Day 4 Set Apart For Honor
Today is the day Sarah is ceremonially Set Apart for Honor….”Sarah, Get Up! We have a busy day”. Sarah stirred from a deep and restful sleep, who’s voice was that? “Sarah today is your Mivkah, your bridal bathing ceremony, it’s almost time to go.” Sarah strained as she heard the voice, it wasn’t her mother or her sister, who was that breaking into such a blissful sleep? She sat up straight…”Hannah!” she thought, “It is Hannah”, the maid Jacob had given her to help her prepare for her marriage. “Of course how silly of me.” Although Hannah had been with Sarah for over three years now, Sarah sometimes did not recognize her voice.
Sarah came down the stairs to a bustling house. Her mother, sisters, grandmother, aunts and cousins were all there getting everything ready for the bridal bath, the cleansing ceremony and the celebration. Women talking, little girls laughing, playing and running, the house was alive with excitement. The wedding would be soon…Jacob’s father would send him for Sarah…everyone felt it in the air.
Since her covenant Ketubah ceremony three years ago, Sarah no longer gathered with the girls at the well or by the river to laugh and talk about the most available boys in the village. She now put her dreams and thoughts towards her life with Jacob, ruling out all other possibilities. With Hannah’s help Sarah had been learning everything she could about her grooms family, his father and the way his father’s house was run. She gave her days to learning skills and practicing how to create a new life with Jacob. Sarah’s focus was on using the wonderful traits and skills from her own family to blend with his and create a new home and life. She was so thankful Jacob’s father had given her full access to all of his resources, even though she was just betrothed at this point. Having the resources she needed helped her to be well prepared for her life as Jacob’s wife and a part of his family. With a teacher like Hannah, Sarah would be a welcome and valuable asset to the entire clan.
Today was Mikvah day; it was chosen carefully. Jewish law prescribed the Mikvah to be close to the hoped for wedding day but 7 days after the bride’s menstrual period had ended.(2) Unlike the Ketubah, which was completely run by the father of the groom and the father of the bride and the Rabbi, Sarah’s mother, sisters, friends, aunts, cousins and the women of the village they considered friends would be there as witnesses…no men allowed!
Sarah would go into the water as Sarah the girl and come out as Sarah the Covenant Bride, “bought with a price” and set apart. Today Sarah would personally recognize she was leaving her old life and way of doing things and committing to be Jacob’s wife. Sarah would now stop thinking only of herself. Sarah had been preparing her heart, her mind and her skills for three years. Today she would begin preparing her body inside and out, for the marriage supper with her groom Jacob.
Entering the Mikvah was a private, transformational experience. (1)
The formal bathing pool was at the synagogue, in the next village; too far for the women to travel alone. They would choose a secluded spot up the river in a beautiful natural stone pool carved out by time. The Mikvah must be “mayim hayim” or “living water” moving through the pool as opposed to stale, stagnant water or pond. (1) “It’s time!” the excited women started out the door “The Veil! Sarah you must wear your veil!”
Hannah helped Sarah secure the veil she wore in public until after her marriage to Jacob was consummated. Now, with the wedding time quickly approaching, after the Mikvah the veil would be decorated with coins and jewels by Sarah’s sisters and mother. The veil was a sign to the village “she is bought with a price” and is a symbol to men who might want to flirt with her, “Sarah is unavailable.” It also was Sarah’s dowry.
The “price of the bride” Jacob paid for Sarah would be sown into Sarah’s veil and wedding garments. Sarah’s clothing would be her only personal possession in marriage. Jewish tradition held that should the marriage fail due to divorce or death Sarah would be provided for with the coins and jewels sown into the wedding garments.
Sarah was proud to be Jacob’s bride and to wear the veil. ‘So many new things to think of” Sarah thought, her heart pounding with excitement as she allowed Hannah to secure the veil over her face with just a slit for her eyes so she could see. Very soon she would not have to wear this veil as she would proudly be known as Jacob’s wife.
Sarah, wrapped in a white robe, walked to the Mikvah pool surrounded by the older women protected from the view of curious onlookers and an occasional passerby in the village. The little girls and young women walked in front of Sarah towards the pool, tossing flower petals they had collected along the path in front of Sarah. The little girls giggling, the young women dreaming aloud of their day of Mikvah and the married women reliving their own experiences of the bridal bath.
This would be Sarah’s first time for Mikvah, but not her last. Jewish law required married women to go to Mikvah 7 days after their menstrual periods before sexual relations with their husband. Jewish couples looked forward to “Mikvah Night” as Jewish law also required them to forgo sexual relations during the menstrual cycle and 7 days after. (3) God’s laws set the Hebrew children apart culturally and spiritually from other cultures and also provided for good hygiene.
At Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, both men and women went to Mikvah to prepare themselves spiritually.
It was a the time when one had the opportunity to become dead to past sins and and begin the new year with a pure heart. (1)
The happy group arrived at the pool where Hannah was the officiate, as the representative of the groom, offering a prayer for Fidelity and Fruitfulness. Sarah listened intently, agreeing in her heart that she was indeed set apart to Jacob and gratefully receiving the blessing of a “fruitful vine”.
Sarah’s mother read from the Proverbs of Solomon, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good and not harm all the days of her life…” Sarah listened as her mother read the qualities of a noble woman. Sarah understood that “noble” in this passage meant strength and a warrior spirit, one who would give her all for her husband and fight for his success. She imagined their life together as her mother read, seeing herself doing the things listed, “she arises while it is still dark, providing food for her family. She works with eager hands, she has no fear for her household….Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears The Lord is to be praised.” Sarah’s mother kissed her cheeks and squeezed her tightly…”this is you my daughter” she whispered in Sarah’s ear.
The tender moment between mother and daughter was interrupted as Sarah’s sisters and friends coyly sang from the Song of Songs, “Where has your lover gone most beautiful of women?”
Sarah answered happily from the passage they had memorized as young teenagers, “My lover has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my lover’s and my beloved’s and he is mine. His banner over me is love.”
Now it was time for Sarah to enter the water a single girl and come out a committed Bride, a covenant partner of Jacob. A hush fell over the women, even the little girls stopped their play as Sarah dropped the robe that covered her on her walk through the village and entered the water. Eyes carefully followed her every step. Sarah’s lame foot made it difficult for her to walk on the river bottom; would she fall? No. Sarah walked more sure and confidently than she ever had. She slowly and completely immersed herself, feeling the cold freshness of the water. As the cool water took her breath away Sarah allowed it to cleanse not only her body but also her soul…cleansed of her old selfish ways, Sarah stood up as a committed bride to only one man, Jacob her groom. The older women looked in wonder, not remembering such an incredible Mikvah as this, as Sarah joyfully and eloquently quoted the traditional immersion prayer.
Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu Al Hatevilah. We bless you, God, Our God, Ruler of the Universe who has made us holy by commanding the immersion. (2)
Sarah was ready…Her heart rejoiced. The Wedding Day and Marriage Supper were quickly approaching…Even so My Groom…Come Soon!
Symbols of Being “Set Apart” as The Bride of Christ
When we enter into Covenant with Jesus Christ we are “Set Apart” as His Bride. There are many symbols in scripture that correlate with us as The Bride of Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
The Helper is one of the names of the Holy Spirit. Like Hannah, Sarah’s helper, the Holy Spirit teaches us about our groom, Jesus. Scriptures tell us he does not speak of himself or for himself. Jesus called him “The Comforter” who would always be with us until our groom returns.
Just as Sarah sometimes did not recognize the voice of her helper, Hannah, I at times miss the voice of The Holy Spirit as he gently whispers direction, correction and comfort. It takes practice and the constant knowledge; I am not in this preparation for marriage alone, I have a helper.
The Veil. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says
“Now we see through a veil darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part but then shall I know even as I am known.”
We have not seen Jesus physically face to face, however, as we look into the word we see Him, 2 Corinthians 3:18
“and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with every increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is spirit.”
I’m sure you’ve experienced it…you either met someone or had someone tell you…”I just knew you were a Christian the first time I saw you.” As followers of Jesus Christ we also carry a veil that the world recognizes. We are different, set apart not by what we do or don’t do, but by the Spirit that dwells in us. We carry “The Mark of God”.
The Bath. What rich symbolism is here, so much more than a ceremony of the church. Water Baptism is choosing to physically say, I am dying to my old way of life and coming up a new creation in Christ. Like the Mikvah, it is a personal experience of transformation.
I accepted Christ as my personal savior and was first baptized as a child. To be honest, I have no memory of it whatsoever. However, at 28 years old, and recognizing that I was fully aware of my covenant with God I was baptized again. I will never forget that moment, sitting in a baptismal service at Lebanon First Assembly of God, Phil was one of the pastors baptizing people that day.
Pastor Rogers made a call to the congregation, “even if you are not signed up for tonight, if you feel God calling you to be baptized, come on up, it’s your time. I clearly remember standing up in my dress and nylons, I certainly was not prepared. Walking up to the platform, with my husbands help, going under the water, dying to my self and my old ways of thinking and coming up fresh and new in my relationship with God. it truly was a personal experience of transformation.
What about you…do you recognize times and symbols of being “Set Apart” as the Bride of Christ? I’d love to hear your story.
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(4) Jewish Bridal Baptism http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=935
About the Author: Celeste Davis, is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ with a heart to walk fully in Covenant with Him. As Founder of The Wellness Workshop, Celeste’s heart is to teach women and impact their families to “Be Nourished” as opposed to dieting or trying different life strategies. We nourish our bodies with God-Made Food, our Souls with God-Made Relationships and our Spirits with the Word of God and Prayer. More Info about Celeste