This summer my wife and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary . . . I am discovering when we say that publicly, there are noticeable gasps from the audience, and even a little applause now and then! Different from my parents’ generation, marriages that last have become the exception rather than the rule. What is it that makes marriage work well and last long? I have reflected on that a bit lately, and I’m convinced that the ancient wisdom of God’s Word, practically lived out in our complicated world, will bring longevity and quality to any marriage. Here are a few thoughts from the “blueprint” of marriage in Genesis 2:20-24.
Marriage: the crowning touch of God’s creation. Moses’ presentation of the creation story in Genesis 1-2 is beautifully written and carefully ordered. Some critics have charged that the repeated information about the creation of man in Genesis 2 is a “redundancy” of what has already been stated in the 6th day (1:26-30). The overlapping accounts, however, are intentional and bring emphasis to God’s relationship with us, and our relationships in marriage. Genesis 1:1 begins the creation account with a summary statement of the whole story: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The details found in the 6 days of chapter 1 elaborate on 1:1, but are still intended to be summary statements. Genesis 2:4-25 then, presents the culmination of God’s creation story. The focal point is his relationship with us as human beings. Here we find the first marriage is recorded for us in Genesis 2:20-25. While God had pronounced his creation “good” five times (1:10, 12, 18, 21, 31), in 2:18 he says for the first time that something is not good—that man should be alone.
Woman: the completion of man. The best of relationships bring productive and enhancing influences into our lives. So it was when God created Eve. In Genesis 2:18 she is described as a “helper suitable” for Adam. The words in Hebrew clearly convey the complementary nature of the marriage relationship. Eve corresponded to Adam and completed him, enabling both of them to achieve complete fulfillment in the life God would give them together. Much like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they were significantly distinct, unique, and different, but when “fit together” would complete the picture of God’s plan for both of them.
The enthusiasm of Adam’s response in Genesis 2:23 is impossible to capture in any translation . . . “She’s the one!” Men, do you see your wife in this way? Eve was God’s crowning touch in Adam’s life, different from him but uniquely completing him. I must admit that in our early marriage, I did not appreciate this as much as I have since. My wife, Leah, and I are so different in so many ways. In fact, mutual friends who knew both of us when we were single probably wondered how this marriage was going to make it! How easy it is to allow differences to get in the way, but I have grown to see that God gave me a helpmate with intentional differences so that I might grow in some areas and we would complement one another.
Make your marriage the first priority over all other relationships. What else do we learn from the first marriage? Genesis 2:24 seems to be Moses’ “commentary” about marriage for future generations. The command to leave father and mother could not have applied to Adam and Eve, but most certainly does to every generation to follow. In biblical cultures, Old or New Testament, one’s relationship with parents and siblings represented the most binding relational obligation you could have. While unmarried, one gave absolute commitment to family members. Moses says marriage is intended to change the order of priority. While family is to be honored (Exodus 20:12), the marriage relationship must come first!
Even our traditional wedding ceremony pictures this priority, as the father brings his daughter down the aisle, he then places her arm into the arm of her groom. I must admit, as a father who loves his daughter very much, this was one of the most emotional moments of my life! Yet, the symbolism pictures an important transition in life. When you enter into a marriage, you must make that relationship a priority over all others. If parents, siblings, or friends are allowed to manipulate, control, or have undue influence in the marriage, it can be devastating! Mom and dad, we need to let go in order to allow our kids marriages to grow!
Becoming one with your spouse--commitment and effective communication. The two-fold command of Genesis 2:24 (to “leave” and “cleave” – KJV) is filled with implications about the commitments we make in marriage. The command that the husband is to “cleave” (KJV) to his wife means to be united with, to cling to—in the sense that two people are glued together as one. This mystical union is described further in the words, “and they shall become one.” Certainly the sexual union of marriage is a picture of this, but this unity of two people is to extend to every part of our being. Like the Trinity, or Jesus’ union with Christians, Paul calls this a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). But this spiritual “mystery” is also something tangible that God calls us to live out in front of everyone! What does that look like?
In order to adequately explain this important command I plan to take up some practical aspects of married life in three blogs forthcoming. We will look at subjects like--
Commitment – what is the meaning of ‘For better or for worse?’
Communication – how does it work best?
Conflict Resolution – how do we make it through the perfect storms of marriage?
Remember, your life is part of a bigger story. And your marriage or future marriage is a crucial part of that story. We are all broken and flawed, and marriage is by no means easy. But, when we live out the wisdom God has given to us in his Word, our marriages can bring great glory to the Lord!