Father of the BrideSermon passage: (2 Corinthians 11:1-15) Spoken on: November 1, 2010
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 2 Corinthians
3rd Person Narrative Sermon on 2 Corinthians 11:1-15
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a Jewish man named Martin. He had a beautiful teenage daughter named Britney. Martin was an honorable man and a loving father. Britney was a fair maiden, exuberant in nature and fun-loving in spirit. They had a close relationship, the envy of many families far and wide. As with the ancient Jewish customs in those times, when a girl approaches a marriageable age, the father must ensure that she is betrothed to a good husband. Martin of course did not take this responsibility lightly. Through personal experience and hard work, he had gained the necessary knowledge to make a wise decision on the matter. Accordingly, he betrothed Britney to a fine man, noble in character and self-sacrificial in love. If Britney married this man, and customs dictate that it would happen at the right time, it would be a life happily ever after. Such was the plan of Martin - a good and promising future for his daughter. Everything was going so smoothly and Martin was looking forward to having a wedding within a few years.
However, nothing ever goes as planned as Britney wanted to explore other options. It wasn’t because Martin’s plan was no good. Britney knew that her father meant well. It was just that she had been enticed by the various dating agencies that had been set up around town. The most prominent ones were known as the Big Four Matchmakers (四大媒婆). The matchmakers there look like aunties and dress like aunties, but had the sweetest tongues ever. You know, those salespeople who can sell ice to Eskimos? Yup, these women can do that easily, and even sell a comb to a bald man! What could a young, impressionable girl like Britney do against the onslaught of those honeyed tongues? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! “Now wait a minute,” you might say. “What are these matchmakers selling?” Right, now we get to the best part of the story. These matchmakers promised to hook their customers up with rich and handsome men! They had picture after picture of gorgeous men with high cheekbones, deep soulful eyes and abs more chiseled than Taylor Lautner's. What's more, they claimed that these men made more than 200,000 a week, were faithful lovers and had sweet temperaments. You know, guys like Wayne Rooney. Which girl wouldn’t be seduced by such an awesome marketing strategy? These matchmakers approached Britney with glowing reviews of their work. Commendations like “Matchmaker of the Year”. They bragged to her about their successes - the wonderful couples that they have matched. They dangled before her the prospect of spending the rest of the life happily married to a rich gorgeous guy. Britney could hardly resist.
And you know what? The Big Four Matchmakers charged a whole lot of money for their services. We all know very well that “if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys”. Well, Britney knew that too. So obviously, the more you pay, the better the quality. A top-of-the-scale good-looker-cum-nice-guy would naturally cost a bomb. Was that a problem for Britney? No. It wasn't because she was rich, no. But it's only right to pay a king's ransom to get the prince of her dreams.
Alright, what about the man that she was currently betrothed to, you remember, the one that her father, Martin spared no effort in securing for her? Well, this guy came for free. You know, peanuts... monkeys...? Plus, Martin feels like an amateur to Britney. He had never bragged stories of past successes. To Britney, her father could never match up to the matchmakers. They are the true specialists with their premium pricing. Martin might be her father, but she would rather trust the advice of a paid consultant. After all, they had their impressive powerpoint slides with their fancy framework and methodologies. Besides, everyone knows that a paid consultant works in your own interest, but a volunteer does not owe you such loyalty. In a day and age where your wages determine how valued you are, it’s almost a sin to be doing anything free-of-charge. These matchmakers boasted about the worth of their services. Their exorbitant fees were evidence of the quality of their work. How could Martin with his free-of-charge and primitive methods ever match up?
Well, Martin quickly came to know about the matchmakers. He was upset that his daughter, who was betrothed, was actually considering the services of the matchmakers instead. He got even more upset when Britney told him that paying these matchmakers a large amount of money meant that their service and product would be of good quality while his was just... peanuts. Perhaps Martin should do something, such as charging Britney a token amount to show that his arranged marriage was of equal value? Absolutely not! Martin would balk at such a suggestion precisely because he wanted to differentiate himself from the mercenary matchmakers. He did not want to be placed on the same page with them. He was Britney’s father. He arranged the betrothal out of love and duty. If he accepted payment from his own daughter, it would favor “those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with (him) in the things they boast about” (v.12). It was important to keep his motives clear from any suspicion of financial interest. Yes, Britney might misunderstand the actual value of his actions because there was no like-for-like comparison. But this should be the case precisely because we cannot compare apples with oranges. Eventually, she would come to appreciate what her father had done for her.
But Martin was still concerned about these matchmakers hounding his daughter. The whole thing seemed too good to be true. There was no way men could be handsome, rich AND good. So he did some investigative work worthy of the best CSIs. To his horror, he found out that the matchmakers were just a false front, used by those so-called handsome, rich and good men to lure innocent girls into their traps. They were handsome and rich all right, but they were also playboys whose only goals were to move from town to town to chalk up wins on their scorecards. Husbands for life? No way. Their aim was to deflower as many virgins as they could. These handsome and rich men knew that virginity in ladies was necessary for marriage. Pre-marital sex, one night stands were non-existent then. The dating agencies were their means to reach their potential victims. When their evil plan succeeded, the lives of the girls would be ruined.
Obviously, Britney was in a very precarious situation and Martin was very worried. This was his own daughter, his one and only precious daughter, and he was not going to let anything happen to her. He had to do something about it. Any father would be very concerned when faced with this situation. However, with a better understanding of the law in those times, we could better empathize with the horror felt by Martin:
Deuteronomy 22: 13 If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, "I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity," 15 then the girl's father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. 16 The girl's father will say to the elders, "I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, 'I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.' But here is the proof of my daughter's virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. 20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you.
Those were the times where a girl’s virginity was her best defense against an unreasonable divorce. It is no exaggeration to say that it was a matter of life and death. The father of the bride must therefore ensure that his daughter preserved her virginity from betrothal to marriage. Herein lies the difficulty for Martin. He knew his daughter well. To put it nicely, Britney could be described as easy-going. But it’s a fine line between being easy-going and just being easy. He saw the way Britney entertained the wiles of the matchmakers, she “put up with them easily enough” (v.4). To Britney, curiosity had always been a higher priority than single-minded devotion. While inquisitiveness is a virtue, the dark side is that it may end up as pride in one’s judgment. Britney might have thought that she always knew better, but she was no match for those seasoned matchmakers. He feared that she would end up like Eve who was deceived by the serpent’s cunning. A bite of the forbidden fruit, and her betrothal, her marriage, her life ahead, all would be lost.
So Martin tried to reason with Britney. He showed why her future husband was a man worth waiting for. Martin also leveraged on his relationship with Britney. Surely she should trust him after all his years of suffering and sacrifice in raising her. But these attempts proved ineffective. What was Martin to do then? Time was running short. The temptation of Britney was mounting day by day. A step further into an actual date with those playboys, and all would be lost. A romantic setting and a spiked drink and there would be no turning back. Danger lurked at the door and the unsuspecting Britney was walking towards it.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. The urgency of the situation demanded that Martin took drastic actions. Martin would do anything to save Britney from self-destruction. The heart of the matter was that Britney did not understand the value of Martin. The Big Four Matchmakers were masters of tooting their own horns. They constantly bragged about their accomplishments to Britney. Martin, on the other hand, detested the culture of self praise. In fact, he just argued against that last week. But these were no ordinary times. The life and future of his beloved daughter was at stake. Since Britney was so easy with the matchmakers, she might as well go easy on him and allow him to indulge in some foolishness. This foolishness was that he would now boast about himself. If those matchmakers thought they could talk, well think again. Martin too could fight fire with fire. He would show Britney that he was the King of Matchmakers. He did not like self-praise, but in such an emergency, he would boast like there’s no tomorrow. When he was finished with his boasting, there would be no doubt in Britney’s mind who was the best. Martin might look silly for a little while (in his own mind anyway), but he would have the last laugh.
(Author's note: In hindsight, I should have added a dramatic ending to this story about how the hero, Martin, saves the day with his boasting.)
This is the entire story. In case it isn’t blatantly obvious, Paul is the father and the bride is the Corinthian Church. The deceitful Matchmakers are the false teachers. The use of the betrothal analogy to describe the relationship between Christ and the church is common throughout the New Testament. Similarly, Old Testament writers often liken the relation between Israel and God as a marriage. Such an analogy was stretched even to compare the unfaithfulness of Israel to adultery. I hope that in giving the analogy the full treatment today, I am continuing the spirit of Prophet Hosea in dramatizing the relationship. In putting the relationship into the context of a marriage, we can better appreciate why it has to be so adamantly exclusive. When the church flirts with other false teachings, it is not being open-minded; it is a form of betrayal. And because a sacred vow is being tainted, godly jealousy is aroused. Let us feel the pain of a rejected lover. Let the anguish of infidelity be seared in your heart. Let our imagination capture the suspense of this narrative, of Paul the anxious father, of the Corinthians the bride in danger, and of Christ the one and only true deserving husband.
What’s the moral of the story?
I believe Paul is trying to say that sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to salvage the situation. I don’t think it was easy for him to boast about himself to defeat his opponents. But make no mistake; it doesn’t justify the practice of self praise. Today’s sermon is not to give a rebuttal or provide an exception to last week’s sermon against boasting. We will come to see that when Paul boasts about himself, he does it on his own terms. He boasts in a way that preserves his Christian integrity. If you are wondering how he does it, it will be further clarified in the next 3 sermons up till chapter 12. However, the fact that he has to resort to such desperate measures should be a warning to us all. These are desperate times. Preserve your spiritual virginity for the Lord. There are many temptations out there luring away our attention. They boast about their successes. But observe carefully. It may be a different Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel.
As we embark on this series on 2 Corinthians on Paul’s self-defense, it is inevitable that we sometimes also defend Jubilee Church. That’s the most obvious application. It is our desire that Jubilee fulfills its mission, to present all of you as holy and acceptable before the Lord. But unlike the predominant culture of the world, we are never one to self-praise. We prefer to let our actions speak for themselves. But you may never know. We are competing against enemies great in marketing and packaging. The time may come that we too must boast about ourselves. I’m not going to boast about Jubilee today. Maybe the other pastors will in future when it is more appropriate. Be reassured that we are not afraid to get our hands dirty. If Paul is not afraid to look like a fool, we can too.
On a personal note, I’m moved by Paul’s love for the church. It is easy to give up when things turn sour in our ministry. It is easy to walk away when there are disagreements, when people don’t appreciate you, when your pride is dented. You feel these people don’t deserve your efforts. Why should you care if they don’t care? Paul experienced all these scorn and mockery, and I’m sure there are times he feels disillusioned. But Paul persevered. He even resorts to what he disdains most, to boast about himself to win back the Corinthians. His example is a great encouragement to me, and I hope a good reminder for you to bring home.