The 22nd Sunday After Pentecost October 20, 2013
4, 625, 624(1,3,4), 47
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
The LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.And Adam 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.”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
In Christ Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
Abraham made careful preparations when finding a wife for his son. Abraham didn’t want Isaac to marry one of the unbelieving women who were his neighbors in the land of Canaan. Abraham sent his servant back to Mesopotamia—Abraham’s homeland—and back to his family to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham valued marriage highly and did not take the choice for his son’s wife lightly. Abraham’s attitude toward marriage and his valuation of it can be difficult to find in today’s all-too-common carefree and superficial approach toward marriage.
The way in which Isaac and Rebekah became husband and wife was quite different from the courtship of today. Isaac and Rebekah had not seen each other before being married. Their marriage and the love in it wasn’t prompted by lustful impulse, relationship exploration, or anything of the sort. Theirs was not a marriage built on shaky things of temporary attraction. It was built on a true understanding of marriage, and theirs was a love that grew and lasted. God tells us, “Isaac…took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her” (Genesis 25:67).
We don’t need to return to arranged marriages, but the foundation of Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage is the key to success. Customs change but the essence of marriage does not. The unchanging essence of marriage is what is frequently disregarded in a cavalier and arrogant way. It is often lost and that loss is to the great harm of many marriages, to the sorrow of those involved, and more significantly to the sorrow of God who established marriage.
The key to marriage is a true understanding of it. LOOK TO THE ORIGIN OF MARRIAGE TO UNDERSTAND MARRIAGE. Looking back to the first wedding as it is recorded in the pages of God’s Word we will gain a true understanding as to I. The purpose for marriage, II. The nature of marriage, and III. The approach to marriage.
The first wedding was a beautiful outdoor ceremony in the perfection of God’s new creation and the beauty of the Garden of Eden. The sixth day of creation began with the creation of land animals, both wild and domestic. Then God formed man out of the dust and breathed into him the breath of life. “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” [v.18].
Everything which God created was perfect in every way. When God said that it was not good that man should be alone, it does not show a failure in His creation, but it does show that His creation was not yet complete. To make the creation of man complete God would make a helper comparable to him.
Providing a helper comparable to man was God’s purpose in creating a woman and the purpose for which He established marriage. A “helper comparable” to man would be someone corresponding to him. It would be someone who would be like him and the same, but yet a counterpart and opposite in certain ways so that together they would form a set. This is similar to a matched salt and pepper shaker set. Both shakers are essentially the same and can function on their own, but they are also different and only when they are together are they a fully matched set.
The need for social companionship is something that God created in us. Even in the perfection of Eden there was a need for it because God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” There are many kinds of relationships in this life but none so close or precious as that between a husband and wife. In the close companionship of a marriage there is help and aid. This help is enhanced even further when both husband and wife share their Lord and Savior. Joined in Christ they can bring the guidance and encouragement of the Gospel to one another. Husband and wife are a matched set, functioning together as a pair, and that is a purpose for which God created a helper comparable to man.
Another part of the purpose of marriage is that God might bless the marriage with children. God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28). Other passages in Scripture point to the blessing of children when God grants them: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).
The existence of sin in the world has created another purpose for marriage. Though not originally needed in the perfection of Eden, marriage now serves as a deterrent to lust. “…because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband…I wish that all men were even as I myself (unmarried) but each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that…if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry that to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:2,7ff).
Before sin, the attraction between a man and a woman was pure. Even Adam and Eve’s nakedness was without shame. Sin changed all of that. Now sinful hearts do lust after one another and the desires are no longer pure. Because of sin and its effect, marriage now has the added purpose of keeping a man and a woman from sexual immorality. The desires and attractions are to be satisfied within one’s marriage; and the companionship of the marriage is to keep one another apart from immorality with others.
To keep oneself away from sexual immorality—in thought, word, and action—without being married is a special gift from God. That was one of the gifts given to Paul. He was able to remain unmarried and still not lust after others. However, not everyone has that gift, so Paul wrote that if you do not have the gift to keep yourself from passion and lust while remaining unmarried, then do marry.
God said it was not good for man to be alone, then He created a woman and established marriage. In the origin of marriage we find the purpose of companionship and the blessing of children. Since the fall into sin the purpose of keeping man and woman from sexual immorality has been added. Look to the origin of marriage to understand the purpose for marriage.
We also learn much as to the nature of marriage from its origin. God declared that He would make a helper comparable for Adam, but before doing so He provided a learning demonstration for Adam. “Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all the cattle (domestic animals), to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field (wild animals). But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.” [v.20]
As Adam saw these animals he gave them a designation that described their nature and characteristics. As Adam observed these animals he saw that there was not a single one that was suitable to be his partner. Man is simply not part of the animal kingdom. Man was created specially and in the image of God as the crowning work of His creation. The “helper comparable” would likewise be created in the image of God. Before creating a woman, God demonstrated to Adam that he would not find his counterpart among the animals. Rather, God would provide the gift of a special counterpart for him.
“The LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” [v.21-22] God took a part of Adam’s side—rib bone and surrounding flesh—and constructed a woman out of it. Having created a woman, God brought her to Adam and established marriage.
God created a “helper comparable” according to His will and in perfection. God likewise created marriage according to His will and it also was in perfection. This provides the truth regarding the nature of marriage. God provided a helper comparable to man, and it was a woman. Then God presented that helper to Adam and their union was the first marriage. A helper comparable means being the same—Adam did not find a companion in the animal kingdom. A helper comparable also means some differences in order to form the complete set. God created and gave Adam a woman in marriage. The nature of marriage by God’s design is clear and it leaves so many of today’s headlines about marriage nothing but an abomination.
Adam’s reaction to Eve was this, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” [v.23] In a very real and literal sense, Eve was a part of Adam. Adam had given appropriate names to the animals and he does the same thing for his helper comparable. He names his helper, “woman,” (lit. female man) to signify that she was taken out of man.
Consider Adam’s closeness with Eve. She was created out of him. Her flesh was his flesh. She, like nothing else could be, was the partner suitable and fitting for him. That closeness and oneness between Adam and Eve in the origin of marriage is the same closeness to be found in the nature of marriage for all time. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28).
The text goes on to say, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” [v.24] In marriage the two become one. They are to cling to one another with loyalty and devotion. They are stick together like glue and nothing is to tear them apart. God has brought them together in marriage and He alone is the one to separate them and that by death. “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9).
“A man shall be joined to his wife,” speaks of the nature of marriage as established by God and does not allow for a breaking of that bond. “They shall become one flesh,” does not allow for adulterous affairs which break the “joining together” and separate the “matched set” by bringing in a foreign element. “A man shall be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh” does not allow for sexual relations outside of marriage. They are part of the nature of marriage as established by God, but outside of marriage—whatever the circumstance—they are adultery and fornication. This is all part of the nature of marriage. Sadly, there is so much in the world around us that erodes this foundation. This face should spur us on to redouble our efforts in proclaiming the truth about marriage and to bring our young people up with a genuine understanding of marriage as given by God.
Another aspect to the nature of marriage found is that the husband is to be the head, or the leader, of the wife. Husband and wife are equal in their redemption and salvation as Paul told the Galatians, “…there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). However, in this life God has established an order and arrangement and it goes back to the origin of marriage. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for woman but woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). Paul applied this truth to marriage and said, “Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Ephesians 5:22-23).
The husband’s authority over his wife is not to “lord it over her.” This fact is also evident in the origin of marriage. The word In Genesis, carefully chosen by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, is a “helper,” comparable to man not a servant or slave. Adam said this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, not something to be misused and mistreated, not just a possession I own, but a very part of me to love and to cherish.
Paul gives instruction to husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). We know of no greater love than that which our Savior has shown us. He became man in order to be put under the law and suffer and die on the cross for our sins. He did die on the cross and all sins are washed away by His sacrifice. We who daily sin against God are God’s children because Jesus gave Himself for us. That is true love and that is to be the model of love for husbands in dealing with their wives. When the love of Christ and all that He has done is the foundation for marriage then it is built on a strong foundation which will stand the test of time.
The nature of marriage is established by God in the origin of marriage.
Having seen the purpose for marriage and the nature of it what is to be our approach to it? Parts of marriage are governed by the laws of our country and state. These things are to be followed as any other law. The laws governing marriage make it a civil contract. Unfortunately, marriage is sometimes approached as being only a civil contract and that is even often neglected. Marriage is instituted by God and is to honored as such and not taken lightly.
One hears of marriage being degraded and spoken of as being “too confining.” Marriage is confining in the sense of a man and a wife joined together for life, but that is not a burdensome confinement, it is to be a blessing and serves many purposes. One hears of many men and women living in intimate relations with one another, or even several others, outside of marriage. This is a practice which makes a joke out of marriage and regards it as a trivial thing. This is not the nature of marriage as established by God and is, therefore, not a proper approach to it.
Marriage is more than just a man-made thing. It is more than emotions and physical attractions. It is the God-established way of providing a helper comparable so that a man is joined to his wife and they become one flesh. Young and old alike need to instructed and reminded as to what marriage is so that we can all approach it in the knowledge of what God intends and keep away from those things which violate marriage. This is all true for married and unmarried alike—whether adultery and misconduct inside of marriage or fornication outside of marriage, both are an attack against marriage.
The God-pleasing approach to marriage is one which needs to be taught to children from an early age. This instruction will not only be a teaching of God’s Word, but also by example. The example of how husband and wife treat one another, speak about one another, and how they speak about marriage itself, will instruct children in their approach to marriage. Let it be an instruction according to the purpose and nature as established by God.
A careful choice of a spouse can be impressed at an early age. Consider what Abraham saw as important in finding a wife for Isaac. Consider the lengths to which he went to find a good wife for his son. Consider the approach of Abraham’s servant in choosing the wife for Isaac. He didn’t trust his own eyes or judgment. He prayed that God would guide him and show him the proper woman.
Remember that a spouse is a gift given by God. He provides or does not provide according to His wisdom. Adam didn’t have a personal choice, but God brought Eve to Him and gave him more than he could have imagined. Marriage and the choice of a spouse is not something to be forced or hurried. God prepares a man and a woman for each other and He will bring them together according to His will. He gives into marriage, He guides marriage, He strengthens love and marriage, He blesses marriage, and in accordance with His time and will He ends marriage. From beginning to end, marriage is established by God and blessed by Him. When this is recognized and is the approach to marriage then marriage is truly understood it will be successful. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.