Scripture Text: Genesis 2:15–25
Have you ever had a situation where things did not go as planned? Maybe it was some event you planned and something went wrong. Maybe it was a project you were working on and things did not go the way you wanted. Just this weekend, Gena and I went on a short trip to Mount Airy with her sister and brother-in-law, where things did not go quiet as we planned. While we got there pretty much without incident, Gena’s sister and brother-in-law were not so fortunate. The RV they were driving had a flat tire on the way and they had to call someone to help them replace it. They got to the campground much later than planned, with less money than planned. Things like that can derail our plans.
Sometimes, however, we do things to upset plans. Is your life going as you planned? Are you following God’s plan for your life or for your marriage? Marriage is God’s design. God made marriage and He has a plan for it. Since God created marriage, He alone gets to define the terms of it. People are trying to redefine God’s plan for marriage. People are saying marriage is not necessary. Some treat their marital vows lightly while others seek to redefine who can be married. God’s design is best, though. When approached by a group of Pharisees about the issue of divorce, Jesus referred to the Genesis creation account to speak about marriage. It is there where we too will look today to see what God has to say about the divine institution of marriage.
God Made Everything Very Good
Before we look at the passage in chapter two, it may be helpful to understand a little of the background. In the previous chapter of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth. God created all that exists out of nothing, and on the sixth day, God created human beings. Human beings are a special creation, as God gave them something He did not give anything else. Let us look at the following verses.
Genesis 1:27–28, 31 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”…31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
God created mankind as two distinct human beings, male and female, and God created both of them in His image. Both man and woman were to be representatives for God and they both had the same worth to God. We see in this passage that procreation was part of God’s design. God told the first human beings to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. He also gave both man and woman the responsibility of ruling the earth and all that was on it. Notice also at the end of chapter one, everything God created was “very good.” We might expect nothing less from God.
Mankind’s Purpose in the Garden
After the creation account in chapter one, where we read that everything was very good, God then gives us a closer look at His work on human beings. One of the things we see in chapter two was that God placed Adam, the first man, in the Garden of Eden for a purpose. Do you recall the reason God put Adam there? Let us look at the next verse.
Genesis 2:15 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden in order to work the land. Some think work is a bad thing. Some believe it is a result of Adam and Eve sinning, but that is not correct. God giving mankind work to do was before Adam and Eve sinned and before they were expelled from the Garden. This shows that God’s intent from the beginning was for us to work. Work is not a bad thing. It is not a curse which resulted from the Fall. The Fall spoiled work, distorted work, and made it burdensome. Therefore, man’s purpose for living in the Garden, was to work and to oversee God’s creation. This was honorable, meaningful labor. Like any good master who gives work to do, God gave mankind some instructions. Actually, God gave man one command. Look at the next verses.
Genesis 2:16–17 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
In verse sixteen, God addressed Adam personally. Unlike all other created life, God endowed human beings with special significance as a person who enjoys a divine-human relationship. God told Adam that he may eat of any tree in the garden, except one — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is like a parent telling a child to not stick his finger in the light socket, knowing it will hurt him. God knows what is best, and He set boundaries for Adam to protect him. So what did Adam do later — he disobeyed, of course. Are there any parents who may relate to this? God wants what is best for us, but oftentimes we do not believe Him and then we suffer the consequences.
Trouble in Paradise
Remember that at the end of chapter one, everything was very good. But was everything so good as God described it? Well, we find at least one thing was not good and it involved God’s greatest creation — human beings. In other words, there was trouble in paradise. What could not be good in God’s perfect creation? Well, remember why God placed Adam in the garden — to work and keep it. I do not know how big the Garden of Eden was or how many animals Adam had to keep, but I imagine he needed help to accomplish that great task. Trust me, if I were given the task to work a garden, I would need a lot of help. In fact, there are many things that I need help doing. If I am repairing things around the house, I will typically realize I need help. Just recently, I needed help repairing a leak in the bathroom. We all need help from time to time. The same was true for Adam. He needed a helper and God provided just what he needed.
Genesis 2:18 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
After God’s commandment to Adam about what not to eat, we find that “It is not good that the man should be alone”. Out of all the good God had created, this one thing was not good. It was not good for man to be alone. Such a statement lets us know that more was to be done to achieve the ideal for man. What we can understand from this, and I believe we know from history and our own experience, is that God has created mankind to have fellowship with Him primarily, but also to have fellowship with one another. We are meant to be social beings, building relationships with others. People also need companionship. The traditional thing for most people, I think, is to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and marry that person. I believe this longing for companionship, and for marriage, is natural and biblical.
God saw that is was not good for man to be alone and so God took action to resolve the situation. What was God’s solution for man’s aloneness? He said that He would make a helper fit for him. There are some things about this statement we ought to understand. God did not make a servant or footstool, someone for Adam to order around. God could have done that, but He made Adam a helper. God also did not make Adam a boss, someone to order him around. Adam needed help to work and keep the garden, so God made him a helper. Some interpret the word “helper” negatively, as if this is a bad thing They suppose that this minimizes a person’s worth or status. But consider the following:
Hosea 13:9 9 He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper.
Psalm 46:1 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
John 14:16–17, 26 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth…26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
God refers to Himself as a helper. The Holy Spirit is the Helper God sent to us. “Helper” is not a bad term. The point in the Genesis passage is that man should not work alone. It was good for man to have a helper and God would provide for this need. This helper would be “fit for him.” Some translations of this passage say that the helper would be “suitable for him”. This means that the helper God provided would complement the man. She would be equal and adequate for him. Man’s human helper is an indispensable partner required to achieve the work God gave to man — to tend God’s creation.
A Parade, An Operation, and a Wedding
So how did God show Adam his need for a helper? So far, God has stated man’s need, but Adam probably did not know it, yet. Some men just need a little help realizing what they really need. Therefore, God starts parading all the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air to see what Adam would call them. Look at the next two verses.
Genesis 2:19–20 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
And so, God parades these animals before Adam, and he begins naming the animals. As Adam was doing this, he noticed that there was none among the creatures that was suitable for him. The point is that the man was looking for a human match, but he found none. There are a couple of observations we can make concerning this divine parade. There is a distinct difference in how the animals and birds were created versus Adam’s helper. The animals and birds were created from the ground, as was Adam. The helper, however, will be created from a “living being”. All of the creatures that God paraded before Adam were subject to Adam. He had dominion over them. But Adam’s helper was not included in the creatures for which he had dominion over, but rather, the helper will share this responsibility with him. As Adam named the creatures, he no doubt realized how inadequate he was to work alone. God then cause Adam to go into a “deep sleep” and then go under the knife. Look at the next few verses.
Genesis 2:21–23 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Like a divine surgeon, God cut out a rib from Adam, closed up the wound and then made a woman from the rib. I once heard it told like this, man was made from dirt, but woman was made from prime rib. I do not know if that is helpful, but there it is. The significance of the rib, I believe, is that the man and woman are of the same human “stuff.” This is another point to her being equal and of the same worth as man. Once God was finished with this operation, He then presented her to the man. This may suggest that she was a gift to man from the man’s Maker. Another way one could look at this is like a father who brings his daughter to the groom. This was the first wedding in history, and the bride was given away by none other than God the Father.
Adam responded to seeing his bride by saying this at last is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”, or “bone out of my bones and flesh out of my flesh”. The Scripture says the woman was “taken out of man”. Another way to look at it is that “man was a part of her”, indicating they are closely joined together. The appropriate response for Adam was to love his wife as he would love his own body, which is exactly what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:28-29).
Leaving, Cleaving, and Honesty
And so, the big wedding day in all of creation had come. There was the groom. There was the bride. And the Father was there to give the bride to the groom and officiate the ceremony. We might read this account as something that only happened once, meaning it really has no bearing on us today. We might read this passage and say, “That was for Adam and Eve but it really does not apply to anyone today.” The last two verses of Genesis chapter two make it clear that God was not only describing the first human wedding and marriage, but all human marriages. Let us look at these verses.
Genesis 2:24–25 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This is God’s statement about marriage, which Jesus quoted in Matthew 19:4–5. There are several things to consider from these verses. The first thing to consider is “leaving”. I remember trying to explain this to some people years ago because they were upset about their son “leaving” them. This does not mean that a person literally leaves his family and never returns. This does not mean that a man is not married unless he departs his parent’s house. It was customary in Israel for a man to remain in his father’s household. Rather, this passage means that marriage involves a new pledge to another person in which former commitments are superseded. Marriage requires a new priority where obligations to one’s spouse supplant a person’s parental loyalties. One “leaves” the authority and priority his/her parents to join (cleave, cling) to one’s spouse. This means that after your loyalty to God, your loyalty to the one you married is foremost.
Marriage also involves the two united in commitment where they become dependent and responsible toward one another. The phrase “one flesh” echoes the language of verse twenty-three, which speaks of the woman being from the same bone and flesh of the man. Obviously, when a man and a woman marry, they are still individuals, but there is such a commitment and bond between the two, that they function as one person. That is way divorce is so painful. It is like tearing a person apart. In marriage, the husband and wife are also not to be ashamed. They should have complete honesty with one another. They are naked before one another, hiding nothing.
One thing we see throughout this passage is God’s action. God took the initiative throughout this situation. God created man. God stated man’s need for a helper. God showed man his need through the parade of animals, who were not suitable for man. God formed woman from the flesh of man. God brought the woman to man. God recognized the situation and provided the solution. God’s provision for man was to help him work His creation. Therefore, God created marriage, and it is very good.
So, how do we respond to this passage? Maybe you think your marriage has not gone as planned. We are created to relate to one another, to have relationships. It was not good for Adam to be alone. It was good for him to have a wife. The institution of marriage is good. God designed marriage for humans to have earthly companionship, to have help, and to facilitate procreation on the earth. Marriage is God provision for our lives. It is for our good. Marriage is a radical commitment between a man and a woman. Spouses are expected to commit fully to each other, becoming the number one human priority. They become one and ought to function as one.
On the other hand, no marriage is perfect — we are all fallen and sinful people, even those who are saved! I know on the wedding day everything is seen through rose colored glasses with a happily ever after ending. Many people find their worth in other people or their relationships. Being single or married seems to define who they are. When marriages fail, people take on a scarlet letter “D” that seems to define their whole existence. Our ultimate worth, however, is not found in our relationships with one other, even our spouse. Our worth is found in Jesus Christ.
Because Adam was alone, God initiated the naming of the animals, the making of Eve, and the presenting of Eve to Adam in the first marriage ceremony. It was God’s work.
Just as God provided Adam’s helper through Eve, God provides our help through Jesus Christ. While we were weak and still sinners, while we needed help that only God could provide, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, that through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we might be restored to a right relationship with God. God initiates and completes our salvation. It is His work, not ours. We just need to respond. This is good news! Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.