I was a groomsman at a recent wedding and I was asked to give a devotional to the groom and the other groomsmen. What follows is a lightly edited (maybe sometimes heavily edited: speeches are always better on paper) version of that devotional. I have changed the bride and groom’s names to Susan and Ben for privacy reasons.
If you’ve attended a lot of weddings, you probably have seen that the ministers circle around the same few Bible passages. And there is nothing wrong with that, because they are generally beautiful passages. You might hear Ephesians 5, speaking about the reality of Christ and his Church that marriage points to. Or you may hear about 1 Peter 3 for a practical picture of how husbands and wives relate. Or you may hear about 1 Corinthians 13, a picture of what love looks like in practice.
But today I want to talk about what I think is the most misunderstood “marriage passage.” And that’s Genesis 2. Genesis 2:18 says, “it is not good for a man to be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And then God creates Eve. Which is a great passage for a wedding, because in this passage is the first of all marriages. And by observing the reason for this marriage, I think the Bible can tell us something about the reason for all the marriages that follow.
But here is how this passage is often unhelpfully understood. When God says that it is not good for man to be alone, we think that the reason it was not good is because man was lonely. So God saw lonely Adam and said “let me make him a companion so he is not so lonely anymore.” Therefore the implication is that it is good to get married so that you are not so lonely anymore. I don’t think that is the thrust of this passage. And the reason I think it is not is because the text does not say that God made for Adam a companion, it says God made for Adam a helper. This passage does not say that Eve was made for companionship, it says that she was made for help.
So if the rationale for this marriage is the rationale for all marriages, then Ben, you need to think of Susan not primarily as “companion”-though of course she is-but primarily (although “primarily” is always a dangerous word) as “helper.” Now I need to explain this word “helper” a little bit, because saying “your wife is primarily your helper” may sound a bit patronizing. But that’s in large part due to how we use the word “helper.” For example, my son is two years old, and when he helps set the table, I can say “man, he is a good helper.” What do I mean by that? His help is something that was convenient for me, but honestly, without him, I probably could have done it better.
That’s not how the Bible uses the word “helper.” The word in Hebrew is “Ezer” and actually the most common usages of that word in the Old Testament applies it to God himself. One of the most familiar passages that uses the term is Psalms 121 “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and Earth.” Here, the “helper” is God Almighty. We see this again in Exodus 18:4 where Moses names his son Eliezer (El meaning God and Ezer meaning help) and says, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”) So, with that in mind, what does it mean for Eve to be Adam’s helper. It means just as Moses could not have taken his people from Egypt without God, so Adam could not have completed his mission without Eve. She was not an add-on. She was an integral part of the mission, put in place to help Adam do what he could not have done on his own.
And the context of Genesis 2 plays that out. Verse 18 says that it is not good for man to be alone. Why? Because in verse 15, Adam was given a mission. “The Lord God took the man and put in him the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Adam had a mission, and it was not good for him to be alone, because he needed someone to help him with that mission. His mission is further fleshed out In Genesis 1:28 “And God blesses them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” So Adam had a mission to tend the garden, to go forth and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. And Eve was the one who was uniquely suited to help Adam in that task.
So sometimes we read Genesis 2:20, where the animals were found not to be suitable helpers for Adam, and have this picture of Adam sitting alone, super lonely. And God brings by a grizzly bear. And Adam says “no, I wouldn’t want to hang out all my life with that bear.” And God moves on to the next animal. “Nope, don’t want to hang out with that animal either.” That’s not the picture. Rather, the picture I want you to imagine is God bringing forward the bear and Adam saying, “no, that bear is not suitable because I cannot have children with that bear. I can’t go forth and multiply. I cannot keep the garden with that bear. I cannot subdue the earth, I cannot build cities with that bear.” For those things, Adam needed someone as powerful as Eve.
But if Genesis 2 is our rubric for marriage, then it presupposes something. If Susan is to be your helper, it presupposes that you have a grand and glorious mission given to you from God. And you do. When Jesus rose from the dead, he said “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt 28:18-19)
Ben, God has given you a mission to do, and he has given you Susan to help you do it. You are called to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach Jesus’s commandments to everyone. Which is not to say that you will not enjoy your time together. In fact, working together for Jesus is one of the things that will draw you both together. Some of the best times Neziah and I have had have been talking about the Bible, strategizing how we can disciple well, and evaluating the conversations that we have had with those who don’t yet know Jesus. Togetherness is not our primary mission. But our primary mission brings us together.
So Ben, as you go today and are married to Susan, I charge you to follow the mission that God has given to you. The mission of making disciples, loving your enemies, caring for the poor, evangelizing those who do not believe, and raising godly children who will do this mission better than both of you ever will.