A Marriage Made In Heaven

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Will you be wearing pearls or pigeon poop on your wedding day?

Revelation(52) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Marc Webb(11) on January 27, 2019 (Sunday Morning(98))

Relationship with God(2), Salvation(19)

A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN

Whose wedding do you think of when you think of a marriage made in heaven? Maybe you think of royal weddings such as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in 2018 or Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2011 or Lady Diana and Prince Charles in 1981. If you are a little older you may think of the wedding of Priscilla and Elvis Presley in 1967 or Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier in 1956 or Jackie Bouvier and JFK in 1953. Now most of these weddings were probably not made in heaven and some still remain to be seen how they will turn out but on that special day they probably thought it was going to be.

When I think of a marriage made in heaven, I think about a wedding on Saturday, April 16, 1988. It was held in the Mount Olivet UMC in Shiremanstown, PA and it began approximately at 6:30 PM in the evening. If you haven’t figured it out yet – that was my wedding day. The day that Judy and I were married.

Now I don’t remember a lot about that day. I don’t know if that is normal or not but I do remember the first time I saw Judy at the back of the sanctuary as she started down the aisle. And I want to tell you, there was like a glow all around her, it was like the sun was shining inside and it all was focused on her, that I heard a heavenly choir singing something like the Hallelujah Chorus. But I can’t tell you that. All I remember when I first saw her at the back of the sanctuary was I wanted to faint. I don’t know why. I wasn’t nervous about being married. I have always said that being married was like going over to your best friend’s house and never leaving. So maybe it was just the fact that I was standing in front of a couple hundred people and that was just not normal for me. But I do remember looking at my father in the front row right after feeling that fainting spell coming on and he gave a look like he knew what was happening and if I didn’t keep it together he was come up there and slap me on the side of the head. So I did keep it together through the ceremony though I remember that I lost my corsage as we knelt down to take communion. And honestly that is all I remember of my wedding ceremony. I remember at the reception Judy almost caught herself on fire. Then the hotel reservation I made for the wedding night got lost somehow and the hotel was booked for the night. All that said, it was the most wonderful day of my life and the beginning of the happiest time of my life that has now lasted almost 31 years.

For you who are married or have been married I want you to think about your wedding day. What do you remember? What were you feeling? Who was there to celebrate that special moment with you and your future spouse? We all probably remember something special about our wedding ceremonies or others ceremonies that we thought was special.

I think it is pretty cool to see the interesting things people do at their wedding. The things that make their ceremony memorable. I really like Hunter and Amy Russell’s wedding as they got married back in September beside a pond in jeans and cowboy boots. I must say I was kind of jealous. I don’t think I could have paid Judy any amount to have our wedding in jeans. I also think about the different things people do during the wedding ceremony. Hunter and Amy braided three cords together, Judy and I took communion together and Seth and Emily Johns put together a unity cross. All of these were signifying the unity of the man and the woman in putting God first in their marriage. That must be an important part of any marriage.

God has always seen the value and importance in marriage. It’s very clear that from the beginning, God intended the marriage union to be blessed, fulfilling and happy. Genesis 2:24. It says, 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Ecclesiastes 4:9, says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?" And Ephesians 5:25, says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her."

God views marriage as a sacred and highly exalted relationship! Marriage is seen as one of the greatest events in our lives and weddings are times of excitement and great celebration. And that’s the very imagery God wants to place in our minds here in our scripture this morning. In Revelation 19:6-10, we see that when Jesus comes again, there’s going to be a great wedding feast. It’s going to be one of the greatest events of all time and eternity. Thousands upon thousands of people and angels will be gathered in a great celebration. Folks will be all dressed up in the finest of clothing. There’s going to be a lot of shouting and singing and rejoicing and the excitement will never end. Jesus is the groom and those that believe in him are His bride. When Jesus comes again, He’s going to bring His bride into His father’s house and they will live with Him forever. It’s the ultimate Cinderella or Prince Charming story but those stories cannot begin to compare with what believers are going to experience at their Groom’s Second Coming.

There was a story of a wedding between the daughter and son of two families who had been in the same church for many years. At the house of the Bride on the day of the wedding several of the ladies gathered to prepare the bride. The mother of the bride presented her daughter with a string of pearls to adorn her neck. All the ladies reacted with awe as the pearls were a family heirloom, passed from daughter to daughter for more than five generations. Their history was storied, not the least of which was having been hidden in a dirt cellar of a South Carolina farm to save them from the looting Yankee troops during the days following the end of the Civil War. Tears and hugs were distributed in great abundance by all the ladies in the household. It generated a certain level of emotional intensity at the time. Later that morning another event generated an almost equal level of emotional intensity but for a different reason altogether.

The wedding ceremony was to be conducted in the main auditorium of the church building and the bridal party was moving from the parking lot to the smaller auditorium in the back wing where the bride was to await the moment her father would deliver her down the aisle to the expectant groom. To reach the back wing of the building the bridal party had to pass under a covered walkway alongside the main auditorium to a set of double doors giving access to the wing containing the smaller auditorium. This walkway as it happened was home to a fair amount of nesting pigeons which for one reason or another were flushed from their perches as the bridal party passed beneath and one of the feathered flying rats deposited on the radiant bride a string of something quite unlike the antique pearls. The reaction of the mother of the bride and the other attending ladies was worthy of battlefield commanders. As the bride and her court were in various states of hysteria and stunned disbelief, the mothers moved like a well-oiled machine, whisking the bride into the mysterious environs of the ladies lounge where in very short order the offensive stain was eliminated from everything but horrified memory.

It’s likely that the bride of this story is not the last to have experienced the seeming disaster of a soiled dress but there is one other bride I want us to consider who is found in our scripture today, a bride for which each of us may choose to adorn with pearls or with pigeon poop. Christians are the bride we are going to talk about this morning and if you are a Christian this morning, your wedding day is coming and our scripture this morning tells us she has prepared herself and she has been given her wedding dress, which brings us to our big idea this morning that John is asking us: Will you be wearing pearls or pigeon poop on your wedding day?

So, as we open God’s Word this morning, let’s pause for prayer. Dear Heavenly Father, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon us this morning and to open our hearts and minds to what you have to say to us. We thank you for the opportunity to worship you and give you all the praise and glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Last Sunday, Pastor Stuart introduced us to chapter 19 and the word “Hallelujah.” The word Hallelujah means “Praise the Lord” and is used only four times in the NT; all of them from Revelation 19 verses 1-6. A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Stuart showed us the triumphant saints in heaven as they were praising the Lord for his salvation, for his judgments being true and just and for the results of that judgment on Babylon. Then we saw the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fall down and worship God. They say “Amen, Hallelujah” meaning they are confirming and agreeing to the worship of God in the previous hymns. Their “Hallelujah” not only continues the praise established in verses 1-3 but also leads to the call to praise that we will see realized in verse 6 which is where we start this morning. Follow with me as I read from Revelation chapter 19 verse 6 – 8. ​​ Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

This shout of praise is again from the host of the redeemed. John did not see the multitude but he could hear the sound of it and he goes out of his way to heap up similes to describe it. He compares it to the sound of many waters and the sound of mighty thunderclaps.

The multitude sends up this praise for two reasons. One, it anticipates the return of Christ and his reign in heaven and on earth forever. It is an announcement of what will soon take place that focuses on God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. Now is the time for “his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The multitude calls all of God’s people to “rejoice and be glad” in anticipation of the reign of God.

The second reason for this joy is because the wedding of the Lamb has come. ​​ The thought of the relationship between God and his people as a marriage goes far back into the OT. The prophets thought of Israel as the chosen bride of Christ. Isaiah 54:5 says this, “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.” The marriage symbolism also runs through the gospels. Jesus talks about the marriage feast in Matthew 22:2, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” And John the Baptist calls himself a friend of the bridegroom in John 3:29. To Paul the relationship of Christ to his Church is the great model of the relationship of husband and wife. Ephesians 5:31-32 says,
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

This morning I am going to expound upon this wedding of the Lamb to the Church by paralleling it to ancient Jewish weddings. The first step in an ancient Jewish wedding would have been something called the mutual commitment or what we would call the proposal. In biblical times, people were married in their early youth, and marriages were usually contracted within the narrow circle of the clan and the family. In ancient times, the father of the groom often selected a bride for his son, as did Abraham for his son Isaac in Genesis 24. In ancient times, marriage was looked upon as more of an alliance for reasons of survival or practicality, and the concept of romantic love remained a secondary issue, if considered at all.  Romantic love would grow over time. Of course, the consent of the bride-to-be was an important consideration.  Rebecca, for example, was asked if she agreed to go back with Abraham’s servant to marry Abraham’s son, Isaac.  She went willingly. Likewise, we cannot be forced into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Have you ever seen one of those bold public marriage proposals? In the middle of a crowded restaurant the guy gets down on one knee, brings out the ring and pops the question “Will you marry me? Or the guy arranges for the question to show up on the jumbotron at a stadium. Or getting a plane to fly by with the long sign trailing behind it. ​​ Well, those proposals are nothing compared to the way Jesus proposed to you and me. It was a public spectacle. He fell to his knees several times on the way to the place where he proposed. He nailed his love for you and me to the cross, signed his intentions with his own blood, spread his arms out wide and said, “I want you for my own. I want you all!” The official proposal reads like this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

You can trust me on this: YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE A BETTER OFFER! The world will try to sell you the idea that something better will come along. That you can reject God’s offer and still get in to heaven your own way. That you can submit your own proposal based on good deeds, church attendance, religion, giving to charities…etc. But you can’t buy your way into heaven! Jesus already paid the price. He’s already “popped the question.” The question is, what’s our answer going to be?

In his book 50 Days of Heaven Randy Alcorn tells of a friend, Ruthanna Metzgar. She was a professional singer and she was asked to sing at the wedding of a very wealthy man. After the wedding, the reception was to be held on the top 2 floors of Seattle’s tallest skyscraper, the Columbia Tower. At the start of the reception, the bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor. Someone ceremoniously cut a satin ribbon draped across the bottom of the stairs and the bride and groom ascended, followed by their guests.

At the top of the stairs, outside the door to the great banquet room the maitre d’ stood holding a bound book. “May I have your name please?” he asked. “I’m Ruthanna Metzgar and this is my husband Roy.” He searched the M’s. “I’m not finding it. Would you spell it, please?” She spelled her name slowly. But after searching the book, the maitre d’ looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but your name isn’t here.” “There must be some mistake,” Ruthanna replied. “I’m the singer!” The man answered, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did. Without your name in the book you cannot attend the banquet.” He motioned to a waiter and said, “Show these people to the service elevator, please.”

The Metzgars followed the waiter past beautifully decorated tables laden with shrimp, whole smoked salmon, and magnificent carved ice sculptures. Adjacent to the banquet area, an orchestra was preparing to perform, the musicians all dressed in dazzling white tuxedos. The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator ushered them in, and pressed G for the parking garage. After driving several miles in silence, Roy reached over put his hand on his wife’s arm. “Sweetheart, what happened?” “When the invitation arrived, I was busy,” Ruthanna replied. “I never bothered to RSVP. Besides, I was the singer. Surely I could go to the reception without returning the RSVP!”

She started to weep – not only because she had missed the most lavish banquet she’d ever been invited to, but also because she suddenly had a small taste of what it will be like for people as they stand before Christ and find that their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

In order to get into the wedding of the Lamb and his banquet, we must RSVP. In order to RSVP, we need to admit that we are a sinner and are in need of a savior. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death and the only way to be saved from that death is to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior through his death and resurrection. Finally, we need to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.

Maybe you have never sent your RSVP in to be included in the wedding of the Lamb. If so, the first next step on the back of your communication card this morning is for you. My next step is to send my RSVP for the wedding of the Lamb by accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

If you took that next step for the first time this morning, please mark your communication card so Pastor Stuart and I can get in touch with you because after that it is time to put your wedding announcement in the paper. It is time to publicly declare your allegiance to the Lamb through baptism. This lets the whole world know you have been changed on the inside by Jesus and allows the church to rally around you by discipling you and keeping you accountable to the vows you’ve made to Jesus.

Next, after the time of the mutual commitment the families would decide upon the dowry or payment for the marriage contract. The groom would then give a dowry to the bride’s father in order to seal the marriage agreement. Jesus offered His own blood in payment for our sin so that we could be His eternal bride. Hebrews 10:19-20 says, 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.”

Once the dowry was decided upon, there was a period of betrothal that usually lasted a year. This betrothal period is what we would call the engagement today. This betrothal period would be legally binding. The man and woman would agree to be married and during this extended time they would call themselves husband and wife and remained faithful to each but there was no consummation of the relationship. For example, when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant he "... planned to send her away secretly" (Matthew 1:19) because they were legally married even though the marriage ceremony hadn’t happened yet. Our marriage ceremony to Christ hasn’t happened yet, but we are already legally owned by Christ. For us this period of betrothal corresponds to the present extended era of church history.

During this year the groom would return home and prepare to bring his bride to his home to start their married life together. In John 14:2-3, we see that Jesus did the same thing for us. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. This would also be the time for the bride to prepare herself for marriage.

So how do we prepare for our wedding day and our marriage to the Lamb? Our readiness is symbolized by our wedding dress. The bride makes herself ready for the Lord’s return by one, being faithful to Christ in a fallen and evil world, two, by maintaining their testimony for Jesus and taking the gospel to all tribes, languages, peoples and nations, three, by enduring hardships in the midst of suffering and trusting God in the face of martyrdom, and four, by obeying God’s commands.

Of course, our wedding dress is not of own making; like the white robes given to the martyrs, it is given to us. Verse 8 says that our wedding dress is fine linen, bright and clean and was given to us to wear. ​​ Our dress signifies the sanctity of God’s people which only comes from Jesus’s death and resurrection. Salvation is a free gift given by God to those who believe in Jesus and we prepare ourselves for the wedding day by living the Christ-like life that is described above. The righteous acts of the saints are the deeds that follow salvation as necessary proof that regeneration has occurred.

Jesus is the one who makes us clean enough for heaven. Ephesians 5:25-27, says, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Our righteous acts, or good works, weave a garment that brings glory to God. There are two ideas wrapped up in one here. On the one hand the desire and the ability to do right are gifts from God. We cannot be good on our own. On the other hand, we are responsible to do what is right in the sight of God. Paul explained it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:10, 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Ephesians 2:10 says this, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Dr. Lehman Strauss put it this way: "Has it ever occurred to you... that at the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb, each of us will be wearing the wedding garment of our own making?" Which reminds us of our big idea which is - Will you be wearing pearls or pigeon poop on your wedding day?

As we all ponder that question this morning, maybe the second next step on the back of your communication card is for you. My next step is to weave my wedding dress with righteous acts and to adorn it with pearls.

The next step of the wedding was the wedding procession where the groom dressed in his best clothes and accompanied by his best friends, leaves home to go get his bride.  He goes to the bride’s house and escorts her back to the home he has prepared for her. Although the bride knew to expect her groom after about a year, she did not know the exact day or hour.  He could come earlier.  It was the father of the groom who gave final approval for him to return to collect his bride. This will happen for us when Jesus returns for us and takes us to the place he has prepared for us.

Last came the wedding feast which usually lasted seven days and was full of food, music, dancing and celebrations. It was the happiest event in Jewish life. We are told in verse 9 that the wedding supper of the Lamb will be a happy event in the Christian’s life as well. Follow along as I read verse 9. Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Another word for blessed is happy. Why are those who are invited to the wedding supper happy? Because it is an honor and a privilege to be invited into the family of God. We are blessed to have been called by God to follow Him.

Now some commentators see a distinction between the bride in verse 7 and the invited guests in verse 9, but Caird sees no problem with the Church being the Bride and also the guests of the wedding feast. He states it is like John calling Jesus the Lamb and the Shepherd. Osborne states that “such mixing of metaphors was common in the ancient world to add richness to the imagery. I tend to agree with this view.

Mention of the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride, is a signal that the climax of the drama is very close. Satan is about to be overthrown and his dominion is nearing the end. The angel concludes that “these are the true words of God.” This would be equal to the “Amen” in the Gospels. It was to anchor a particularly important truth and Osborne says it is referring to this section dealing with the messianic banquet. Again, I believe John as he has done all throughout Revelation, is giving his readers hope. Hope that as they have been wooed by God and their wedding day is approaching and have been invited to the wedding supper it will be the happiest day of their lives even though they still must persevere and be faithful in the midst of persecution. John wants them to remember God’s words are true and as they await their wedding day they need to continue to be steadfast and dress themselves in pearls and not pigeon poop.

The final verse of this section, according to commentators is not easy to interpret. We see John in verse 10 do something very strange. Follow along as I read verse 10. 10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” When the angel says, “These are the true words of God”, it says John falls at the feet of the angel to worship him. Why? Again, commentators don’t agree but here are a few suggestions:

Maybe, it is in response to the magnificent worship scene we have seen in chapter 19 so far. ​​ The “hallelujah” hymns have established such a tone of worship that John has to fall on his knees. Courson says that John is so blown away by seeing the bride that he falls at the feet of the angelic messenger. Osbourne says John’s natural response to the incredible truths he has been told is to fall on his knees.

It may be John was confronting something in the early church which was the tendency of worshipping angels. In certain circles of Judaism the angels had a very high place. Judaism stressed the transcendence of God or the distance between God and man. God was both too distant and too holy to be approached by man so they needed an intermediary, such as the angels. When Jews converted to Christianity they brought this belief with them forgetting that with Jesus there was no need for an intermediary.

Since he was talking to an angelic herald, not to God or Christ, falling down in worship was inappropriate. It would be tantamount to idolatry even though that was not John’s intention. So maybe John was warning his readers about idolatry which has been a huge theme in Revelation. Idolatry can infiltrate our lives in many ways such as deception, seduction and coercion. We can also idolize our religious experiences and revelations. We need to be careful not to mistake the cause we champion for the one true God.

The angel rebukes John and gives him three reasons why he should not worship the angel. One, because I am a fellow servant who holds to the faithful witness given by Christ. Two, God is the only one who is worthy of worship and three, the true spirit of prophecy always points to Jesus. John wants his readers to know that angels are no more than the servants of God and must not be worshipped. God alone is to be worshipped.

The last part of verse 10 is also a difficult phrase according to commentators. It says “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Osbourne says that it means when the saints maintain the testimony about Jesus, the Holy Spirit is inspiring them in the same way as the prophets. Everything in the Bible, the OT and the NT points to Jesus Christ. Much of modern day teaching about prophecy focuses on what they think the future will be like, but any teaching about prophecy that does not keep Jesus in the spotlight is false teaching.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a woman who lived in the forest. She was not far from a town, where she would occasionally go to buy staples for her kitchen and other items not available to her in the wild. For the most part though, she stayed to herself, choosing to live her own life, meet her own needs and enjoy her uninterrupted solitude.

In her younger years she had been hurt both physically and emotionally by other people, and as a result she had put up walls of stone and doors of solid oak that only opened from the inside, to protect herself.

The woman, like all of us, would occasionally grow lonely, and her solace during these times was found in the movie theater in town. She would go there and sit in the back row, watching the male actors on screen, then go home and for days after, dream of romantic interludes with these stars. Of course, they weren’t real; they were movie idols. But they were all she had. One day the woman was near her woodland cabin, attempting to repair the bucket that brought water from a well she had dug for herself. It was a very deep and dark well. To fall into that well would mean certain death.

The bucket had been attached to the well rope by a chain which had only ten links, but since the rope was worn she could see that she would have to replace it, and that is what she was endeavoring to do when she slipped. As she fell forward, a cry of despair escaping her lips, she clung to the short chain and her fall stopped.

At first she tried to climb to safety by the short chain, but as she struggled she looked up and with horror, noticed that a frayed section of the rope holding the chain was unraveling under her weight. She knew it was only a matter of time, and she would be set free to tumble into the abyss below her.

Suddenly a shadow was cast over the mouth of the well above her. She heard a voice say, “Stop struggling, you will only make it worse. Trust me and I will lift you out.” A strong hand reached toward her, and she noticed that her savior had deliberately wrapped the chain around his wrist several times first. After the hand had firmly gripped her forearm the voice told her to let go of the chain and trust him only. When she did so and her weight dropped, the chain wrapped so tightly around the man’s wrist that it cut deeply into his flesh.

Nevertheless, he brought her up out of the pit with his own blood flowing down her arms and dripping into the well. Once she was standing on the solid rock that surrounded the well she could see that the man was not really tall, and not especially handsome, but he smiled at her with kind eyes and with a love that came from deep within him, and as she smiled back she felt something she had not felt for a long time, and never this strongly. It was gratitude and affection and a desire for fellowship.

The man and woman were married shortly thereafter, in a small chapel in the town. The townspeople were there to witness her newly found happiness. After they returned home however, the woman quickly forgot the fear of the dark well and she forgot the pain this man had suffered to rescue her. She spent her days going about planting her own garden and repairing her own fences and very much living life the way she had before he came along.

The man spent his days not far away, building a beautiful mansion for her, having promised that when he was done he would take her there where they would live happily ever after. In the evenings though, when work was done and there was ample time for sweet fellowship, she would read a book or mend a garment or sit in the twilight hours and stare proudly at her garden, paying little or no attention to the man. Every once in a while she would hear him say something to her, but over time she ignored him so often, that much of what he said would go entirely unnoticed, as though he hadn’t spoken at all.

Occasionally during the day he would come along and offer to help her with something she was doing, but although she did not outwardly reject his offer, she would turn away or continue doing it her own way, seemingly oblivious to his presence. When her precious garden failed to produce vegetables and when her flowers wilted from lack of nourishment in the soil, she was angry and discouraged. Only then did she turn to him, but not for help as much as to ask why these things happened. The man did not answer these questions, for he felt that since she did not listen when he offered help, she would most certainly not listen while he explained why she failed.

The years passed by very much like this. The woman was often frustrated by her failures, and gave herself credit for her triumphs, never realizing that her successes were primarily due to his coming along behind her and fixing things simply out of love for her. One day, now an old woman, she was going about her business in front of her cabin when a stranger approached on a clean, white stallion. At first she did not recognize him, but when the stranger took a firm hold on her hand and said, “It is time to come to your new home now”, she realized it was her husband.

She paused for a moment in wonder. She remembered him being of average height and a bit below average in general appearance, as the world around her counted attractiveness. But the man on the steed was indeed tall, and ruggedly handsome, yet with a peaceful gentleness shining out from his eyes that almost made her melt. Although she did not struggle against his grip, he maintained a firm grasp on her hand and gently pulled her up onto the horse, and rode off toward their new home.

As they approached the front of the mansion she gasped in awe at the beauty of the thing he had built. It was only then that she realized how little, throughout the years, she had given any thought to what he was doing here while she busied herself with selfish pursuits. She remembered that he had promised her a mansion and said that someday he would take her there, but she had thought of it more as a nice dream, than as a reality.

He stepped aside and scooped her into his arms, and carried her over the threshold, stepping onto a floor of solid gold! As he shut the door behind them she noticed that it was made of a substance that appeared to be pearl, and she wondered at his resourcefulness. The mansion was beautiful beyond her comprehension. He set her down and stood back as she turned around and around, taking in the glory of this wonderful abode. When finally she turned to face him, she saw the same love in his eyes that she had seen so long ago near the well.

Suddenly she was overcome with such shame that she fell to her knees, tears running down her cheeks, and clung to his feet, unable to utter a word. She was so filled with mixed emotions it made her head swim. She was so very, very happy, and yet so remorseful that she had allowed so many years to go by without learning to know him better, return his love, enjoy sweet fellowship with him; she felt that she did not deserve to be here at all.

Then, strong hands slipped under her arms and lifted her to her feet. A gentle finger wiped the tears from her eyes, and through blurred vision she once again looked into his strong, kind, wonderful face, as he said, “Dear, before you knew me, I watched you from afar. I loved you even then. After I saved you I loved you even more. And through all of these years, even though you have ignored me and turned your back on me so often, and squandered so many opportunities for us to know each other intimately, in the way you dreamed of knowing your movie idol lovers in your youth, yet I continued to love you and I love you even now. We will spend the rest of our days together, and beginning right now, you will learn to know me as you should. I only wish our relationship could have been so much farther along now than it is. Our first years could have been wonderful and fulfilling and precious. But the rest of our time together will be that way; I promise. Welcome to my home.” The woman slowly dropped her eyes from his, down his chest, down his arms, to his wrists, and she saw the terrible scars that had been left there by the cruel chain, and she clung to him and wept.

Are you ready for the wedding of the Lamb? There will be a marriage made in Heaven someday, but only the redeemed are invited. Does that include you? If not it can! And for those who are going, consider for a moment how you are preparing for that day! What kind of garments will you be wearing when you stand there at that Royal Wedding? The time to prepare is today! The place to prepare is here! The person to prepare is yourself. Will you let the Lord work in your heart and life? Will you be wearing pearls or pigeon poop on your wedding day?

As Gene and Roxey come forward to lead us in our final hymn and the ushers prepare to collect the communication cards, please bow you heads with me. Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your gift of salvation and we ask for your strength as we weave together on this earth our dress for the wedding of the Lamb. Help us to adorn ourselves with pearls and righteous acts as we prepare for Jesus to return and take us home. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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