Male and Female He Created Them Back to all sermons
Date: January 28, 2011
Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Series: In the Beginning
Scripture: Genesis 2:18–2:25
Paradise. In last week’s message, we left off part way through the narrative account of the sixth day of creation in Genesis 2. God formed the man from the dirt and breathed into him the breath of life. He placed him in the Garden which he had planted and prepared especially for the man. He gave him work to do, to tend and care for the Garden. The perfect man in the perfect environment. Paradise!
But all was not perfect. Not yet. In verse 18, we read the words: 18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. This is the first thing God pronounced, “Not good”. Up until now, God has looked at everything he made and pronounced it “good”. But now God says, “The man is alone. This is not good.” This reveals to us an essential truth about man, about human beings. It is one of the truths I mentioned last time and promised we would explore this week. It is the truth that man is made for relationship.
This is an important understanding as we continue to research the answer to the larger question: What is man? Man is a social being. Man is made for relationship. When God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” he was not just saying that the man was lonely or that loneliness was bad. It is more fundamental than that. The word translated “alone” means “to be by one’s self; to be the only entity in a class.”
Think of a can of corn on a shelf on the grocery store. It is the only can of corn on the shelf. All around it there are other cans; cans of peas, cans of beans, cans of tomatoes. But there is only one can of corn. It is alone, the only one of its kind. This is the idea of the word. The man was not actually alone in the absolute sense. After all, there were animals all around him. Even more than that, God himself was there. We often say that man was created for relationship with God. I believe that. I believe our most important and most fulfilling relationship is our relationship with God, our Creator. Adam had that in perfect measure. Yet God still said that something was missing. In the whole Creation as it stood part way through the sixth day of Creation, there was no other being like the man. And God declared that this was not good. Because man is made for relationship. Man is made to live in community with others like himself.
So God declared his intention. I will make a helper suitable for him. What do we learn from God’s words? First let us dispense with a “non word” that Christians have been misusing for years. It is the word “helpmate”. Have you ever heard that phrase or word? The woman is a “helpmate” to the man? It doesn’t actually exist. It comes from a misquoting of the King James Bible. The KJV translates this verse: “I will make him an help meet for him.” Now as time went by and English usage changed, we weren’t exactly sure what a “help meet” was, so we changed it to “helpmate,” essentially a non word.
There are actually two Hebrew words involved. The first is a noun meaning “helper”; one who assists and serves another and supplies what is needed to another. Some might take umbrage at this word, concluding that it assigns a secondary or assistant’s role to women. Such is not the case. God himself takes on the label of “helper” on many occasions in the Scripture. For example, consider the verse we looked at a couple weeks ago in Psalm 121:2: My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. It is the same word. If the Maker of heaven and earth gladly accepts this title, it cannot denote an inferior role.
Now let’s look at the second word. It is the word translated “meet” in the KJV. This word is used to describe something opposite or in front of and corresponding to. We might almost say, “a mirror image,” equal and corresponding to him in a perfect, complementary way. The NIV translates the phrase, “a helper suitable” for him; a helper and companion who exactly matches him. The man was alone, the only entity in a class. There was no one like him. God determined to make him a companion who would be like him and suit him perfectly.
Before God made this perfect companion, though, he did something that might seem a little strange. He organized an animal parade. And Adam named each one in a careful and insightful way. It is a testimony to the first man’s intelligence and verbal skills. Why did God organize this animal parade at this time? Certainly God did not expect Adam to find a suitable companion among the animals. I think he did it for Adam’s benefit. He did it to show Adam that the animals were not alone. They had companions and mates. God wanted Adam himself to realize his own lack of such a counterpart. I think God also wanted to emphasize to Adam his distinctness from the animals. Among the animals, there was plenty of “company” around for Adam but there was no suitable companion; no opposite counterpart. There was no one who could match him and complete him. This is the conclusion of verse 21: But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
I love what comes next. God put Adam to sleep. While he slept, God removed one of his ribs, and from the rib he made the woman. The word used here is unique in the creation account. It isn’t “created” or “made”. It could quite literally be translated “built.” It carries the idea of making something new using prior existing materials. God built the woman, not from the dirt, but from the rib and flesh of the man. As with the forming of the man earlier in the chapter, the word shows his careful craftsmanship and artistic care.
Then he brought her to the man. And for the first time in the Biblical text, the man speaks. These are the first recorded words of the human race. And the man said… “WOW!” And then he said, “Thank you, God!”
OK, that’s a loose translation. What he did say, though, was “Finally!” or “At last!” The NIV translates it “This now…” but the implication is something that has come last in a series or after a search. Adam’s search was over.
The rest of his words convey a rich blend of discovery, emotion, awe, and commitment. “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
Adam recognized that the woman was not only like him. She was part of him. “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” He then gives this fascinating new creature a name. In the Hebrew there is a subtle play on words. She shall be called “ishah” because she was taken out of “ish”. The name or generic name he assigns to her is the same as that which he uses for himself, only he adds a feminine ending to it. You are like me, only I am masculine and you are feminine.
There is a phrase you may have heard or even used, living in this part of the world. You might use it when you go to a hardware store to find a replacement part, or to a tailor to have a favorite garment duplicated. You take the original, show it to the man behind the counter and then say, “Same, same, but different.” Have you ever heard that? It must be quite widely used, as I even saw it written on a T-shirt on a visit to Thailand.
“Same same but different.” I believe this phrase captures something very profound in the Biblical text as it relates to the Biblical answer to the question: What is man? We have proposed one answer already today: Man is made for relationship. It is not good for the man to be alone. Here is another significant answer to the question: Man is male and female. That may sound strange because of the idiosyncrasies of human language. In Hebrew as in English, the word for “man” is often used to refer to the whole of the human race, without specific reference to gender. So even as I posed the question last week, “What is man?” I was really asking, “What does it mean to be human?” Part of the answer to that question is that humans are designed by God to be male and female. Gender and gender distinctiveness is God’s idea and part of his plan for us as humans. Man is male and female.
We are “same same, but different.” First let us look at the first part of that phrase: “Same same.” Those who would proclaim the superiority of men over women will have to find another source than Genesis 1 and 2. What comes through very clearly in the text is their equality in God’s eyes and in God’s value system. “Same same. “
Look back at Genesis 1:26-27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. This verse is describing in a summary form what we have been looking at in chapter 2. Notice what that text teaches. The word “man” in the verse, as I have already pointed out, is used as shorthand for all mankind; the human race. Man, the human race is created in the image of God; both male and female. That means both male and female are created in the image of God. Both male and female bear the divine image. There is no distinction, no difference in their capacity to know God and to reflect God’s glory. Both male and female are equally valuable to God.
“Same same…But different.” Gloriously different. Male and female. Gender and gender differences are part of God’s design and God’s plan for us. God made the woman from the man and he made her to be his opposite and complementary companion. What he was missing, she completed. The two were made to fit together, like two pieces of a puzzle. This is seen most visually and clearly in the design of the male and female bodies. Sex and sexuality was God’s idea and part of his design for man and woman, for male and female. But I believe it is more than just a physical fitting together. The innate differences in emotions and thinking patterns between men and women, between male and female are also part of God’s design. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” is how one popular book describes the difference. And it is so. I recognize that with the Fall and with centuries of socialization it is impossible to clearly discern what differences are innate and which ones are learned, which ones were there at the beginning and which traits have been added or lost or distorted by sin. But it is still clear that men and women are different at some fundamental level beyond their physical differences.
These differences are displayed very early in life. I remember when our boys were small, there was a lot of discussion about gender stereo typing and how it was all manmade and a product of socialization. So one Christmas we bought our 2 year old son a doll. He opened the package, gave the doll one disgusted look, dropped it and went back to his dump truck.
“Same same, but different.” Equal in the eyes of God. Both bearing the image of God. Standing on level ground, to look one another in the eye. Yet different. Gloriously different by God’s design. Each completing and complementing the other. Ish and Ishah. Man and Woman. Male and Female he created them.
After creating the first man and the first woman, God performed the first marriage. Many writers have noted appropriately the similarities in this account to a wedding ceremony. God brought the woman to the man, much as the father of the bride escorts her down the aisle and “gives” her to her husband. The man then spoke words of love and commitment and relationship to the woman, in what we might regard as the very first wedding vows. Then verse 25 describes the honeymoon: 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. True paradise at last.
That concluding verse of chapter 2 gives us a very brief glimpse into the man and the woman in their original state. It is another answer to the question: What was man like before the Fall? Adam and Eve were innocent. They were without sin. Because they were without sin, there was no need for hiding, for barriers. There was complete transparency. They were naked physically and emotionally because there was no shame. There was nothing to hide. Not only was there complete oneness with one another, but there was a complete openness and oneness with God as their Creator. We know from chapter 3 that it was God’s practice to come and walk with Adam and Eve in the Garden in the cool of the day. It is a picture of what was and what could have been. True paradise. We will take up that part of the story in the next sermon.
Sandwiched between Adam’s words in verse 23 and the conclusion in verse 25 is a very significant verse. 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The first thing we must do is define the nature of this verse and its place in the text. Are these a continuation of Adam’s words? They cannot be. Adam had no father and mother. Nor could he have foreseen the future and understood God’s plan for marriage. Are they God’s words? I would suggest that they are probably not words he spoke directly to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Once again, such instructions would have made little sense to them. I believe what we have in verse 24 is an editorial comment by Moses, applying the account of the first man and the first woman and the first marriage, and using it as a blueprint for all marriages to follow. Of course, because Moses was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they are God’s words and represent his words of command and instruction for us. In fact this is probably the most significant verse on marriage in the entire Bible. It takes us back to God’s original design for this most significant of all human relationships. Jesus himself quoted it when the Pharisees questioned him on the subject of divorce in Matthew 19 and used it as a summary of God’s plan for marriage.
Man is made for relationship. Man was created male and female. Therefore the relationship between a man and a woman, the relationship of marriage, is the first and most fundamental of all human relationships. It is the basic building block of society. It is the relationship that takes precedence and priority over all other human relationships. There are three important parts to this verse.
A man will leave his father and mother… As we said, Adam did not have a father and mother. So this is an application for subsequent generations, working out the implications of God’s intention in creating the man and the woman. What we are told is that marriage is the forming of a new bond and relationship; a new family which takes precedence over the bonds of loyalty to the man’s family of origin; his father and mother. It does not mean he must sever all ties with his father and mother. It does mean that his relationship with his wife and his loyalty to her must now be his primary relationship and his first commitment and loyalty.
We preserve a sense of this “leaving” aspect of marriage in the modern wedding ceremony when the preacher asks: “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” Only we get it backwards, as we focus on the woman leaving rather than the man. Both are actually necessary. Maybe we should have both sets of parents participate and ask, “Who gives this man and this woman to be joined to one another?”
It is important for this principle to be observed in fact; emotionally and relationally as well as simply ceremonially. Much stress and actual harm can be caused to a marriage when this principle is violated. Why do you think that the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is so often one of tension? It is because of a violation of this Biblical teaching. Either the mother of the man has not let her son go, or the man himself has not “left” his mother emotionally. This lack of clarity in the issue of primary affection and loyalty will continue to trouble a marriage until it is resolved. A man will leave his father and mother… Of course, problems can occur when this truth is violated on the other side of the aisle as well, if a wife does not transfer her loyalty to her husband and keeps running back to her parents.
And be united to his wife… I prefer the English Standard Version translation: And hold fast to his wife. The verb is in the active voice. The King James Version uses the word “cleave”. The basic meaning of the original word is to form a close and permanent bond. It speaks of the strong commitment that lies at the heart of marriage. It is a commitment which God takes very, very seriously. In applying this passage to marriage and divorce, Jesus himself added these words: Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. When a man and a woman come together in marriage, it is God himself who joins them together.
The final phrase of the verse describes the culmination of God’s purpose and plan in marriage: …and they will become one flesh.It is a wonderful summary. It takes us back to the beginning. The man and the woman were one flesh in the beginning. The woman was taken from the man. The man pronounced that she is “flesh of my flesh.” In marriage, the two become one again. It is most clearly and beautifully enacted and experienced in the act of sexual union. We see in these words that God is not against sex. Sex was God’s idea! He designed it. It was part of his plan and purpose for man and woman. It is one of his great and good gifts to us as human beings. It is such a precious and valuable gift that it is his plan to protect it by keeping it within the sacred boundaries of marriage.
But becoming one flesh is describing more than sexual union between husband and wife. It sets before us the goal and aim of true Biblical marriage; a true merging of lives and personalities and will and purpose. It is an emotional oneness as well as physical. Husband and wife are to become true companions to one another.
This kind of oneness does not happen on the first night of the honeymoon. It doesn’t happen in the first year of marriage, or in the second. In fact it takes a life time. And it does not come automatically or easily, but with great effort and struggle and investment. It comes slowly with lots of ups and downs. It comes so slowly and with such struggle because of the reality of the Fall and human sinfulness. It comes imperfectly because every husband and every wife is essentially selfish and self-centered. In our fallenness we are bent toward independence and selfishness which mitigates against true oneness. But just because it is hard and just because we may never attain the ideal does not mean we should give up or stop trying. Because in the trying and even in the failing, we are reaching toward God’s ideal of oneness and transparency which is described in man’s pre-fallen state in verse 25: The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. We feel ourselves reaching toward that ideal state for which we were created; a true oneness and transparency that is both physical and emotional. We may never attain the ideal or reach perfection, but it is worthwhile to make the quest. And in the quest, we ourselves are changed. Someone has wisely said, “Marriage is God’s gift to the human race to save us from our selfishness.”
What is the take away from this sermon? There is lots of food for thought in this chapter. Let me quickly highlight several applications. Man is made for relationship. We are made to live in community with other human beings, other people like ourselves. Marriage is the most basic and fundamental and intimate of relationships. But it is not the only one. Parent-child, siblings, friends; all these relationships carry their own rich reward as we share life together. These relationships are especially rewarding when they are based on a shared relationship with Christ and a spiritual dimension in the family of God. Some of us are extroverts who collect a wide array of friends. Others of us are introverts who like quiet and seek solitude. But whatever our natural personalities, we all need relationships, friends, companions for the journey. Nurture your relationships. If you don’t have them, look for them, cultivate them, ask God for them. “It is not good for man to be alone.”
God made us male and female. Let us not shy away from this truth. Celebrate the truth of “same same, but different.” Someone was once asked, “But which one is superior?” He wisely answered, “The woman is absolutely superior…at being a woman. And a man is absolutely superior at being a man.”
Let me pause at this point to say a word to those who are unmarried. From Genesis 2 alone, we might go away thinking that marriage is the only state of life in which we can be fulfilled, complete and happy. But if we scan the whole of Scripture, we find that while marriage is an honorable state in the eyes of God and certainly a natural desire for any man or woman, it is not the only state which God honors or to which he calls his children. In fact Paul points out that there are some distinct advantages to the single life in terms of service to God. Prayerfully seek God’s will in the matter and trust his plan.
In the meantime, keep yourself pure. Do it first of all for the Lord. This is God’s will! Then, do it for yourself. This is God’s will for you! And God’s will is always that which will bring the greatest joy and the greatest happiness, and it is a joy free from guilt and regret. Finally, do it for your potential future wife or husband. The gifts of God are worth waiting for. And if you do pursue marriage, please be careful to observe the cautioning words of the Apostle Paul, given to widows: “She is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.”
To those of you who are married, the applications are many and, I trust, obvious. First of all, Leave! Be sure you have made an appropriate transfer of your affections and loyalty from your family of origin to your wife, to your husband.
Cleave! Keep your wedding vows. Remain faithful to your spouse. Stay married! Marriage is intended by God to be permanent, “as long as both shall live.” Obviously we do not have time in a message like this to go into all the complicating factors of life in a fallen, broken world. And our God is a God of grace. But I don’t have to tell you that our world has strayed very, very far from God’s plan and design for marriage, and sadly, the church is not very far behind, as the divorce rate among Christians is not much different from that of the rest of society.
Become one flesh. Pursue the goal of becoming one, not just physically, but in unity of love, life and purpose. And if I can be permitted to say one final word to husbands: Every now and then, don’t forget to say, “Wow! Thank you, God!”
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
- “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) “Man was made for relationship.” Discuss these two statements and their implications for man and woman in marriage and in terms of other human relationships. How does our relationship with God fit into your discussion?
- “Same, same…but different.” With respect to man as “male and female” and gender differences, do you agree with this summary? Why or why not? How does this phrase compare with your previous understanding or teaching you have heard before? What cautions might you add to the discussion?
- “The man shall leave his father and mother…” Does this statement match the common practice in your culture? What are the problems you have observed or experienced when this principle is ignored? Suggest possible steps for resolving these problems.
- “…and hold fast to his wife…” “What God has joined together, let man not separate…” “…Til death do us part.” All these phrases emphasize God’s plan for the permanence of marriage. What are some reasons you have heard couples give for ending a marriage? Are there any Biblical reasons for divorce? Why do you think the Christian divorce rate so closely matches that of the unbelieving world? How and where should Christian grace enter our discussion of this subject?
- “…the two shall become one flesh.” Beyond the physical union, what are some other implications and dimensions of this statement for married couples?