Saturday, October 04, 2008

Heirs Together Part Four: Weeds in the Garden

If you would like to start at the beginning of this series, just click on the link to "Egalitarian Marriage" at the bottom of this post or in the sidebar. 

I Peter 3:7 “...Live with them...as heirs together with you of God’s gracious gift of life.”
 
Today we are heading back to the garden to see what happened to God's creation after he pronounced it "good."

Does God have a plan for man and woman in marriage? YES! Last week we learned that there are two creation accounts in Genesis. The first account, an overview, is found in Genesis 1:26-28. Let's take a moment to review them.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion...So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

The second creation account is Genesis 2:7, and 18-24.

“…And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground…and man became a living soul. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…. …And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam…and he took one of his ribs, and…the LORD God made…a woman, and brought her unto 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...”

Those two words, “help meet” or “suitable helper” are from two wonderful Hebrew words EZER KENEGDO. God created woman to be so much more than an assistant (helpmate) to the man. EZER KENEGDO means: “ one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, supports”

Many sermons, books, articles and workshops have told us, “God’s plan is a chain of command with the man given authority over the woman.” So far, scripture does not say this was God’s plan. In the first creation account, God creates the male and the female together as humankind. Both are made in God's image. The man and woman are together given dominion over creation. The woman is “like” the man and she is a strong help, side by side with the man. There is no suggestion of a hierarchy, of defined “roles” or some sort of creation order in the relationship. We are designed for partnership.

God’s plan was that the man and the woman were made to rule together. The woman was made to be a strong help—the man’s partner in every way. This is GOOD NEWS for all of us!

What happened? Let's move on to Genesis 3. It tells us the sad story of what we often call "the Fall of Man."

Now the serpent…said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.‘ “

Doubt about God begins (and the woman adds to what God said). The Enemy of your soul always comes in disguise, always brings mistrust of God and reconstructs God's intent.

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.


The serpent lies and again inserts doubt about God’s trustworthiness. He appeals to her PRIDE (something else he always does) —and mmm mmmmm --it did LOOK GOOD! And wisdom is a good thing---right?

She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Adam is not off somewhere cavorting with lion cubs. He is with her. Her mistake was not forgetting to talk to her husband, and his mistake was not in refusing to lead. They both were tripped up by listening to the wrong voice. How important the words we choose to listen to can be. And then there was pride--and thinking they could be their own little gods! The same sin that got Lucifer cast out of Heaven got humankind cast out of the Garden!

I don't have time now to go into this, but if you'd like to see an interesting parellel, take a look at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and you will see the same pattern.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD… among the trees of the garden.

When we sin our first impulse is often to run and “hide” from God. (Foolish, isn’t it?)

But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?

And God in love pursues us!

He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
And [God] said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."


What is happening to God’s beautiful plan!? Eve gets seduced by beauty and promises of wisdom. Sin brings fear and separation from God--and the man blames the woman—and the relationship is damaged.

So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you…
GOD CURSES the serpent…not the people. The other stuff that follows is an inevitable result of sin.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

Satan will especially hate the woman, it seems. We have seen this thoroughout the ages. Perhaps partly it is because through her will come other men and woman…humans…including the one who will destroy him! Satan will do damage, but he will eventually be CRUSHED!

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children. our desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.“


Pain enters the world, and a change in the male/female relationship.

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you…By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…

The earth is cursed...and God tells the man that painful toil will be his lot in life. Was Adam’s sin listening to his wife, or disobeying God?

…until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

Death comes to all creation. Does this sound like good news? Does God call any of this “good?”
Here comes more bad news.

…the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken….he drove the man out…

Apparently they did not leave when God told them to. God had to force his rebellious children to leave. This was a loving thing to do, because living forever in a sinful, broken state would be more than anyone should have to bear!

So the hideous results of sin on humankind are: fear, pain and suffering, damaged relationships, toil just to survive, separation, rebellion, death. Notice that God did not curse his children. Sin brought a curse on the serpent and the earth.

WAS THIS HORRIBLE MESS GOD’S PLAN? NO! Damaged relationships, pain, rebellion etc. are not God’s plan for us!

QUESTIONS: Do we seek to perpetuate the bad things that happened because of sin? No, not usually. Do we refuse to use weed killer? Do we refuse to find labor-saving devices or ways to make work easier? Do we refuse to use scientific discoveries to make labor and delivery less painful and safer, or to alleviate pain and sickness and death? Do we call it “God’s plan” when relationships are broken or we blame each other or live in pride and rebellion against God?

No. We don't.

So why--out of the entire miserable scene--do we say that this one verse: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you“ is God’s “divine order for marriage?”
Why do so many teachers and preachers say this? Why does it come up all the time? Why is it featured in almost every men’s or women’s conference on the planet? For that matter, why did two not-so-well-known preachers, Chaplain Bearded Eagle and Pastor SingingOwl [no I won't really call us that in church], say this? The answer to those questions are not easy, are they? I can guess about some. I know why I did. I can’t speak for the others.

The result of SIN, not God’s plan, meant that the man would seek to dominate (rule over) the woman. Have we seen this in the world? From Genesis 3 on, the Enemy hates women, and in all places, and times (and all but a few cultures) women have been second-class citizens (to put it mildly). Sometimes the man’s “rule over” her has been benevolent and at least somewhat kind, and sometimes cruel. The man is the physically stronger of the two, generally, and this can be a blessing to the woman, or a curse. When sin enters the equation, it is a curse.

The result of SIN, not God’s plan, meant that the woman’s desire would be for her husband. What’s wrong with that? Well, many commentators and teachers say that the woman would try to dominate her husband. The New Living Translation even translates it, “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” However, The Message puts it this way, "He told the Woman:…You'll want to please your husband, but he'll lord it over you.“

So which is it, dominate him (NLT) or try to please him (TM)? We’d better look at the Hebrew.

TESUQUA means “turning toward.”

So the woman would turn toward the man. Remember, this is not some sort of blessed divine order of things. God is speaking of the damage that will come to them because of sin and a cursed world. It is my opinion that this is not just saying that the woman will want to please the man, it is saying that she will “turn towards him.” Woman will seek the approval of a man even when it is unhealthy, even when he lords it over her, even when she should be turning to God, who is our real source of strength.

Women can certainly be bossy and controlling and even physically domineering, and men can seek a woman’s approval more than God’s approval. However, look at the world around you. Think of yourself. Think of people you know. Who tends to dominate, rule over, be verbally and physically aggressive? Who tends to seek approval, even when the results are bad?

This is the “way of the world.” The strong dominate the weak, the weak look to those more powerful for help, but they resent their need for help. So sometimes the weaker ones manipulate and misuse and dishonor the strong, exploiting the other’s weakness where they can. Those with power exploit that power and rule over those who are weaker. This destructive cycle permeates all relationships!

All too often, God’s people are applying the results of sin, calling it "God's divine plan" for men and women. It is a dreadful thing to attribute the work of evil to God, even with the best of intentions. Could this be one of the reasons why Christian marriages are in trouble—and the divorce rate among conservative, Evangelical people is as bad or worse than for unchurched couples?

Do you want to live under a curse or under the grace of God?
 
God has provided a way for this destructive cycle to be broken. In "Heirs Together" Pat Gundry says the following:

"Salvation restores us to fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit not only give us back the lost access to God but also enables us to know how to reunite with each other again as equals...It is this banner of freedom in Christ and the equality of believers that carries us on toward reversing...worldliness which teaches us to exploit and manipulate...we can go on to where...each person is of equal value and has equal opportunity to experience and express full personhood."

Remember, God promised that the “seed of the woman” would defeat Darkness. God’s words in the Garden were the first of many prophecies that an Anointed One would come from God to defeat sickness, sin, pain, and death! Let's look at a few scriptures that speak to the Good News of redemption through Christ:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
The Prophet Isaiah

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.
The Angel Gabriel

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John the Baptist

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule…But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this man, Jesus Christ.
Apostle Paul

Are we choosing the law of sin and death, instead of living in the freedom Christ provides?
 
From Romans 8
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus…because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…God…sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay…For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers…long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.2 Corinthians 3:17 b
“…and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”Galatians 5:13
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.Colossians 2:8
Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

We can begin right here and right now! We can join many others who are looking at the message of freedom in Christ that scripture teaches, reclaiming the truth of equality and partnership in our marriages.

Can we affirm that we will seek to live in life-giving relationships? Can we step out of calling the result of sin the “plan of God?” Can we live as sons and daughters of our wonderful God, who came to set us free? Can we stop living under a curse and start living under God’s grace?

17 comments:

Auntie Knickers said...

Another excellent sermon that gave me much to think about.

much2ponder said...

I'll have to come back when I have more time...this is a lot to take in in one sitting. Can I get copies of all of these sermons?

Singing Owl said...

Yes. And when it is all over you can get a cd if you like. But paper copies, yes indeedy. :-)

Anonymous said...

WOW! This is so liberating I can't even express it. Thank you Ms. Owl. I am printing this out for later thinking about and prayer.

A Pastor and Husband and Dad of three daughters

theFutureRev.Cody said...

Bravo, my reverend friend!

I (and my social studies teacher) would be interested in a CD of your series after you are finished.

God's blessings!

Gem said...

QUOTE SO: …the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken….he drove the man out…

Apparently they did not leave when God told them to. God had to force his rebellious children to leave. This was a loving thing to do, because living forever in a sinful, broken state would be more than anyone should have to bear!
ENDQUOTE

Are you sure that it wasn't just the male who was banished, and the female "turned toward" him and followed him out of the garden? When the passage says, "to work the ground from which he had been taken" isn't that referring to the male human? The female human was taken from his side, not from the ground.

see What if Eve had not followed Adam out of the Garden?

Singing Owl said...

Hmmm. Gem, I hadn't thought of that. I'll read the link later today. I suspect this may require some pondering!

Gem said...

Here's more observations on Adam and Eve:

The nature of the Fall and the differing responses of Adam and Eve

and

Eve’s exposure of the character of Satan—> enmity

Singing Owl said...

Are these from Busnell?

Gem said...

Yes.

cheesehead said...

This is terrific, and a way of looking at it that I had not thought of before.

Singing Owl said...

Rev. Cheesehead, since I love your sermons, if you say this one is terriffic I am way happy! :-)

Anonymous said...

I think this whole post is just denying the obvious.

Rachel said...

It's so exciting to think of the impact you must be having and I guess a little frightening too -one can just imagine women everywhere wanting to engage their traditional-thinking husbands in discussions over these sermons - let's just hope married couples allow Christ's power to equip those women with a loving spirit and those men with equally loving and listening open-minds and hearts. Thank you for your work.
God bless you in your ministry
Rachel at re vis.e re form

Singing Owl said...

A little frightening...Rachel I just said this to someone yesterday. Yes, it is a little frightening, in a way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great sermon, God gave my husband and I both the revelation that men and women were created equal(separately)Miracle right? , one of the things He pointed out to me was women could not have been cursed with something she already had , in other words she was completely equal with man in every way before the fall. She did NOT have to obey her husband before the fall, they were ONE and did everything together as equals. They both were blessed they both had dominion they both were suppose to subdue the earth. They both heard from God (and the rib , that was the ONLY translation to English that said rib every other time it was split apart like two sides of a building)

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

About that rib thing...once read something from a Jewish rabbi and wish I still had it...that was fascinating. It talked about how the first human was actually split apart...separated into two. Just as you say here. It does make the man's reaction, "Bone of my bone...taken out of man" even more significant, doesn't it?