21 July 2010 (Revee/Shavu'ot)|
Day #128, 5934 AM
The Three Degrees
They are Really Very Important!
No, this is not a devotional about the female Philadelphia soul and disco vocal musical group. Neither is it about the three Mormon heavens nor the official grades of Freemasonry. Neither is this a discourse on the three glories of resurrection nor about the Godhead. Today I want to talk to you about the Three Degrees of Marrital Love. And, no, this isn't about head-love, heart-love and body-love either.
Marriage relationships are in a mess these days. Roughly half of all marriages end up in separation and divorce. In countries like Sweden the rate is far worse. As for common-law relationships, your chances of succeeding are about one in ten.
There were, historically, three stages of marriage anciently which are still retained by the modern-day Aramaic-speaking Samaritans of the Republic of Israel who preserve ancient Hebrew ways. These three are:
Dedication was an agreement to seriously pursue the possibility of marriage, a bit like today's 'engagement'. It could be broken off if the parties decided it couldn't work. No physical contact was allowed so that if the parties did break up there would be no stain or stigma of fornication or impurity. This was not, however, something casual. The parties needed to be very serious about a permanent relationship before they were allowed to be dedicated. You might call this a 'Covenant of Intent'. This was something they would diligently explore and work at.
- 1. Dedication (aráb);
- 2. Betrothal (aras);
- 3. Full Marriage (onah).
Betrothal was a formal covenant to be true and faithful always for the rest of the parties' lives. It is rightly seen as the Covenant of Marriage. And even though the couple were not allowed to have sexual relations (they were usually separated while the betrothed husband got things in order like providing a home for his bride) they were still properly and legally married. The covenant could not be broken off or new betrothal covenants entered with others without committing adultery. Once this covenant was made, it was sealed in heaven and on earth and nothing but death or infidelity could break it.
Full marriage was the consummation of the Covenant of Betrothal wherein the betrothed husband fully took his betrothed wife, becoming one flesh with her, and started a new home. They were then said to be fully married.
These three stages or degrees of marriage are represented by the three pincipcal festivals of Israel: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles which simultaneously (and principally) represent the stages of our allegorical marriage to Christ.
Passover or Pesach represents our Dedication to Messiah Yah'shua, a spiritual conception, with another festival - the Day of Firstfruits or Yom haBikkurim - representring the new spiritual birth in Messiah with its corresponding outer ordinance of baptism. Pentecost or Shavu'ot represents our Betrothal to Messiah Yah'shua, the marriage contract (ketubah) being the Torah or commandments. And finally, Tabernacles or Sukkot represents the final consummation of our allegorical marriage relationship with Christ, which takes place when He returns, and which is commonly known as the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Rev.19:7). Then we shall be with Him for ever and ever, just as Bride and Bridegroom are together in their new home after they have consummated their Betrothal.
These may also for convenience be described as the Three Salvations: salvation-past (dedication, when we made the decision to follow Messiah), salvation-present (betrothal - our continuing faithfulness to our Betrothal Covenants) and salvation-future (full marriage - the fruit of enduring to the end - Mt.24:13).
Modern-day man tends to get everything back-to-front. He first consummates his relationship (by going to bed with his partner) and then (sometimes) 'gets married' (in reality, gets betrothed) by entering a covenant. He tastes the fruits before making the promises and if he doesn't like the taste, doesn't make the promises. This is called fornication. And if he discards his partner and takes another, he becomes an adulterer.
This is a bit like expecting the benefits of the Christian Life - the presence and blessings of Messiah - without any sort of long-term committment. And it doesn't work. Yahweh does not operate outside of covenant. That is how you end up with so much counterfeit Christianity. Someone who has not fully committed themselves to the Saviour with their whole being simply won't be born again, and his walk with Christ will at some point be spontaneously aborted. There is no full relationship with Messiah without full committment first. It was then never an allegorical marriage but at best, flirtation, and at worst, fornication.
All the three degrees, in their correct order, are essential, and if we have skipped anything - whether in literal marriage or in our spiritual relationship with Messiah - we have to back-track and do the right thing. Usually it is entering covenant, and not infrequently entering the right covenants. Promising to obey 'commandments' is good, but promising to obey 'the commandments' is the way to do it properly and the way to ensure prosperity in the relationship.
'The Commandments' are as follows:
- 1. The Two Coat-hanger Commandments: "'You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt.22:37-40, NKJV);
- 2. The Ten Commandments: five of these 'hang' on the left hand side of the coat-hanger and the other five 'hang' on the right hand side; and
- 3. The Remaining Mitzvot: These (of which there are several hundred) all 'hang' from the ten commandments, amplifying and clarifying them for situational living, defining the sanctified and set-apart lifestyle of the true believer.
Together these define our ketubah or marriage contract with Messiah. We agree to obey them (as wives are to obey and respect their husband's law) and in His turn Yah'shua confers blessings and promises (as husbands are to love and protect their wives). For a concise summary of the whole Gospel, see The Way of Yahweh: The Plan of Salvation.
All of this is the Good News. However, this study would not be complete without the Bad News. Just as the Three Degrees are supposed to be made, so too they can be undone. Just as we begin with our 'Paradise Love' in Dedication, cement it in 'Covenant Love' in Betrothal, and complete it with 'Legal Love' at Full Marriage, so it can fall apart in the same way. The pivot that holds it all together is Betrothal, which is also where the ax is laid to the root of marriage when it breaks up. Covenant Love keeps the ship sailing while repairs are done to a damaged marriage and as such may be said to be the most important. Likewise, we hold on to our Shavu'ot covenants with Yah'shua when the going gets tough, when the 'Paradise Love' seems far away (the deep feelings) and the 'Legal Love' seems unreal ('am I really saved/married?' - yes you are if you are true to your betrothal covenants...if you stay married and keep the commandments).
These are the Three Degrees of reality in both literal marriage and in our relationship to Elohim (God). Understanding the importance of all three, their positioning and what they represent will greatly enable the two most important relationships in life and in eternity - your relationship with Yahweh and your relationship with your spouse - survive and thrive. Live long and prosper in Messiah who is all Emet (Truth)!