Currently I’m teaching a series on Biblical Womanhood in the women’s ministry of my church. And this is why I’ve been so lacking in the blogging department. I’m still writing. A lot. Just not here in this forum. However I decided, why not do the series here also?! So over the next several weeks I will be adapting my messages for this blog. And you can come along with us on this journey of learning about God’s design for women. I hope you enjoy it. Today we start with Women and the fall.
Talking about men and women and marriage and relationships and gender roles and everything of the sort can bring up a myriad of emotion for us all. Especially those of us who’ve experienced some form of abuse, mistreatment or neglect at the hands of a man. So if this has been your experience, please don’t stop reading. What I’m about to teach has not been my experience growing-up. But it’s worth it to open yourself up to discovering the beauty of God’s design.
So let’s begin in the beginning.
In chapter 1 of Genesis, Moses paints for us a beautiful picture of the Lord speaking into being everything we see and touch and experience on earth. And all of it is named good. This chapter is all about goodness and order. God is putting into formation all things in an orderly and precise manner.
Then in chapter 2 Moses narrows in on God’s creation of man and women. Sin has not yet entered into the picture. But early in this chapter God gives Adam the command to not eat from one tree; the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or he will die. Eve has not been created yet, and so this interchange is between Adam and God alone. Which is important to note. But so far in this chapter everything is still as the Lord states so many times; it is good. This is the foundation for the existence of all of us. Then Genesis 2:18-25 says this.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 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. 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.
Note here that this is the first time God senses something is wrong in the garden. There is a void in paradise. Adam is alone. So God parades the animals in front of Adam for him to name, and as Adam is doing this he also realizes that he’s alone. God brilliantly gives Adam an opportunity to recognize his need also. Read on.
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. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 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.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This a lovely chunk of Scripture about the beauty of marriage and yet you may have cringed at the word helper. This is a touchy one for a lot of us. Because we wonder, wait is that all I am? And if I’m single, does this make me purposeless? And these are legitimate questions. I’ve written about this before but let’s go over it again. Let’s look at Psalm 22:20
Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Who in this verse is the helper? God is. In fact there are many places in Scripture in which God is given the name helper. It is in fact a very important attribute of God. And so let me ask the question, is this demeaning for Him? Of course not. And so it should not be for us women. I dare say it is a title we ought to wear proudly, as it is one equated with God Himself. How could I find offense of such a Godly role?
Helping our husbands is a tall order. But it doesn’t end there for us. Because if my husband leaves this earth tomorrow, my identity doesn’t leave with him. And if you are single, this still applies to you also. There is so much work that needs to be done and women ought to be the best helpers in bringing about God’s love, peace and justice in the world. We must never stop helping to bring His Kingdom come.
If you want to do ministry, you got to be a helper.
Going back to Genesis, I want to make an important note about these verses. You will notice that God created Adam first. Which Paul writes further about in 1 Timothy 2:13, making this significant in speaking about headship in the role of the male. The very word headship might make you uncomfortable, but as archaic as it may seem I believe it’s a better word than leadership. Because leadership is not a definitive gender-role. Men and women should be leaders. Headship is the unique leadership of the man in the work of establishing order for human flourishing.
And the order in which God creates has significance.
Now some people object to this notion because God created animals before ever creating a human, which would mean that animals would have headship over humans. Right? Fair objection. But when the Hebrew people gave a special responsibility to the “firstborn” in the family, it never entered their minds that this responsibility would be nullified if the father happened to own cattle before he had sons. In other words, when Moses wrote this, he knew that the first readers would not lump animals and humans together as equal candidates for the responsibilities of the “firstborn”. And so, we shouldn’t either.
Headship is one of responsibility and in chapter 2:15 it says, The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Meaning it was part of the man’s good call to be a worker. This is pre-fall. And as I noted before God gave Adam the moral command of tending to the earth and being stewards of the animals as well as not touching the tree of knowledge. And there is no recording of God relaying this message also to Eve. Which mean’s the moral code of the garden and its carrying out was in the hands of Adam. It would be his role to relay the message to Eve. Which means manhood looks a lot like headship in being the provider/worker and moral leader in the family.
So you might be wondering what I am implying with this. So let me make it abundantly clear that I do not believe what Scripture is saying is that women are second-tier humans.
I also do not believe that this makes men more valuable than women. And I don’t believe this because I don’t believe it’s what Scripture teaches as a whole. The way Jesus treated women and the role women play in the life, death and resurrection of Christ is not one of obscurity.
Men and women are both written in Genesis as being created in Gods image. And that makes us absolutely without a doubt equal in value and role importance. Did God give just men a brain? Nope. Which means we as women should fiercely go hard after understanding truth. And seek to be truth-telling, gospel-saturated women of the Word. Our hands and feet doing the work of the ministry is just as important as male hands and feet.
Helper and Headship are two counter-cultural words. Yet both words were essentially created in the garden, when everything was good. Neither Adam nor Eve were ashamed of their nakedness nor their roles. And all was well and beautiful, until something happened. Moving along…
Genesis 3:1-13 says,
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Notice how already Eve is getting it wrong. She says that God told them they weren’t allowed to even touch the tree, but that’s not true. He never said that. Doubt of Gods goodness is already invading her heart here. And already Gods commands are becoming confused. Let’s keep going.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
And this is where our tidy relationships with our husbands, our kids, our parents and our friends fall completely apart. Isn’t it.
Most importantly the first sin that entered the world is where gender-roles lost their way and flipped completely. Notice who Satan chooses to attack? Eve. Because she’s weaker? No, more likely to intentionally unbalance God’s good design for men and women. This is what Satan does. It’s his aim to take shots very intentionally at Gods design. So do you think it’s any accident that he approaches the women?
She falls for his lies, but why does she do this? Where is the one who was given the moral compass from God Himself? Where’s the guy who’s supposed to be her protector? He’s standing right next to her. Because all she does is hand him the piece of fruit. And without hesitation he eats. And we know this is a ducking of His headship responsibilities because who does God call for when the deed is done? God calls the man! “Where are you?”
God knows it was Eve who was deceived yet He calls for Adam. Then Adam digs himself I nice big hole by pointing at Eve, calling her…the woman (she has a name!) YOU gave me! Which simultaneously diminishes his wife and condemns God as though it was His mistake.
Just like that, Satan spurned the order that God established, picking a fight with the women which in turn made the man weak-willed and passive. Which is exactly how he wants it. And he still wants it that way today.
We see this so often in men today. Certainly in the pop-culture representations of them on TV and in movies. And it is breeding husbands and fathers who are weak-willed and morally passive. But when I look at my husband, who is the polar opposite of my earthly father, I have great hope.
I’m so grateful that my children have a father who assertively loves them enough to protect them from evil in any way he can. Who decisively loves the Lord and desires to keep His commands and lead myself and my children in righteousness. He does not hold any title over our heads and abuse us with it, but sees it as a high-calling from God that he will be held accountable for one day. Because he will, just like Adam. And that knowledge makes him lead like Jesus, as a humble servant. Dying to himself daily. No he is not perfect. Not even close. But I thank God that my husband is earnest.
Ladies, when our roles function by God’s design it is the farthest thing from bondage. It is pure, unadulterated freedom. His way is beautiful. And do not make the mistake of lumping the abuses of headship by ungodly men with God’s loving order. Regardless of what our culture preaches, His order and design is the best way for human flourishing.
The Scripture goes on to explain the punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin. It says this in verses 16-19…
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
So what do those last sentences mean. Your desire shall be for your husband. How is that a curse? Isn’t that a good thing? Or does this mean… we will love our husbands and they will abuse us? What is it?
(I know there has been some controversy around this with the recent changing of the ESV translation on this, so I’m going to stick with the original here.)
To best understand this word desire we need only look to Genesis 4:6-7. Here Cain has had his offering rejected by God while his brother Abel has had his offering accepted by God. Cain becomes furious and jealousy and murder are rising up in his heart. The Lord comes to Cain and gives him a warning. He says, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Here is that same word—desire.
This desire is more of a lion-in-wait kind of term. We will be jealous and angry at our husband’s position and it just might make us pounce. I don’t know about you, but that…I understand and can absolutely relate to. I am so full of pride, I fight my desire to take the reins from my husband daily.
So we see in these punishments how God has frustrated the created order. He has not dismantled it, just frustrated it. It’s the same with Adams punishment. In verses 17-19…
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Adam was used to working in the garden but now it became challenging. It would require sweat and tears to do what once likely was easy and enjoyable. The order still stands, but by our own forefather’s choices, we have made it a struggle. Our relationships, our child-birth and our work. It’s all now riddled with sin and in need of Jesus saving grace.
And that is where I want to finish because the Lord is always good to provide grace. We see it even here Genesis. After Adam and Eve bring sin into the world forever, God could have just ended them all together. But He doesn’t. They leave the garden but not before God lovingly provides them with clothes. They didn’t deserve it, but He still loved them.
We can’t and will not live the way God intended and ordered us to live just in our own strength. We can’t. But Jesus came for such a reason as this.
Women, lets seek Christ’s strength and provision and goodness as we try to model how He has created us.