Engagement of Phumlani Ngubane and Nothando Zulu
Our hearts rejoice today. Thank you, young people, that you are upholding the standard of the revival and carrying it forward. I do not need to say that I feel like a child standing here and sharing God’s word on this occasion. We are blessed that Rev Stegen can be with us. It is a joy and encouragement to have him in our midst. Our prayer is that the Lord will grant him many more years with us.
You saw how Rev Stegen stood between the couple as they got engaged. The future bridegroom did not put the ring on the future bride’s finger. He did not touch her. Remember that this is their engagement, not their marriage. There is a difference between an engagement and a marriage. There has been no flirting, and no messages that have been sent between these two people.
Today I will focus on how this way of engagement is based on Biblical principles. This is not an institution of man, nor a custom or ritual of KwaSizabantu Mission. It is founded on God’s word. I will compare today’s engagement to the ancient way in which the Israelites got engaged.
An engagement and a Christian marriage are of deep significance. Every godly engagement is a witness to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. An engagement is a testimony of what happens between a soul and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit when a person surrenders his/her life to the Lord. In John 1: 11,12 we read 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
His own did not accept Him, they did not consent to be engaged to Him. To receive Jesus is to accept Him in a life-changing manner. God sent His Son to pay the price for our souls. We became Christians, not because we loved God, but because God loved us first and chose us to become His children. We become Christians because He calls us through the Holy Spirit. Have you heard the Holy Spirit calling your name and inviting you to become a child of God? Are you busy with other things in the world? Are you busy making money? Are you busy with sport or politics or have you been busy with God’s calling to be His child? There are people in churches who have never heard the voice of the Holy Spirit inviting them to become God’s child in a life-changing way. Those who have accepted the invitation of Christ and have allowed Him to change their lives, look forward to His return when He fetches His bride. We are engaged to Him and we wait expectantly for Him to fetch us. A traditional Jewish wedding usually ended with a supper, and we are heading for the marriage supper of the Lamb when He fetches His people.
There are five steps in the ancient traditional Jewish marriage process. The first one was the selection of the bride. The man did not choose a bride. The bride was selected by the father of the groom. The son honoured his father’s choice and submitted to this choice.
No person told this couple (who has stood before us today) whom they should marry. The future bridegroom heard His Father’s voice tell him whom to marry. When the very first couple got engaged at the start of this revival, I doubt the man knew anything about this Jewish tradition, but he said that his Heavenly Father had led him to get married. Today’s couple has upheld this same standard. This young man has got engaged to the one whom God has told him to marry. He went to the minister and asked him to speak to the lady and tell her what God had told him. In John 15:16 we read 6 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
How blessed it is when I do not take the responsibility of when to marry and whom to marry upon myself, but leave it to my Father?
The next step in the process is called the Ketubah where the terms of the engagement and marriage are discussed and accepted. The bridal price is discussed. Once the two parties have agreed, the lady and man drink wine from the same cup. The lady is not forced to accept his invitation, and she can refuse. In the same way, God does not force anyone to accept His invitation to become His bride. However, from the moment they drink from the same cup, the agreement is as strong as a marriage. Breaking an engagement was equal to a divorce. The agreement was final even though they lived separately – the lady with her family and the man with his. In Matthew 26:27,28 we read 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
He gave them all the same cup and said they should all drink from it. When you accept God’s invitation, you enter into a covenant with Him that you will be faithful until He returns for His bride. Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we affirm this. He poured out His blood for the forgiveness of my sins. Do you know this? Have you accepted God’s forgiveness for your sins? Do you know your sins, or did you become a Christian without knowing your sins?
Two girls went to a pastor for prayer. They were both burdened by their sin. One was burdened by one large sin and the other by many small sins. The pastor said to the one girl, “Pick up the biggest stone and bring it to me.” To the other one he said, “Gather a large pile of small stones.” They both did this and returned. He said to them that this act was a symbol of bringing your sins to God and he said that he would pray and ask the Lord to forgive them both. “After we have prayed, go and make restitution and apologise,” he said to them both. To the first girl he said, “Take the large stone, put it back where you got it from and cover it up.” To the second girl he said, “Take all the small stones and return them to where you picked them up and cover them up.” She could not remember the places where she had picked up the many small stones and did not know where to put them. Never think little of small sins, they can be just as disastrous as a big sin. You do not know where to start and what is relevant.
Married people, be careful of small sins. If there are big sins between you and your wife/husband, put them right, but be careful that you do not make sharp remarks to one another, get upset a bit here and a bit there and eventually it becomes the normal behaviour in your marriage. In the end, there are so many areas where you have grieved the Holy Spirit in the way you have answered your husband/wife, that you do not know where to start or finish. Be sharp. Apologise immediately, make it right when you have said something wrong. Make sure that you receive forgiveness for that small sin. These small sins destroy marriages. The small sins - the way in which we deal with our children – can destroy our families. As a child, the small remarks you make back to your parents here and there are what destroy your relationship with your parents. When we drink of the same cup at the Lord’s Supper, we acknowledge God’s forgiveness of all our sins. We also celebrate that first time I drank the cup with my Lord and made a commitment to follow Christ and be faithful until the day He fetches His bride.
The third step in the process is the price of the bride. This price did not depend on the bride or her family and what they or the bride wanted. However, it depended on the bridegroom’s father; his wealth and status in society; his honour. The price that was paid demonstrated the integrity of the bridegroom’s father. No matter how poor the bride and her family were, the price was determined by the bridegroom’s father.
Who is the Father of the bridegroom? Who is the bridegroom? He is Christ. Christ’s Father is God. How rich is He? How honourable is He? How much integrity does He have? The gift that was given was according to God’s wealth. What did He give? He gave His best. He gave His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the price for the bride. God paid for our souls with the blood of His Son. In 1 Corinthians 6:19,20 we read 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
The engagement cup that we drank when we gave our lives to the Lord, demands that our lives should be a holy sanctuary for God.
In 1 Peter 1:18,19 we read 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
Christians, who sit in church on Sunday, you have not been bought with corruptible things handed down by your fathers – regardless of your culture; you have been bought out of the claws of Satan by the spotless blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. You have been bought with that price. The bride must keep herself pure for the bridegroom. The bride of Christ was paid for with the highest price ever paid.
After this the father and bridegroom would build a house where the couple would live. In John 14:2,3 we read: 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
See what has happened? We are in an engagement period now, which could take place during a dark time. Remember in the parable of the 10 virgins, the bridegroom came at night. We are experiencing very dark times, friends, when right is called wrong and vice versa. Pestilence and diseases have caused people to grow cold. Our bridegroom is still coming, and He probably will return in a dark time when it is night. Now He has gone to prepare a house for His bride. The bride must remain pure and spotless until He returns. The bride cannot say that ‘what I feel is right, is right. If I feel that something is not a sin, it is not.’ We must obey God’s word.
The Constitutional Court passed a judgement recently on a man who spoke out against men loving men, as committing hate speech. The Supreme Court ruled that it was not hate speech. Then it went to the Supreme Court of Appeals where it was ruled that it was not hate speech. The man, who was a veteran of the struggle (who has since died), said that he could not accept that it was normal and right that men love men and women, women. The Constitutional Court altered the other rulings and ruled that it was indeed hate speech - for which a person can be jailed.
Our bridegroom is preparing a house for us. I will never forget the last meeting I attended when Mrs Dube spoke to the co-workers and said that there should be unity among the co-workers, there should be no cracks. She said that she had had a dream or a vision where the Lord Jesus took her to heaven and showed her the house that He was preparing for her. He said to her, “It’s nearly ready, but not quite. Soon I will fetch you when your house is ready.” She passed away a few months or a year later. Our bridegroom is preparing our house. May God give is the grace to stand for the truth no matter the cost.
The fourth step in this marriage process was when the father of the bridegroom decided the time of marriage – it was not the bridegroom who decided, but the father. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
When the father of the bridegroom decided that the marriage should take place, it was usually at night. The custom was that the father would select a person who would run to the house of the bride and shout, in the middle of the night, the darkest hour, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming!” They would blow the ram’s horn and shout. No one will be able to change anything anymore, because God the Father in heaven will have decided that now is the time God has selected for the marriage.
In earlier years, the Masilungiselele Choir sang a song about the bridegroom who was coming, and whenever they sang that song it brought tears to my eyes. On that day it will be a final decision. When He comes and calls everyone, those who are ready and on time, will enter and those who are not, will be left outside.
This brings me, in conclusion, to the parable of the 10 virgins. There were 10 virgins who were all waiting for the announcement that the bridegroom was coming. He will not call the bride to come to Himself, but Christ, the Lord Jesus will fetch His bride. The trumpet will sound, and the message will go out across the world, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming!” What if that day catches you while you are drinking with your friends? What if it catches you sending flirty text messages to a woman? What if it catches you while going through the porn on your phone? You might not be watching it, but your cell phone is full of filth. This is what porn does: it takes you from a normal life and throws you into the filthiest things you can imagine. An alcoholic or a person on heroin or whoonga cannot work properly and he will eventually lose his job, but you can be addicted to the most terrible filth that is an abomination to heaven, yet you will continue with your normal work and no one will realise what you are busy with. The filth on the internet is available at the click of a button – you have the choice to click the button or not. As you click the button, you take yourself out of heaven and put yourself instantly into a hell of filth and dirt; into the worst things which we cannot even speak about. Allow me to say this to shock you into waking up. People are sexually attracted to stinking, rotting corpses. You can be in your house, at the job, among others, who treat you normally and thank you for your work, but this is in your mind, and it busies you. If you cannot keep these things you have seen out of your mind, what are you going to do on that day when the Father in heaven sends out His messenger to say, “Behold the Bridegroom is coming!” and your mind is filled with these images? Will you quickly repent and enter heaven? The ten virgins were supposed to be preparing for the wedding, helping the bride sew garments for the wedding, purifying themselves, allowing the mother of the bride to teach them. They were supposed to have a lamp in the window that burned at night. It will happen at night. If it were not at night, the virgins would not have needed the lamps. It was dark, which is why - when the lamps went out - they could not see where they were going.
The wedding feast takes place as supper with the Lamb. Their lamps should have been burning in the window. When someone ran from the bridegroom and announced the arrival of the bridegroom, they should have been prepared. Are you prepared? Only the prepared ones will make it into the feast of the bridegroom. There will not be a second chance. The door will be locked and those who arrive late will not be able to enter in.
We must be burning and on fire for God when that day comes and then we will be prepared to take the journey to the wedding. Our hearts should be clean, pure and prepared.
What have we seen today? The engagement for the Jews was just as serious as a marriage. Today this couple has promised each other, in public, that they will be pure until their wedding day. They have testified about a much greater occasion - the wedding feast of the Lamb that is coming.
Thank you, Phumlani and Nothando, that you have kept your lamps burning after all these years. You honour us and Rev Stegen that you continue with your lamps burning right into marriage. How many people have entered marriage and their lamps have gone out? They make their own choices. They have filth that has not been dealt with. They have lived impure lives. Thank you that you have kept your lamps burning. Our prayer is that on the day of your wedding, your lamps will still be burning. Even more important is that on the day that the Lord returns, your lamps will still be burning. You honour this work; you honour God, and we honour you. May the Lord bless you.