Pure Intimacy: God's Design for Sex

The Divine Marriage: God as Husband to His People in the Old Testament

Using His relationship with the nation of Israel, God hints at the meaning of marriage (part three of seven).

by Dr. David Kyle Foster

Continued from part two: Covenent: The Heart of This Mystery

Let’s look more closely at the idea of Christ as our Bridegroom—once again using the research of Dr. Scott Hahn.

In Scripture, you have four successive ideas lain upon each other:

  1. God is the Husband and the Bridegroom of the corporate nation of Israel.
  2. He is the Husband and Bridegroom of an expanded expression of Israel, the Church, which in Gal 6:16 Paul refers to as the Israel of God. (Paul had also told us in Rom 9:4 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”).
  3. God is the Husband and Bridegroom of every individual member of that corporate body.
  4. He is the Husband and Bridegroom, in a unique way, of everyone who, like Paul, have been called to remain celibate for the sake of the Kingdom of God. When talking about the blessing bestowed on “eunuchs for the kingdom,” God says in Is. 56:5: “I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.”

Let’s take a tour through Isaiah to see the development of this thought in the Old Testament.

When the nation of Israel (God’s bride) decided to play the harlot, God let her go to her lovers. Dr. Scott Hahn observes: “The nature of God’s justice and wrath is that He gives us what we want; He gives us what we choose; until we wake up and realize that we really desire what He calls us to choose.”

Is. 54:5 provides one of the clearer descriptions of the mystical marriage between God and man, when He decides to bring the nation of Israel back into grace:

For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.

Then in Is. 61:10a,c:

I delight greatly in the Lord . . . . For He has clothed me . . . as a bridegroom decks himself (lit.) as a priest . . .

And in Is. 62:5:

As a young man marries a maiden (virgin),
so will your sons marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

In Ez. 23, the divided nations of Israel and Judah, the daughters of God, are likened unto sister harlots, engaging in harlotry first with Egypt, then with Assyria and one even with Babylon. God gives them over to their lovers and their lovers inflict the punishment due their sins.

In Ez. 24, God causes Ezekiel’s wife, (whom God describes as “the delight of your eyes”), to die, and He tells Ezekiel not to mourn her death as a sign to the Israelites, who are about to be conquered by Babylon and lose both the temple and Jerusalem (which should have been “the delight of their eyes”), and who will likewise fail to mourn their loss, but will instead waste away because of their sins (Ez 24:23).

In Hosea 2, Hosea is told to marry a harlot, so that he will know how it feels for God to have to watch His bride, His people, go whoring. God then promises to bring His bride back into grace. In Hosea 2:16, it says:

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.”

Then in v. 19-20:

I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. (see also 2 Kings 17)

And so, using His relationship with the nation of Israel in the OT, God eventually begins to hint at an impending marital relationship between God and man that is greater than the one experienced up to that point. The plot thickens as we move into the New Testament . . . .

Read part four of this article: Christ as Bridegroom to His People in the New Testament

Excerpted from The Divine Marriage by David Kyle Foster. Available in booklet form at www.MasteringLife.org. Reprinted with permission.

National Institute Of Marriage

About the author

Dr. David Kyle Foster is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M-Div) and Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (D-Min) and is founder of Mastering Life Ministries. Dr. Foster has also authored Sexual Healing: God’s Plan for the Sanctification of Broken Lives.