Ezekiel 16:7–22, 2 Corinthians 11:1–4, Revelation 19:6–9
The image of the church as the bride of Jesus was not a new concept. Israel/Judah was often compared to a wife, though, sadly, often an unfaithful wife. Despite the seeming graphic nature of this passage in Ezekiel, there is a strong implication of innocence, harking back to the Garden of Eden (prior to the Fall), when Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. The bride (Israel/Judah) found in the wilds was innocent.
Where it becomes interesting (and disturbing) is after the hinted marriage (covenant). Very quickly the bride wanders away giving all that she has to others that are not her husband. This motif of unfaithfulness covers much of the story in the Old Testament. The Chosen People—the bride of God—did not remain faithful to the one who chose them.
Despite this being the central theme of the Old Testament, it is not as if God gave up. Paul uses the imagery of a virgin (i.e., innocent) bride being presented to Jesus (God). It is not insignificant that Paul perceived the need to use this imagery. Despite the unfaithfulness to God in the Old Testament and the unfaithfulness to God (Jesus) in the New Testament, there is something significant in this marriage motif.
Despite the altered state of marriage in our day and age in a myriad of ways, marriage is still very much part of God’s plan for us. While we, the “church”, usually focus on marriage as a societal, cultural, and religious piece, for God it is something far deeper. Paul uses the marriage imagery in a culture that does not, generally, view it as covenant. It is contractual. Yet, Paul maintains its covenant view, even apologizing for being foolish/silly. Imagine trying to convey the depth of the covenantal nature of marriage to people who don’t see God in it.
Paul wants the Corinthians (and us) to not view our relationship with Jesus as transactional, but relational and covenantal. This covenantal view means that Jesus is at the center and core of the relationship, not just with God, but with others.
Both Paul (2 Corinthians) and John (Revelation) view the bride as being prepared. Of course, in Revelation, it is at the conclusion of it all. For Paul, it is the ever-present tension of a bride being ready to give all (prepared) and getting ready to give all (preparing). The bride will always be getting more ready, to always be closer to perfection, even if it is at an inch at a time. The question is, does the bride think He is worth it?
1) When you look at yourself, how do you see yourself prepared for and preparing for Jesus? How do you think the church is prepared and preparing for Jesus?
2) How have you been transactional in your relationship with Jesus? How do you think the church has been transactional in its relationship with Jesus?