First Things First – How the World Came to Be
5. Adam's Rib: How God Arranged the First Marriage
Genesis 2: 18 - 25
I performed the wedding ceremony for Obi and Bianca. It was a lovely occasion, as weddings usually are, and everything seemed to go well. As I stood with the happy couple only 1m away, I looked into their hopeful faces, and the thought came to me: So young, so happy, so beautiful … They don’t have a clue. It wouldn’t help to try to explain things to them because marriage must be experienced to be understood. You can only learn so much from premarital counselling. It’s like reading a book about swimming. Sooner or later you have to jump in the pool. I’m sure that Obi and Bianca will do fine and I pray God will give them a long and happy life together. I believe they are off to a good start. What they need to know, they’ll learn along the way, just like the rest of us. This year Sylvia and I celebrated our 40th anniversary. Back then we had no idea what we were getting into, and that was probably a good thing. Someone said: “Love is blind but marriage is an eye-opener.” We had to learn about marriage the hard way, which is the same way most people learn about it.
The Owner’s Manual
Young pastor - performing his first wedding. Fearing he might forget something, he asked an older pastor for help. The older man told the young pastor everything he needed and made one final suggestion: “If you ever forget what you are supposed to say, just quote Scripture.” The ceremony went fine until he pronounced the happy couple husband and wife. Then his mind went blank. He remembered the advice to quote Scripture. He quoted the only verse that came to his mind: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Marriage is a challenge in the best of circumstances but it is also a great blessing. In our society, where healthy marriages are the exception and not the rule, if we can build marriages that move against the prevailing tide, we will have a fantastic base from which to share the message of Jesus Christ. Nowhere will the difference between Christianity and modern secularism be more clearly seen than in a truly Christian marriage.
We all know that marriage today is under attack. Many young people doubt that a lifelong marriage is possible. They’ve seen so much divorce that it seems normal. They are right in one sense. Divorce happens. It happens in the world and it happens in the church. Sometimes Christian people behave irresponsibly. Husbands and wives don’t always keep their vows. Sometimes they walk out and sometimes they just drift apart. After making full allowance for all the problems we face, it’s still true that God’s way is the best way. When you buy a new car, you take the owner’s manual out and you read it. We need to do the same thing today. The Bible is the “owner’s manual” for marriage.
God created marriage and gave it as a gift to us. Marriage is holy because God is holy and marriage comes from God. It is far more than a legal act. Marriage is a central part of God’s plan for us. While not everyone will get married, and not everyone should get married, the fact remains that most people will be married at some point. Not everyone who is married is in a healthy relationship. We all need to hear what God’s Word has to say.
1. The Need for Marriage
A. God’s Declaration v. 18
This describes a world none of us has - a world without sin - world of created perfection with no hint of moral contamination. Tells us 2 crucial things. 1. God was moving to meet the problem of Adam’s loneliness. Even in paradise Adam was lonely. He was the king of creation, yet something was lacking. The perfection of Eden could not satisfy. In all of creation, only one thing was not good. It was not good for Adam to be alone. 2. Eve was the answer to Adam’s loneliness. The answer was not another man or a group of men. No man was ever meant to find his satisfaction in his hunting buddies or the guys at work. As a matter of fact, no man was ever meant to find it in women in general or in one woman after another. The answer to the loneliness every man feels is one woman—given by God—with whom he can spend the rest of his days. That is the most basic purpose of marriage.
When God says he will create “a helper,” many people picture someone who sweeps the floor, makes the beds, prepares the meals and in general does the housework while the man of the house sits in his Lazyboy with the remote control in his hand. That’s not what the word means. OT - this word was often used of God himself - “helper” means one who supplies what is lacking in another person. God created Eve to do what Adam cannot do by himself. Points to an amazing truth about marriage: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When a man and woman are united in marriage, the result is greater than 1 + 1 = 2. The result is out of proportion to the talents and abilities of the 2 people involved.
Marriage is a shared companionship between a husband and a wife. As they walk through life side by side, hand in hand, they share everything together. It’s not as if the husband says, “This is my area. Woman, stay out of it.” Or the wife says, “This is my realm. Keep your hands off.” While there will definitely be a division of labour depending on gifts, talents, desires and time available, in a good marriage everything is shared on a basis of honesty, openness and love. Marriage is God’s chief answer to human loneliness. It isn’t the only answer. There are others - family, friends, neighbours and co-workers. The body of Christ stands as a supernatural expression of a universal brotherhood of believers in Christ. Here we find a family that in many ways transcends our earthly family. But marriage stands apart as God’s first answer to the need we all feel for friendship and intimacy.
In God’s eyes there is no such thing as “gay marriage.” The biblical pattern is one man with one woman for life. When God created Adam and Eve, he established the fundamental order of human society. He created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. He did not create 2 men or 2 women, and he did not create Adam and a group of women or Eve and a group of men. It’s not Adam and then Eve and then one woman after another. The divine pattern is crystal clear. The whole case against homosexuality begins right here. All the prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible must be read in the context of this crucial passage. Homosexuality in all its forms is a perversion away from the pattern God established in the beginning. Living as we do in a society that increasingly elevates homosexuality as “natural” and “normal,” we need to understand why it is wrong or else we will soon be seduced into thinking that it’s not really so bad after all.
B. Adam’s Investigation v. 19, 20
As Adam names the animals, God is preparing him for marriage. He is teaching him to be a leader. The power to name is the power of authority. “That’s a giraffe and that’s a monkey.” By giving Adam the right to name the animals, God was training him to be the king of creation, answerable only to God. God was also training him to be a lover. Adam saw Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe, Mr. and Mrs. Crocodile, Mr. and Mrs. Eagle. Always male and female. But where in all creation could he find someone for himself? God was creating within Adam a hunger for a life partner, a hunger God would soon meet. This was Adam’s premarital counseling. Adam named the animals. But “no suitable helper was found.”
He had no one to talk to - laugh with - taste the ripe peaches with -no one to nestle with him in the evening. By naming the animals Adam is learning the limitations of his power. He could rule the world but he had no one to share his joy. So many men seem never to learn this lesson. We become workaholics as we climb the ladder - desperately trying to make it to the top. Along the way we may go through 2 or 3 wives and several sets of children. When our day of triumph finally arrives, there is no one by our side to share the moment with us. What’s the point? Why climb to the top of the heap if you end up all alone?
C. God’s Operation v. 20, 21
If we accept the supernatural nature of creation, why shouldn’t this be an accurate account of how God fashioned the first woman?
Eve is literally fashioned from Adam. She comes from the essence of who he is and is formed while Adam slept. He had nothing to do with it other than supplying the raw materials. It’s not as if God asked for his input or allowed him to place an order. God doesn’t need our help in designing a wife suitable for us. Blessed is the man who doesn’t try to “improve” upon God’s gift to him. Adam’s deep loneliness is met by a woman created by God. The gift of a wife comes from God. When God brought Eve to Adam, he showed his sovereignty over the most intimate areas of life. God can be trusted to provide a mate at the right time and in the right way. Anxious single men and women hear this word from the Lord.
God “brought her to the man.” God was the father of the bride. God led Eve gently through the flowers and presented her, with her fast beating heart and the blush on her cheeks, to Adam. God himself performed the first ceremony as minister, father and witness.
D. Adam’s Celebration v. 23
This is the first “boy meets girl” story in history. “This is now” means “This is it!” Imagine - Adam is flat on the ground, just beginning to awake from the divine anesthesia. As he opens his eyes, he sees the Lord and next to him a beautiful, blushing creature looking at him in wide-eyed anticipation. He can’t connect her with any of the animals. She looks like him. She looks a lot like him but she’s very different in several important ways. His brain says, “This is it!” and he blurts out, “Oh baby! Where have you been all my life?” Or something like that.
Adam and Eve fell in love from the first moment they saw each other. Adam rejoices in God’s provision for his need. He doesn’t waste any time looking around or seeing if he could get a better deal (not that there were any other choices available at the moment). He accepts God’s gift on the spot. When was the last time you thanked God for your wife? Wives, try thanking God for your husband instead of complaining about his shortcomings. It will do a world of good for your marriage.
In Adam’s joyful exclamation, we find the secret of a lasting marriage: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Marriage is all about sharing your life completely with another person. You’re made from the same stuff. You are joined so closely together. Hating your spouse is like hating yourself. It doesn’t make sense.
God’s answer to Adam’s loneliness is simple. He created a partner for Adam—like him, from him, yet different.
Adam is the head of the relationship by virtue of his being created first. It’s not that the husband “should” be the head of his wife; he “is” the head - the only question is whether or not he will rise up and demonstrate godly leadership. This speaks of responsibility and spiritual accountability. It has nothing to do with bossing someone around or making all the decisions for another person. It does mean that if a man chooses to be married, he must accept the responsibility that goes with that position. God will hold him accountable in a special way for what happens inside the marriage relationship. Many Christian marriages struggle because Christian men abdicate their God-given roles. When a man fails as a spiritual leader, there is only so much that a wife can do to remedy the situation. She can never fully replace her husband’s leadership.
2. The Nature of Marriage v. 24, 25
Marriage is not a man-made institution that we can discard when we like. God’s plan: 1 man and 1 woman joined in marriage for life. We need to teach these things to our children and to encourage them to look forward to the day when they too will be married.
A. An Exclusive Relationship
Marriage involves leaving and cleaving - leave our parents emotionally, physically and financially in order to form a new family with our mate. Leaving is a one-time event but “cleaving” (“to glue oneself” to another person) is the work of a lifetime. It demands an exclusive commitment that removes the possibility of looking around to see if we can get a partner we like better. We symbolize that commitment with a wedding ring.
B. An Intimate Relationship
“One flesh” starts with the sexual relationship in marriage. It is more than sex, of course, but it isn’t less than that. Out of the physical union comes a profound fusion of 2 hearts, 2 minds, 2 bodies, 2 personalities until they are so intertwined that it is hard to know where one ends and the other begins. In a good marriage the most important word is “ours,” not “mine” or “yours.” As couples live together for a long time, they begin to act alike, sound alike and even begin to think alike.
C. An Open Relationship
Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed - describes a relationship where there is nothing hidden because there is nothing to hide. In our world, we can’t walk around naked. But in marriage a part of that original transparency can be regained. In the security of a lifetime commitment, a husband and wife can relax and feel comfortable together. You are recapturing some of what Adam and Eve experienced in the beginning. That’s what it means—at a very deep level—to be naked and not ashamed.
Make Sure Jesus is There
A healthy marriage is the work of a lifetime. Being newly married does have its own rewards - the joy of taking the first steps on a journey that will take a lifetime to complete. Good news to give hope to every struggling couple. God intends that your marriage be better next year than it is this year. Before you give up on your marriage, why not give God a chance to see what he can do?
Marriage was God’s first gift to the human race. Is a young man wrong to feel a desire for a young woman? No. Is it wrong for a woman to desire the companionship of a man? No. Sometimes men and women make poor choices and live to regret it. But the desire of a man to spend his life with one woman and the desire of a woman to spend her life with one man—that is not wrong. That desire is placed in the human heart by God. God planned us for love, marriage, companionship, home and children. The only thing man brought with him out of Eden was marriage. Adam and Eve came out together. Marriage is the only touch of paradise we will ever know this side of heaven.
A little boy learned about Jesus going to a wedding and turned water into wine. “What did you learn from the story?” asked his father. The boy thought for a moment and answered, “If you’re having a wedding, make sure Jesus is there.” That’s good advice. Put Jesus at the centre of your marriage and no matter what else happens, you will truly live happily ever after.
Prayer - Father, we thank you for the gift of marriage. We acknowledge that your ways are perfect and that you make no mistakes. We gladly confess that without you we can do nothing. Help us to submit ourselves to you completely with no strings attached. May we become a church of happy Christian homes where Jesus Christ can be seen in our closest relationships. We pray for those who are hurting and lonely that they might receive a fresh touch from your Spirit. Grant healing and hope to us as we pray.
We lift up all the marriages in our congregation and pray that each one might be strengthened. We stand united by faith against everything the devil would do to destroy those marriages. We pray that none would be lost, that all would be preserved. We thank you for husbands and wives who love you and who love each other. Grant that our marriages will not merely endure, but that they will grow and prosper and be filled with joy. Give grace to each couple that they might serve the Lord together joyfully as long as they both shall live. When the time to leave this life comes, may they still be together, still in love, still faithful and still believing in the promise of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.