“God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us.”   Joseph Prince

“And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Luke 22:20

The new covenant initiated by Jesus in His death and resurrection defines our God’s desires for the church of the redeemed.  Yet this new covenant is so much bigger and more exciting than most Christians realize.  It is part of an ongoing love story between our God, His Son, and His Son’s future bride.  It is a love story full of rich symbols, plot twists, and fierce conflict.  It is also full of great longing and yearning, unrequited love, a return to love, and ultimately a happy ending. Indeed, all the great love stories through the ages are merely dim reflections of this grandest love story of all.  If we do not grasp this love story, we may end up living an old covenant religiosity instead of a new covenant relationship with our God.

The old covenant with its rituals and laws, sacrifices and priesthood may look like it is a failed attempt at redemption, but it was not.  It clearly demonstrated important truths about our God and about us it set the stage for the greatest redemption, the greatest rescue of any story ever written.

The old covenant revealed that our God loves His children.  He loves us as a group or a race of humans.  He loves each one individually with a fullness and richness that cannot be imagined or described.  He created us to be the objects of His relentless, consuming, passionate, always pursuing, always kind and merciful love.  Every interaction with us is determined by that love.

Our God loves us richly despite our failings.  He chose each one of us knowing our most sinful moments, our darkest thoughts, our biggest failures.  We are the ones who He wants to love.  His love for us never flags even though we are often completely disinterested in Him.  It goes beyond anything we can possibly imagine.

The old covenant also revealed that we by our nature are incapable of loving our God as we were intended to love Him. Responding in love and obedience to Him cannot be found in keeping rules and laws, in religiosity and ritual, in a righteousness derived from within us. Sin is not something we choose to do or choose to not do.  Sin drives our choosing as long as we are retaining control over our living.  Humans are fallen, and we can’t get ourselves out of that state. This is why we need a new covenant with our God.

The old covenant also set the stage for the next chapter in our God’s incredible love story, the new covenant. This new covenant was unveiled through His incarnation, death and resurrection.  Easter then is a celebration of the unveiling of this new covenant between our God and His people.

Through the various covenants between Himself and his people throughout history, our God has been moving this love story forward toward its fulfillment.  Each covenant age in the Bible is rich with metaphors and examples of how this love story is playing out and how it will end. The ancient Hebrew marriage ritual is one of those metaphors.

In Jewish culture, when a man desired to marry a woman, certain customs were followed.  Hebrew marriages were arranged by the fathers on behalf of the groom and the bride.  The arrangements, once agreed upon, became a covenant between the families, and especially between the groom and the bride.  This is still the case in traditional Jewish families, where these arrangements are included in a contract for marriage called a “ketubah.”  The groom would pay to the father of the bride the “Mohar” or bride-price.   The bride-price was seen as a form of ransom by which the bride was freed by the family to live with the groom.  It is a carefully protected term, for it is never to be construed as purchasing a wife as one would purchase a slave or servant.  The bride was not a servant to the husband but a co-equal.

Also, the groom would pay the “Mattan” to the bride, which was a package of gifts given to express her value to the groom.  The groom then left the betrothed bride at her home while he prepared a home for them.  While he was gone on this mission, which could take a year or more to complete, the betrothed bride would prepare herself for the wedding and her new life with her husband.  She would not see her betrothed during this time.  When the preparation of the home was complete, the groom would come to take the bride away forever.

These practices were pointing to greater truth, to greater transactions that are vital to the great story of our God’s love for His people. Our God is bringing to conclusion His great love story that includes the redemption, preparation, and presentation of a beautiful bride for His Son.  It includes a costly bride price as well as invaluable gifts given to the bride during her betrothal.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus together are the turning point in the great story of our God’s love for us.  He has initiated a new covenant, a great contract with Himself to prepare us for eternity with the Son and Himself.  We have been redeemed and ransomed with the greatest of all bride-prices.  These are gifts we celebrate at Easter.

“Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest….”  C.S. Lewis

Stay tuned for the final installment of this series.