Arise, Bride of Christ
Ever since we discussed the eclipse at Fall Kickoff, I have been investigating what the Bible says about weddings and Jesus’ character as Bridegroom. Jesus tells us that “[t]he kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” (Matthew 22:2a). Jesus performs his first miracle on earth at a wedding. In the Bible, the Church is often referred to as the Bride of Christ. The Women’s Ministry’s theme for this year, Isaiah 60, also gives us a visual picture of a large procession of people, travelling in search of the returning LORD. Could this be symbolic of a wedding procession? Revelation 19:8 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Who doesn’t love a wedding invitation?
My favorite part of a wedding ceremony is when the bride and groom exchange rings. The bride and groom give a ring as a symbol of the promise, devotion and commitment that they desire to have with one another. To the recipient, rings symbolize being chosen, sealed and secured by another person. Giving a ring is also a pledge to fulfill a contract. The circular shape of a wedding band symbolizes unending love. We know these earthly traditions illustrate our heavenly relationship with our God.
Christ wants us to be His betrothed, to be wedded to Him. When the solar eclipse was in totality on Monday, August 21, the Diamond Ring effect was displayed. It reminded me that He is calling us to Him and He will keep His promises to us -- His Bride. God tells us, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
In this age of grace, the Church is engaged to Christ and He is the Bridegroom who is rejoicing over you today. And, when He returns, there will be cleansing of the Bride, a marriage feast will begin and last for eternity! You already have an invitation…
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now ARISE,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”--Psalm 12:5 (ESV)
With the recent weeks of devastation around the world, my heart is heavy. As I reflect on the word ARISE in this passage of Psalms, it gives me hope. In this context, the word means a literal lifting or standing up. The verb is active, intensive and causative. Wow, I had not pictured the LORD standing before! If there were any time, it would be now. Hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, political tension, shootings and enemy lines being crossed cause us to long for our heavenly home. But, He is standing and waiting. We wonder, "Why, Lord?" Could one of the reasons He is waiting be that He desires more to come to salvation in Him?
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth--1 Tim 2:3-4 (ESV)
While we wait, we can proclaim His love to others. We can share His truth. Until He returns, we can find hope in our trials, fix our eyes on Him, and trust that He is at work in the visible and invisible. God wants us to set our hearts and minds on Him. He is calling us to pray and respond.
We believe that He will shelter those in need. We believe that He will provide safety for those longing for His protection. We believe that He is Our Salvation. We believe and this is our prayer...
You, O, Lord, are Our Shield, the God Most High. You know our needs before we even speak them from our lips. You say we can cast our cares upon You and You will care for us. We are needy. All the nations need You. There is destruction all around us and we need You to rescue us. Arise, Lord Jesus, arise! Shape us in understanding, love, and compassion for those hurting around us. Give us hearts that feel and hands that can help. Help us to see people through Your eyes. We all long for the safety of Your shelter. We desire to be held in the shadow of Your wings. Keep us focused on Your power and Your might by believing in faith that You are LORD on Your throne! May we trust Your plans. We pray according to Your good, pleasing and perfect will. Thank you, Jesus. Amen!
God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 ARISE, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink.
Gen 21:17-19 NASB
As I encountered the story of Hagar several times in the recent weeks, I became more curious about her plight, how she must have felt, and what God’s plan was for her to walk through her exact circumstances. What makes Hagar so relatable is that she got caught up in her emotions. We know she felt rejected and then forgotten. Have you been there? Do you find yourself stretched thin in your faith? Are you wondering where God is in the middle of your circumstances?
We have to dig a bit deeper to see the example of God’s redemption in Hagar’s life. Follow me through her story….
The Bible begins recording Hagar’s journey in Genesis 16 where she was chosen by Sarai to be a surrogate for Abram’s heir. Sarai and Abram took the matter of barrenness into their own hands. God ultimately used it to bring about an entire nation of people but, in this instance, their choice was not an honorable one. Once Hagar was pregnant, she resented her role and despised her mistress. Sarai returned the poor treatment by rejecting Hagar. So, Hagar fled the household to escape. She found herself near a spring where an angel of the Lord spoke to her and requested that she return to the family. With this encounter, God confirmed that He saw her circumstances, requested that she name her future son Ishmael (meaning “God hears”), and promised to use them both for His glory. As we learn later in Genesis, the problem became that Hagar forgot that promise when it mattered most and returned her focus back to her feelings instead of her God.
The story picks up in Genesis 21 where Sarai, now called Sarah, is about to give birth to the promised child, Isaac. By God’s divine plan, Isaac will become the true heir of Abraham’s household but Sarah is worried and feels like Ishmael is a threat to the throne. So, once again Sarah used her own personal strategy to fix the situation by asking Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away into the wilderness. Abraham followed the plan and sent Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness with less than enough provision to survive.
At this point, Hagar was probably dealing with jealously, anger and even fear but she ends up spiraling into despair. Her vision in her present circumstances was blurred. She lost sight of the El Roi (the God who sees) and she only saw her own child on the verge of death. At that very moment when Hagar lost all hope, an angel of God called to Hagar and said, “God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him (vs. 18).” Hagar responded when God opened her eyes to show her the well in front of her and she drew from the source of living water who restored her. The angel of God simply asked her to “Arise” from her despair.
God’s supply and provision was available but Hagar couldn’t see it through her emotions. When we are facing uncertainty, insurmountable odds or straight up crisis, do we go to our coping mechanisms and personal strategies before we open our eyes to see the One Who Sees Us?
We have these Biblical strategies to follow and they help us to stay on course in tough circumstances:
Remember—Recall God’s promises and read His Word to remind ourselves.
Reflect—Recall what God has done in the past, what He is doing in the present and what His Word says He will do in your future.
Request—Call for God’s help…God hears and He sees! You are not forgotten!
Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
at every street corner.
As I reflected on this verse with Christmas approaching, I was reminded of Mary’s heart. Mary knew the baby she was to deliver was significant but she did not know what God had planned for this baby, Jesus. When Mary entered that stable on that cold and lonely night, her labor pains increased and she felt the literal weight of the world as she longed to find a soft place to lay. She cried out in the night for her child of promise, but no one knew what truth was going to break forth and break them free.
In the past, moms and dads had to bring rebellious sons to the elders for public humiliation and subsequent stoning (Deut 21:18-21). Death was eminently attached to rebellion. And then a mother cried out!
When Christ was born, he broke through that barrier of death to shed His Light on hopelessness, broken hearts, violated pasts, dishonored families, thoughts abandoned, and promises forsaken. No longer did His children deserve death! Through Christ, His children are set free from death and brought into new life, new creation, and new hearts!
God’s firstborn was not in rebellion, but many of His children are today. If you are lost in a faith battle, pour out your heart this Christmas season. Give your heart to Jesus as a gift and receive a new one crafted in Glory! Lift up your hands to the one who can feed your hunger and quench your thirst.
Pray for all of the children of God to rest their hearts in Him alone...the Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Almighty God born of flesh yet redemption for all man. In the stillness of night, may He be Our Peace (Micah 5:5).