7 Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 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.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
In our Gospel lesson today (Mk. 8:1-9), we heard how Jesus fed 4,000 men plus women and children (see Mt. 15:38). In that desolate place, Jesus provided a little taste of the paradise He had created mankind to enjoy. Those crowds had been listening to Jesus teach for three days and now had nothing to eat. So, Jesus temporarily removes the curse of sin. Without having to sweat and toil for their food (Gen. 3:19), Jesus provided bread and fish so the people could eat and be satisfied. Now, this text from Genesis 2 shows how God created Adam and Eve to enjoy life before they brought the curse of sin to every aspect of our lives.
In full disclosure, I extended this lesson (originally it stops at Gen. 2:17) so we can see how God ordered creation in paradise to include two of the Three Estates. First is the Estate of the Church, second is the Estate of the Family (both of those are instituted before the Fall), and the third Estate is the Estate of the State (which was instituted after the Fall). I’ve preached on the Three Estates in the past and, if you’re interested, I can point you to some resources on this topic. But I wanted to take a little time today to focus on the second Estate, the Estate of the Family, and specifically consider the center of the family which is husband and wife living together in holy marriage.
To just briefly recall what the Three Estates are: In this lesson, we heard how God instituted the Estate of the Church when He told Adam to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or he would die. This statement from God established the Church because you cannot be righteous without faith. Scripture repeatedly says, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4; Ro. 1:17; Gal. 3:11).
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had everything good from God because of the perfection of creation, so, to be righteous, they needed a promise of God to believe. That promise was implied when God gave the command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In other words, God’s command there also included a promise which was, “Evil is bad. Trust Me on this.” So, with this command and promise, Adam and Eve could have by faith what God never intended them to have by experience. God didn’t want humanity to experience evil and death by sight, only by faith. Through the Estate of the Church, God provides eternal life. And even now, after the Fall, God provides eternal life through the Estate of the Church through faith in Christ.
The second Estate, the Estate of the Family, was also instituted by God before the Fall when God took Adam’s rib and formed Eve. God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Even after we became sinners through the Fall, we know that God blesses and wants the Estate of the Family to continue because God repeats this command to Noah and his descendants after the Flood (Gen. 9:1). Through the Estate of the Family, God provides physical life as husbands and wives have children.
Just very briefly, the third Estate, the Estate of the State, was instituted only because of and after the Fall. There isn’t a direct passage of Scripture where God establishes the State; however, Scripture does plainly teach that the State is a good gift from God in both Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. In those passages, Scripture teaches that the State is not a terror to good conduct but to bad and that the State carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. The Estate of the State is limited in what it can do. The State cannot give life; it can only preserve and protect life through the threat of punishment.
And this means that the Estate of the State is the only one of the three that is temporary. When Christ returns, there will be no more need of the State because there will be no more sin. So much of our time today is, frankly, wasted focusing on politics and what is going on in our government. Don’t get me wrong, the State is important. The State and the authorities God has placed over us matter, and they are good gifts from God to protect life in a fallen world. But what is going on in your Family is vastly more important than anything that happens in the State. So, let’s put more of our focus and attention there.
With all of that in mind, we’ll focus now on the center of the Estate of the Family – marriage.
In Genesis 1, Scripture gives an overview of the entire creation. We see how, in six days, God created the heavens and earth – sun, moon, stars, galaxies, planets, oceans, continents, plants, birds, fish, animals, and humanity. The conclusion of each day of creation notes that there was evening and morning. Then, God rests on the seventh day, blessing and sanctifying it. The interesting thing about the seventh day is that there is no mention of evening and morning. In a very real way, the picture is that the day of blessing and rest doesn’t end. Now, in Gen. 2, the clock rewinds, and the focus shifts. Here in our text, we move from the big picture of all creation to the little world that we experience – human life. And we see that human life is centered around marriage.
Now, I want to be clear at the outset here. When I say that all human life is centered around marriage, that doesn’t mean that all people grow up in a home where a perfect husband and perfect wife have perfect kids. To be sure, sin has brought a brokenness to the Estate of the Family. God be praised if you grew up in a family with a father and mother and siblings. But even when that isn’t the case, marriage is still the center of human life. If you aren’t married or never will be married, you are here because of a marriage. Yes, some of you have been adopted into a family and are blessed through God’s invention of marriage with a father and mother. But even when that isn’t the case and you grew up without a father or a mother, your parents engaged in sex which an act of marriage. And even when someone is conceived through rape – in other words, someone has committed a grievous sin and stolen an act intended for marriage – that child is a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3). And, please, if you would like a fuller explanation on that statement or need any pastoral or professional psychiatric care if, please, please, please let me know. The many ways that family exists apart from God’s design for marriage just shows how sin has utterly broken what God designed for us.
The second half of this text (v. 18-25) is where God establishes the Estate of the Family and holy marriage. Again, in Gen. 1 we get the big picture of creation, God creates man and woman in His image (Gen. 1:26-30). But in Gen. 2:18, we get the detailed creation of man and woman and family, God creates the man first. Then, God says something totally unexpected. Over and over in the larger picture of creation, God sees what He has made and says, “It is good.” But in v. 18, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” God created Adam first, and knew that Adam needed a helper compatible, complementary, and harmonizing for him.
Man alone is not good. So, God brings all the animals to Adam, and Adam gives them names. But still no suitable helper is found. God puts Adam to sleep and takes part of Adam’s side. Our translation which reads ‘rib’ is a bit polite and sterile. The Hebrew word there means ‘side’ or ‘rib cage.’ The teaching of Jewish rabbis can help explain the significance of this. God didn’t take Adam’s hair to create Eve. Then, she would have been over him. God didn’t use Adam’s feet or toes to create Eve. Then, she would have been below him. Instead, God took Adam’s side, or rib cage, so she would be next to him, beside him, and near his heart.
Take special note, please, of v. 19. God formed every beast of the field and bird of the heavens out of the ground. But Adam was created differently. Look back at Gen. 2:7. Adam, like the animals, was formed out of the dust of the ground, but God added to that dust the breath, or spirit, of life. Now, when God creates the woman, He doesn’t just gather up another bit of earth, form the woman, and breathe life into her. Instead, God takes a part of Adam and forms the woman.
So, follow me here. I know this sounds like repetition, but it isn’t, it’s building: Man alone is not good. That doesn’t mean that man alone is bad, he just isn’t good. To make mankind good, God creates a woman from man’s side to be man’s helper. By the creation of the woman, Adam is less than he was before God put him to sleep. But when Adam wakes up, he is more than he was before. After the creation of the woman, man is good. And this goodness comes about because as a married man, Adam is more than he was before. Now, he is complete, but this complementary, completeness comes from outside of himself. Only after this marriage is creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
All this action of God is why Jesus says that every marriage is a union that God arranges. When Jesus is asked about divorce by the Pharisees, He quotes Gen. 2:24 and says, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt. 19:6). And here is why this is important for you. To those of you who are married, and to those of you who will, one day (God willing) be married, you don’t ever have to wonder if you made a mistake along the way. When you are married and look at your spouse, you can always know that your marriage is God’s will for you. God is the One who joined you together as husband and wife. And this is also why being widowed is so painful. When a spouse dies, part of the living spouse is gone. So, God be praised that Christ has come to undo the curse of sin and death.
Also, because God joins husband and wife together, you can know that your marriage is good in the eyes of God. He joined you together, and everything that God does is good. Even when things are hard, this is a sign that your marriage is good because the devil attacks all good things that God has given. In our day, marriage is viewed cynically as some sort of outdated, antiquated institution. Sadly, a lot of people think marriage is restrictive, boring, and painful.
But study after study after study shows that marriage is much more likely to lead to fulfillment and happiness than any other alternative. All the surveys indicate that the number of couples who are happy in their marriage is extremely high. Studies also show that, even of those who are not happy in their marriage, two-thirds of them will become happy if they stay together. There’s a lot of talk today about believing science. Well, the science clearly shows that marriage is much more fulfilling, rewarding, and joy-bringing than what most people think.
Marriage is hard work, but even that is good. Any married couple can tell you this. Sometimes people think that the best marriages happen without any work or effort and when the couple is perfect and completely compatible with each other. And this leads people to think that the best marriages allow each person in that marriage be simply be themself and never change. But love, true love, doesn’t come naturally or easily. Love is work. Love is effort.
If we were perfect, sure, love would be easy. But every husband is an imperfect man, and every wife is an imperfect woman. Everyone here, including myself, we are all imperfect. Each of us is self-centered and self-absorbed. And this isn’t good. Our selfish nature hurts ourselves and those around us, and our self-centeredness never leads to more happiness for ourselves. It leads only to more pain and misery.
But know this: we are most fulfilled when we are emptied of ourselves and pour ourselves out in love and service to another person. People are happiest when they are serving and giving. And God has given no better setting to serve someone else than in marriage.
Yes, marriage is hard. The sinful self revolts against the changes and sacrifices that marriage requires. No two sinners are compatible. Any parent knows that when you put two kids together in a room, it only takes a while for the self-centeredness of each to take over. So, don’t despair if your marriage gets hard. Instead, rejoice because God loves you and has put you into the institution of marriage so you can have Him working on you through your marriage.
Finally, no consideration of marriage would be complete without the truest picture of marriage – Christ and the Church. At the end of Ephesians 5, Paul quotes v. 24 of our text, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Then, Paul says something absolutely wonderful. He writes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:32).
Dear saints, you are the Bride of Christ. You were formed from what Christ did on the cross. God put Jesus, your Savior, into the sleep of death. And from His pierced side, came water and blood. From that water, you are given the new birth from above, and from that innocent, forgiving blood, you are saved. God has made you to be bone of Christ’s bone, and flesh of Jesus’ flesh. Because of what Jesus has done, you can and do stand before the holy God unashamed, righteous, holy, blameless, and innocent. God be praised! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.