My mom taught at a college for many years and one of her professor colleagues is a native Sri Lankan (an island off the coast of India), and so he and his family have deeply seated Sri Lankan traditions throughout their blood even though they’ve been living in the United States for more years than their years in their native country. It has always been interesting to me to hear about some of their traditions, one of which is their tradition of arranged marriages. This tradition is not one of the past, but one that continues even today. To Americans, this concept seems like a very strange custom as it would appear to challenge the American value of choice and freedom, but let’s spend a little time talking about their custom and why it is of value.
For the process of finding a bride for their son (or groom for their daughter), a Sri Lankan will place an ad in their local paper. This is a well thought out ad which expresses deeply the values and traits of the person that they are looking for. The ad is placed by the father of the bride (or groom) and he (and also the mother sometimes) will gather applications from the ad and review them in detail. They will then narrow down the selection and interview the fathers and mothers of the potential brides (or grooms). They will not interview the bride (or groom). Once both sets of parents agree that the arrangement would be a good fit and all criteria has been meet, the potential bride and groom will meet (or in this case, they might Skype if one is in the US and one in Sri Lanka). They will spend some time together to see if their relationship would be a good fit and they will also meet their potential inlaws. The bride and groom will have the ultimate say to see if they might be able to have a relationship. Once everyone agrees, then plans can continue for the marriage. In both cases where I’ve seen them find a groom for their daughter and a bride for their son, both marriages are flourishing. Coming from America, we might find this concept unusual, but think about how often our children seem to pick a significant other that we totally don’t approve of. I can think of a few of my daughter’s boyfriends that I would have crossed out right away and wondered why she picked them in the first place. Knowing this, I can totally see the value of having wise parents evaluate essential criteria for a spouse and make their choice first.
Arranged marriages are nothing new and have been practiced in many cultures and in many time periods throughout history, and this includes the nation of Israel throughout the Bible. We can see one of which in the marriage of Isaac & Rebekah.
“4 [Abraham said to his servant,] but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac. 6 But Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there. ”” Genesis 24:4,6
Isaac wasn’t allowed to find his own bride, but instead his father sent his servant to find a bride for him, a bride that met his criteria, and was from his home town land. And, once the servant met Rebekah and confirmed that she met the criteria of Isaac’s father, Abraham, she had to be willing to concede to the marriage proposal of the unseen groom, knowing only a few things about him. In a way, this is the same process that the Sri Lankan’s use even today, but in a more ancient manner.
“58 Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her:“Our sister, may you become The mother of thousands of ten thousands; And may your descendants possess The gates of those who hate them.” 61 Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed.” Genesis 24:58-61
In this case, Rebekah did agree to marry Isaac, though he was an unseen groom. She agreed because she became aware of the fact that she had met the criteria of Isaac’s father, realized that she was special and chosen, and trusted what she had heard about Isaac and his father.
Would you marry an unseen groom?
Christ will one day come to marry His Church and in a way, Jesus is the unseen groom. Most of us have not seen Him with our own eyes. We’ve read and heard about Him and have seen things that He has done. And, we’ve been told that we have met the criteria in that He has chosen to wash us clean of our sins if we put our trust and faith in Him, and we’ve then came to the realization that we are special and chosen and are humbled at the fact that He would actually want to marry us. So, we have a choice to then make. Will we take the wedding proposal and join Him as our bridegroom and be united forever, or will we turn down the marriage proposal? There is an arranged wedding proposal that we must be willing to accept in order to attend this banquet.
So, my question is… How do you think about the concept of an arranged marriage now? I don’t know about you, but I’m totally sold on the concept and look forward to that day.
“6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”” Revelation 19:6-9
Thank you, God, that you would even consider us worthy to join Jesus forever as His bride. Thank you that you have been able to wash our garment pure and put us in the best wedding attire awaiting our time when we will be forever with Christ. It will be a blessed banquet that none of us would want to miss. In Jesus’ name. Amen.