) to Christ (the groom). Although she had been a pure virgin, Paul found that the Corinthian church had been susceptible (like Eve) to the serpent’s bite of false gospels. Thus the Corinthians stood in particular need of his ministry to them lest they stray further (2 Cor. 11:1-4).

The Revelation given through John pictures the joy of heaven at the proclamation of that great wedding supper of the Lamb for His waiting bride: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Certainly it is true that, although she has been wedded to Christ, the church His bride awaits His coming to take her to His home and to the full joy of that festive occasion. Of that coming of the bridegroom, Christ Himself warns a waiting generation to be ready and watching, longing for His coming (Matt. 25:1-13).

Paul reminds his readers, who make up the waiting bride of Christ, that the church is to have a faithful and productive marriage. For that reason she has been married to her saving husband and has become one spirit with Him, her body having become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:15-19). As His bride, who both expects His imminent return and is mindful of her union with Christ, the church is to keep herself pure (1 John 3:1-3), remembering the wedding price that Christ Himself has paid (1 Cor. 6:20).

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