Text: Gen 2:15-25. Preached at Werribee Church of Christ, 15/8/04.
Whoever you are, God created you to be an object of his love and in fellowship with Him and others. That, in a sentence, is what Gen says about the purpose for our existence. We saw last week in Gen 1 that, in contrast to the myths that Israel’s neighbours believed about the origins of the world, God created mankind not so man could be his slave, but so that he (God) could serve man. The whole creation was for man’s benefit – we are the supreme earthly objects of his love. Remember especially 1:29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed … and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” That’s the character of God. (1 Jn 4 God is love.) If love is what God is, then he must express it (or it would be meaningless…) .. and so he creates .. people .. and he serves them.
So, specifically in chap 1 he feeds man – a service of love .. in chap 2 he recognises and lovingly meets man’s need for partnership, companionship. And I want us this morning to listen to what God says about relationships for married people, and also for all people. So I’d like to begin with the particular relationship of marriage .. and then move to the bigger picture of relationships between all humans and one another.
Marriage and God
God’s plan for marriage is partnership. That’s the beginning point, please notice, in God’s plan to bring man and woman together. 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”. The Hebrew is literally “not good alone”. The Lord has reached the climactic point in his creation .. and he has formed man from the dust, and given him life .. and it is done .. only it isn’t. This final, unique object of God’s creating love is incomplete .. because he is just one. “Not good alone.” That’s interesting isn’t it; because we saw in Gen 1 how at each stage in the creation God stepped to examine the canvas of his masterpiece and exclaimed “It is good.” And finally at the climax after creating man he said “It is very good.” Yet here when he zooms in for a closeup on man, he says “not good” .. because the man is not yet all he can be in reflecting the image of God, because he is only one, he is alone. “Not good alone.”
When we looked at Gen 1’s description of the Creation 2 weeks ago, we noted the poetic kind of quality of the way it’s written, and more broadly the way Scripture often uses poetic or picture language to convey a sense of wonder, awe, mystery about something the human mind can scarcely comprehend. .. Well there’s something of that again in this description of God’s forming of the first woman – especially in Adam’s rapturous words in v23 “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. .. “At last” .. not one of the other creatures was right .. it’s almost like reading a romance – I think we’re meant to feel the loneliness, desolation of the man .. all the animals pass before him .. he names them (which reflects his sovereignty over them) – but they are in pairs, it seems .. yet he has no partner .. he is still “alone” .. and he knows it “not good” .. until the Lord creates a partner who is just right .. “At last” .. this one is just right…
The great eighteenth century bible commentator Matthew Henry reflected profoundly on the creation of the first woman from the rib of the man. And I think he picks up very well the poetic beauty of the passage itself. To rephrase his words into modern form: “She was not taken from his head to rule over him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
Taken from his side – flesh from his flesh – bone from his bone … And then the narrator picks up the story and applies it specifically to the covenant of marriage: a man shifts his prime allegiance from his parents to his wife. – he sticks to her permanently and passionately – to become one flesh (which in Hebrew thinking means not only their sexual union – though it certainly includes that. But it particularly means that they become so intimately bonded that they’re related as if they were brother & sister) .. Equality .. harmony .. loyalty .. unity .. intimacy.
Put it all together – especially vv23-25 – and you would have to conclude that sexual love is something God intends to be celebrated, enjoyed and delighted in .. in the context of the marriage of one man and one woman for life. Adam is overjoyed! “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” .. physically meant to be one .. and you can find his joy echoed with even greater passion and even less restraint in other pages of Scripture.
And the narrator follows immediately with the words of v24 .. which set that physical celebration at the heart of the covenant of marriage.
Made to belong
But marriage is not the whole story. We commonly read the 2nd half of Gen 2 as being entirely about marriage; which means single Christians assume it doesn’t speak to them, and married Christians imagine it speaks only about the person on the pillow beside them… Well as we’ve just been noting, it certainly does speak profoundly to us of the beauty of marriage according to God’s plan, which is why it’s rightly been a favourite reading for Christian wedding services down the ages. But if we read it more carefully, it tells us about something even more foundationally human than marriage itself.
It’s only the final three verses that speak exclusively and unambiguously about marriage (“man & woman” becomes “man & wife”) .. Marriage is a specific kind of relationship – a very sacred relationship – but it’s not the only relationship there is .. Marriage is not what people are created for .. not the essence of being human .. it’s not God’s first, primary desire for the man he has formed in love … God does not say “It is not good for the man to be sexually deprived; I will make a date for him.” He says “It is not good for the man to be alone ..”
See? … God is stating from the very start what we know in our hearts to be true – that the core need in the human heart is for relationship .. aloneness is deadly .. I will make a helper. The opposite of aloneness isn’t sex; it’s relationship .. community .. belonging.
Why is sexuality such a hot topic in our world today? There are many reasons, and now is not the time to elaborate on them all! But have you noticed one of the foundational assumptions that’s by and large taken for granted by most people? .. Virginity is a curse .. You’re not enjoying life .. you’re not quite fully human .. until you’ve had your first fling, and until you’re sexually active .. That would be the conscious or unconscious belief of most people beyond the Christian community, and quite a few in it as well. Is it any wonder then, that the idea of sexual abstinence outside marriage is so offensive?
The remedy for that muddled thinking is to check again the maker’s instructions. Gen tells us that people were created fundamentally for relationship .. first with God .. and second with one another.
And that means that whether God calls you into marriage or not, he intends to bless you with companionship – because you are human. And we live today in a world full of lonely people .. in which God has placed the church to be – as we saw when we read Ephesians last year – a sign and demonstration of the restored human community that God is recreating through the Cross of his Son.
So woe to us if any human person steps through the doors of this Christian assembly without being greeted, welcomed and included .. The Church – any church – should be the place like no other on earth where every person hears in the depths of their heart the word of God, who says “It is not good that [they] should be alone; I will make [them] a helper.” And each time we fail to receive a person among us – each time a person leaves as much alone as when they came .. we deny the image of God in that person, and lessen it in ourselves.
The rest of Genesis – indeed of the Bible .. is smeared with the ugliness of sin, its impact on God’s world, and God’s plan to restore the created universe to its former glory. Central to that plan is the church; yet in this age – before the return of Christ – the church is also smeared with the stain of sin. And if we look at ourselves, our history and who we are now, in the mirror of God’s word we will see that stain .. we will recognise that we have fallen short of the brilliance of God’s image ..
To repeat again: each time a person leaves as much alone as when they came .. we deny the image of God in that person, and lessen it in ourselves. Yet if we are people who believe the gospel .. if our hearts feed on the benefits of the Cross of Christ each time we eat the bread and drink the cup .. then we will repent of our sin, turn to Jesus for grace and forgiveness .. and start afresh as people determined to view each person as they are viewed by God who said “Not good alone” .. and gave companionship as his gift of love.