At the age of twelve I started praying for my future husband. In the beginning my prayers were driven by my fear that I might marry the wrong person.
Later on, though, my motives changed. Over the next ten years I would often find myself speaking with God about critical life choices. Prayers which started fearfully, as a desperate act of self-protection, morphed into courage and trust as I came to believe in the goodness of all God’s plans for me.
I was twenty-two when I met my husband, Gary. After six months of marriage I attended a youth conference and found myself listening to my husband address a room full of teen-age girls. And, then he surprised me with these words.
“When I was 12 years of age someone challenged me to start praying about who I should marry. And so, I began seeking God’s will about my future wife. At twelve I didn’t know I would pray this prayer for fourteen years before God led to my wife.”
“As I look at you today, I want you to know, it is not to soon to begin praying for God’s will to be established in your life. Whatever your future may hold you want to be in the safety of God’s will.”
Amazed, I sat there. Gary and I had never discussed at what age we started praying for each other. Quickly I did the math. Since Gary is four years older than me, jointly, we had prayed for our future spouses for twenty-four years.
Some prayer requests call for that kind of perseverance. In Gary I found a bridegroom worth waiting for.
In John 3:22-30, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to us as the bridegroom. This picture was originally foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Look at John 3:28-30. John the Baptist says,
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ’I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
This unique portrait of Jesus is foundational to our understanding God’s long-range plans for humanity. As we wait for Jesus’ second coming, we all need to be reminded that a good bridegroom is worth waiting for.
Why did God choose a bridegroom as a metaphor to describe Jesus?
In the Old Testament book of Hosea, an attitude of God is exposed which is quite enlightening in its scope. The prophet reveals the God of the universe as seeing himself in a marriage relationship with the nation of Israel. While Luke explains the Father’s heart through the story of the prodigal son, Hosea tells the story of God’s “sacred romance” through the story of a wayward wife. In this prophecy, God equates Israel’s idolatry with adultery. No other minor prophet exposes this metaphor quite like Hosea.
Listen to some of God’s graphic language expressed in Hosea 2:2,
Plead with your mother, plead – for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband – that she put away her whoring from her face and her
adultery from between her breasts; ESV
Or these compelling words from Hosea 4:12,
My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. ESV
God’s heart aches for Israel like that of a jilted husband.
If we want to understand the uniqueness of the Bridegroom portrait, we must recognize God sees our idolatry as adultery.
The creator of the universe is a jealous God not because he is petty, or insecure, but because he truly loves us and knows the lies idols try to perpetrate. They promise, but they can’t deliver (Isaiah 44:13-16). He knows our passion for them will only destroy us. If we could grasp the bridegroom’s typology we would see how God views our reckless acts of adoration as acts of adultery.
What forms of idolatry might a Christian be tempted to run after?
I often pray for the right thing with the wrong motives. For example, I pray, “God make me a good steward of the money you have entrusted into my care”. But honestly, I am not looking to increase my charitable giving. I pray this prayer most often when I am going shopping and I want to find a great bargain.
Unfortunately, even our prayers can become idolatrous. Look at how James 4:3-5 uses some of the same vocabulary as the book of Hosea.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? ESV
James is warning that we often struggle in prayer because we seek God’s intervention for the wrong reasons. We seek more resources not to be generous or to advance Jesus’ kingdom, but to spend it on ourselves.
In the Living Bible, James 4:5b reads this way.
…The Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us watches over us with tender jealousy… LB
This phrase tender jealousy reminds us that God’s intentions toward us are always pure and gentle. Jesus never forces his will on us, no matter the perfection of his plans and the gifts he wants to bestow.
Words like idolatry and adultery are difficult for me to hear. Especially when they are employed to describe my level of unfaithfulness to God. I grieve when I think that my self-deception, and my love for the world could hurt God like this.
But God chose this language of betrayal to wake us up, not to minister hopelessness. God, who is rich in mercy, is always on our side and holds his arms open wide ready to receive us home.
Why might we desire a deeper intimacy with Jesus?
We, the bride of Christ are called to journey through life anticipating Jesus’ return (Matt. 25:1-13). And this can be difficult because God doesn’t look at perseverance the same way we do. We need to remember that the fruit born in our wait time is highly valued by God (Psalm 27:13-14, Lam. 3:25-26).
What is God producing during your wait time?
Over forty years have passed since Gary and I said, “I do”. I still marvel at the wisdom of God’s plan to allow me the privilege of being Gary’s wife. Even, now as I prayerfully watch Gary go through chemotherapy, I know we have lived a blessed life.
No principle in scripture is taught with greater certainty than the second coming of Christ, and yet as Jesus lingers we still need the encouragement that a good bridegroom is worth the wait.