June 2019   
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The Wonder of a Wedding


The Wonder of a Wedding
Song of Solomon 3:6-11
Do you enjoy going to weddings? My dad used to say he had already gone to one too many! We are going to go to a wedding this morning. 
If you study the Song of Solomon, you will discover God's design for love, marriage, and intimacy. And by the way, they are in that order. And every one of them holds a beautiful illustration of our relationship with God. Therefore any distortion of them or their order is a distortion of what God desires in every one of our lives. 
There is first of all the courtship. Then there is a ceremony that takes place. Then following the wedding, there is the consummation. 
Did you realize you are involved in a courtship with Jesus Himself? Every kind gift you receive from Him is a gracious expression of His love for you. He sent you a marvelous love letter called the Bible; you can read it over and over and it will never get old.
And one of these days, there’s going to be a wedding. The Bridegroom Himself is going to come for you with trumpets sounding and angels shouting! And there in the presence of God in all of His glory you will be presented as the Bride of Christ!
And following that, we will enjoy the intimacy of that relationship for all eternity! We can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like!
In the Song of Solomon chapter 3, verses 6 through 11, we have a wedding ceremony. There is a great deal to be learned here for those who are anticipating marriage, as well as those who are already married. 
And there are some words I’ve chosen to give you some idea of what your wedding should include. The first word is the word,
I.           Celebrated.
I think it right that your wedding be celebrated in a public manner. When you study the Bible on the subject of marriage, you will discover that the Bible teaches that there has to be first of all a public celebration and then there is a private consummation.
verse 6
There is a special announcement being made here. It is the announcement that a wedding is getting ready to begin. According to the customs and the ceremonies of those days, it is very consistent with what we know.
Who is this one who is being announced? The answer is very obvious. It is Solomon. Here he comes out of the wilderness. He is coming out of pillars of smoke. There is perfume of myrrh and frankincense and all powders of the merchant. We have an elaborate ceremony that is getting ready to begin. The focus is King Solomon.
Do you ever watch wrestling? Not the real stuff; I’m talking about the “Professional” stuff. I don’t either! But sometimes I “drift” by it on TV! Watch those guys make their way to the ring! Smoke and fire and every eye on them! 
I can almost imagine you have a scene similar to that when Solomon comes out of the wilderness and the Bible says he is coming out with pillars of smoke, perfume, and incense all around.
Then there is an announcement made and it is, "Here comes the groom." That's quite different from what we have in weddings today. Weddings are always focused upon the bride. She is the center of attention. You read in the newspaper all about what the bride has on. You come to the wedding and every eye is on the bride. They want to see what she is going to wear and how she looks in her dress.
It would be just as good if the guy never even showed up or he could be standing there in his boxer shorts. It really wouldn't matter. But in those days the emphasis and focus was placed upon the groom.
How would it be if they did that today? I can read it in the paper now. The groom was lovely in his Fruit of the Loom underwear. He had on his OU Sooner football jacket and freshly laundered Wranglers. Everybody was so thrilled and excited at the appearance of the bridegroom.
And it was as extremely elaborate, costly affair. Weddings are getting more and more expensive today. I have one rule of advice I give to all of the fathers whose daughters are getting married. My advice to you is to keep your mouth shut and just sign the checks.
It's a family decision about how much to spend on the wedding. You can spend any amount you would like to spend. You can make it as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be. But the truth of the matter is, a wedding should be something that is publicly celebrated. The key is not how much you spend or how extravagant it is, the key is that your wedding ceremony should be publicly celebrated in such a way that it will be a joyful time and a very holy time.
Now as you continue to study this passage of Scripture, you will find at this wedding there are some spiritual symbols embedded in the words. 
For instance, when it says he is coming out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, look at that through a Jewish lens:
That's what went on in the life of the children of Israel as they went through the wilderness journey. The Bible says that through the wilderness journey there was a pillar of smoke that guided them everywhere. At night it was a pillar of fire. That was a symbol of the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the people went through their wilderness journey.
And now Solomon is coming to this wedding day with this Shulamite woman. He is coming out through pillars of smoke.
That says symbolically that God has led us to this place. We are coming to a very holy and sacred place. A wedding is a very holy occasion. It is a very sacred occasion.
Then we find the perfume of frankincense. We know that in the Bible frankincense is always a symbol of prayer. Solomon is saying, as he is coming out with all of that going on, that there has been much prayer put into this situation. We are coming here today out of great prayer.
That's the way you should approach your wedding. It should be something that God has led you through in this wilderness of wrong information about marriage today. It is something that should be entered into by all involved in a great spirit of prayer.
There are symbols involved in the wedding ceremonies we use today. They are not commonly known, but let me share a few with you.
Have you ever wondered why the friends of the groom are one side and the friends of the bride are on the other side? When the ceremony is over, the new husband and wife walk between those two. It is symbolic of a covenant relationship. Scripturally, the word is pictured in God’s covenant with Abraham. When that covenant was established, Abraham to sacrifices and divided them and passed between the pieces. 
When God brought the Israelites our of slavery I in Egypt, He established a covenant with them, and the people passed between the pieces of a calf. 
The symbolic meaning of it is this. A couple is saying, "We come today as products of sacrifices made by our families, and in covenant with them and God we pass between these sacrifices to enter into this covenant.
Have you noticed that they put the parents down in the front? It is a way of publicly honoring the parents, but it is also saying that the parents publicly support what is getting ready to take place.
You may see sometimes a white runner pulled all the way from the marriage altar to the back of the building. It is a symbol of purity and holiness. The young bride-to-be and the young husband-to-be are saying, "We are aware of the fact that today we are walking on holy ground.
The groom enters first. Why? Because he is the initiator of the covenant. That’s important because whomever initiates the covenant assumes the primary responsibility for seeing that it is carried out. 
It was God who initiated Biblical covenants. Most importantly, our salvation covenant is included. God
seeks us out. God calls; salvation begins with God. At his return, Jesus comes to consummate our relationship as the bride of Christ. 
Then you’ll see the father walk the bride in. That reminds us of God bringing together Adam and Eve. It was God’s way of saying, “I approve and bless this relationship”. 
Then we see the bride dressed in white symbolizing the purity of heart and life, and in the covenant of marriage the husband is assuming responsibility for the purity. He is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.
The couple will join their right hands and repeat vows: That right hand speaks of strength and resource and purpose, and joined together they are pledged to the other. It is an unspoken reminder of the cleaving together of lives. 
Then there are the vows themselves which remind us of how very sacred and solemn they are. The groom goes first; He is to be the spiritual leader.
Couples exchange rings as symbols of their marriage. It is an identifier, public and prominent. It is embellished and beautiful so attention is drawn to it. Think of the rainbow in the sky after the flood. God wanted attention drawn to the promise He’d made. 
There will be a pronouncement as husband and wife. It is a definite point in time where the marriage began. It is declared publically and joyfully. It reminds me of salvation when we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, and “go public” with our faith. 
Even the signing of the wedding papers and the reception and food being served and throwing rice all find Scriptural significance. 
All of these symbols are simply saying to us that when you come to a marriage ceremony, it is something that is to be publicly celebrated. You make a statement about what your intentions and your hopes and aspirations are as you gather in a public ceremony.
You are saying publicly that God has brought you together, you have prayed about this matter, and your marriage is to be celebrated in a public way.
There is another word that comes to mind from this text: 
II.     Protected.
You come to that wedding ceremony with the idea that this relationship is to be protected by the people who participate in the ceremony with us.
Look at verse 7
Here comes Solomon to the wedding day. Around him are 60 men. You thought your wedding had a lot of groomsmen!
There are 60 groomsmen in this wedding. They are battle-hardened veterans. They are soldiers who have protected Solomon. They are close to Solomon because his very welfare is at their disposal. They are experts in the use of swords. They are prepared to serve as a protective guide for Solomon and his wife.  And Solomon is assuring his young Shulamite bride that in this relationship, she will be kept safe. 
These men are experts in war. That is, they know how to use the weapons. It is so important that when couples get married they get around them those who are battle experienced and know how to use the weapons of spiritual warfare so that their marriage might be protected.
There are stresses and there are problems and there are burdens that come along. Sometimes the young couple is going to need to look to those groomsmen and those others who have been part of the ceremony.
It says here that they need to be protected from the fear of the night. In those days there were bandits and terrorists all around. Coming from Jerusalem to the Shulamite village to marry his beautiful bride, Solomon is aware that there are enemies all around. He will take her back to his palace in Jerusalem and there are enemies all around.
There are enemies of marriage out there today. There are enemies of a godly relationship out there today. Get yourself involved with other Christian couples who want their marriage and your marriage to be everything God intends for it to be.
Let me share another word:
III.   Committed.
You should be committed to one another. It should be a time of public commitment to one another.
Look at verses 9 and 10
That is really saying that they are committing themselves to one another. He is saying to her, "I'm committing my all to you." She is saying to him, "I am committing my all to you."
Notice the commitment Solomon is going to make to his bride.
verse 9
Translators vary on what to do with this verse. KJV says chariot. NKJV says palanquin which is a portable enclosed chair. NAS says sedan chair.
Whatever it was, it was something! It was constructed of the wood of Lebanon. That was very expensive and exclusive. It was in great demand. Then he made columns or pillars of silver; the support, perhaps backrest, of gold. The seat covering, the cushion on which they sat, was purple.
In other words, whatever it is he is putting together, it is the finest money can buy. It is an elegant thing.
And I think the unspoken significance is: It’s just for you and me.
He is saying to her, "I am making a commitment to you materially. I want you to know I am committing myself to provide for you materially. And I'm going to do the very best I can possibly do for you."
Now, Solomon was a king. Not many of us are kings. Not many of us have access to what Solomon had.
But he is basically saying that he is going to do the very best he can do materially.
Not only is he committing himself to her materially, but also he is committing himself to her emotionally and spiritually.
It says the interior is “paved with love”. 
Maybe there were mosaics of love, depicting the message of love. Solomon is saying that he is making a spiritual commitment to her to love her and to lead her in the things of the Lord.
Your marriage ought to be publicly celebrated.   Your marriage ought to be protected. 
Your marriage ought to be a time when you are committed materially and spiritually to each other.
But notice this next thing. Also you wedding should be,
IV.    Applauded.
Look at verse 11
That is talking here about the fact that your wedding and marriage should be applauded by those who are the closest to you and love you the most.
You get the idea from these verses that everyone is excited for this couple! All the preparation and work and excitement is pointing toward that “day of gladness of his heart”.
Solomon's mother had prepared a special headpiece, a special crown, for her beloved son Solomon to wear on his wedding day.
It was her way of adding her blessing to the day.
And I want to tell you something: there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you have the blessing and approval of those who love you.
That is especially true in regard to our Heavenly Father.   
Well, on a normal Sunday, about now is when I would be closing up with some powerful illustration; some story to illustrate my point or perhaps a video to drive it home.
But today’s illustration is much more powerful than that. I told you as I began that today we are going to go to a wedding, and that time has come.
Glen Jenkins was telling me about a story his grandfather told about a couple who wanted to get married at the end of a worship service. So all the arrangements were made, and as the pastor ended the service, he asked that those who were wanting to be married to come forward and three widows and one old man came to the front. 
So I’ll not phrase it like that!
Back in March of 1946, Janice and Charles Manley were married at the end of a worship service right here in this auditorium, and today their granddaughter, Jessica, has asked for that privilege also. It is my privilege to accommodate that request, and I will now turn the responsibilities for this service to Pastor Ralph Andrus who serves as Pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Elkins, WV. He has been instrumental in the salvation and baptisms of the grooms family, and I welcome him today.
The next few minutes are very important.
Remember the old fashioned term “to come “calling”? That’s what Jesus is doing. 
The Lord Jesus Christ comes to you and says to you, "I love you so much, I gave my all for you on the cross of Calvary. I am building you a wonderful home called heaven. I want you to be Mine. I love you. I will take care of you not only in time, but I'll take care of you in eternity. I want you to be My bride."
And when you respond, the courtship is on! Every kind gift you receive from Him is a gracious expression of His love for you. He sent you a marvelous love letter called the Bible; you can read it over and over and it will never get old. You can sense His presence and know His love and protection!
And one of these days, there’s going to be a wedding. The Bridegroom Himself is going to come for you with trumpets sounding and angels shouting! And there in the presence of God in all of His glory you will be presented as the Bride of Christ, united with Him in forever relationship!
And there’s going to be a reception like you’ve never seen! It’s called the marriage supper of the Lamb, and I want to tell you something: nobody knows how to plan a shin-dig like God does! He pulls out all the stops when His boy gets married.
And following that, we will enjoy the intimacy of that relationship for all eternity! We can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like!
In fact, when God pulls back the final curtain for John the Beloved to see Heaven and write about it in the Revelation, John says it looked like “a bride beautifully adorned for her husband.” 
It’s hard to imagine anything more beautiful than a bride on her wedding day. In fact, I’ve never seen an ugly one! (couple just barely made it). The bride is the purest beauty of which earth can boast, and God invites you there.
Now here’s the deal: Jesus has already said "I do" to you. What will you say to Jesus?
Every head bowed.
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