25 October 2014

Bride of the King: Reconciliation

Psalm 45

is reconciliation.
we forge the bond
between you and me,
between your land and mine.
we seal the covenant.
is the start of peace.

Can I forget my people
and my father's house,
and leave them forever
for you - a stranger?
Can I forsake
all I have known
and dare this alliance
with a stranger - with you?

You are different
from other kings -
you reign with peace and equity,
truth, justice and humility.
You look upon me,
your former enemy,
enthralled -
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.

Can I forget my people
and my father's house,
for you?

Here is reconciliation,
here is peace.
Here is your hand, reaching out
to accept me as your queen.
Here is love
that brings an end to enmity.

So I will take your hand
and enter this alliance,
as joy and song envelop us
into the hopes
of all who long for peace.
And so today
we seal the covenant,
we forge the bond -
is reconciliation.


[25. October 2014]

Been wanting to write this ever since reading Psalm 45 some days ago... the Psalm is a wedding song about the wedding of a King with a girl from another country who is called upon to "forget your people and your father's house" (v.10). Some verses seem to point to Jesus (e.g. v.6-7).

Anyway, the Psalm got me thinking about royal "alliance marriages", i.e. where a king married a princess from a foreign country to secure peace and to seal a covenant between the two nations. This was still happening some 100 years ago, actually. On the one hand, I do think one can see it as a problematic practice: a girl being carted off to some foreign country (in a time when people hardly travelled and she probably wouldn't have seen her home and family ever again), to marry a stranger who probably already had a whole load of other "alliance wives" (Solomon had quite a few...). On the other hand, I think that the concept of "alliance marriage" can tell us something about God - since the church (and in the Old Testament Israel) is frequently described as the "bride of Christ" or of God.

Alliance marriages were (a) to seal a covenant between two nations, (b) to secure peace.
In 2. Cor 5:18-20, the message of Jesus is described as a message of reconciliation. God wants reconciliation with us. And the way I see it, it's not God who throughout history has kept a sulky distance - it's us. The Bible shows God approaching us again and again, seeking relationship with us. God does not deny us peace - we are the only ones fighting, by insisting on managing by ourselves and rejecting the love of God. But in Jesus God became one of us, and Jesus died to reconcile us to God. And He wants to accept us as His bride - a gesture of peace, and actually of raising us into honour.

So the "wedding" of God with His people can maybe be seen like an alliance marriage: God wants to seal His covenant with us, and He wants to secure peace. He wants reconciliation with us, wants us to stop fighting off His love. And maybe accepting this love of God and following Jesus means forgetting and forsaking other things - like the bride in the Psalm is called upon to forget her people and her family. It means starting a completely new life, being changed by Him.

The "bride" imagery comes up quite a few times in the Bible, especially in prophetic texts (e.g. Ezekiel 16, Hosea, Jeremiah 3) but also in Revelation. Song of Songs is also often read as an allegory about the love between Christ and the church (and btw, the italicised bit in the poem is SoS 4:7). I find it does good to meditate on such texts and reflect what it means to be the "bride of Christ", how to compare our relationship to Jesus with the relationship of husband and wife.

Picture by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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