The Gospel we preach is potent because it restores in Christ what was ruined in Adam. Throughout Scripture, high and lofty theological discourses are often followed by “now husbands.…” Or “teach these things to you children.” This sets doctrine in the midst of community; and marriage is the fundamental building block of community. Modern redefinitions of marriage are like a contractor substituting concrete for silly putty. We currently live in a culture that’s trying to build skyscrapers this way. So faithful Christians, in living out the Gospel glories of Christ winning His bride, must labor to cultivate & maintain godly marriages.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Gen. 2:24).
The creation narrative ends with a wedding. Our text describes how all subsequent marriages are to occur: the tie between father & son is left (not ended) in order for the son to be bound fast unto his wife. The community of parents is forsaken in order to enter into the sweeter community of marriage. And from this communion of husband and wife an increase of community. Community is not decreased by marriage, it is increased, sweetened, and heightened.
But this text also clues us in to what happens in this cleaving. The man & his wife are made one. This all follows from God revealing to Adam his task of dressing and keeping the garden (Gen. 2:15-17). Although Adam is created similarto the beasts, there’s no companion for him amongst them (Gen. 2:18-20). It is not good for man to be alone.
Amidst the good of God’s creation, we find that the one thing “not good” was Adam’s incompleteness. Man was not made for isolation, but for communion; communion with God, and then communion with neighbor. Thus, a single man eager to pursue marriage isn’t being ungodly, but he is pursuing the Love God, Love Neighbor paradigm which Scripture sets forth as a life of true holiness.
From this we can glean a few instructive lessons for young men who would honor God in wooing & winning a bride. Young men must recognize that they were made for an aim. They were made for a mission. God gave unto man the task of protecting and providing. Boys & young men should be taught what their strength is for: not taking, but creating.
The Scriptures give us a helpful description of what a young man should be aiming for and spending his strength on. In other words, if a young man desires to honor the Lord, he is not left to guess at where he should be headed. Young men should be strong (Pro. 20:29). Young men should be sober minded; men of gravity (Tit. 2:6). Young men should be noted for strength & overcoming the devil (1 Jn. 2:14-15). Lastly, and most importantly, young men should be mindful that their youth will fail, but waiting upon God will be an eternal fountain of strength (Is. 40:30-31).
This last point is of utmost important. A man who looks to himself to be filled, will soon find himself empty. Amos warned Israel that as they would not hear and heed God’s word, the curse would land upon them in the form of fainting young men and maids (Amos 8:13, Cf. Is. 51:20).
You’re a contingent being. Even the strength of young men isn’t enough to save them. It will fade. It will falter. It will fail. But in the Lord is an unwearying supply of strength. A new birth, a renovation, is the only way to truly live. In other words, the word to young men is the word to us all, rest in the power of Christ alone. Having this frame of mind, for all of life, is the only way for a young man to keep his way pure (Ps. 119:9). This is poignantly true in regards to pursuing marriage.
A young man desiring to find a wife is a good thing, but this goodness is not automatic. Better to live in the Australian outback, than with a brawling wife. But of course, a godly wife has a price far above rubies. A bachelor should think of himself as a treasure hunter, not a museum curator. As such, he must bear a few things in mind.
Contrary to the modern sentiment, romance isn’t a hobby. In the last decade or two, a seismic shift has taken place. Dating was an expected recreational activity of young people. Find a boyfriend/girlfriend, for as long as it suited your fancy. However, this was understood to be a temporary arrangement. You need to play the field in order to know what you like. Or so the “thinking” went. It’s been observed that this was divorce training, and that certainly hits near the mark.
Tragically, that removal of responsibility triggered an avalanche of sexual irresponsibility. We live in a moment where young men are increasingly withdrawing from even pursuing young women, while women are increasingly throwing themselves at the “top 20%” of men. The average young man has been incentivized into a neutered existence. The average young woman has been incentivized into an unchaste existence. This arrangement will be the ruin of our nation unless we repent and return to the ways of the Lord.
Christian young men should take to heart the wisdom of Solomon. Throughout the book of Proverbs the summons is for the son to recognize and flee from the seductive woman, and to pursue and cling to the virtuous woman. This comes back to my earlier point that young men should cultivate gravitas. A man without this Spirit-born gravity will be easily thrown out of orbit by every insta-babe that shows up on his feed. By contrast, a man who can say with David, “I shall not be moved”, will be the sort of man which lovely women of virtue will want to orbit.
Scripture, then, gives a broad category of two types of women: Lady Wisdom & Lady Folly. Or, to put this in NT terms: converted & unconverted. That narrows the pool. While the OT patriarchs selected brides for their sons from the extended family––and there is a certain wisdom that can be gleaned––we shouldn’t forget that provision was made for how a man might lawfully marry a foreign women (Deu. 21:10-14). There were a few more hoops to jump through, but it wasn’t unachievable. That said, wisdom would call for seeking a bride by starting close to home, and working outward from there. But only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39).
But all of this is vanity if it is not rooted in Christ. The mystery of marriage is that while it brings a husband and wife to the heights of earthly joys, it isn’t an eternal arrangement. Marriage is bounded by earthly life (only death ought to end a marriage). Nevertheless, it is a parable of eternity. Young men are called upon to model their lives in conformity to Christ, the Church’s bridegroom. And this means learning to live so as to die. This means a life of sacrifice, selfless leadership, courage, all built on the faith which God gives by grace (Cf. 2 Pt. 1:5).
The glory of a woman is her beauty, and but real Biblical beauty is not mere externals but something far deeper and richer and incorruptible that cultivates and glorifies life. Man is the glory of God and woman is the glory of man, and this means that she is the glory of the glory. She makes the human race shine. The center of this glory is the wisdom of motherhood, through building and making homes where life is conceived, blessed, enriched, and loved.
“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’” (Gen. 2:23).
The poetry that Adam is using here is a Hebrew superlative: “bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” This is like Holy of Holies which is the Most Holy Place or the Song of Songs: The Greatest Song. Adam is saying that this person is like him only better, only more beautiful, more glorious. This is why Paul says that the woman is the “glory of man” (1 Cor. 11). The woman is man glorified, humanity 2.0.
All the way through the creation narrative, the word for “man” is the word “adam.” He was named this because he was taken out of the ground, the “adamah” (Gen. 2:7, 3:19). We might call that name: “earth man.” Our English translations go back and forth between translating the word as “man” and “Adam.” And it really does mean both things. But in Gen. 2:23, at the very moment where Adam names his bride “Woman,” he gives himself a new name.
The word for “woman” is “eeshah,” and it seems to be related in some way to the word for “fire” (“eysh”). Right at the moment when the woman is presented to Adam, he says she is his glory, man-glorified (“bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh”), he names her “glory” (or “fire”), and he says that it is because she was taken from – and here, he gives himself a new name: “eesh.” He names his wife “eeshah” because she was taken out of “eesh” (“glory-man”).
The point is that Adam is saying that in the gift of the woman, in the gift of his wife, he has been changed. He is a new man now. She has made him new. In the very act of naming and blessing his wife, he says the blessing has come upon him. He has become a new man because of her glory. She shines, and she shines so brightly, that it lights him up: his face shines with her glory.
In Proverbs, wisdom is a woman, and wisdom always builds. The question is what kind of house are you building? “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Prov. 14:1). Quite literally, a woman is someone who has a “home” inside of her. The first home everyone ever lived in was the home of their mother’s womb. A woman simply is a homemaker. But this is also sign to her and the world about what she is for. A woman’s calling is to make people by making home for them (Tit. 2:5). And here, we need to expand what we mean by motherhood. This certainly includes conception and childbearing, but the calling of motherhood and “making people” hardly stops at birth. And so it is that motherhood and homemaking are the calling of all women. Deborah was a mother of Israel (Judg. 5:7), the mother of Rufus was a mother to Paul (Rom. 16:13), and the Christian Church is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26). People are being made all day long through rest, food, care, friendship, clothing, food, games, discipline, reading, and food. And we really must not underestimate the potency of all of this. People are made in the image of God, and people will live forever.
C.S. Lewis: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (The Weight of Glory, 18-19)
In 1 Peter 3, the apostle addresses the relative weakness of women and three common temptations that arise with that: words, beauty, and fear. Women are often tempted to use their words to manipulate, get attention, correct, nag, but they need to remember that their words are not their power. Their words can be life or death (Prov. 18:21, 27:15). Women are also tempted to use their beauty to manipulate, get attention, to influence, but you need to remember that your physical beauty is not your power either. And while your fleshly fear and anxiety can sometimes get people to do things, it isn’t your power either. Your true feminine power is your beautiful submission to God, your meek and quiet spirit, obedience to your own husband, and not being afraid of anything that is terrifying (1 Pet. 3:4-6, Prov. 31:30). This is the fear of the Lord in the heart of a woman who knows she belongs to her Savior. He died for all her sins, and therefore she isn’t afraid of anything or anyone and it drives a godly woman’s conduct (1 Pet. 3:2).
You can tell what our world respects by where it assumes submission and obedience, and you can tell what our world does not respect by where it immediately runs to all the exceptions. Generally, our world assumes submission and obedience to civil magistrates, the state, and big business, but it constantly warns about church and family governments being oppressive. And these assumptions are driven by where we believe the most important things are happening. But the magistrate is not the glory of man, woman is the glory of man, as she cultivates the beauty of motherhood and homemaking. This glory shines everywhere and impacts everything, but it flows from a gentle and quiet spirit. It flows from a heart that rests secure in Christ.
The Lord Jesus was born in this world in order to reestablish mankind. The first mankind in Adam had failed at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and so Jesus was born into this world in order to rebuild the ruin we had created here. Our celebrations at this time of year are dedicated to a remembrance of what He came in order to do. And as we remember, and understand it more fully, that work which He has accomplished is actually advanced in our midst. Most of you have not taken the Christmas tree in your living room down, so remember that in Scripture a tree can be a place of great folly or of great wisdom. Adam disobeyed at a tree, and Jesus obeyed on one.
“But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).
We all know that there was one prohibited tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Note that the tree of life was not prohibited (Gen. 2:16), but once sin had entered the world it then went off limits—lest we should eat from it in a rebellious condition and live forever that way, unredeemable (Gen. 3:22, 24). So God in His mercy barred the way to the tree of life, until it was opened up again in and through the gospel (Rev. 2:7). But what about that tree of the knowledge of good and evil? What was it?
So we need to take a moment to consider what that phrase means, and what it does not mean. The two basic alternatives are that it was bad for us to have knowledge of the difference between good and evil, period, or that the prohibition was temporary, and the sin was in grasping for something prematurely.
We should be able to see that it was the latter by how God responds to the situation when our first parents disobeyed. We see that it cannot mean experience of sin. The Lord said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22). The serpent earlier had promised that this knowledge would make them “as God” (or gods), “knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Millennia later, the author of Hebrews does not identify this ability to distinguish sin from righteousness as sinful in itself, but rather with maturity, with the capacity to handle “strong meat.”
Too many Christians assume that a pre-fall lack of the knowledge of good and evil was a total blank innocence, with no ethical categories at all. But if this were the case then how would Adam have been able to fall into sin? How would he have known it was evil to eat from the prohibited tree? No, the knowledge of good and evil here has to mean something more than a simple knowledge of the difference between right and wrong.
God had created mankind to rule over creation and all the creatures (Gen. 1:27-30). In learning how to judge and rule the created order, man really would be like God (Ecc. 12:14). Entering into that rule would have been a transition from immaturity to maturity, and not a transition from moral cluelessness into an ability to tell right from wrong. Kings make judgments. They have to be able to discern right and wrong in the case before them.
Now it is quite true that the Bible often speaks of “good” and “evil” in simple moral categories of individuals learning to love good and hate evil. But when we talk about discernment, we are talking about the ability to tell good from almost good, to discern the difference between white and off-white. Because God created us for rule, He created us for this. And when our first parents ate this forbidden fruit, they were grabbing for that rule prematurely, before God gave it to them as a gift.
Consider the language of Scripture.
“Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither . . .” (Dt. 1:39; cf. Jer. 4:22).
This was true of a type of the Messiah, the child born in fulfillment of the promise to Isaiah.
“Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel . . . for before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings” (Is. 7:14-16).
Extreme old age prevents a man from being able to serve as a judge between good and evil, as Barzillai observed:
“I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil . . .?” (2 Sam. 19:35).
And how did Solomon please the Lord when a vision was given to him at Gibeon? Even though he sacrificed in the high places, he did love the Lord (1 Kings 3:3). When the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he would have, Solomon’s answer pleased the Lord (1 Kings 3:10). So what did Solomon ask for? He said first that he was “but a little child” (1 Kings 3:7), and so what deficiency did he think needed to be corrected?
“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people” (1 Kings 3:10)?
We are called to understand the world so that we might grow up into a maturity that is capable of ruling the world. The verb to speak a proverb is a word that also means to rule. The wisdom of Scripture is wisdom that is geared to dominion. The author of Hebrews knows and understands the creation mandate. He quotes Ps. 8, and says that we do not yet see everything subject to mankind—but we do see Jesus (Heb, 2:9). The world to come is not subject to angels, but to mankind (Heb. 2:5ff). Mankind in Christ is therefore being fitted for godly rule (Heb. 5:14). Because we grabbed the forbidden fruit out of order, we have needed to be retro-fitted for it, but this is what is happening.
So in the child Jesus, given to us at Christmas, our response should be the same as that of the wise men. We look at a little child and we see a king. And all around you, you should see princes.