Divinely Engineered Blessing (Genesis 2:18-25)
19th Sunday After Pentecost (October 3, 2021)
A teacher once asked her students to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. All sorts of pictures emerged of cowboys, doctors, nurses, professional sports figures....etc. One little girl, however, simply sat and dreamed. The teacher questioned her seeming idleness. The girl responded that she was having real difficulty drawing what she wanted to be. Exasperated, she lamented, “I want to be happily married, but I don’t know how to draw that!”
Indeed, we all might have a problem drawing that. Broken marriages, strife between husbands and wives, as well as the very denigration of what it even means to be male and female in our society today have almost marred traditional marriage beyond all recognition. But dismal views of marriage, I’m afraid, are nothing new. Look at the Gospel text. You have Pharisees trying to trip up Jesus on the practice of divorce being allowed in their day. Jesus concedes that Moses permitted divorces because of the hardness of people’s hearts. “But,” He adds, “from the beginning of creation this was not to be so.” Instead, He says, God has created marriage to be the union of one man and one woman in “one flesh” which He has decreed no one is to “separate.”
God pleasing and healthy marriages don’t just happen. After all, every marriage is made up of two sinners. The key, however, to healthy marriages is the understanding, appreciation, and commitment to God’s design for this institution in this world. For He designed that marriage be the union of one male and one female in one flesh and that through it all mankind would be blessed.
In my estimation it all begins with God’s observation, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
This is not a statement of discovery as though God as Creator just stumbled upon the fact that this poor, human, creature somehow needed companionship. If that were true, then it would not say much about God’s forethought nor His design for human beings. After all, God didn’t just throw a bunch of dirt together to see what sort of creature would emerge, and then, only observed after the fact that this male human being needed a female companion to complement him.
On the contrary, with these words the Holy Creator is making a bold, definitive, statement of His design for this being. For you see, unlike every other creature, God created this being from the very substance of the earth of which he was being given headship. Then, too, into him alone God placed His own breath. Correspondingly, with these words, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” the LORD God of Heaven and Earth was declaring His unique design for this creature called man. This the Holy Writer, Moses, already stated clearly in the first chapter of Genesis when He said, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them” (1:27).
This assures us that, contrary to those voices trying to convince us that gender is subjective and totally dependent upon one’s own desires, like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream, the binary nature of human beings is central to our created humanness. To erase or otherwise confuse or malign one’s maleness or femaleness is to directly deny the Creator and destroy the essence of humanity itself. To be human is to be either male or female. There is no “gender-less” nor multiple -gendered human being. Even on those rare occasions whereby a birth defect causes some ambiguity as to the outward, recognizable, maleness or femaleness of a person, the very molecular structure of the person is either male or female.
So, how do we understand this need for male/female companionship God has built into our very DNA? Is it merely that we human beings have a God-given nature that can’t bear to be alone, we need someone breathing next to us… someone to talk with… or we would just go stark raving mad? I suppose one could make such a case. After all, very few of us live as hermits. Even when we don’t have any other human companionship we tend adopt a pet for company.
Obviously, the need for companionship is not unique to humans. You rarely find any creatures in the animal kingdom, whether beast, fish or foul, that do not congregate in herds, families, schools or flocks. I know our pet dog can’t stand to be alone. He craves being with someone so much that whenever we return from being away from him, he almost smothers us. He just can’t seem to get close enough to us.
But with man the created need for companionship is quite something else. The LORD God is stating this unique design of mankind when He says, “It is not good for him to be alone.” He is saying man needs woman!
Accordingly, after He created the male from the dust and breathed into him His breath, the LORD God said, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” The Hebrew word translated fit for him, quite literally, means “over against him.” God designed the man to have a need for someone to be over against him; that is, someone to correspond to him or “compliment him”. The male requires a female. God sanctifies the intimacy of this relationship alone by actually allowing it to be the place of His ongoing creative work. For through the union of male and female He brings forth another human being into this world. Procreation itself is God’s very exclamation point to His stated design: “It not good that man should be alone. I will make a helper fit for him.” There can be no more humans apart from this binary union.
You are well aware of how many have totally scandalized and perverted this divinely designed union. In so doing they are endangering our very existence. The removal of the sexual union from its only divinely designed place in the union of one man and one woman in holy marriage, the toleration and justification of homosexuality and now same-sex marriages, and the intentional movement to eradicate the distinction between male and female, all not only directly defy God, they also undermine and deny our God-given humanity. It all makes us less than human…even less than animals! God is the One who says it is not good for man to be alone and then creates a female to compliment the male.
Now, some find it curious that before God created the woman, He brought all the animals before Adam as if He were suggesting to Adam that he should pick one that he felt he could “correspond with him.” This is absurd, of course. God knew very well how He had designed man and that He had a woman in mind for the man. However, the man did not know it. It was necessary, then, for God to teach the man about his God-given maleness and that he was but half of the equation of what it means to be human. The parade of animals helped to serve this purpose. The man soon learned that companionship with the animals was not the answer. ”But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.”
When the man had been fully instructed, it was time to receive his corresponding helper. Again, the LORD God utilized a unique and intimate method of creation. As our text states, “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. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man”(2:21,22).
This report of how God created the woman is remarkably and wonderfully revealing about God’s design for the relationship between male and female, especially within the confines of marriage.
The fact that she was fashioned from the rib of the man alone is quite instructive about their corresponding natures. Martin Luther observed that the woman was not taken from flesh of the man’s head to signify that they were of the same office… Nor from his feet that she should be seen as someone he was to trample upon… Nor from other dust that she might feel independent of him. But she was formed out of flesh from his side to stand as his equal and under his arm to be protected by him and near his heart to be loved by him.
This brings us to the term “helper,” or as the King James Translation words it, “helpmeet.” This woman was given to be a helper of the man. I know this word raises all sorts of “red flags in our day and age! Some insist such a term demeans the woman as though she is somehow subhuman, or at best, a slave of the man, someone to be at his beacon call.
In keeping with the very prediction the LORD God made after the man and woman fell into sin that the woman would, literally, desire to “run over” the man and the man would “dominate” her, the term helper has been used as a license by men to treat their wives as their own personal property, as well as an excuse by some women to demand their right to be totally independent of any husband or male authority.
But with the term helper God is not saying that the first man, the progenitor of our species, required a helper in the sense that he needed someone to assist him with the enormous task of tending the Garden of Eden or to do his dirty work for him, carrying out all his orders. Helper or Helpmeet does not mean slave or servant. In fact, this same term helper is actually applied to God Himself by the Psalmist, “…hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!” (Psalm 70:5). No, God is saying that by design, the man needs a corresponding partner who can help fill in his programed gaps. She can complete him and he can complete her. As Moses states, “They become one flesh.”
This has led some to suggest that this complimentary nature of male and female in humanity is designed to reflect the very nature of God Himself as three distinct persons, yet, one divine being. God, did, after all, create human beings in “His image…”
That very well could be. But one thing is certain, all this does tell us that “woman,” so named by Adam, as an equal partner with man, is also placed by God in a relationship that reveals a godly order... The man created first and woman given to the man… One an initiator and the other a responder… One a Teacher the other a learner… One the Head the other willingly subordinate to the other.
Once again, the description of God’s creating activity is so important: “God brought her to the man.” The woman is God’s “gift” to the man. A gift is not property “owned.” By its very nature a gift is a tangible expression of the giver’s love for the receiver. The gift of woman to man is the tangible extension of God’s love and service to mankind. It is so pictured in the traditional wedding ceremony. The father gives the bride to the groom. The man no longer has to be alone. He has been gifted with a “helper fit for him” by God the Eternal Father, Himself!
Husbands, do you view your wife as gift to you? If you do, what effect ought that perspective have in how you view your relationship with your wife? Wives, do you view yourself as a gift to your husband? If you do, how ought it affect how you relate to him? Young unmarried persons, do you see that God gave wives and husbands as gifts to each other? If you do, then how ought it affect the way you look at the institution of marriage and your attitude toward it?
The true blessing of this gift of woman is fully acknowledged by Adam. He gives expression to his delight and joy with the first poetic verse in the Bible, and in fact in all of human history. He states, “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.”
This is not a ‘love song’ for the woman, but a song of love and praise for God and for His wonderful gift and design for humanity. The man even demonstrates his delight in this gift by naming this female God gifted him from his own name. Adam decreed: “She shall be called woman”; that is, she is “out of man.”
It is important to note also that the unique nature of a gift always obligates the receiver. The gift only becomes the blessing it is intended to be if it is received with sincere appreciation and responsibility. The husband is obligated by God’s giving to be responsible for the gift of his corresponding helper.
The apostle Paul writes: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Giving up the rib for the woman could be indicative of the husband’s loving sacrifice which is to be a part of every marriage. After all, every marriage is to be a model of Jesus Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church. The LORD God brings the Church as a gift to the Heavenly Bridegroom who in turn gives up His life for her!
Just as God has designed us to be gifts to others in our respective maleness or femaleness, Jesus Christ has redeemed us all to be gifts to others. “Love others as I have loved you,” He says. Thanks be to God and His grace His sacrificed blood not only sets us apart to be gifts to our spouses but also to all our fellow humans. And thanks be to God His sacrificial blood cleanses us from all those times we have not been very “gift like.” As God clothed the nakedness exposed by the sin of that first husband and wife with the skins of innocent animals, so our Creator, our Father, has in Holy Baptism and the proclamation of His forgiveness clothed our exposed iniquity with our perfect Husband’s righteousness.
How great is the Father’s love for us! Thanks be to God for this divinely engineered blessing to humanity!