“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth
he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife.” (Isa. 54:5–6)

When you think about what God is like, what comes to your mind?

This is a difficult question. After all, how can limited people understand an infinite being? How can created beings comprehend what it would be like to have always existed? What does it mean for sinful people who are living in a fallen world to think well about a perfectly Holy One?

Because he is gracious, God wants to be known by the people he has created; and to that end he has stooped down to reveal himself to us. In the Bible, the Lord uses many metaphors and word pictures to help us to understand what he is like and how he relates to us. He is a King, because he rules over us and is a lawgiver (see Ps. 47). He is a Judge, in that he is the one who evaluates all our thoughts and actions (see Ps. 7:11). He is a Shepherd, for he leads his people to safety and provision (see Ps. 23).

But perhaps the most surprising and revealing image that God uses for himself in Scripture is that of a husband to his people. When God says through the prophet Isaiah that he is our husband and his people are his wife, it is a picture of the most intimate kind of knowledge and love. We know how a husband feels about his wife, and we might be tempted to wonder whether or not God, the “Holy One” and “Redeemer,” could really love his people like that. The answer, gloriously, is yes!

The fact that God refers to himself as a husband tells us something important about him and the amazing love that he has for us, but it also shows us something very important about the institution of marriage. If God is a husband, then marriage is not merely a social construct or even primarily a way for people to find companionship and start a family. Instead, marriage is fundamentally a picture of God’s love. It is a way for us to understand and display the depth and intensity of the love God has for his people.

In the end, the thing that makes a marriage a Christian marriage is not that the couple attend church together (though they should) or raise their children to know the gospel (though that is a good thing to do). At its essence, a Christian marriage should be a man and a woman who understand that they have been brought together into an intimate relationship for the purpose of learning and displaying the way that God loves us in Christ. This is a foundational truth on which to build your own marriage.

—Mike McKinley, Engagement: Preparing for Marriage