"When a first-century Jewish man fell in love with a woman, he would travel from his father's home to hers to seal the engagement. In that culture, an engagement was not what it is today. It wasn’t a trial period during which premarital counseling would help the couple decide whether to continue on or break off the relationship. It represented rather a legal contract, complete with a price paid by the groom that set the woman apart exclusively for her man.
They were immediately regarded as husband and wife, irrevocably bound. To symbolize their covenant, each would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced. Following that ceremony, the groom would return to his father's home for a period of twelve months. For that entire time, he remained separate from his bride. She would not see him again until it was time to consummate their union.
The bride had one job during his absence-to prepare herself for his coming and for the rest of her life with him. All other activities revolved around that one ruling purpose.
While she waited, she knew what her groom was doing. He was spending the year adding an apartment to his father's home in which they would eventually live together. An honorable man would have an eye for no other woman and would not rest until preparations were made for them to be united. She would rest, secure in the knowledge that all the bridegroom's energies were directed toward their being together.
When the engagement year ended, at an exact day and hour that the bride did not know, the groom would gather his wedding party and, in a torch-lit procession, travel to where his bride was living. His arrival would be preceded by a shout from one of his friends, alerting the woman that her groom was arriving.
She was ready. She had no greater dream than his coming and was confident he would arrive to take her to be with him in the home he had prepared. With her attendants, she would travel to that home. When they arrived, she would walk into a party waiting to happen.
Before the celebration began, the bride and groom would be escorted to the bridal chamber where, for the first time, they would express their covenant to each other with physical union. Then the husband would emerge from the room alone, and a seven-day feast would begin. At its conclusion, his wife, unveiled for the first time, would appear and be officially welcomed to her new home as a member of the family. From then on, the heaven of unhindered intimacy and unrestrained blessing was hers to enjoy.
With that custom in mind, as it was in the minds of the disciples, perhaps we can better hear what our Lord means when He tells us to live now with untroubled hearts.
"I know things are not now as you want them. I know many of your dreams are not coming true. I want you to understand that things are not as I will one day make them. I like neither the distance between us nor the pain you suffer.
"Until I come to bring you to My Father's house, I am devoting Myself to only one thing: I am preparing a place for you. And My Spirit, on My behalf, is devoting Himself to only one thing-preparing you to enjoy Me and all that I will provide.
"I have called you not to the secular journey where you must make everything in your life now as pleasant as possible. I have called you to the spiritual journey, to a process of enlarging your heart to desire Me above everything else.
"Do not be troubled by all the dreams that will shatter while you remain on earth. You will feel deep pain. But every sorrow you experience will be used by my Spirit to deepen your desire for Me. He will speak to you about Me.
“Listen for the voice. You will hear Him most clearly when suffering humbles you enough to want to hear Him, to know you cannot go on without hearing Him.
“This time of distance, when you will feel such disappointment both with your life and with yourself, will awaken your heart to receive me with great joy when I finally come. I will not delay. I will come at exactly the appointed time.
"My Father will give the signal. Listen for the shout.”
And our response is, Come, Lord Jesus; come soon! Until then we wait with untroubled hearts. We scream, we cry, we fail but we wait, abandoned to our Kinsman-Redeemer, to our “Boaz”, confident that he has paid a price for us that guarantees our eventual intimacy. No one, not even Satan, can prevent us from entering the bridal chamber with Jesus where our greatest dream will be realized.