Perugino - Marriage of the Virgin

Text: Hosea 2:18-23

“I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me.” Three times the Lord says this through the prophet Hosea.

It’s reckless and pollyannic, for the bride in Hosea is undeserving. And that is precisely the point: God acts in love and mercy upon the undeserving.

Pope Francis recently commented on marriage within the Roman Catholic church, saying, “The great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.” I.e., most Roman Catholic marriages are not real marriages because the couples entering into them do not have a proper understanding of permanence and commitment. But who does? Matthew Schmitz, the literary editor of the journal First Things, reacted with concern, observing it seemed the Pope was saying that “Marriage is something only saints can do.”

Ross and Jenni, the more you think about the vows you will take, the more you ought to realize the impossibility of keeping them. Just as the commandment to fear, love, and trust in God above all things constantly exposes our idolatry of self-love, so the mandate to nourish, cherish, submit to, love, honor, keep, to forsake all others, and to do all this relentlessly, daily, hourly, minute by minute, no matter what, even when things get worse, poorer, when you find yourselves in sickness and death – that mandate will reveal every ounce of ugliness within you, like a surgeon’s scalpel opening the flesh up to reveal not only blood and guts but cancer, decay, brokenness and death. By your own reason and strength, you cannot do it, and no amount of romantic love will ever be enough to carry you through the desolate places of loneliness, lust, and rage. Perhaps the pope is right, and only saints can truly be married.

What we see in God’s approach to marriage in Hosea is a God who acts, a God who loves and sacrifices irrespective of the bride’s worthiness. “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me.” Three times the Lord says these words that not only enact marriage’s beginning, but also pay a price. The ancient custom was for the groom to pay a price to the bride’s father. So, Mr. Berry, what is Jenni worth?!

How can you put a price on your baby girl? How could we possibly assign a monetary worth to a human being?

What the Lord is doing in holy marriage is naming His price, what He will pay for His scandalous, “worthless” bride: “I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.” The price the Lord is offering for His bride is the price of Himself: His righteousness, His justice, His steadfast love, His mercy, His faithfulness. God’s marriage is founded on His grace. Godly marriages are founded on God’s grace.

The suffering and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus is His dowry, His own bride price.

The Son of God is the propitiation for our sins. The suffering and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus is His dowry, His own bride price. As the whip tears the flesh from His back, as the thorns bite into His throbbing skull, as the spikes drive into His hands and feet, as the thrust of the spear pours out blood and water – each of these bitter wounds is another declaration of our Lord to you, “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me.” See the price I pay for you!

Our English word betroth mean a thorough truth, a comprehensive pledge. Truth can be a vicious demon: “Does this outfit look good on me?” “How do you feel about visiting my parents this weekend?” “Would you still marry me if we could do it all over again?” Many marriages survive, hobbling through life by telling lies to these and countless other questions.

But there is a deeper truth, a deeper betrothal stemming from the declaration of Christ, “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me,” “I will betroth you to Me.” He is declaring the deepest truth of forgiveness deriving from the price of His own life. Ross and Jenni, the Lord wants something more, much more for you than mere happiness, or three or four decades of managing to not offend each other too badly. He wants your marriage to be an icon of Christ and the Church. Thus the truth you must speak to each other, the pledge you must make to each other is the truth of forgiveness in Jesus, of a love that transcends eros or philia, a love that says, “I forgive you, I forget what you said, I regard you as a saint, the most beautiful, the most lovely, the finest creature on earth.”

Perhaps it is true that only saints can be truly married: and that is how a true husband sees his wife: she is holy, she is without spot, wrinkle, or blemish, she is redeemed by Jesus and I love her. And the wife sees her husband the same way: righteous, Christ-like, love incarnate.

“I betroth you to Me,” the Lord says to every one of you; and Ross and Jenni, you then have the privilege of saying God’s Words to each other not only today but each day: “I betroth you to me, I give you my word, my truth. I see in you infinite value, a bride beyond price, for you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” +INJ+