Over the course of the last fifty years or so, humanity has turned its back on the teaching of the Bible with ever increasing speed. We want to be the masters of our own destiny, doing whatever pleases us and making our own decisions about what is acceptable and what isn’t. As a result, our definitions of what constitutes a family have become increasingly fluid and people have sought to expand the idea of gender from male and female to an alphabet soup of confusion.
In our journey through Genesis 1 and 2 so far, we’ve seen a stark contrast with the modern claims of mankind. Instead of the slow, purposeless, self-directed ‘evolution’ believed by many in the world today to be the way in which we came to be, we’ve been taught that God made all things, deliberately, in perfect accord with the plans He had first devised, without stress or fuss and acting with perfect sovereignty. And He did it all in just six days. What is more, everything in Genesis has so far gone perfectly to plan and everything has been evaluated and been found to be “good” or “very good” – totally unlike the mess evolution would make if it were real. At the point in the history of the world we’ve reached in Genesis 2:18, there is no death or disease; no sin and rebellion; no chaos and disorder.
As part of this creation, God has made Adam. There have been indications that a woman will also be created, but as we focus in more detail on God’s creation of mankind in chapter 2, we’re at a point where that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, there is a beautiful simplicity: there is just one human being on planet earth, just one gender. But with that simplicity comes a problem. For the first time in the history of the world, God’s assessment of the situation is that something is not good.
This situation is not good because God has already given Adam a job – the mandate to fill the earth and subdue it. This mandate is however too much for one man to achieve all by himself. One human being will not possibly manage to subdue the whole earth, and one human being doesn’t have it in themselves to make more human beings who can help fulfill that mandate.
But there’s more to this than just Adam’s inability to fulfill the creation mandate. God says “It is not good that the man should be alone”.
If you’re quick, you might point out that Adam is not alone at this point – he’s got God there. So God must mean that Adam has been designed to have interaction with other human beings; it’s not good that Eve doesn’t exist yet not only because Adam can’t fulfil the creation mandate but also because it’s not good for Adam’s welfare not to have Eve around.
This has implications for us today. We should recognise that it’s not good to leave people in situations where they don’t get enough interaction with others – whether in aged care facilities or living by themselves after the death of spouse, working at home rather than in a shared office or being isolated in other ways (particularly in the middle of Covid!) – we need to be careful to ensure we get interaction with other human beings, for our own psychological welfare. We need to be thinking of one another, caring for one another through these circumstances, making sure – so far as we’re able – that we help each other get through the hard times.
So Adam needs to work with someone or more than one someone. But who?
Notice firstly that God doesn’t just make the assessment himself and impose His will without consultation.
God already knows what is needed. He knows what He’s going to do. But before creating Eve, He lets Adam check out all the other creatures in existence and come to the same conclusion. Horses, mice, cats, dogs, sheep, goats, snakes, ants, lions, eagles, seagulls and everything in between… they and more are all brought before the man. Every one is named. Each one is known. Each one is evaluated and seen to not be a helper suitable for Adam.
In many ways, this is like the whole history of salvation – God doesn’t jump straight to sending His Son to be our salvation; He lets us learn the hard lessons ourselves – whether directly or through the pages of the Old Testament – we need to see that we can’t save ourselves. Then, in the fullness of time, He sends His Son.
So what is Adam looking for in these creatures? What does a “helper suitable” mean?
Well the word translated “helper” means just what it sounds like – it refers to one who provides assistance or help with achieving a task. But there is an important aspect to this word that we can easily miss. When we talk about helping someone today, we sometimes refer to a situation in which the person being helped could achieve the end goal by themselves. Our help or assistance just makes it easier to complete a task we could do by ourselves. In contrast to this, the Biblical word always refers to a situation in which the person needing help is powerless to achieve the goal without help. When in Psalm 121, we say “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?”, we should have in mind not a convenient assistant who makes a doable task more doable but rather desperation and a search for someone who will help us when all other hope is lost. “Where does my help come from?” means “Who will save me when I can’t save myself?”.
So here, Adam is totally incapable by himself of achieving what has been commanded of him. He needs someone else. He needs help.
And this brings us to the other word – he needs a helper “fit” or “suitable”. This word is very common in the Old Testament, but it is most often used in a different sense and translated as ‘before’ or ‘opposite’. The common theme to all the usages is the idea of correspondence – of there being some sort of match between the two things that the word relates. So here, God is saying that Adam needs someone who complements him; someone who has what he lacks and someone who lacks things he can provide in their relationship. The picture is one in which the two of them, working together in harmony, can achieve things either one cannot achieve by themselves, fulfilling the creation mandate to fill the earth and reign over it under God.
So as God brings all other creatures before Adam, Adam is looking for one like him, but different. One with whom he can work to fulfill the creation mandate; one for whom he was made. And the outcome of Adam’s search is a simple and straight forward assessment: God has made an amazing variety of livestock, birds and beasts of the field. “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” Not one of this huge array of creatures meets the criteria.
So what happens next?
Verse 21: “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.”
Prior to this point, no creature has been created from another creature, so far as we know. The descriptions have always been God simply speaking things into existence (chapter 1) or forming man from the dust of the earth and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life (back in verse 7 of this chapter). Eve however, is different.
By forming Eve out of part of Adam, God unscores the fact that she is the helper suitable for him. She is an echo of Christ being “in very nature God”, except that she is of course “in very nature Adam”. This is reflected in what Adam says:
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
“At last”, Adam says! He’s gotten the message with all of those other creatures. He fully understands that they don’t fit the bill. But Eve... She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She is the other pea in his pod.
In making Eve in this way, God removes any possibility of a claim that the woman is not the God ordained companion for Adam. He dispels any potential mythical claim that a dog or some other animal is an adequate replacement for her. He also refutes all ideas that some other combination of males and females in a family is equally valid. He denies the validity of concepts like transgender.
And he affirms a simple, straight forward pattern as His intention for mankind: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Anything else – from polygamy to divorce and remarriage to .. whatever else we might invent – is not part of God’s perfect plan and intention, but is instead an outcome of the fall and of our sinful rebellion, regardless of whether later Biblical characters did that thing or not, regardless of what our society and our laws say today.
Perhaps it’s easy for us to agree with that last statement when we’re staring at the words of Genesis 2, but how about when we leave here? Husbands, how do you treat your wives? Wives, how do you treat your husbands? Do we take seriously the vows we made on our wedding days, which were surely along the lines of loving one another until death, regardless of the circumstances that life may bring. Yes, it may not be easy to keep those promises. We may well not have realised when we made them just what life would bring. But we didn’t seriously expect life to be easy, did we? And we didn’t mean “Only if it’s not too hard”, did we?
There’s another important principle at play here, which we really need to keep in mind in every aspect of our lives – not only our marriages. Whatever we do in life, we are called to seek – by God’s grace – to be doing it for the glory of God and the good of our fellow human being. Just as in the case of the original creation mandate though, we’re utterly powerless to fulfil that mandate if all we have to rely on is our own strength and determination. But just as is the case in Genesis 2, God hasn’t left us to do that in our own strength. He has – in His great wisdom, grace and mercy – first given us His Son as our Saviour, providing by His blood the atonement we so desperately need. And then, on top of that, He has given us “another Helper”.
It’s this Helper – the Holy Spirit – that we read of in John’s gospel, earlier in our service. Jesus assured His followers that the Spirit would dwell with us and be in us. He helps us in our weakness, enabling us to be faithful servants of Christ in all manner of ways. Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide His followers into all truth, glorifying Jesus and teaching them the things we need to know. Other parts of the Scriptures teach us that the Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death, enables us to believe, gives us life, comforts us, equips us for service, intercedes for us, produces godly fruit in us and serves as a guarantee of the promises of God. In short, everything that needs to happen in us for the glory of God, the good of our souls and the good of our neighbours; everything that we could never achieve if it relied solely on us; these things God makes possible and makes happen through the gift of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.
So when, this side of the fall, we are reminded that we don’t get on with our beloved as perfectly as we ought, when we’re reminded that Jesus said in the New Testament, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”, we don’t need to look primarily to our own resolve and determination as we seek to keep those promises we made on our wedding day – or in any other situation.
We can look with joy and confidence to the One who provides for our every need, who helps us through every impossible circumstance, who never lets us go through a temptation we cannot endure but always provides a way out. We can look to Him who always keeps His promises and never forsakes the works of His hands, to help us through every circumstance, and relying on His goodness and grace, we can seek to be faithful servants who act in godly ways.
And this also applies when it comes to standing up for the truth – to testifying with love and concern that all those other ideas about the way human beings relate only create pain and suffering, hurt and brokenness, and testifying that the only real solution is Christ and seeking to live lives that obey His will and show the goodness of God’s ways.
Living in obedience to God is not easy – our own sinful natures, the devil and the world around us all fight against that. But even just trying to do so is worth it. And we don’t have to do it purely out of our own strength. We have God working in us and through us what is pleasing in His sight, for the glory of His name and the good of His people.