Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bible Couples, Pt. 1: Adam and Eve


A while back, I received a tricky e-mail joke, which says:
“Once upon a time, a perfect man and a perfect woman met. After a perfect courtship, they had a perfect wedding. Their life together was, of course, perfect. One snowy, stormy Christmas Eve, this perfect couple was driving their perfect car along a winding road, when they noticed someone at the side of the road in distress. Being the perfect couple, they stopped to help.

There stood Santa Claus with a huge bundle of toys. Not wanting to disappoint any children on the eve of Christmas, the perfect couple loaded Santa and his toys into their vehicle. Soon they were driving along delivering the toys. Unfortunately, the driving conditions deteriorated and the perfect couple and Santa Claus had an accident. Only one of them survived the accident.

Who was the survivor? (Scroll down for the answer.)

The perfect woman survived. She's the only one who really existed in the first place. Everyone knows there is no Santa Claus and there is no such thing as a perfect man.

Women stop reading here, that is the end of the joke.

Men keep scrolling****. (Scroll down for the answer)

So, if there is no perfect man and no Santa Claus, the perfect woman must have been driving. This explains why there was a car accident. By the way, if you're a woman and you're reading this, this illustrates another point: women never listen.”

It’s been said, “Adam and Eve had an ideal marriage. He didn't have to hear about all the men she could have married and she didn't have to hear about the way his mother cooked.” God created man, male and female, in his own image (Gen 1:27), called all that he had made “very good” (Gen 1:31), and placed them in a perfect environment (Gen 2:8-14), yet even in the garden of Eden, the perfect marriage did not exist. So what went wrong? How did “very good” (Gen 1:31) things go so awfully bad and hopeless? Because God gave people a choice but man chose to go his own way. God did not make us as robots, puppets, or pawns. A person, by definition, has a personality, a choice and the freedom to decide to follow Him or deny Him.

Why did man choose his own way? How did man and woman undermine each other and their relationship? What are the consequences to the family when man rebels against God?

The Wages of Sin is the Separation in Death
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 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.'“ 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 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. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Gen 3:1-6)

A man wanted to go ice fishing. He'd seen many books on the subject, and finally, after getting all the necessary tools together, he made for the nearest frozen lake. After positioning his comfy footstool, he started to make a circular cut in the ice. Suddenly - from the sky - a voice boomed, “THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE!”

Startled, the man moved further down the ice, poured a Thermos of cappuccino, began to cut yet another hole. Again, from the heavens, the voice bellowed, “THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE!”

The man, now quite worried, moved way down to the opposite end of the ice, sat up his stool, and tried again to cut his hole. The voice came once more: “THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE!”

He stopped, looked skyward, and said, “Is that you Lord?” The voice replied, “No, I'm the Ice-Arena Manager!”

Some people just don’t listen, especially to the word “no” or “don’t.”

Failing and refusing to heed God’s word is the heart of all human and marital problems. At the heart of every failing human relationship is a failing spiritual relationship – the failure to follow God’s established rules of order. God has given us a manual of instructions – the Bible – but we make our own rules. Eve and Adam’s problem began when she did not trust God’s promise; she did not listen to the Wise One – God, but listened to the Wicked One – Satan. Ironically, Eve’s first recorded conversation in the Bible was not with God or Adam, but with the serpent.

God’s intention for Eve was to be Adam’s helper, not the final decision-maker. They were supposed to confide in each other, confer with each other and compare notes with each other. Eve did not call for a family meeting, ask for her husband’s whereabouts or talk to her spouse at the time she heard things contrary to the fact. She acted as the leader, took over the reins, made her own decisions and chose her own destiny.

The snake came to Eve when she was the most vulnerable. She was by herself when she took temptation lightly and decided for herself, not wanting to miss out on a good deal or bargain. Satan has been making the same sales pitch ever since: to have something for nothing and to sin without suffering consequences. Eve could not resist the 0% down payment, 0% interest and no payment till next year sale. An opening question (v 1) and a false promise (vv 4-5) were enough to plant doubts in Eve’s mind and put wrong ideas in her head. Note Satan’s three-prong attack of doubt ( v 1, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”), denial (v 4, “You will not surely die.”) deception (v 5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”). She who had rule over every living creature (Gen 1:28) handed her authority over to one of the creatures. The snake had mastery over Eve when she listened to her lies. Eve wondered if God had told them the whole truth, if Adam had heard God’s instructions correctly and if there’s more to life than being married, being someone’s helper and being secondary in everything. To be fair to her, Eve also had her doubts because God gave the instructions to Adam, not her (Gen 2:15-16).

Eve strayed from God’s truth. She foolishly tampered with God’s word, added salt and vinegar to God’s command, and injected her own interpretation: “You must not touch it, or you will die.” (v 3) The devil appeals to our physical senses, sensual pleasures and intellectual snobbery to snare us (v 6). He works on man’s self-sufficiency, self-esteem and self-centeredness. Entertaining him makes us vulnerable, foolish and weak. Adam “listened to (hear + upon)” (v 17) his wife’s voice instead of God’s voice, and discovered that “knowing good and evil” (v 5) is not the same as “knowing good from evil.”

The Wages of Sin is the Sorrow of Disagreement
7 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. 8 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 God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:7-13)

A few years ago, Reuters reported that Percy and Florence Arrowsmith, who were married on June 1, 1925, celebrated their 80th anniversary. The Guinness World Records said the couple held the title for the longest marriage and also for the oldest married couple’s aggregate age. The couple has three children, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

“I think we’re very blessed,” Florence, 100, told the BBC. “We still love one another, that’s the most important part.” Asked for their secret, Florence said you must never be afraid to say “sorry.” “You must never go to sleep bad friends,” she said, while Percy, 105, said his secret to marital bliss was just two words: “yes dear.”

J. Allen Peterson says, “Most people get married believing a myth - that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things that they have longed for - companionship, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship. The truth is that marriage, at the start is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage, love is in people. There is no romance in marriage. People have to infuse it in their marriages. A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising - keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.”

Marriage is a union, a battle and a test of wills. Like my wife and I, many couples squabble over trivial things. Unfortunately, unlike us, many people’s skirmishes do not end harmoniously, but painfully and miserably. The fallout from sin is a no-holds barred, a tooth-to-nail, an all-out dogfight between men and women that continues today. The conflict between the husband and the wife arrived quickly on the double, reached a boiling point and spilt into the open.

Shame, blame and game characterized their relationship. Man and the woman felt shame (v 7) in the presence of each other, they started blaming each other (vv 12-13) and the game of domination began (v 16). An urge to blame others swept over Adam and Eve – he blamed his spouse and she blamed the snake. Adam pointed a finger to Eve: “The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (v 12), but Eve deflected blame, saying: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (v 13). Both would not accept responsibility for disobedience.

The two also experienced something inside them they had not felt before (v 10): fear, panic and vulnerability swept over them for the first time (v 10). The two lovebirds who were joined in one flesh discovered they were far from the ideal soul partner for each other. Love has its limits, familiarity breeds contempt and sacrificing one’s partner was not far from reach or out of question for them. They who had had so far enjoyed each other’s company now couldn’t get along, stand each other and agree on anything. From now on, they contend with each other, contest each other’s opinions, decisions and viewpoint till the rest of their lives (v 16). They began to see the faults, weaknesses and imperfections in each other and were ruthless enough to expose them, embellish them and exploit them. Mark Twain once said, “Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”

The Wages of Sin is the Struggle for Domination
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 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.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 17 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. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” 20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. (Gen 3:14-20)

Here are some of the more popular jokes on marriage:
- Getting married is like going to a restaurant with friends. You order what you want, then when you see what the other fellow has, you wish you had ordered that.
- Marriage is an institution in which a man loses his bachelor's degree and the woman gets her master's.
- In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.
- Marriage is love. Love is blind. Marriage is an institution. Therefore marriage is an institution for the blind.

Marriage life was not previously a walk in the park or a chore in the garden of Eden, but definitely hard work after the fall. Note that Eve already had a mind of her own and man was not always around when he is needed!

The family, strong, stable and sweet as it is, without God’s presence and lordship, is in for a rude shock. Sadly, a lot of people have taken their eyes off Jesus and placed their hopes on the family, including spouse and children. This is so common even among believing families. By their actions, school, sports and shopping seem more important to families. Unfortunately, women will feel the brunt of emotional pain (v 16) and men will face the bleakness of physical toil (v 17). They eventually know how painful living together can be even though living apart was not an option and not in God’s plan. The Chinese say, “Falling in love is easy; getting along is hard.” Courtship is romantic love, but marriage is relational love.

The harshest words for women in the Bible is in verse 16: childbearing, affection and domination. She is pulled to man but he will push her around. The Hebrew language is more intense because it speaks of more than just pain in childbearing: “I will multiply, multiply your sorrow and your conception.” According to the Hebrew and KJV text, women’s pain AND childbearing, not merely her pain in childbearing, will greatly increase or multiply. Of course, men have sorrow, too. They are not men of steel, neither are they made of wood and stones; but women’s sorrow is greatly multiplied or increased (v 16). English does not do justice to the phrase “greatly increase.”

Women will dwell on their pain, while men think of their work. The former will feel they give more than receive in a relationship and that no matter how much they give they do not get back as much. Their lives are wrapped around their husband and children and family, while men’s identity is shaped by success, competition and achievement. The same word “pain” or “sorrow” in KJV (v 16) has been translated as toil (Ps 127:2, Prov 5:10), trouble (Prov 10:22), hard work (Prov 14:23) and harsh (Prov 15:1) elsewhere. The word “desire” (v 16) occurs only twice elsewhere: to depict sin’s crouching at the door in its desire for the angry Cain (Gen 4:7) and the desire for Solomon’s lover for him (Song 7:10). The desire is not only physical, but emotional and relational.

The right use and meaning of the word “rule” (v 16) will go south and turn ugly. God rightly made the sun and moon to rule day and night (Gen 1:18). The Lord is the rightful ruler of our lives (Judg 8:23). A wise father rules over his son (Prov 17:2). But the wrong use of it is dangerous and fatal. Poor ruling examples in the Bible include the rich rule over the poor (Prov 22:7), the slave over princes (Prov 19:10), the wicked ruling over the helpless (Prov 28:15) and a fierce king ruling over the people (Isa 19:4). Women’s desire for her husband is unabated, regardless whether he is rich man, a menial slave, a wicked man or a bad king. Choosing wrongly could be her doom. It’s been said, “A man’s worst fear is to enter the wrong work, but a woman’s worst fear is to marry the wrong husband.” The possibility of his husband controlling, using or mistreating her is high and very real to a woman. Heartaches, wretchedness and headaches could well be her lot if she simply chooses any guy. Friction, debate and rebellion over who is in control will consume man and woman.

It’s been said, “There is no free lunch.” “Eat” occurs 17 times in the chapter, the last two contrasting “through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” and “he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Man is “become like one” of us (v 22), never “one” of us. “Become like one of us” is capability, which is potential, but “is one of us” is ability, which is actual. One thing for sure, man’s good deeds and evil intentions are inseparable from now on, just like his mind cannot turn back once he is addicted to drugs, alcohol or pornography.

Praise God, in Christ the offspring/seed of woman (v 15, Gal 3:19) there is remission of sins, redemption for man and reconciliation with God (Col 1:14, Rom 5:11).

Conclusion: The earthly relationship cannot succeed when the heavenly relationship is weak. The horizontal or human or social relationship flattens out when the vertical relationship with God bottoms out. The greatest danger in the world is sin, and our worst enemy is ourselves. Temptation is not sin. God tempts no one (Jas 1:13), and man does have a way out of temptation (1 Cor 10:13). Marriage is hard, but not hopeless. God is skilled at repairing broken lives and marriages, provided the man and the woman are willing to acknowledge and follow Him as Lord and Savior.

Sin and death entered the world through one man, and death came to all men because all sinned (Rom 5:12-14), but God’s showed his righteousness to sinners through Jesus Christ: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-23). Is God the rightful head of your house? Are you providing for your family and protective of their interest? Is your family based on love, trust, commitment, understanding and forgiveness?


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