Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.
In this study we continue in the second chapter of Genesis, and in particular verses 18-25. God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them in chapter one. The crown of His creation is man on the sixth day, made the image of God, male and female, and God gives man dominion over the earth. On the seventh day, then, Genesis 2:1-3, God rests, not because He is tired but because He is satisfied with His finished work of creation. Then, He sanctifies that seventh day. So starting in verse four we go backwards to take a closer look at the creation, specifically that of man and The place God placed him, Eden. God provided man, first and foremost, with the breath of life. He made him a living being. He placed him in a lavish garden of delight. He gave man responsibilities to fulfill, commands to obey. God provided for man’s physical needs, and also his spiritual needs. Man isn’t created to be his own sovereign. He is created to worship and obey God, to have communion with Him, community with Him.
But where we left things in the last study, man isn’t quite whole. If this makes any sense, he has been created perfectly, but God has not yet given him wholeness… completion. That is what is addressed in these eight verses, Genesis 2:18-25, so let’s read.…
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
We previously saw in verse four the first of ten statements in Genesis that go something like, “This is the account of…” or “This is the book of the generations of…” or “These are the records of the generations of.” Verse four tells us, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.” Or as I put it in the last study, this is the account of the foundation of the world, from Genesis 2:4 to the end of chapter four.
The word foundation reminds me of another place it is used, Psalm 11:3: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The question is as appropriate for today as it was when David wrote it, for as we consider Genesis 2, and then consider our time and place… beloved, we are all eyewitnesses the foundations of marriage cracking, and on the verge of being crushed. And once the foundations are gone the house comes down.
Even the church, or so-called churches as it were, are capitulating on the issue — from Charlotte to Louisville to now another prominent evangelical church in San Francisco this week, saying in effect the Bible will no longer be their authority. Christ will no longer be their Lord. They will treat people with love — a false love that places someone’s happiness above what is best for them. And they will exhibit what they try convince themselves is the humility of Jesus on issues Christians, they say, supposedly disagree about. They don’t want to pass judgment, they say.
Yet Genesis 2:18-25… these verses are not in the least confusing. And they haven’t been confusing for those who believe them to be the word of God for just about as long as they’ve been written, until the past couple of centuries. As doubts about the biblical account of creation — how we came to be, how the world came to be — have increased… well, let’s just say when you remove the Creator from the discussion, and deny how He has told us things came to be it gets a lot easier to deny other things. The foundations have been shaken… opening the door to question more about the foundation of the world, like the very nature of human sexuality and the institution of marriage.
Now, in verse eighteen man is in the Garden of Eden, the garden of delight, and God has provided for him all the food he could ever desire from the fruit of the trees, and given the man a way to glorify him by obeying His commands — cultivate and keep the garden, do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But again, man is not complete, and God knows this. So He says, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Who is the LORD God talking to here? He is talking to Himself, yes, but any time we see this divine counsel we’re reminded that there is more than one in God, a truth we saw in revealed in Genesis 1:1, and again in 1:26. There is community within the Godhead. Literally the LORD says here, I will make a helper like him… a helper like him.
Now if we weren’t already familiar with this passage — if we were reading this for the first time, with no background — this would be a pretty surprising thing to read. We’ve gone from God creating everything good to this — still on the sixth day, mind you — to seeing that even though man has the breath of life in him he still is not everything God intends him to be. God does not intend for him to be alone.
We weren’t created for isolation, beloved. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” We were created for community, for relationship, not for isolation.
So note what is said here: “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper suitable for him.” God already knows what He is going to do, of course, but His language here anticipates that all of the animals He is about to bring before Adam… none of them are or will be that suitable helper.
God brings every beast of the field and every bird of the sky to the man, and whatever he called the animal was its name. This was man exercising his dominion over the creation, the act of naming being an authoritative act God gave to Adam. But, of course, verse 20, there was not found a helper suitable for him. There was not found one like Adam, not any other found in whom was the image of God Himself. So verses 21-22…
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
Henry Morris is a Christian scholar who, while he lived, wrote numerous books on Genesis and creation and was actually one of the founders of the Institute of Creation Research. And he wrote that Genesis 2:21-22 are “the despair” of those who try to assert an evolutionary process God was in control of, overseeing. Because even if you can get to a place where you believe the man evolved from some ape-like ancestor, that this is what is somehow meant when it says man was made from the dust of the ground, there really isn’t a way to explain the creation of the woman. You have to do some serious interpretative gymnastics to reconcile the Bible and the evolution of man in the first place, but then reconciling Genesis with the creation of woman is another giant leap indeed.
Besides, the New Testament writers clearly understood that this was history. I’m always amused and discouraged at the same time when I see some commentator tell me how seriously I should take what Paul writes, when the commentator doesn’t take seriously what Moses wrote in Genesis, even though Paul took seriously what Moses wrote in Genesis. “For it was Adam first formed, then Eve,” 1 Timothy 2:13, and “For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man,” 1 Corinthians 11:8. Paul took the creation account literally. And as Henry Morris also states, “All other men have been born of woman, but the first woman was made from man.”
God put Adam into a deep sleep and did some miracle surgery on him. Most of our translations say something to the effect that God took one of Adam’s ribs, but more literally it’s taking from Adam’s side. The thought here is that woman was not taken from man’s head, as it to infer superiority over the man. But she was also not from his feet, to infer inferiority under the man. God took from Adam’s side… to express equality.
Now, over the course of God’s revelation there are several times we see man and woman given different roles within creation, different functions, even within the family unit, even within marriage. In the church, you can’t really get around the clear teaching that God ordained men to be pastors, overseers, elders. You can’t really get around where it says the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and you can’t get around where it says the wife is to submit to her husband. But… all the way back to the creation of woman we see that, while roles, functions may differ, the value of man and woman before God is side by side — equal.
And this is seen in the man’s reaction to the creation of the woman. Verse 23…
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
The creation of the woman brings the man to express himself with joy, with what is the first use of poetry in history. Adam named all of the animals but none were suitable for him. None were like him. But the woman was, and it brought Adam great joy.
“Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” She’s like me, he’s saying. “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
God made the helper like him, and it brought to Adam a sense of completeness, a sense of wholeness, and this brought him an undeniable, irrepressible sense of natural, yet God-given joy.
Then comes verse 24.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Here we have the definition of marriage, given from the very foundation of the world, from the very day man and woman were created. One man. One woman. Brought together — in this case by God Himself — in holy matrimony. The two become one flesh. And I know I mentioned this in brief a few minutes ago, but oh how marriage has been undermined in our present evil age. And I say marriage, not real marriage or the definition of marriage or God’s definition of marriage — because God’s definition of marriage is marriage. Whenever God defines something that is what it is. It needs no disclaimer. It is the great sin of our age, beloved, abandoning marriage — one man, one woman, one flesh.
James Montgomery Boice, the late pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia writes in his Genesis commentary that there are four directions from which this attack on marriage has come. I feel he’s spot on.
The first he dubs the rampant hedonism of our age… the rampant hedonism of our age. Hedonism being the idea that the chief goal in life is pleasure, and pleasure is to be pursued no matter what the effects of that pursuit are. And the easiest thing to point to here is sex. Sex is for fun, this view says, and so it should be pursued as often as possible in as many ways as possible, for the most pleasure possible. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that this hedonism exists in other forms as well, when one spouse or another, or often both spouses separately, pursue whatever gives them pleasure at the expense of the other. In order to please the self, they drift away from the one flesh mindset. Being one flesh, I believe, is a lot more that sexual fidelity. We can seek pleasure in numerous ways, and an age old way in which marriage has come under attack is by the idolatry of what makes me happy, the idolatry of pleasure.
The second attack comes, Boice says, from the widespread acceptance of adultery. In fact, it’s worse than acceptance, because in many circles today it’s genuinely thought that a little sex on the side is what is needed to revive a lackluster marriage. But no. Adultery is breaking away from the one flesh not just in mind but in body, and joining to something, someone, which is alien to your marriage. E.T. belongs on earth more than a husband belongs with someone who isn’t his wife, or a wife with someone who isn’t her husband. Adultery (and its first cousin pornography) destroys marriages, beloved. And we ought never condone it, never make an excuse for it, not look the other way from it when others engage in it, always hate it.
Boice’s third attack on marriage is what usually results from adultery and that is divorce, and specifically Boice says, the ease of divorce… the ease of divorce. Two generations ago, divorce was considered a disgrace. It wasn’t easy, at all, to get one. But as the sexual ethic of the culture was shaken during the upheaval of the 1960s, then Governor of California Ronald Reagan signed into the law a no-fault divorce bill. All you had to do now was cite “irreconcilable differences,” which couldn’t be proven. Well, divorce spread like wildfire across the country, and millions of marriages have thus been burned. The stigma of divorce is all but gone now. It’s now commonplace for those who get married to, when tough times come, dissolve the marriage and seek happiness, pleasure, apart from the one flesh. There is so much more that could be said about this, beloved, but for the sake of time tonight…
Boice’s fourth attack on marriage is the legalization of abortion on demand… the legalization of abortion on demand. Now when Boice first wrote this in 1982, Roe v. Wade was only nine years old. Now it’s 42 years old, and Planned Parenthood, for one, is raking in hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars. A million and more children are murdered in the womb each year. The fight goes on, and there have even been some laws passed in state legislatures in recent years to try and limit abortion, but for the most part it’s become widely accepted — a decision between a woman and her doctor, they say, excluding the father from the decision, and from his obligation and right to defend his child. And the consequence as it relates to marriage is that, in taking the father out of the picture, even before birth, well then why do you need marriage?
I could add that the same-sex mirage, homosexual and transgender issues, are a fifth attack, and maybe the most pressing today, as again, they go to the very definition of what marriage is. And all of this is evidence that Romans 1 is true, that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness and rebel against their Creator, and His design. God gave given them over to the disaster of their sinful desires as a result.
God’s design is for the man to leave his father and mother to be joined with another. And not his husband. Not his partner. Not his boyfriend. Not even his girlfriend. He is joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh. And that they become one and only one flesh speaks not just to the fact that sexual union outside of marriage is sin in the sight of God, and not as He ordained it to be, but also that sexual union before marriage is sin as well. The man is joined to his wife… his wife.
And the permanence of marriage in the design of God should not be overlooked here. Moses makes a provision for divorce later on because of the hardness of heart of the people, but it’s clear when we read the Gospels that Jesus understands marriage to be permanent. In Matthew 19 Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24, then adds, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
God created the heavens and the earth. God created the man and the woman. God joined them together. God made marriage, and He designed it to be permanent. The man and the woman became one flesh, and it was very good, for the flourishing of all creation, and in particular the flourishing of the crown of His creation — mankind… and He did it for His glory.
As for the man and woman, now joined together, verse 25…
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Man, completed by God with woman. Created perfectly for one another — physically, mentally, spiritually — and there was no sin in the world, no sense of shame or guilt for their being naked. No embarrassment. Any sense of shame or guilt or embarrassment… that would have been unnatural under the circumstances.
For now, though, they were innocent. That would change very soon. But as man and woman were created by God they were a reflection of His perfection. They, as things stood, would live forever… in a perfect world.
Today, as the prevailing winds are blowing the culture at hurricane speed away from the foundations of the world God made — of which marriage is an important part, it is as important, more important than ever, for the people of God to be resolute on what marriage is and why God created marriage. This is what is good not only for the flourishing of our culture today, but it’s also good for the flourishing of the church. And I would be remiss if I didn’t add we should remember what marriage points us to when we read Ephesians 5: the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. God brings us together that we are one with Him in permanent, perfect union no death will ever part.
Beloved, may we by the grace of God love God, and hold dear what He created to bring completeness to man in His perfection — the beautiful one flesh union of marriage. Hold it dear, and teach it to our children, that generations might be spared pain, but see the glory of God.
Father, we pray as sinners that we might as repentant saints cherish all that is good and right and holy — and marriage is. For all its imperfections because of sin, it is. May we be a people who cherish our own marriages, support others in their marriages, teach the beautiful truth about marriage, and point others to honor You in their marriages, thus pointing them to Your Son Jesus Christ. We ask this as the bride of Christ in the name of Christ for the glory of Christ. Amen.