From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Nineteen, Day Four
God is not content to be known merely as Creator, Lord, or even Father. Incredibly he reveals himself also as Bridegroom or Husband. The Hebrew Scriptures contain numerous allusions to Yahweh as Israel's divine Husband, and the New Testament presents Christ as the church's Bridegroom. He is the Holy One who did not cling to his divinity but left his Father's house to dwell among us, calling us to become one with him in the most intimate way possible. To all of us, male and female, Christ offers himself as our provider and protector, the one who has forever pledged himself in faithfulness and love.
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! Revelation 19:9
Praying the Name
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming. . . . While they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
Later the others also came. "Sir! Sir!" they said. "Open the door for us!"
But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you."
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1 - 5, 10 - 13
Reflect On: Matthew 25:1 - 13.
Praise God: Who calls us into his kingdom.
Offer Thanks: That God has invited you to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Confess: Any complacency about Christ's return.
Ask God: To reveal areas of your life that require better preparation.
Take a few moments to imagine that you are about to be married.
Yours is not a conventional twentieth-century wedding. No, the preparations for your wedding are much more elaborate because you are Jewish woman living in Palestine at the time of Jesus. You and your fiancé have already taken the first step, called the kiddushin, or betrothal. Once the marriage covenant is agreed on and the bride price paid, your engagement is so binding that your relationship with your fiancé can now be dissolved only by death or divorce. If another man were to accost you, he would be stoned to death. But despite the strong bond you have formed with your prospective husband, you and he are still living separately, both within your parents' homes. It will be another twelve months until the two of you can live together as husband and wife.
You will use the remaining months to prepare yourself for the responsibilities of marriage, making sure that your trousseau is complete. Meanwhile, your fiancé will be working hard to prepare a place for the two of you to live in, not somewhere out in the suburbs but in a house right next to his father's or even a room within his father's house. Once the preparations are complete, he will come for you at night, accompanied by a procession of friends and musicians. You will be wearing the family jewels, clothed in a white linen dress that has been stitched with fine gold thread. While you eagerly await your groom, your friends will wait with you. But sadly, some of them will miss the feast because they are ill prepared to celebrate it. Regardless, your bridegroom will take you home to celebrate the wedding feast with songs, music, and dancing.
This is the picture the New Testament paints concerning the spiritual time frame in which we are living. Just as the Jewish bridegroom comes for his bride after paying the bride price and completing a lengthy period of engagement, Jesus will come for his bride, the church. He will take us home to his Father's house to live with him forever.
Right now we are living in a period analogous to the betrothal period. As members of the church, we need to get ready for the Bridegroom's coming. But how do we prepare, especially when we don't know exactly when he will come?
Though Jesus' second coming will be a time of great rejoicing for the faithful, Scripture also portrays it as a time when sudden disaster will overtake the world. But how can we possibly prepare for such a cataclysmic event as the end of the world? The only way we can is to live as though Jesus' coming is imminent, as though he may come today, tomorrow, or next week. Just as disaster-preparedness experts advise us to focus on natural basics like food, water, and medicine when preparing for a natural disaster, our readiness plan should involve focusing on the spiritual basics. Here is a quick list of items for your spiritual preparedness kit along with some Scripture passages for reference:
1. Repent daily (Matthew 3:2).
2. Get caught serving (Matthew 25:14 - 30).
3. Be quick to forgive (Matthew 18:23 - 32).
4. Never let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:25 - 27).
5. Pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
6. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
7. Be generous to the poor (Luke 12:33 - 34).
8. Remember, no matter what, that God is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:12 - 13).
9. Link your life with other believers (1 Corinthians 12:12 - 27).
If you want to be like the wise virgins in the story from Matthew's Gospel, make certain you are at least practicing these basics of the faith. Doing so will help you deal with whatever personal disasters or challenges you may face, regardless of whether Jesus returns now or a thousand years from now. Once you have taken inventory of these basic spiritual practices, consider putting together your own spiritual readiness kit with faith practices that will help you effectively prepare for the coming of the most desirable of all bridegrooms, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com. Be sure to check out Ann's newest book, Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness.