My beloved is mine, and I am his – Song of Solomon 2:16
God’s relational covenant with his people demonstrates how the Bible defines a covenant marriage. The divine character of God forms a covenant identity that pursues one’s beloved diligently in a sacrificial way to promote relationship and further unity.
There is a debate in some Christian circles whether marriage forms more a covenant or a contract dimension. John Witte, Jr.’s book From Sacrament to Contract gives an excellent scope of the historical meaning to marriage throughout Church History. The social and governmental renditions of marriage tend toward a contractual understanding because a formal consent document is required while not obligating the divine witness. Church history and modern political attempts to define marriage vary quite a bit and water down any precise non-civil definition. For these reasons, a contractual sense dominates in both the religious and secular realms.
However, there is no debate that a covenant is a biblical term to demonstrate how God works and interacts with his people. The word covenant describes how biblical marriage ought to be. Isaiah 55:3 states, “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” A divinely witnessed promise of love summarizes the covenant way. The sacred relationship invokes divine integrity in steadfast commitment and love.
Ezekiel 16:8-14 demonstrates the divine personal covenant relationship with his people.
“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.”
The imagery of marriage is entirely on display in this passage. God’s covenant defines as a divinely witnessed promise of love. His declaration of commitment establishes the exclusive belonging between the covenant-keeping God and his beloved, which the words “you became mine” sum up. In this passage, covenant marriage depicts a promise from God for His people Israel. This bond provides a covering and adorning of protection, so the divine husband cherishes his new bride.
The passage evidences incredible meaning, but for our purposes here, connecting the divine relationship with humanity gives a strong perception that marriage is a covenant. Furthermore, the divine actions manifest a covenantal bent toward sacrificial efforts. God’s love shows permanent, unconditional steadfast commitment despite their many sins. At the end of the chapter, God confirms acceptance and belonging, 59 “For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60 yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 16:59-63)
The Lord declares unbroken faithfulness based on a remembrance of the covenant promise even if Israel committed shameful actions. Therefore, the covenant will encourage remembrance of the promises and the seeking of continued acceptance.
In this passage, a covenant’s ethos forms an identity in how God works. His actions point to a covenantal character, which pursues one’s beloved diligently in a sacrificial way to promote relationship and further unity. The Lord’s statement I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, – declares a mutual belonging together despite shortcomings. The divine sacrificial lover takes the opportunity to move toward further oneness with his beloved bride. So, she may say, My beloved is mine, and I am his.
When we realize our loving God’s covenant nature, we can understand how he continually and sacrificially pursues us as his beloved. This character trait defines covenant marriage.
 John Witte, Jr.’s book From Sacrament to Contract gives an excellent scope of the historical meaning of marriage throughout Church History.
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