Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bridal Gown

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.

The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them. (1 Samuel 18:6-16)

The Old Testament is history.  It is also parabolic in that it tells the deeper truths about who God is, who we are, and what God has done to save us from everlasting death.  In this historic parable, we can learn many things:

1. The Church are the women of Israel, just as we are the bride of Christ.  We come out of our cities after Christ's victory and we sing to our Lord and Master.  In the passage the song is hyperbolic: David hasn't killed ten thousand yet.  What they are meaning is that David's one act of defeating Goliath has placed him in a higher standing than King Saul.  Likewise, Christ's defeat of sin, the devil, and death on the cross has placed him as our Lord over the wiles of the world, to which we had formerly been adhering. In Revelation we read

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:6-8)

We are the Bride of Christ, and we come out to meet our savior with songs of his righteous deeds.  Our own righteous deeds are only clothing--a bridal gown--with which we adorn ourselves to express our responsorial love to Christ's own love for us.  Our righteousness is a reflection of Christ's.  The women flooding out of the cities, singing, represent our rebirth as children of God and our praise of him who saved us.

2. Our sin rises up to attempt to pull us back into darkness.  As John wrote to believing Christians in his first letter,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

As Christians, we sin, but as Christians, we acknowledge we sin and we repent each time we sin.  An unbeliever does not acknowledge his sin and, of course, he never repents.

3. Just as Saul represents our sin, he also represents the world.  When we become true Christians, the following verses become how we live:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

4. Christ himself tells us of the reaction of the world to our shifting allegiance:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18-25)"

This is the life of the Christian.  In fact, it is good to remind ourselves of the hatred of the world, because it confirms that we are on the right course.  Also, knowing that it's not because of us that the world hates us, it is because of Jesus, takes away the sin of pride that keeps rising up to take us down and also comforts us to know that we are in the best of company.

5. Remember that God is sovereign over all the world, not just the Christian part.  He releases the unbelieving world to its sin.  He lets go his restraining hand and turns them over to their passions.  He "gives them up to their lusts," as Romans 1 reads.  Is this because he hates the world?  No, it's because he loves his bride, and the more the world is hostile to the church, the stronger and more worthy the bride becomes, not because of any merit in the bride herself, but, once again, because she is reflecting the righteousness of Christ on her surface, in her clothing, so to speak.  Remember, our righteousness does not come from within ourselves.  Christ has imputed his righteousness to us, and we wear it on our surface like a bridal gown, over our sinful bodies.  By responding to Christ's love in this way, we are returning his righteousness to him in gratitude.

As the last line of our Samuel passage reads, "And when Saul [the world] saw that he [Christ] had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah [the Church] loved David [Christ], for he went out and came in before them.

This is an overarching aspect of the Christian life.