Our earthly marriage vows go something like this: “I promise to love, honor, and cherish you until death do us part” (or some similar version), and the wedding ceremony is concluded when the bride and groom agree to accept each other as partners with a resounding “I do.” Hopefully, believers realize that earthly marriage is a picture of our spiritual marriage. We, the believers, are the bride and Yeshua (Jesus Christ) is the groom.
Did you know that we believers, as the bride, also have wedding vows to our groom, Yeshua?
So in the earthly picture of marriage, we have the bride and bridegroom together and at Mt. Sinai, we have the Israelites and Yahweh together.
The marriage covenant is seen in Exodus chapter 19, when the Israelites gathered at Mt. Sinai in order to receive the Ten Commandments: The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” (Ex 19:10-11)
This consecrating and washing is the earthly equivalent of making ourselves ready for the wedding by putting on our wedding garments. This is preparation for meeting our soon-to-be spouse. The Bible says; “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27)
In Hebraic thought, physical events usually have spiritual application. In this case, being without spot speaks of our attire, and it also speaks of having no moral blemishes. (Strongs 4696 – Spot – spilos)
The Vows = Establishing the Marriage Covenant
While the Israelites were assembled at the base of Mt. Sinai, Yahweh laid out the instructions that Israel would have to follow, in order for them to be His bride. These instructions have been translated as “commandments”; of which the first one is that the bride should ‘have no other gods before Me. ’ This part of the wedding vows is pledging to be faithful to the spouse – pledging fidelity, just like earthly vows. The rest of the marriage vows are the other instructions that are found in Exodus, from chapter 19 to chapter 24.
And at the end, Israel said ‘I do’: Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Ex 24:3)
There you have it! Israel first prepared herself to meet her ‘Husband,’ heard His instructions/terms of the covenant, and then agreed to those terms.
Now that we have that, I want to introduce you to something similar, but that you probably have never heard: Our wedding vows to Yahweh are us, the believers, keeping the commandments.
To honor our Husband is not to cheat on Him (not to love other gods), not to steal or commit murder or lie, etc. Is it bad, to not cheat or steal or murder or lie? Of course not. And since NOT doing these bad things are an action that we DO (and not just something we mentally agree is good), then why does the term “works” have a negative connotation to it?
Works = Wedding Vows
“Works” are the things that we do, the actions we take – not in order to GET salvation, but out of obedience to the groom. Works are how we behave when we are honoringour marriage covenant. When people say “Christ died on the cross so I don’t have to do any works,” that doesn’t make any sense, because you’re ALREADY MARRIED. “Works” are how we faithfully carry out our marriage vows.
In an earthly marriage, once you’re married, do you immediately STOP being faithful to your spouse? Or do you continue to honor your marriage vows? Hopefully you continue to be faithful. So does your fidelity mean that you’re just trying to get married? Of course not – that doesn’t make any sense! And so it’s the same with works for Yahweh – we are not doing works to obtain salvation because we already have it. We simply obey (by DOING what He says) and honor Him.
So, let’s read what James has to say about works. “…show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) We can look at it this way: Works = keeping the wedding vows
Let’s re-read that verse, only this time we’ll substitute the words “honoring wedding vows” in place of “works”: “…show me your faith without honoring your wedding vows, and I will show you my faith by honoring my wedding vows.”
We have to get out of the faulty mindset that “works” is a lack of faith because in reality, works PROVE the faith which you already have. “Works” is not a dirty word. Those who claim it is a dirty word are teaching the opposite of what the bible teaches! Those who teach that “works” are bad are trying to get you to break your wedding vows!
If we understand the marriage covenant, we’ll understand the covenant between Yeshua and us. The bible starts with a marriage (between Adam and Eve), continues with the marriage between Yahweh and His people Israel, and ends with a marriage between Yeshua and His bride – the believers. Don’t let anyone teach you differently.