The Manual of Marriage
I do some woodworking on my off days, and the other day I was in my garage turning a piece of wood on my lathe and suddenly the whole machine started vibrating and bouncing making all kinds of noise. I couldn’t hold anything steady enough to cut. I had to step back and look at things. Turn it off. Turn it on. Same problem. Alright. Let’s diagnose.
Pretty quickly I found where the problem was coming from. One piece detached from another. I found a place where a screw hole was and assumed it had broken or just come loose. I knew generally where the problem was coming from but couldn’t see to determine what was going and even though I was inserting a screw driver to turn it I was getting no traction. I needed some help.
So I went and got the manual for the lathe to look at what was on the inside. As I looked, I was able to know what was going on and determine what kind of screw was in there. I unscrewed it, took off the piece, replaced the screw and got everything working again.
Sometimes in life when things fall apart or get kind of crazy, you go back to the original design to determine the problem and the solution. We are doing that with the topic of family. There is a lot of noise and bounce on this topic today. There are a lot of voices on what family should and should not be. We want to let God’s word inform us on this so we are doing a series on the family for the month of May.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 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. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “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.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:15-25 ESV)
- Life Under the Reign of God.
In Gen 1:26 God created people in his image and to have dominion.
Here, life is being lived out as God commanded. God has told man what he can and can’t do. He is not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He is to have dominion.
Life with Work. The garden of Eden, paradise. There is work. Adam is naming the animals. God created people to have dominion over the earth. The man is exercising his God given dominion over them all. He is to continue the work God began of bringing life, light and order to the world. Work is a part of God’s created order. This is as much debated as anything today. We were not created to play video games or just vacation all the time. We were created to shape and influence the world.
We look to God for direction and guidance. He has spoken! This is essential for Christians. We believe God exists, we believe he created the world. We believe he created people and has a design for them. We believe he communicates to us and has spoken so that we understand who we are and how we are to live. We are not in the dark.
This is incredibly encouraging. This explains how we understand things in life. The philosopher Plato said that the way we live rightly in the world and experience fullness in life comes through our knowledge of what is good. However, he also said knowledge of the Good does not exist in us. It exists outside of us. In fact, Plato said the true Good does not exist in this world but in another world, and we only get faint glimpses of the Good in this world.
He had a famous analogy about how well we can have knowledge of the good. He said life in this world is like we are in a long dark cave, chained up, and looking at a wall in the cave. Behind us is a fire and statues of things are passed in front of the fire so that we can see the shadow of them on a wall. This cave analogy explained how we gain knowledge of what is good and know how things should be in the world.
Life is confusing, but if God has spoken then we know how to understand things. We have a responsibility to look to him and be faithful to him. As Christians this is our biggest concern.
We are to look to him and bring all of life under his reign. There are consequences for not doing as God says. If they eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will die. Death will come if they disobey. I’ll let you figure out how that went.
- Isolation is Not Good.
In this passage we also come across the first time that something was not good.
18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Man was not created to be alone. God created the world to be inhabited. The world is to be full and not an abandoned farmhouse. In the Bible what begins with one person in a garden will end in a city with a multitude that cannot be counted.
This is about marriage, but it is also about the large community of God’s people. Don’t live in isolation.
The only way to create that community is to have have a man and woman who can multiply. Even today, with all the biological technology, life requires a man and woman. It is as simple as that.
Next we look at the creation of…
- The Woman
This is a beautiful passage of Scripture that highlights the goodness of God’s design in marriage.
God makes a helper fit for man. Adam explored all the animals and knew they were not right. You can look and know certain things won’t work for multiplication. Even today to multiply you still need one man and one woman. That is plain to see.
God specifically designs the woman for Adam. It says a helper fit for him.
Helper: The term means “help” (ezer) in the sense of aid and support (Deut 33:7; Josh 1:14; Isa 30:5; Dan 11:34) and is used of the Lord’s aiding his people in the face of enemies (Pss 20:2; 121:1–2; 124:8). Moses spoke of God as his “helper” who delivered him from Pharaoh (Exod 18:4), and it is often associated with “shield” in describing God’s protective care of his people. It is used of physical and spiritual aid.
Suitable: Suitable (kenegdo) is often used of two facing each other, directly in front of, as though mirroring one another. Indicates a correspondence between the man and the woman. Man looked at all the animals and knew this would not work, it was not suitable.
God also does not define what a woman is. But it is assumed we know the difference. I won’t try to define that with any more specificity. Men and women are different biologically, science proves that. Different emotionally. And each woman is different from other women. They are not the same.
God makes them similar (in his image), but each is unique. We see that in the man and woman. Each one is the image of God. Each is unique. We see it in other ways.
Amanda and I have differences. Car ride= Me – record time. Her – we will have every accommodation imaginable (movies, snacks, trail mix, drinks, etc.) but never get there. When we’re in sync it’s like a high performance bike shifting gears seamlessly. When we’re not in sync it’s like a kid standing next to his bike with the chain in a knot.
This is the first poem of Scripture. There is a celebration of who she is. There is a wonder and excitement.
There is a celebration of who she is. The man is immediately doting over her. Marriage, the gift of a helpmate, a best friend, jam in the jelly roll. It is an amazing expression of God’s grace. He is experiencing that here. In all the debate today, don’t lose the wonder of God’s grace in the spouse you have. Are there issues you need to work through? Sure. But none is bigger than being happy in God and happy in who he brings.
To the singles. I just want to point out that you don’t need every guy in the world to think you are the best and most beautiful. You need one. Don’t stress if someone doesn’t like you. When God brings the right one at the right time the other won’t matter.
*This is important to mention. Because today kids are being taught that if there is any, dysphoria, then you may … Abigail Shirer writes on this and mentions that * If you feel like you are not accepted by everyone, or you feel different, you don’t fit in, you’re uncomfortable in your own body, you’re not feminine or masculine enough then perhaps trans. That is not the solution.
We read the creation of woman for the man. The man is created first, names and celebrates the woman. There is significance to this.
God entrusts his commands to the man (2:16-17) with the implication he would lead his family in this, the man is first and in the Old Testament there is a priority given to the first born, also after they sin it is the man as responsible who is addressed by God.
Headship: one who is responsible for the well being of the whole. God calls the man to lead and love his wife as his own body. Provide. Protect. Care for. Lead in knowing God’s word.
The man is to reflect God’s good rulership, protection, guidance, and nurturing. Just as his dominion is to reflect God and extend goodness of the world so also he is to do that with the woman. What could be more mistaken than for his own flesh and bone to be neglected and destroyed.
Man names the woman. In many cultures, particularly those with heavy Christian influence, the woman takes the man’s last name. That is a neat expression.
In the Bible those who name others have authority over the one they name. There is a headship. But let me also say this, where there is authority there is also responsibility. There is care, there is interest, there is protection and provision. Jesus renamed Peter and Saul. It showed a new relationship with them where they are united to him, he is in authority over them and that he cares for them.
Taking a last name is not the issue here. It can reflect a biblical principle. But if you have a name and nothing else you have nothing.
A man who just wants to bark out orders to his wife has missed it. Headship that imitates God is a headship that knows those under his care and who is willing to sacrifice himself for their own good. God will pay the ultimate price to redeem his people, his bride.
It requires vulnerability.
*A point on this is that there is no intimacy where there is not vulnerability.* People want intimacy. They want deep care. But if you are not willing to be vulnerable to the other you will never find intimacy. A husband offers his name. A wife receives a name. A husband offers care. A wife receives it. It’s the first time he goes out on limb to say, “I love you.” It’s a risk. She may come back, “Well, I think you’re a really nice guy, but…” Meet the other where they are at.
Guys, as head, own your mess first. Attitude reflects leadership. What have I been imaging for my family? I have not been fighting my sin. I have not been keeping God’s word. I have become lazy. When I start owning that it can have a profound effect on my family. *Men, your greatest act of leadership in your family is your own personal pursuit of God.* Don’t neglect your walk and then get mad at your family because they are acting crazy.
Keep loving and caring. You have to learn this. You have to relearn this in the day-to-day life. In marriage you get hurt, disappointed. You have to learn to love and forgive. Power of not just moving on and “never being hurt again.” Problem is if you do that too much you end up living two separate lives. Married on paper. Separate in life. Your lack of vulnerability has led to a lack of intimacy.
The marriage relationship is unique among all relationships. They are to leave all others and cleave to each other. A unity.
Some today want to see a different political system in place in which everyone shares everything and distinctions and difference are pushed aside. Dependent on a whole mass of people rather than the few people closest to you. The biblical view of family is a thorn in the side to that view.
A closeness so tight they are considered one. Playing together as a team. On the same page. One in purpose. One in commitment. Physical, mental, emotional.
*For many marriage is little more than a tax status. A social status.*
In this we also see the primacy of marriage over all other relationships.
[“A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife.”
Leaving things behind. Not your life. Our life.
The role of parents to children is a vital and deep commitment, and yet the bond of marriage supersedes that relationship. There is a leaving of that relationship, so that it is no longer a person’s primary means of support, help, and protection. They now find this physically, spiritually, emotionally in each other.
Parent child relationships are extremely close ties. It is superseded by one’s marriage relationship. It also implies if parent child bonds are transcended so are all others. You leave behind all the other girls and boys, too. Forget them. Move on from them. Don’t let jealousy come in. No window shopping. No online shopping either. It may not be physical, but it will affect you spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
Hold fast. Leave and Cleave: Cleave (dabaq) means to keep close to someone. Used of how God’s people are to hold fast to him (Deut 4:4). It carries the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty. It also denotes the soldering of joints in armor.
Couples say some really stupid, inappropriate things that should never be mentioned in argument. People throw out divorce in the heat of argument and they don’t realize how much that undercuts the whole foundation they are building their lives on. They have no peace in a relationship when that is thrown out. But let me also say, often times those things are said in emotion and hurt, and a longing for the other to press into the relationship. To hear the other say you are still worth fighting for.
The closeness of their leaving and cleaving is seen in that they are one flesh. They are united in such a deep, intimate, and all-consuming way that they are said to be one. They maintain differences but they are one.
You rightfully make the other person a priority in your life. Not your job, parents, school, even kids. Your kids will thrive most when your relationship thrives. Angry spouses don’t make good parents. Love envies. You will love your spouse more than anyone else. You will want more from them than anyone else. You will be disappointed more by them than anyone else.
“Marriage is a total commitment and a total sharing of the total person.”
Our culture makes light of marriage because they cannot conceive of a relationship so deep and all encompassing. When you see the depth of the biblical teaching, counterfeits are easily seen.
Right now there is a move away from marriage. A move away from marriage that is so all consuming and it is cheapening what marriage is, and people are suffering for it. Sleeping around. Lack of commitment. They are the one who suffers.
United through Vows. How do we give ourselves to someone mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually? We do it through a pledge. Marriage is the covenanting, promise to another to love and support them and to do that exclusively, leaving all others behind. Why would you give yourself to someone who has not promised to be there for you. You see the foolishness of this!
Example: times where it got hard, we were frustrated, “I love you too much to not talk through these issues. I know we are having a hard time, but I want you to know you are more important that anything else. I’m here and not going anywhere.”
People bind themselves to others through vows, clear and explicit words of commitment. It is what makes marriage.
“It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” (Ecc 5:5 NIV)
“It is not your love that sustains marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
We know words are powerful because we are united to Jesus as our Lord through words of commitment. Words that reflect a heart of devotion.
[For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Rom 10:10 NIV)
This is God’s intention for marriage. It is not something you enter into flippantly. You are making a vow to another person before God.
- The Gift of the Gospel
In the end of this passage the man and woman are naked and unashamed. Purity. No sin. No death. What happened?? Things went wrong.
Our goal is not simply to get people to be heterosexual. There are many heterosexuals who are not honoring God. There are many married people not honoring God. There are many people living in hopelessness.
Self harm. Anxiety. Depression. Companionship can help. But it won’t save you. You won’t find a perfect spouse. But there is a perfect savior.
You read the Bible and you will see families that love each other, men who love their wives, and wives who honor their husbands in extraordinary ways. Rock solid children who will honor their parents. You will also see the other side. Even the very first family had problems. They listened to Satan, disobeyed God, and blamed each other. Their youngest son killed their oldest son. There is rape, incest, stealing, abandonment. People fall in obeying God’s design. And the good news is that the Bible is not about our marriage relationship. It is about God pursuing his relationship with his people. He is redeeming them. Providing for and protecting them as they cleave to him. He has a plan of redemption that is restoring what is lost.
Marriage is not going to take away our shame. It is not going to make us feel whole. Changing sexuality will not do that. They will fail to obey God’s command, they will hide from God and use fig leaves to cover themselves. Leaves work for about five minutes and fall apart. You need a Savior!
Suggested Discussion Questions
- How would you describe what marriage is in the Bible?
- How is a husband’s and wife’s roles unique?
- How does marriage point us to our need for Christ? Any ways you feel that brokenness in your life? How does his grace help us to treat people who may have different views of marriage?