“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Becoming an Obedient Bride, by Dale Bastian

Recently, while meditating and reflecting on the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25:1–13, several other passages came to my attention. One was from Revelation 3:20 which says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” The other was from Song of Solomon, “I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, my locks with the damp of the night.’ I have taken off my dress, how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, how can I dirty them again? My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings were aroused for him. I arose to open to my beloved; and my hands dripped with myrrh, and my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt. I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me. The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, they struck me and wounded me. The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, as to what you will tell him: for I am lovesick” (Song of Solomon 5:2–8).

The Meaning of the Word “Bridegroom”
Stop and think with me for a moment about the word “bridegroom” or “groom.” To groom means:
“to clean and care for; to make neat or attractive; polish.” The bridegroom is the one who desires to make the bride clean and attractive. This speaks not only of the outward appearance, but also of the inward heart and soul. In Bible times, a bride would take a purifying bath before the wedding. As the bride of Christ, our purifying bath is to bathe ourselves in the Word of God, allowing His word to purify, soften, cleanse, refresh, and rejuvenate our hearts and spirits. Another thing the groom desires is for the Bride to be beautiful by the clothes she wears. So also our heavenly Groom desires us to be clothed with garments of humility and praise.

To groom can also have the connotation of preparing or training someone such as grooming a person to do a certain job or task, or to act in a certain way. Our Groom is training us to be loving, kind, long-suffering, gentle, pure, merciful, and peaceable. Since our Groom is also a King, He is training us to rule and reign with Him by allowing us to be tested and tried by various trials, instructing us how to be warriors who pray, worship, and fast.

After the wedding, the groom then becomes known as the husband. Once again let’s look at the definition of husband: as a noun it means
“a manager or steward”; as a verb it means, “to manage prudently.” From the word “husband,” we also get our word “husbandman,” which means: “one who plows and cultivates land; farmer.” From this we can see that even in marriage the role and the responsibility of the man (husband) remains much the same as in the courtship — to cultivate and steward the character, will, emotions, and even the physical appearance of his wife. Have you ever noticed that a couple who have been married for many years actually tend to look a lot alike? Similarly, our spiritual Husband, Jesus Christ, has a great longing and desire that we look like Him in our actions, our words, and our character.

Israel is an example of being groomed and trained by the Lord. In Jeremiah 31:32, the Lord declares that He was a husband to them. In bringing them out of Egypt into the desert, the Lord was attempting to cleanse them from the things of Egypt and train them to be a nation of priests so that they could show His glory to the world. He was molding and shaping their character, cultivating them to be His special people. There at Mount Sinai He was wedding Himself to them and taking them to be His very own. Sadly, they were not obedient and did not fulfill the high calling God had planned for them.

Notice how much responsibility rests on the groom-husband for the development of the bride-wife. However, she must be willing to yield, submit, and obey him in order for his efforts, desires, and plans to be fulfilled and brought to fruition in her life. So it is in our relationship with Jesus. We must surrender and yield to His desires and plans for us, and not refuse Him access to any part of our life and being, which brings us to our next point.

Knocking at the Door
In both the Revelation and Song of Solomon passages, a picture is portrayed of someone standing outside the door desiring to enter in. The verse in Revelation is rather familiar to us, but let’s consider it in the light of the groom standing at the door of the bride. The second and third chapters of Revelation were written to seven different churches. Since the church is referred to as the “bride of Christ,” in a very real sense these chapters could be thought of as the Bridegroom talking to His bride. Try reading these two chapters with this thought in mind, for example: To the Ephesus bride He says they have left their first love (Revelation 2:4), to the Bride in Sardis He says to wake up or He will come like a thief at an hour they will not know (Revelation 3:2–3), and to the bride in Laodicea He says they are lukewarm in their love and actions toward Him (Revelation 3:15–18).

To Listen is to Obey
At the conclusion of each letter to the seven churches in Revelation is the phrase “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” “He who has ears, let him hear,” has the meaning of “listening to give heed, obey.” Looking at the Israelites once again, we see that God had taught them many lessons in the desert. None is more central than His desire for His people to live by every word that comes from His mouth (see Deuteronomy 8:2–5) so that His words become the very foundation of their lives. Perhaps no lesson is more difficult to learn and practice than this one.

God led His people into the desert so they would learn to live by His every word. At Mount Sinai and during their years of desert wandering they heard God’s words many times. But hearing and understanding God’s words and
listening to them is not the same thing. God wanted His people to learn the kind of hearing that becomes obeying.

Much as a parent might say to a child, “You’d better listen,” because their child heard words but chose not to obey them, Moses had commanded the Israelites to listen to God’s words:
“Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey” (Deuteronomy 6:3). The Hebrew word translated “hear” or “listen” is “shama.” When translated into modern language, it implies a physical action and a mental activity. Although many of us hear (meaning that our ears pick up sounds), the Hebrew word “hear” means both physical hearing and the response to hearing — being obedient to what is spoken.

In Mark 12:29 Jesus said,
“Hear, O Israel …” Did He mean, “Listen as a rational activity so you can recite and explain what I teach you”? Or did He mean, “Obey?” When Jesus says hear, He calls us to put His words into action — not just listen to them. Jesus expects us to both hear and heed what the Lord declares! He wants us to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). So we should understand Jesus’ invitation, “He who has ears, let him hear” as a call to obedience. As God’s people, we have not truly heard God’s words until we put what we hear into our hearts, allow these words to transform our lives, and act in obedience to those words.

So ask yourself these questions: “How good am I at listening to, knowing, and obeying the Word of God? Am I allowing the ‘noise’ of culture to sidetrack me? Have I failed to make obedience to God’s voice my top priority?” As you look back on times in your life when you have not fully and completely obeyed God’s every word, what losses have you or others suffered as a result of your disobedience? Are you willing to make a commitment today to be a faithful follower of God and His Word, one who hears
and obeys?

Knocking With His Voice
In the Song of Solomon Scripture, the bride is portrayed as already in bed for the evening when her groom comes knocking. “A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my perfect one!’” (Song of Solomon 5:2). Pay close attention to how this passage is worded for it holds a key for you and me. Notice it says, “A voice! My beloved was knocking.” So how does our groom knock on our hearts’ door? By His voice!

What do we do when we hear His voice? Do we arise, open the door, and spend time with Him, or are we like the bride in this Scripture who made excuses and stayed in bed? When she finally did get up to open up for Him, He had left and she went in search of Him but could not find Him at that time. Oh the dangers of not obeying and spending time with our Groom when He gently knocks at the door of our hearts with His loving, kind, and wooing voice. How prone we are to make excuses for not obeying. If we only realized how lazy and foolish it is to not immediately respond to His compassionate wooing, then we might feel the horridness of our procrastination and our unpreparedness.

This brings us back to Matthew 25:1–13 where we find that five of the virgins (NRSV says bridesmaids) were foolish and unprepared for the groom. Now the roles are reversed and the virgins are knocking seeking for the groom to open the door to them, but all they hear are those awful, heart-wrenching words,
“I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12). Oh the tragic consequences of disobedience! These words should have a profound effect upon us, creating a holy fear in our hearts, and driving us to our knees crying out “Lord, I want to know and obey You, and be known by You.”

Jesus ends this story by saying,
“Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” Or as another translation says, “… always be ready …” So does this mean we are to never sleep or rest? No! The Lord has promised to give to His beloved rest and sleep (see Psalm 4:8). What I believe He is referring to is a heart attitude of being alert — watching, looking, and yearning for His return. Notice what it says at the beginning of Song of Solomon 5:2, “I was asleep but my heart was awake.” Let us allow our heavenly Bridegroom to fully, totally, and completely awaken our hearts by His voice so that we can with confidence and full assurance say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Dale Bastian is a part of Living Water Publications and attends Freeport Mennonite Church in Freeport, Illinois. With a solid biblical background, keen prophetic insight, and a compassionate heart, he brings clarity of vision and a call to become more Christ-like to the Church. Dale and his wife, Dana, live in Dakota, Illinois.

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