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What Makes a Marriage?
The Home that God Builds
What Makes a Marriage?
Genesis 2:18-25
 
We began last week a new series of message focusing on “The Home that God Builds”.  Our umbrella though is found in Psalm 127:1 where we are reminded that unless God builds the house, those who seek to build it labor in vain.
 
And we began construction, so to speak, by laying a fundamental foundation that is found in Joshua 24 where Joshua declares that as far as his house and he are concerned, they will serve the Lord.
 
Today I want to begin building upon that foundation by talking about marriage.  It hardly seems possible that Lisa and I have been married over 29 years.  In fact, I told her doctor this week that I’ve said to the boys, “I wish I had some way to make you realize what you’ve done to the quiet, beautiful young woman I married!”
 
She gets frustrated when I say that I don’t remember much about our wedding ceremony.  I know it was at First Baptist Church in Ardmore and I know it was on March 9th but beyond that everything else is kind of a blur.  I know I was there because I’ve seen the videos.  I think maybe my blood sugar was low and she took advantage of my condition.
 
But in retrospect, two thoughts come to mind:
 
First, we had no idea what we were getting into.
 
We received no premarital counseling other than our pastor telling us we should take lots of pictures.  I don’t remember any father-son talks with my dad or even discussing what I was doing with my mom.  In fact, I don’t even remember proposing to begin with!
 
And secondly, maybe it was a good thing we didn’t have all that because it meant we had to learn about marriage the old fashioned way and that was making a commitment to one another and learning to get along.  I do remember her mother telling her she wasn’t going to come running home every time there was a problem and fortunately, there haven’t been too many times she needed to consider that.  
 
I think we all understand that marriage today is under attack. Many young people doubt that a lifelong marriage is possible. They’ve seen so much divorce that it seems normal to them and they are right in one sense. Divorce happens. It happens in the world, it happens in the church at large, and it happens in this particular local church. Sometimes Christian people behave irresponsibly. Husbands and wives don’t always keep their vows. Sometimes they walk out and sometimes they just drift apart.
 
But I will tell you this:  After making full allowance for all the problems we face and dealing with all the issues surrounding, I still maintain that God’s way is the best way. When you buy a new car, you take the owner’s manual out of the glove compartment and you read it. We need to do the same thing today.  The Bible is the “owner’s manual” for marriage.  And maybe if we were more attentive to the instructions of the Designer we would find that marriage works much better for us.
 
Marriage is a gift from God but we don’t always see it that way. This week I’ve been collecting funny stories about marriage. I read about a little 7 year-old girl who saw the movie Cinderella and was talking with her friends about it afterward. “I know how it ends,” said one, “Cinderella and the Prince live happily ever after.” “Oh no they don’t,” she replied, “they got married!”
 
One of my favorites involves a young minister performing his first wedding ceremony. Fearing he might forget something, he sought counsel from an older preacher. The experienced man told the young minister everything he needed to do and made one final suggestion: “If you ever forget what you are supposed to say, just quote Scripture.”
 
The ceremony went smoothly until he pronounced the happy couple husband and wife. At that point, his mind went blank. That’s when he remembered the advice of the old preacher to quote Scripture. So he quoted the only verse that came to his mind: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
 
Marriage is a challenge in the best of circumstances but it can also be a great blessing. In a society like ours, where healthy marriages are the exception and not the rule, if we can build marriages that move against the prevailing tide, we will have a fantastic base from which to share the message of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors. Nowhere will the difference between Christianity and modern secularism be more clearly seen than in a truly Christian marriage.
 
I realize not everyone who is listening today is married, and I also know that not everyone who is married is in a healthy, growing relationship, but in some ways it doesn’t matter what your particular situation might be because we all need to hear what God’s Word has to say.
 
So with marriage as the backdrop, let me share some things with you from the 2nd chapter of the book of Genesis.
 
Genesis 2:18-20
 
As you know, in chapter 2 we find ourselves in the Garden of Eden before the Fall of man.  And we find described a world none of us has ever experienced because it is a world without sin. It is a world of created perfection with no hint of moral contamination.  But as God speaks, He acknowledges there is a
 
1. Problem
 
verse 18
 
Immediately we are told two crucial things.
 
First, the problem was Adam’s loneliness. Even in paradise Adam was lonely. He was the king of creation, but something was lacking. The perfection of Eden could not satisfy the void within. In all of creation, only one thing was not good. It was not good for Adam to be alone and that was a very real problem.
 
 
Second, Eve was the answer to Adam’s loneliness. The answer was not another man or a group of men. No man was ever meant to find his deepest satisfaction in his hunting buddies or the guys at work or the bartender down the street.  It was not even in a committed, monogamous homosexual relationship. 
 
As a matter of fact, the answer is not women in general or one woman after another or a prostitute paid for her services. The answer to the loneliness every man feels is one woman given to that man by God with whom he can spend the rest of his days. That is the most basic purpose of marriage.
 
And don’t be confused by the word “helper”.  Many people when they hear that word immediately picture a maid who sweeps the floor, makes the beds, prepares the meals, and in general does the housework while the man of the house sits in his soft recliner with the remote control in his hand flipping from one channel to another.
 
It would be nice if it were that way, but that’s not what the word means. In the Old Testament this particular Hebrew word was often used by God to describe Himself.  For instance, Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our Refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble.”  Same word.  A “helper” in this context means one who supplies what is lacking in another person. God created Eve to do what Adam cannot do by himself.
 
Now, having said that, I would expect the next verse to tell us about the creation of Eve but that’s not what we get. Notice how the passage continues.
 
Verses 19-20
 
Instead of being told about Eve’s entrance into the world, we get the story of Adam naming the animals. What’s that all about? Just this. As Adam names the animals, God is preparing him for marriage.
 
First of all, He is teaching him to be a leader. The power to name is the power of authority. “That’s a giraffe, that’s a monkey, that’s an armadillo, and that’s a whippoorwill.” By giving Adam the right to name the animals, God was training him to be the king of creation, the vice-regent of the earth answerable only to God.
 
But God was also training him to be a lover. As Adam surveyed the animals he saw Mr. Giraffe and Mrs. Giraffe, Mr. Crocodile and Mrs. Crocodile. And so it went throughout the animal kingdom — always male and female. But where in all creation could he find a counterpart for himself?
 
In fact, when he got through with all the animals, I think he must have said, “God, she’s not here!”  God was creating within Adam a gnawing hunger for a life partner, a hunger God would soon meet in the creation of Eve. Naming the animals was Adam’s premarital counseling session.
 
Throughout the long afternoon of the Sixth Day of creation, Adam named the animals. But “no suitable helper was found” and unless that need were met, Adam would live forever and still be lonely in paradise.
 
Think about this:
 
  • Without a woman, a man could never be in love.
 
  • Without a wife, he could never be a husband.
 
  • Without a queen, he could never be a king.
 
He had no one to talk to, no one to laugh with, no one to taste the ripe peaches with him, to run through the meadows by his side, to laugh as he leaped in the air, and no one to nestle with him in the evening.
 
So even though he’s living in paradise and he’s got a good job, there is a real problem deep in Adam’s soul.  He is busy, but lonely.
 
2. The Solution
 
Genesis 2:21-23
 
God’s answer to Adam’s loneliness is simple and profound. He created a partner for Adam who would complete him.  She was like him and from him and yet different from him.
 
Adam’s deep loneliness is met by a woman created by God. From this we learn that the gift of a wife comes from God himself. When God brought Eve to Adam, he showed his sovereignty over the most intimate areas of life. And we learn that God can be trusted to provide a mate at the right time and in the right way. Anxious single men and women need to hear this word from the Lord.
 
 
Note that it happened while Adam slept. That means he had nothing to do with it other than supplying the raw materials. It’s not as if God asked for his input or allowed him to place an order: “I’d like her to be just over 5’6”, dark hair, brown eyes, with freckles.” Nothing of the sort happened. God created the woman while Adam slept which teaches us men that God doesn’t need our help in designing a wife suitable for us. Blessed is the man who doesn’t try to “improve” upon God’s gift to him.
 
And I love verse 23 because it in the original language of Hebrew it contains a poetic exclamation that unfortunately is lost in our modern translations.
 
The first three words “This is now” actually mean something like ‘This is it!” or perhaps better said, “She is it”.
 
Now imagine the scene. Adam is flat on the ground, just beginning to awake from the divine anesthesia. As he opens his eyes, he sees the Lord and next to him a beautiful, blushing creature looking at him in wide-eyed anticipation. As he runs down his mental list, he can’t connect her with any of the animals he has seen.
 
She’s definitely not a giraffe. Not a rabbit or a porcupine. Not a hyena or guinea pig.  Who or what is she? She looks like him. In fact she looks a lot like him but clearly she’s very different in several important ways. Then his brain says, “She is it!” and he blurts out, “Oh baby! Where have you been all my life?” Or something like that.
 
 
This is love at first sight. Do such things really happen? Sure they do!  Adam and Eve fell in love from the very first moment they saw each other.
 
Adam is amazed and overjoyed at what God has provided to meet his need. He doesn’t waste any time looking around or seeing if he could get a better deal (not that there were any other choices available at the moment). He accepts God’s gift on the spot.
 
Proverbs 5:18 instructs young men to “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” And Proverbs 18:22 reminds us that “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” So Adam rejoices in God’s blessing from the very first moment.
 
Nearly 300 years ago Matthew Henry explained the text this way: “The woman was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved by him.”
 
Verse 22 tells us that God “brought her to the man.”
 
As a pastor for almost 30 years I’ve had the opportunity to watch as proud fathers escort their daughters down the aisle. Some of them look mad; some look sad; some look overjoyed!  But they come to present their daughter to her groom.
 
That is precisely what happened in Eden. God was the father of the bride and he personally brings her to Adam. There was no courtship and no dating. The first marriage was an arranged marriage.
 
God led Eve gently through the flowers and presented her, with her fast beating heart and the blush of first love on her cheeks, to Adam. God himself performed the first ceremony as minister, father and witness.
 
From this story we learn God’s plan for the home.  Listen:  God planned the human heart for love, marriage, companionship, home and children.
 
Did you ever think about the fact that the only thing man brought with him out of Eden was marriage?  The angel may have blocked the way back in, but thank God, Adam and Eve came out together. And even in a fallen world, “Holy Matrimony” is still the only touch of paradise we will ever know this side of heaven.
 
We also learn that marriage is God’s first gift to the human race.  It’s older than the church, the school, or human government.
 
Is a young man wrong to feel a desire for a young woman? No. Is it wrong for a woman to desire the companionship of a man? No.
 
Sometimes men and women make poor choices and live to regret it. But the desire of a man to spend his life with one woman and the desire of a woman to spend her life with one man — that is not wrong. Far from it. That desire is placed in the human heart by God.
 
3. The Design
 
Genesis 2:24-25
 
The closing verses of this passage are an editorial comment on marriage. They teach us that marriage is not a man-made institution which we can discard whenever we like. From the ancient story of Adam and Eve we learn God’s plan: One man and one woman joined in marriage for life. We need to teach these things to our children and to encourage them to look forward to the day when they too will be married.
 
In these two verses we find the four essential components of Christian marriage:
 
First comes
 
  • Leaving (leave his parents)
 
  • Cleaving (be united to his wife)
 
  • Intimacy (the two become one flesh)
 
  • Transparency (naked and not ashamed)
 
“Leaving” means breaking away from your parents to establish a home of your own.  “Cleaving” means being so tightly glued together no force can tear you apart. “Intimacy” involves growing together over the years so that while you are still two people, in a deep way you have become “one flesh.” It includes sexual relations, but it is more than that. And “transparency” means having a relationship built on such trust that you can let down the barriers and allow another person to know everything about you, body, soul and spirit.
 
 
Now in our world, we can’t walk around naked. What would it be like to go to church this Sunday if everyone came naked? The very thought is hard to digest. Nakedness is the blessing we can hardly bear. We like to be noticed; we hate for someone to stare at us. It makes us uncomfortable, as if a stranger is trying to peer into our soul.
 
But in marriage a part of that original transparency can be regained. In the security of a lifetime commitment, a husband and wife can relax and feel comfortable together and slowly the walls can begin to come down. It is the work of decades. And that’s why you can be married 20, 30, 40, 50 years and still discover new things about each other.
 
And every time you do, you are recapturing some of what Adam and Eve experienced in the first moments of the beginning of human history. That’s what it means, at a very deep level, to be naked and not ashamed.
 
This kind of marriage is possible only when there is an exclusive commitment to another person. In our culture we symbolize that commitment with a wedding ring. Someone has said that the wedding ring is a small piece of jewelry on your finger that cuts off your circulation.
 
Erma Bombeck once said that no personal possession has given her more value for the money than her wedding ring. “For years, it has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times at parties that it’s time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion.
It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward. It has reminded me every day that I have someone who loves me.”
 
Someone asked Henry Ford, maker of the Model T, to explain the secret of a good marriage. “The same formula as the making of a successful car,” he replied. “Stick to one model.”
 
Let me give you one final though to wrap this up.  A healthy marriage is the work of a lifetime. Far too many give up way too soon.
 
The way God has designed marriage makes it impossible for newlyweds to fully enter into a transparent relationship. That comes only after years of hard work. Being newly married does have its own rewards, most notably the joy of taking the first few steps on a journey that will take a lifetime to complete. But God has seen fit to ordain that a good marriage gets better with age.
 
I hear lots of young couple who talk about how deeply in love they are and I want to say, “You don’t have a clue!”
 
But the one fact that ought to give hope to every struggling couple reading these words and lend excitement to every couple who enjoys a good relationship is this:  God fully intends that your marriage be better next year than it is this year. Before you give up on your marriage, why not give God a chance to see what he can do?
 
 
 
A little boy sat through a Sunday School class and learned about the time Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine. “And what did you learn from that story?” asked his father. The boy thought for a moment and answered, “If you’re having a wedding, make sure Jesus is there.” That’s good advice for all of us.
 
Let me ask you to pray with me.  If you are near your spouse, I want to ask you to join hands.  In a moment I’m going to offer a prayer of blessing on our homes and marriages.  Before I do that,
 
If you are married, take a moment to recommit yourself to your spouse.
 
If your marriage is in some difficulty, pray for God’s healing power to come into your relationship.
 
If you are a widow or a widower, thank God for the good memories. Ask him for the grace you need to continue to serve Him.
 
If you are single because of divorce, pray for an intimate relationship with God to fill the void in your heart.
 
If you are a single parent, ask God to be the missing parent for your children.
 
If you have never married, pray that God will bring his best to you in his own time and commit to the Lord that you won’t settle for second best.
 
 
 
 
 
Father, we thank you for the gift of marriage. We acknowledge that your ways are perfect and that you make no mistakes. We gladly confess that without you we can do nothing. Help us to submit ourselves to you completely with no strings attached. May we become a church of happy Christian homes where Jesus Christ can be seen in our closest relationships. We pray for those who are hurting and lonely that they might receive a fresh touch from your Spirit. Grant healing and hope to us as we pray.
 
We lift up all the marriages in our congregation and pray that each one might be strengthened. We stand united by faith against everything the devil would do to destroy those marriages. We pray that none would be lost, that all would be preserved. And we thank you for husbands and wives who love you and who love each other.
 
Grant that our marriages will not merely endure, but that they will grow and prosper and be filled with joy. Give grace to each couple that they might serve the Lord together joyfully as long as they both shall live. And when the time to leave this life comes, may they still be together, still in love, still faithful, and still believing in the promise of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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