RvL

About Me

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I’m from New York but my driver’s license lists that my address is Ohio. My passport has a number of stamps in it. I’m the youngest of six, yet oldest son. I have a number after my initials, but not my name. I like music. I drink coffee at all times of the day. I am a follower of Jesus. I own my own business. I watch bonus features on DVD’s. For four months each year my wife and I are the same age. “I pledge allegiance to a country without borders, without politicians.” I am an ordained pastor. I’ve eaten raw horse meat. I’m fifteen inches taller than my wife, but I look up to her. I still prefer buying CDs to downloading music. I’m a night owl, who doesn’t mind getting up early. I like to shop, and my wife doesn’t. I like to play games. I moved to another country nine days after my wedding. I sometimes quote random lyrics. I believe in miracles. I prefer desktops to laptops. I like listening to audio books. I listen to hockey games on the internet. I have five sons. I'm living life mid sentence.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

#StandingWithOurSisters #TheFall #TheCurse


This past week I read a story about a woman who used a handgun to shoot a man who was attempting to steal her car.  The car had the woman’s children in it when the carjacking took place.   When I was reading the story, my mind went to the Sermon on the Mount.  Honestly, even as someone who believes we are called to live non-resistant lives, I don’t know how I would act in such a situation.  The more I thought about it, the more my mind kept going back to the Sermon on the Mount.  

The Sermon on the Mount is a pivotal teaching of Jesus’.  For many people, many churches and even some denominations, the Sermon on the Mount is held as an ethic of the kingdom.  However, for the first 20-25 years of my life, would you believe that I was taught in numerous churches, high school, and a couple colleges that the Sermon on the Mount is something that we as followers of Jesus don’t really have to worry about now?  It is true.  For most of my spiritual upbringing, I was told that the Sermon on the Mount will be the law of the land, so to speak, during the millennial reign of Jesus spoken of in Revelation.  But for now, it pretty much can be set aside. 

In my mid-to late 20’s, when I spent a fair amount of time in serious study of the Gospels, I started to question what I had been taught about the Sermon.  I wasn’t comfortable with what I had been taught, but I wasn’t sure exactly what the ramifications would be if what I had believed all along was wrong. 

Throughout our lives, as we continue to study the scriptures and look to the leading of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us, we hopefully will grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Bible.  At times we may get things wrong.  But when we fall down, we can give up, or we can learn from our mistakes, get back up and prayerfully ask God to show us what He is trying to teach us from His word. 

Sometimes as you spend time meditating and studying a passage you start to see things that you’ve never seen before.  This is why, once again, I will say that I strongly encourage you all to study the scriptures for yourself and compare what I say with what the Bible itself says.  There are a lot of opinions out there, some are likely accurate, and others aren’t. 


For example, in studying for today’s sermon I read probably 30 commentaries and very few of them agreed on much.  Some were dogmatic that it must mean such and such, and others were adamant that it must mean something completely different than the first group mentioned. 

Some of the commentaries were not even consistent in their understanding between Genesis chapters 1-2 and chapter 3. 

With all of this being said, I want to attempt to move forward in looking at Genesis 3, and the account of Adam and Eve’s choosing sin over obedience to God.

Genesis 3:1-19
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

8 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. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman,  And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,  In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

I want to spend most of our time today in looking at verses 15-17 today.    But before we can look at these verses we need to spend a little time with the first part of the chapter. 

Adam was told in Genesis 2 that he was not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. 

Genesis 2:15-17
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.
Throughout history people have asked the question why God would give people the free will that would allow them to sin. 

C.S. Lewis had this to say about man and free will in his book Mere Christianity.   (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 52-53)

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they've got to be free.
Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (...) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”
So, God, knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, still felt, as Lewis saw it, worth the price to give us freewill. 

And as we move into Genesis 3, we see it didn’t take long for Adam and Eve to sin. 

Genesis 3:1-8
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

The seed of doubt that the serpent gave Eve in the garden is the same seed of doubt that all of us succumb to today.  When tempted to do something we have been told by God not to, will we trust God that He knows what is best for us, or will see buy into the same line the serpent gave Eve:  “has God really said…”  At those moments, we must choose if what God said is true or not.  We have the choice to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.   

Genesis 3:8-13
8 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. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Adam and Eve sinned.  And, much like us today, when confronted about their sin, they tried to pass the buck.  Any parent of at least two children is familiar with this scenario.  You ask child one why they did something naughty towards child two and they respond that it wasn’t their fault, child two started it.  In their mind, they aren’t to blame for their action, because …it’s their fault that I did what I did.  As parents we sometimes may not see the whole picture.  God, sees all and knows not only what we do but the heart attitude behind our actions.  So, when God handed out His judgment on the Serpent, Eve and Adam, He knew the whole story.

Genesis 3:14
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

The harshest judgment came against the serpent.  Not only are they to be “cursed..more than…every beast of the field”, for their action, but verse 15 the ultimate defeat of this enemy is prophesied.  One day The offspring of the woman, namely Jesus Christ, would hand the serpent its final defeat. 


Then Eve received her judgment.
Genesis 3:16
16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,  In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”

This is one of the primary verses I want to look at today.  I think it may be the most debated verse in this chapter.  In studying, I consulted commentaries to see what thinkers over the centuries have to say about the judgment given Eve.  Let’s just say, doing so added far more confusion than clarity.  I’m going to give a number of snippets into what the commentaries have to say about this, just to be fair to all viewpoints. 

First off, God said “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,  In pain you will bring forth children”. 

One commentary says that “Physically she would experience multiplied pain (‘itstsebhon) especially as it is associated with childbirth. She who sought sweet delights in eating the fruit found not delights but pain, not joy, but sorrow.  (Smith, J. E. (1993). The Pentateuch (2nd ed., pp. 70–71). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.). 

But other commentaries go further by pointing out that the idea put forth in this pronouncement involves more than just pain in child birth.  “. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception.   … And for us men, we should keep in mind, as this same commentary points out, that “The pains of childbirth are in Scripture emblematic of the severest anguish both of body and mind(cf. Ps. 48:6; Micah 4:9, 10; 1 Thess. 5:3; John 16:21; Rev. 12:2)”  (Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Genesis (pp. 66–67). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

Another commentary went further and said “Some take this to refer to the introduction of a monthly… menstrual cycle” as it is now.   (Richards, L. O. (1991). The Bible reader’s companion (electronic ed., p. 27). Wheaton: Victor Books.)

This portion of the judgment, while varying some in interpretation, all the sources I read acknowledge that there will be pain now surrounding pregnancy and birth, where they likely wouldn’t have been pain before.  With this assessment I agree. 

The second half of the pronouncement to Eve carries much more controversy. 

Genesis 3:16b
“…Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
There are several different opinions on what this portion of the passage means.  And most are pretty insistent that their interpretation is correct, even when it is at odds with a number of other well-known biblical scholars. 

There is one camp that says the woman’s desire is sexual in nature. 


One commentary put it this way.  “(Eve’s) sin… tainted her relationship with her husband. “Desire… and its meaning in our passage is highly disputed. It has been explained widely as sexual desire on the basis of Song 7:10 [““I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me.”] and the reference to childbirth in 3:15. If so, the adversative rendering of the following clause, “yet he will rule” (as NASB, NRSV), would mean that despite her painful experience in childbirth she will still have (sexual) desires for her husband. In other words, the promissory blessing of procreation will persist despite any possible reluctance on her part due to the attendant pain of delivery. Others view the woman’s desire as broader, including an emotional or economic reliance on her husband. In other words, she acted independently of her husband in eating the fruit, and the consequent penalty is that she will become dependent on him.

I’ll be honest.  Up to this point, K.A. Mathews has summarized two of the more common interpretations fairly well, in my opinion.  However, he didn’t stop there. 

Her new desire is to be submissive to the man, and, quite naturally, he will oblige by ruling over her.
(Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, pp. 249–252). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Her new desire is to be submissive to the man”?  If her new desire, after sin marred God’s perfect creation, is to have a desire to be in submission to the man, and if this is God’s intention, then how is this a judgment by God on Eve?  I don’t think it is. 

If this is part of the judgment on Eve, there must be a better explanation. 

Let’s consider another commentary, “A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures”: 
“And thy desire shall be to thy husband. This sentence obtains its full significance in its embracing that which follows, and in its contrast to it. It is, emphatically, that her desire should be to the man as though she were magically bound to him. … It is further emphatic that the man shall rule over her in a strong way; and finally that she, in her bound and destined adherence to man, shall find in him a strong and severe master.”  (Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Lewis, T., & Gosman, A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis (pp. 237–238). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)
As I noted previously, in God’s perfect Creation, when God created the “suitable helper” for Adam, he created a co-partner for him. 

The expression indicates that the forthcoming helper was to be of similar nature to the man himself, corresponding by way of supplement to the incompleteness of his lonely being, and in every way adapted to be his co-partner and companion.  (
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Genesis (p. 50). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

Going back to the “Commentary on the Holy Scriptures” we read that as a result of the Fall:
“…..In consequence of sin thus arises that subjection of the wife to the husband, bordering on slavery, that was customary in the old world, as it still is in the East, and which through the religion of revelation becomes gradually more tolerable, until, at last, in the increasing worth of the woman, it becomes entirely evened” (Delitzsch).” (Lange, et al.)

I want to expound upon this thought that things were to get worse before they get better.  Ultimately, I believe the worth of women and men should be viewed as equal, as stated above.  But before I get into that I want to read just a little more from this commentary about how things would get much worse for woman after the fall, before they would get better.  So, as we keep in mind man and woman were both created in the image of God, we don’t have to look far to see that after sin entered the picture, they were treated as anything but equals. 

 Among the Hebrews a wife was bought by the husband (? ch. 34:12; Exod. 22:16; Hos. 3:3, 2). and was his possession (female slave, ? ch. 20:3; Deut. 22:22). He is called her lord (ch. 18:21; Exod. 21:3), and he can divorce her without much ceremony (Deut. 24:1). This subordinate and depressed condition of the wife the author regards as the punishment of sin.” Knobel.—  (Lange, et al.)
As I said, things got much worse before they started to get better.  And, as we enter the New Testament, we see things will get much better. 

I’ve shared some of what others have to say about the punishment pronounced on Eve, but I want to share my thoughts now, before quickly trying to finish up for today. 

After reading and studying both this passage, as well as others, I do believe the better explanation of the pronouncement of Eve’s “desire” in verse 16 is in regards to wishing to either “emancipate” herself from man, or to seek to elevate herself as a position of authority, whereas originally created they would have been co-partners.  This makes more sense logically, since if her “desire” were merely a sexual desire for her husband, as some believe, it would indicate that sexual desire of a woman for her husband would not have been part of God’s original plan, but rather would be a part of His judgment for her sinning. 

Seeing the proclamation of judgment the way I do, I see both physical and psychological aspects of the punishment. 

The physical punishment, pain in bringing children into the world and in child birth, would be a physical punishment that more or less is universal.  While the pain is real, some women are able to use medications and so forth to alleviate some of the pain in child birth.  I do not believe this is wrong.  It does not deny that pain in child birth is a result of sin entering the world, but it seeks to alleviate the pain when possible. 

As far as the psychological punishment, Eve’s “desire” and him ruling over her, I think these can be in a different category altogether.  These are aspects that may be reversed when a husband and a wife are living in subjection to Jesus.  By implication, Eve’s desire to either brush off the partnership that God intended for those made in His image, or to seek to lord over her husband, were falling short of God’s perfect plan.  And, in turn, the pronouncement that the man would “rule over” her, would also fall outside of the perfect plan that God had planned. 

So, when we realize we are living outside of what God’s perfect will is for us, what are we to do?  On our own, and in our own strength we cannot overcome our sin nature.  But thanks be to God, through the completed work of Jesus Christ we no longer have to be slaves to our sin nature.  That which sin corrupted, can be made right again. 

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 tells us that if we are in Christ, we should not continue to live according to the way our sin nature had us living, but we should remember that in Christ we now have the power to throw off the sin that corrupted us. 

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
As we will see in the near future, a new pattern is laid out for us to live today.  This pattern is one of mutual submission, where both husbands and wives carry uphold one another in a relationship that is edifying and glorifying to God.  (Ephesians 5:22ff)

Finishing up this passage, we see that God hands out His judgment to Adam. 

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;  Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
When God confronted Adam in the Garden, asking him if he had sinned, Adam tried to pass the blame to Eve for his actions.  So, when God handed out His judgment on Adam He said the judgment was because Adam had “listened to the voice of (his) wife and (had) eaten from the tree” which God had commanded them not to eat. 

Above I noted that of the three judgments handed out the serpents was the harshest.  Not only was the serpent itself cursed, God proclaimed that one day they would be completely destroyed through the promised “seed” of the woman, namely Jesus.  When it comes to both Eve and Adam, while their judgments were difficult to take, they and their offspring have hope that what was corrupted by their willful sinning, can be made right before God because of the work that He has accomplished on the cross through Jesus. 

While the physical effects of sin may linger, the consequences of our sin before God can be removed. 
Maybe for you what I’ve said is nothing new for you.  If that is the case I’d encourage you to read and study the scriptures to make sure what I’m saying is true.  Sometimes when we hear the same thing over and over again we may be inclined to not pay as close attention to make sure what is being taught lines up with the teachings of the Bible. 

On the flip side, maybe what I’ve said seems off or wrong to you.  Maybe it goes against what you’ve been taught and believe.  Once again, I encourage you to read the Bible and study it to see if what I’ve said is true or not. 

I welcome any questions you may have on this topic.  I don’t claim to know all the answers, and I know that I can and still do get things wrong at times.  I’m trying to learn, and in the process I hope to be of encouragement to you as you seek to learn as well. 








Sunday, July 01, 2018

#StandingWithOurSisters #Creation



I don’t think I will get any resistance if I were to state that things aren’t as they should be in our world.  Things have been and are being affected by the presence of sin and evil in our world.  Even things that were perfect in their original state now are not, because the effects of sin have touched every aspect of the created world. 

How are we to respond to such a thought? 

I see a few possibilities. 

Denial:  We can pretend that the world around us isn’t broken.  We can pretend that the evil and brokenness either don’t exist or aren’t evil or brokenness. 

Resignation:  Another options is we can just throw up our hands and resign ourselves to fate.  Such a response may cause us to say “The world is broken.  Oh well.  Nothing I can do about it.” 

Redemptive Restoration:  Another option, and in my opinion the best option, is to admit the world is broken, but to look for ways in which we as followers of Jesus can seek to point things and people back towards the way God’s original creative plan intended. 

As a follower of Jesus, I believe this is something He did time and time again throughout His earthly ministry.  Time permitting, I hope to share a number of thoughts about how one aspect of creation was created, how it was affected when sin entered the world, how sin marred what God had said was very good, how entropy played out throughout human history, how Jesus sought to restore order, and how we as His followers should view things today.   

So, over the weeks or months that follow, I want to take the time to explore what the Bible says about…women.  I know this can seem like walking through a mine field, in light of the many opinions that are out there today, I know the whole topic can become divisive.  This is not my plan at all.  I want us to look at what the Bible does, and in some cases does not say, about women, and see how we can truly live out God’s plan for both men and women.   

So, let’s go back to the very beginning.  Please turn with me to Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:1-2a
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep…

God, created all that has been created from nothing.  The rest of Genesis 1 goes on to give us more detail. 

Verse 3 God said “let there be light”; and there was light.

Verse 6-8a says “Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven.

Verse 9 says God created dry land.
Verse 11 says that plants and trees were created.
Verses 14-18 says that God created the sun to give us light during the day, and the moon to govern the night.
Verses 20-21 God created fish and birds.  As the passage goes on it says God said these creatures were to “be fruitful and multiply” to fill the waters and sky with their kind (vs 22)
Verse 24 God created land animals.
After each aspect of His creation, God said what He had made was good.  Then, starting in verse 26 we see the remainder of God’s creation week spoken of.

Genesis 1:26-31
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 2 goes a little more into detail about the creation of Adam and Eve.

Genesis 2:7 says that Adam was formed by God. 
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Unlike animals, God took time to craft Adam.  Then God placed him in a garden God had created.
Genesis 2:8-9
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God placed man in the garden, giving him a beautiful environment, good work to do, food to eat, and so forth.  As the New American Commentary puts it, this was “a setting men may sometimes consider idyllic”.  But, as the commentary and scripture text say, God had more to be done “to achieve the ideal for the man.”  (Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, p. 213). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Continuing on, Genesis 2:18-20
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

Maybe this is the point in which Adam realized that while his home, and work were satisfactory there was something missing:  A companion for himself.  Now granted, God could have simply said “Adam, I am all the companion you need”.  But He didn’t.  God said “It is not good for the man to be alone”, and set out to remedy the problem. 
I probably could preach a whole series of sermons on one little phrase in verse 18, but I won’t—just half a sermon.  I do want to talk about the phrase “helper suitable”, which God used to describe the woman He created for man. 

The phrase comes from two Hebrew words (“ezer” meaning “helper” and “kenegdo” meaning literally “like that is in front of you”).  I want to be clear that I don’t think this is meant to be taken as many people over the years have taken it.  How the concept of “suitable helper”, or “helpmate” is often spoken of in Christian circles is that man was given a job by God to do, and God decided it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so He gave the man a woman to help him.  In many of these scenarios the woman is viewed to be as lesser than man, an afterthought, who is simply there to make life better for man.  This is wrong, this is a lie, and this is destructive.  I will get into why this can be so destructive at a future date.
The term here, help or helper, is used to describe God’s coming to the aid of the Children of Israel when they were being attacked by their enemies, as well as God helping others (See Psalm 20, 33, 70, 115, 121, and 124).  In Exodus 18, Moses used the term to describe how God rescued him from Pharaoh. 

Another aspect often overlooked in this passage is the fact that the narrative here is written differently than in regards to any other part of creation.  When it comes to the creation of animals and then man, God is spoken of in the third person.  “Then God said”…and such was created.  “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground…”  However, when it comes to the creating of the woman, God said “I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 

The New American Commentary has this to say about this passage:

There is no sense derived from the word linguistically or from the context of the garden narrative that the woman is a lesser person because her role differs (see more at 2:23). In the case of the biblical model, the “helper” is an indispensable “partner” (REB) required to achieve the divine commission. “Helper,” as we have seen from its Old Testament usage, means the woman will play an integral part, in this case, in human survival and success. What the man lacks, the woman accomplishes. As Paul said concisely, the man was not made for the woman “but the woman for the man” (cf. 1 Cor 11:9). The woman makes it possible for the man to achieve the blessing that he otherwise could not do “alone.” And, obviously, the woman cannot achieve it apart from the man.  (Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, pp. 214–216). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)


The Bible Knowledge Commentary has this to say:

God decided to make a helper suitable for the man (v. 18). “Helper” is not a demeaning term; it is often used in Scripture to describe God Almighty
And…
They both had the same nature. But what man lacked (his aloneness was not good) she supplied, and what she lacked he supplied.  (Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 31). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
And one more commentary I want to look at is the Pulpit Commentary.  Please keep in mind all of these commentaries are theologically conservative.

The expression indicates that the forthcoming helper was to be of similar nature to the man himself, corresponding by way of supplement to the incompleteness of his lonely being, and in every way adapted to be his co-partner and companion. All that Adam’s nature demanded for its completion, physically, intellectually, socially, was to be included in this altera ego who was soon to stand by his side. Thus in man’s need, and woman’s power to satisfy that need, is laid the foundation for the Divine institution of marriage, which was afterwards prescribed not for the first pair alone, but for all their posterity.  (
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Genesis (p. 50). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)

So, in God’s creative design, both man and woman were made in His image, both were meant to stand alongside each other and complement each other, what one lacked the other was to supply and visa-versa.  She was created to be his “co-partner and companion. As the last commentary said. 

Genesis 2:21-22
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

23 The man 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.”

Quite often when I heard verse 23 read, it seems like many believe this is to be said in a robotic, information only, expression by Adam. 
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
However, I’ve always thought of it in a much more poetic way.  Can you imagine what it would have been like for Adam to see the different animals all go by and for him to see that each had a partner there for them?  Then, to realize you are the only one without a companion like yourself?  When Adam wakes up and sees what God has made especially for him, I doubt he spoke like a Shakespearian actor, being all dramatic on stage.  I think he was speaking in awe and wonder when he says ““This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
Not that Adam had an audience to broadcast it to, but it might sound in today’s vernacular, “Do you see her?  Wow.  God made her for me, and from me.  She is like me.  She is AWESOME.”  Men, you had all seen your wife before your wedding day, but try and remember what it was like to see your wife on your wedding day as she walked towards you during your wedding ceremony.  I remember that moment.  It was a moment of awe, a moment of amazement, a moment of gratitude for the amazing gift that God had given me. (picture of us entering our reception)

Genesis 2:24-25
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
It should be obvious that as the first two humans God created, the command for the man to “leave his father and mother” was given by Moses as he wrote down the creation account in Genesis.  For Adam and Eve, they were alone and yet together.  They were both naked, they were to be joined together in one flesh, and they were not to be ashamed.  This is how God intended things to be.  

Yet, as we will see, God’s  perfect plan for humanity drastically changes when sin enters the world. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Jesus and Divorce

Jesus and Divorce
May 31, 2015
Johnsville Mennonite Church

The Bible can be tricky to understand at times.  When we read through the whole Bible, we read about many difficult and disturbing things that happened.  Sometimes morals are attached to the stories and it is clear who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are.  And then there are other cases where the text just says that so and so did such and such, and doesn’t give approval or condemnation of their actions. 

The Bible is mostly a narrative.  Meaning, it is a story of God’s dealings with mankind.  It is a truthful telling of God’s interactions, and I believe that in the original languages, as God gave it, it was without error, but it still is given to us as a story.  The Bible is not just a list of dos and don’ts.  Instead, it lays out the story and, even when the moral is not spelled out, there are times that we can see the positives and negatives that result from someone’s actions.
Have you ever read something, possibly even in the Old Testament Law, and said to yourself “Why didn’t God just ban _________ and be done with it?”  Maybe it is slavery, or polygamy, or whatever.  Instead of making laws regarding it, why didn’t He just ban it?

The best explanation I have to answer that question is, God met the people where they were, and He slowly moved them towards His perfect ideal. 

Polygamy, for example, was a common practice in the world at the time the Israelites came out of Egypt.  God doesn’t condemn the practice, but institutes safeguards to protect those in such relationships.  One such safeguard is found in Deuteronomy 21:15-17.  
“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him sons, if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, 16then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the firstborn before the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn. 17“But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.
God met the people where they were, and moves them towards His Edenic ideal.
Another factor we need to consider is just because something has a law regarding it, does not mean that God approves of the practice.  For examples, there are laws that deal with what should happen if someone is caught stealing or taking part in sexual relations before marriage.  God isn’t condoning stealing, or pre-marital sex, but rather there are laws put into place regarding what to do when these things happen, because in a fallen world God knew that they would happen.

This leads us to today’s text, in the Sermon on the Mount.  In Jesus time, as well as today, there was some confusion over what the Old Testament laws regarding divorce meant, but Jesus addresses the issue head on.
Matthew 5:31-32
31 “It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Here in the Sermon Jesus quickly highlights divorce, but later on in Matthew 19 Jesus goes more in depth on the topic.  I want us to consider Jesus’ teachings regarding divorce in light of both passages.
Matthew 19:3-9
3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Divorce was obviously something they dealt with in the time of Jesus, just as we deal with it in our time.
Among the Jews of Jesus day, there were two primary teachings about divorce.  One said that divorce was permissible for any reason.  This school of thought was promoted by followers of a man called Hillel.  This would possibly be similar to today’s “no-fault” divorce.  Your wife burned your breakfast, that would be grounds for divorce.  A man’s perceived needs in marriage aren’t met, he could divorce his wife.  This line of thinking is laid out in the Matthew 19 question.  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

On the other side, followers of Shammai said that divorce was only commanded when a major offense was committed. 
The disagreement in the two camps came down to one small phrase in the Deuteronomy 24 law, regarding divorce.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.
The phrase that the two groups debated over was the phrase “some indecency” in verse 1. 
But as we know from Matthew 19, and elsewhere, the people in Jesus society who thought themselves to be the most righteous, often tried to trick Jesus through their questions.  Jesus sidesteps their traps, and often gives the harshest of His responses to these individuals.  When Jesus dealt with sinners He displays much more compassion that He does when He encounters the so-called-religious.
So these two groups both believed that divorce was commanded by Moses, and their only debate was over what “some indecency” meant. 
They want Jesus to take a side on divorce, and Jesus wants to talk about marriage.
Jesus says “Have you not read”—in today’s vernacular he may have said—haven’t you read your Bible?  He says that marriage was instituted by God before sin entered the world.  And since God is the author not only of marriage as an institution, but also of each marriage covenant, Jesus says that man has no right to rewrite the rules for marriage.
Matthew 19:4-6
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
They want to talk divorce, and He steers them back to the foundation of marriage.  We don’t have time to look at every passage that deals with marriage in the Bible today, but if we would, we would see that God’s intention for marriage was for it to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime.  The only thing that was meant to break the bond or covenant of marriage would be the death of one of the marriage partners.
The Pharisees then respond by asking why Moses commanded them to divorce then.
Matthew 19:7
7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
The different groups both felt that Moses commanded divorce, but disagreed only on what grounds led to the divorces.  And yet, as we see, Jesus says that Moses (and by implication God—who gave the Law to Moses) never commanded divorce. 
Matthew 19:8
8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
Jesus says that the reason the Mosaic law included regulations on divorce, was not because God approved of divorce, but only because sinful people in a fallen world were likely to divorce.
Let’s go back and read the Deuteronomy 24 passage again. 
Deuteronomy 24:1
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house,
It says the man marries, the man finds some indecency in his wife, he writes a certificate of divorce, gives the papers to his wife and sends her away.  That is quite man centered, and God isn’t mentioned in that part of the passage.  The only regulation God gives in this whole passage is that if the man’s ex-wife marries another, than he cannot marry her again.  That’s the only regulation God gave (and that is found in verses 2-4).  The rest of the passage just acknowledges that in a sinful and fallen world, divorce will happen.
As humans that live in a world marred by divorce, we cannot deny the impact that divorce and remarriage have had on people we know and love, as well as society as a whole.
Today there are four basic views on divorce and remarriage. 
·        The most conservative view says that neither divorce or remarriage are ever allowed. 
·        The next view would say that sometimes divorce is allowed, but remarriage is never allowed.
·        Thirdly, both divorce and remarriage are sometimes allowed.
·        And the most liberal view would be that both divorce and remarriage are allowed for any reasons.
As we continue to work our way through what the Bible teaches about divorce and remarriage, I want us to look at something Jesus said in both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19.
Matthew 5:32
32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
And..
Matthew 19:9
9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Let’s consider these verses, and what they say, before we look at the exception clause Jesus put in both verses.
Jesus says that if you divorce your wife, and He implies or assumes that she will remarry, He says that you have caused her to commit adultery.  Not only her, but her new husband would also be guilty of committing adultery.  And Jesus says if you divorce your wife and marry another you commit adultery, and your new wife commits adultery.  So, when it comes to divorce, Jesus says that a divorce can lead to five sins occurring.  The fifth sin would be the divorce itself—the breaking of the covenant before God.  And, as a pastor I know once said, that doesn’t even begin to address any sins that may have led up to the divorce occurring in the first place.
Those who hold the most conservative view on divorce and marriage—saying neither is ever allowed—would likely say that Jesus says all parties involved commit adultery because they were only really married to their first partner.  All other relations, under this line of thought, would be outside of marriage.  I don’t believe that is the case, and I believe the scriptures would find fault with such thinking.  While I understand the reasoning behind why many hold this view—they hate divorce and don’t want it to take place—the Bible in many places shows us that divorced people are divorced and remarried people are remarried.  The sin of adultery that those involved would be guilty of would be related to their role or acceptance of the breaking of the marriage covenant. 

But what about the exception clause we mentioned earlier?  It is important that we do not call sinful what Jesus says is not sinful, and so we must look at what He says in the exception clauses.
Matthew 19:9
9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
A similar statement is found in Matthew 5:32.
Jesus statement in this verse is stated in a negative form.  He says that if you divorce your wife and marry another women you commit adultery, except when your partner has committed adultery.  Let’s look at the verse from the viewpoint that the partner has committed adultery.  It would read this way:  “I say to you whoever divorces his wife because of immorality, and marries another woman does not commit adultery.”  If in the original statement Jesus gave the divorce and remarriage are sinful except when immorality has taken place, then what Jesus was saying is that when immorality does take place, to divorce and yes, even to remarry, can take place without the innocent spouse being guilty of sinning.
The sin of divorce and guilt would not be upon the party who did not cheat, but would fall upon the partner who has already broken the marriage covenant due to their adultery. 
However, let me say, just because Jesus tells us that to divorce or to divorce and remarry if your partner has cheated, does not mean that you have to. 
The Bible is full of teachings and examples of showing grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged you.  If your partner confesses their sin, and is willing to work on reconciliation, I would say the most godly thing to do would be to forgive that partner and work on restoring the bond that was broken and the trust that was broken.  Would it be sinful for you to divorce the spouse that cheated?  No.  But just because you can do it without sinning doesn’t mean you should do it. 
The only example of divorce that would not be sinful that Jesus tells us about is what we have just discussed—unfaithfulness by one’s partner.  But Jesus didn’t teach the last word on the issue. 
Through the inspired Apostles, Paul taught of one other exception in which divorce would not be sinful.
I Corinthians 7:12-15
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
Paul says that if one partner is a Christian, they have chosen to follow Christ, and the other is not, than if the unbelieving spouse wants out of the marriage as a result, then Paul says the believer would be free from the marriage.  However, if the unbelieving spouse agrees to stay married, then Paul says they “must not divorce.”  While a marriage with one believer and one unbeliever may difficulties in addition to typical marital difficulties—Paul says the reason the believing partner should not divorce is so that they can be a witness to their unbelieving spouse.   And, Paul says, if you stay together it can be of benefit for the sake of the children as well.

Conclusion:
Today’s sermon has not been an easy one to prepare or preach.  What the Bible says about divorce is complicated, because divorce is complicated. 

You may never have been divorced, but maybe you have let the idea float around in your mind.  Maybe you have seriously considered divorcing.  Let me encourage you that it is not too late to work on your marriage.   Talk to your partner.  Seek help and solid biblical counselling.  God has called us to live in peace, and to honor Him in all areas of our lives.  And our marriage is one of the ways we can demonstrate our love for God.
Maybe you know those who have been divorced for a reason that was sinful.  Or maybe that person, who was involved in a sinful divorce, is remarried.  Sin is sin, in the eyes of God.  While some sins are more on display for others to see than others, all sins are falling short of God’s expectation and holy standard.    Any and all sin’s we commit must be confessed to God.  God says when we bring our sins to Him, and confess those sins, He will “cleanse us.”
If you have been holding hard feelings against your spouse, it isn’t too late to go to them and seek restoration.  Maybe you have cheated on your spouse, and have been afraid to go to them and confess.  Do it.  It will remove a burden from your soul, and then you can start working on the reconciliation that will need to occur.