You’ve probably heard it before. The young bride was trying to remember the proceedings for her wedding. First she would be led on her father’s arm up the aisle, up to the altar where she would be joined by her husband-to-be, and then a hymn would be sung before the actual ceremony. “Aisle, altar, hymn,” she remembered, “Aisle, altar, hymn, I’ll alter him…”
The altar. We tend to associate it with weddings, but it’s purpose was the place of sacrifice. In Exodus 27:1-8 Moses was given precise instructions on how the altar was to be made. It seems the bronze-covered wood was to form a framework into which earth was mounded, and on which the animals could be killed and burned, in keeping with the instructions of Exodus 20:24.
Yet there is a link of sorts. For all the jokes on the subject, marriage is a sort of sacrifice. You lay down the ‘me’ to meet the needs of ‘us’. Your personal decisions have to give way to joint agreements. Shocking in our modern day to think of a wife submitting to her husband, as laid out in Ephesian 5:22-27, but even more shocking, is that the husband should be willing to sacrifice his very life for his wife. But unless both lay down their ‘rights’ there can be no lasting harmony, no real, trusting relationship.
The altar was the place where animals were sacrificed to pay the price for the sins of their owners. An ordinary person could not approach a holy God without the shedding of innocent blood; a male without spot or blemish. It looked forward of course, to the time when the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus, Our Redeemer, would pay the price for our sins, once and for all, in that terrible sacrifice of the cross on a mound of earth called Calvary. We can only approach God the Father through forgiveness through his son. And Jesus, the perfect Bridegroom, willingly and lovingly laid down his life for his bride, the Church.
How can I hold on to my ‘rights’? He loves me. He died for me. He bought me. He owns me. Submitting to God is not giving him something extra, it is a matter of not holding back what he legally has a right to. But he loves it when we willingly and joyfully offer him all that we have, all that we are. And mean it.