THE WIFE OF JEHOVAH: THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
THE symbolism of the Bible is uniform to a remarkable degree. Themes commenced in the Old Testament are continued or amplified in the New Testament with the same symbols. An example of this is to be found in the description of Israel as the wife of Jehovah and the bride of Christ.
In Jeremiah there is a particularly striking statement:
"Turn, 0 backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you." (Jeremiah 3:14)
Perusal of the context reveals that the appeal is addressed to the northern kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes:
"And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also." (Verse 8)
Thus Israel is depicted as the divorced wife of God.
When a man takes a wife he bestows his name upon her and she becomes a guardian of that name; so God entrusted His Name to Jacob's descendants, the Israel people, when He changed Jacob's name to that of Israel. He could not honour Israel more, for the last syllable 'el' means God, and according to Dr Robert Young, the word in its entirety means, "ruling with God."
At Sinai the children of Israel were formed into a kingdom - God's kingdom. Thus Israel, when submissive to the Law of the Lord, constituted the Theocratic State, "married" to the Lord. However, Israel proved unfaithful. She set up and worshipped other gods and, transgressing the Divine ordinances of worship, she became grossly idolatrous. She cast aside the Divinely- given constitution consisting of the Commandments, Statutes and Judgments. This was nothing less than an act of rebellion for the national organisation, as set up by God, contained no provision for human legislative authority.
Hence Israel, having proved disloyal to God and having dishonoured His Name, was cast aside, as several of the prophets testify. Hosea declares!
"Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband." (2:2.)
"Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi, for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." (1:9)
Nevertheless, Israel was not to remain in her divorced condition; she was to be rebetrothed and restored, to her married state as Hosea later declares:
"And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi (my husband); and shalt call me no more Baali (my master) ... And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord." (2:16, 19-20)
The theme of the restoration of Israel to her married state is closely bound up with the redemption wrought by Christ. Isaiah 49, addressed to Israel in the Isles, concludes with the words:
"I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob."
The next chapter opens with the question:
"Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away. Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? When I called was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have, I no power to deliver?" (Isaiah 50: 1, 2.)
This theme of the redemption of Israel from her divorced or widowed condition is continued in Isaiah 54: 4-8.
"Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer."
The climax of the theme is reached in Revelation 19:7, 8:
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."
In this passage the bridegroom is undoubtedly our Lord - "the Lamb of God," the bridegroom mentioned by Jesus in His parables and discourses - and the bride is the once divorced but now rebetrothed wife - Israel.
A query is sometimes raised as to the identity of this unfaithful wife. It is asked, Is not this wife the Church of Christ? The answer, surely, is in the negative; firstly, because the Church of Christ did not then exist; secondly, because the true or spiritual Church could not possibly be described as a harlot or an adultress.
Moreover, according to St Paul the Church constitutes the body of the bridegroom: He (Christ) is the Head of the body, the Church (Col. 1: 18 cf Eph. 4:11-16).*
Thus, in the New Testament the bridegroom is a composite figure: Christ the head and a body composed of members of the true Church; so also the bride is a composite figure: reunited Israel, once again submissive to the Divine Law; and including the British Commonwealth, the United States and remnants on the Continent and elsewhere, all acknowledging allegiance to Christ and to the principles governing His Kingdom.
To-day, the period of divorce is ending. The bride has not yet made herself ready. She has not been clothed in righteousness, she has not yet become the Christo-centric State, but the time is at hand. It is incumbent upon each one of us to make sure that we are ready for His return and that the nation is also prepared to receive Him.
*The relationship between husband and wife dealt with by Paul in Ephesians 5:23-33, is no part of the general allegory, as has been frequently supposed. The whole theme relates to submission. A loving wife is cherished by the loving husband even as he cherishes his own body. Accordingly she should be subject to her husband in all things (verse 24), even as his body should be subject to his will. Analogously, our Lord Jesus Christ cherishes His Spiritual Church - which is His own Body subject unto Him as Head (verses 3-29) - with a love that Paul likens to the perfect love of a husband for the lovingly submissive wife. But the analogy here is no part of the general allegory. Elsewhere the Church is always the Body of Christ, and is never allegorically spoken of as the wife or bride.
(David Davidson in The Date of the Crucifixion p. 37.)
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