Previously (here), we looked at a few ways in which marriage is objective. A marriage covenant exists outside of the two that made the vows, and it manifests itself in various ways. We also see in Scripture how closely the human marriage relationship mirrors the relationship between God and His people. Again, Ephesians 5: 31-32 says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
If the institute of human marriage, created by God, is objective, shouldn’t the model by which it was created by objective as well? Again, the word objective means that something exists in the real world. It exists outside of our own minds. What can be objective about God’s relationship with His people? What is it that manifests itself in a physical way, similar to the physical ways it does so in marriage?
First, a marriage is foremost an entrance into a Covenant with another person, similarly to how a Baptism (and previously circumcision) is an entrance into a Covenant with God. From Ephesians above, the two becoming one flesh in marriage is a mystery that refers to Christ and the Church. Marriage between husband and wife is tied to marriage between Christ and the Church. Revelation 19:9 describes the marriage supper of the lamb, where the Church is presented full and complete to her Savior at the end of time.
So what can we learn about the Covenant of marriage by what we are told about God’s Covenant with His people? After all, since they are so closely tied, it should be relatively easy to gain insight from the latter, and apply it to the former.
As we have already seen here, Isaiah 57 gives very strong language that compares rebellious Israel with a cheating wife. God’s Covenant people had no business “lusting” after foreign gods, and the true God is jealous over her. Practically speaking, what faithful husband would approve of his wife sleeping around with other men? His Covenant bride, who has taken vows before witnesses to remain true to one man, should be giving herself only to him. That language is found all through Isaiah 57, and other places in the Old Testament.
The idea of God being jealous is found all throughout the Scriptures as well. The second Commandment itself tells of God’s jealousy in relation to idols. If we turn to foreign gods, it is akin to a wife cheating on her husband, and Biblically is grounds for divorce. This divorce, which God eventually finalized after generations and generations of Israel’s unfaithfulness, brought about the Church of the New Covenant; God’s people even through to today. God’s chosen people now are the continuation of God’s promises to Abraham. Acts 3:25 says “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
All of this is to say that the idea of Covenant runs throughout history, with God’s people receiving the promises of God, even from the very beginning. God was faithful to his promises to Abraham, and at the fullness of time, will unite the perfected church with her bridegroom, Christ (Revelation 19). All the nations of the earth will truly be blessed, and are being blessed even now.
So bringing it back to our original question, we need to be familiar with God’s Covenant with His people, even throughout history and up to now, to gain insight into the mystery that is marital union between husband and wife. The transition from the old to new covenant is also vitally important as well, and surprisingly, we can learn as much about the new covenant from the Old Testament as we can from the New. We will head in this direction as we continue to answer the question “what can we learn about the Covenant of marriage by what we are told about God’s Covenant with His people?”