On a previous program we introduced the subject of biblical manhood. We noted the scarcity of real men in both the wider culture and in the church. And we attempted from Scripture to define the term “real men.”
There are many reasons why real men are in such short supply in our day. Two major reasons quickly come to mind: the sexual revolution of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. That led to the explosion of single-motherhood, and the rise of radical feminism with its accompanying gender confusion. As a result, many men (even professing Christian men) are unsure about what their role and function should be.
In that previous message we looked at the two primary responsibilities delegated to men that greatly enhance our understanding of biblical manhood. According to Genesis 2:15, those responsibilities were to work, and to keep. The basic application of those responsibilities calls men to be providers and protectors. From the dawn of creation until the mid-20th century, man’s roles as provider and protector were universally understood and practiced by cultures that were influenced by Judeo-Christian principles.
Today, we’ll begin looking at the importance of men pursuing biblical manhood in their role as leaders. When God created Adam, He clearly assigned him the role as “ruler” or “lord” (that’s lord with the lower-case l) over the creation. The fulfilling of this role touches all areas of his life, home, employment, church, and society. While this role of leadership has been abused by many men, including professing Christians, we mustn’t cast it aside. Rather, we must accept the truth of God’s Word and apply it in ways that profoundly impact our families and our culture. Failure to do so will lead ultimately to both societal and eternal ruin.
I turn now to our primary text, Genesis 2:15-25. Listen carefully as I read these few verses.
To understand God’s calling to men to be leaders we observe the several DIRECTIVES God gave to Adam in this text.
The First DIRECTIVE is,
Exercise Your Spiritual Discernment
As we begin, remember that Genesis chapter one gives us a general overview of the entire creation. The creation of mankind is covered in just four verses. Chapter two, from which I just read, gives us additional details about the creation of human beings in the image of God. One of the things we notice immediately is that man was created first. This fact is noted by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and to Timothy as logical indication of man’s leadership role.
Verse 9 of Genesis two, reminds us that, in the Garden, God placed “…every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…”In this wonderful garden was an incredible variety of fruit-bearing trees created for Adam’s physical enjoyment and for his nourishment. Everything he needed was close at-hand and he was free to enjoy as much as he wanted.
After God placed Adam in the Garden to maintain and guard it, he immediately gave him a prohibition, stating; “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Think about it; God used a physical object as a test of man’s spiritual discernment in leadership. God, as our creator, knew that we men tend to function primarily in the realm of the physical. So, he used the physical desire for food to test Adam’s level of obedience and his spiritual discernment. This test God gave to Adam reminds us that our physical actions must be informed by spiritual discernment.
I believe that “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” enjoyed a prominent place in Adam’s new home. Adam was made in God’s image; he was a moral being. As such, his moral capacity, his ability to differentiate right from wrong, could only function and be tested when he had a choice. If a man has no freedom to choose what’s right, his morality can’t be tested. There is no need for spiritual discernment when one is programmed to do what is right.
We might think God was unfair to Adam in placing such a restriction before him. We may ask, “IfGod didn’t want Adam to eat of that tree, why didn’t he put it in some out-of-the-way place where it could be easily avoided?” Well, I guess it would be easier for us men to avoid the temptation to sin if our “forbidden fruits” were all placed in obscure places. But that’s not realistic, that’s not the way life works. The moral and spiritual choices we deal with every day are all around us, right in our path. That’s why I believe this forbidden tree occupied a prominent place in the Garden.
God knows all things and He knew how Adam was going to respond to this test. Yet it had to be so. Adam needed to make a conscious choice to obey God’s command even though he could see no logical reason for the prohibition. We know this fruit was not defective and it certainly must have been attractive. Later, when Eve looked at this fruit, it was very desirable. So, Adam couldn’t SEE (physically) any reason why he shouldn’t have access to this tree.
He needed to understand that the decision-making process must start with spiritual reflection, not physical appetite. There are many examples in the Scripture of men who got these two reversed and suffered terrible consequences in their lives and in their families. Some examples are Isaac, Esau, Samson, Eli, David, and others. And the New Testament warns us to avoid those kinds of failures in our lives.
Spiritual discernment is a key part of man’s role as a leader. Like Adam, we may not understand the reason for God’s prohibition of certain things. But obedience is based primarily on trust rather than on understanding. We must realize that God often tests our obedience before enlightening our understanding. Spiritual discernment enables us to see, by faith, what God already knows. This is critical to our success as leaders. Adam’s failure to lead in this area of spiritual discernment is well documented for us in chapter 3 and in our own lives today.
The Second DIRECTIVE is,
Utilize Your Intellectual Endowment
Maybe you’re wondering where I see intellectual endowment in this text. By endowment, I mean something that is given. God gave Adam a fully developed mind.
Look at verses 19 and 20. Don’t you think it took a certain amount of intellect to name all the animals that God paraded before Adam? How would you have handled this task? That’s what I thought – you don’t know. That’s why you weren’t Adam. To be fair, Adam was created as a fully developed adult, he didn’t go through the learning process like we do, beginning at infancy. But as I said, Adam needed a certain level of intellectual endowment to be a successful leader.
Today, among those who sincerely attempt to follow Jesus, there seem to be two ideas concerning higher education. One is, “Advanced education is bad; it will lead you away from the truth.” Seeing how many college students lose what little commitment they have to Christ; I can see why some people feel this way. On the other hand, are those, probably the larger group, who make education a god. They say, “You just can’t be successful in life without an advanced education.”
Scripture and reality are somewhere in the middle. Yes, education is important. There’s no value in ignorance just for ignorance’s sake unless it is the ignorance of sin! It’s important for us men to model this need for intellectual development for our wives and families. Our children need to see that learning is important to us. And it might be helpful to note the reality that most of our learning takes place outside the four walls of a classroom.
Our children, and others we may lead, need to see us utilizing and developing the intellectual capacity that God has given us so we can better serve Him and those we lead. They should see us improving the skills we have by continuing study and application. They should see our desire to know more of God and His Word so we can better fulfill the roles and responsibilities assigned to us. As Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
The Bible doesn’t tell us how long it took Adam to name all the animals, nor how many animals he was actually responsible to name. Most likely, he named the ones closest to him in the Garden; specifically, the cattle, birds, and the beasts of the field. But the point is, he used the intellectual ability God gave him to complete a necessary task. In this discussion it is important for us to realize that not all people have the same intellectual abilities. But it’s also important that we encourage others to utilize the abilities they have to their fullest potential.
There’s another important aspect of this intellectual endowment God gave to Adam. Since Adam named the animals, that signified his dominion over them. God didn’t create animals with an intellect like man has. Man was and is the only creature “made in the image of God.” That likeness gives him unique worth and status in the created world. As I mentioned in an earlier study, that truth is being vehemently rejected by many in our culture, especially in the halls of academia.
In the process of using his intellect to name the animals I’m quite certain that Adam confronted (what was for him) a puzzling question. “All the animals are in pairs, male and female. But where is my partner; one like me who can be present with me and share my life?” When God created Adam, He could have just as easily created Eve at the exact same time. But He didn’t. He allowed Adam to observe the animals and then use his intellect to consider why there was no soulmate or partner suitable for him. Which leads us to the final directive.
The Final DIRECTIVE is,
Maximize Your Covenantal Commitment
In another act designed to highlight the role of male leadership, God created woman out of Adam’s side. It is unfortunate that the Authorized Version uses the word, rib, in this text. The Hebrew word, tsela, appears 35 times in the Old Testament and is nowhere else translated as rib. It normally refers to the side. Eve was created by God out of flesh and bone taken from Adam’s side. We should also remember that in order to have flesh and bone, you need life-giving blood.
To perform this operation, God caused Adam to fall into a “deep sleep.” Now, considering there was no sin in the world at this time, and most likely no knowledge of pain, why did Adam need to go into a “deep sleep.” Because he, as the first Adam, was a type of Christ, the last Adam; that’s according to Paul’s writing in First Corinthians 15. Jesus, the last Adam, also entered into the deep sleep of death and His side was opened to give life to his Bride, the Church. That’s you and me. So there are some deeply significant theological issues introduced here in the creation account of woman.
When God took Eve from Adam’s side, He took existing life and formed woman from that life. Then he brought her to Adam and awakened him from his deep sleep. Now Adam had a soulmate, a partner, a confidant. God had created from Adam a helper for him to be by his side to share his life. How much Adam understood the spiritual significance of this act of God we can only guess. But standing where we do at our vantage point in time, we clearly see the work of Christ preparing a bride for Himself out of His wounded side.
It’s obvious from our text that one thing Adam understood was the permanency of the marriage bond. He 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.”
It’s a sad commentary on male leadership that so many Christian families today are in shambles. Being in the place of leadership makes us men primarily responsible for the success or failure of our marriages and families. Did you hear me? I said, being in the place of leadership makes us men primarily responsible for the success or failure of our marriages and families.
Many men today have embraced the cultural view of marriage as a contract, rather than the scriptural view of marriage as a covenant. Many people do not realize the covenant symbolism in the groom’s family seated on one side of the aisle and the bride’s family on the other. When the bride walks down that aisle, she is giving a visual affirmation to the new covenant she is entering into with her husband. And the assembled families are agreeing to hold this new couple accountable for the maintenance of that covenant.
It should be very clear to us men that we are to maintain the marriage covenant at all costs. When Jesus’ disciples questioned him about marriage in Matthew 19, they were shocked when he told them, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away commits adultery.” We know they understood the implications of Jesus’ statement from their response. They said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” Marriage was intended to be an unbreakable covenant, a solemn obligation, and a commitment to one person for life.
Our English word, cleave, used in verse 24 is a verb. It’s translated in other texts by words like, keep, overtook, joined, stick, abide, pursue, and close. All these remind us that growing in covenantal commitment is a process. This year, Joyce and I will celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary. What a wonderful journey it has been for me in learning how to cleave to her as my wife; to pursue her, to stick close by her side, to keep her close and protect her. These are the things I promised to do on our wedding day, 40+ years ago.
While it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve found great joy in better understanding God’s covenant of marriage and then applying what I’ve learned to our relationship. I can with confidence assure all of you husbands who are listening right now; if you will follow this counsel to maximize your covenantal commitment, as God designed and ordered it, you will experience God’s blessing in your life and marriage.
Men, how well do you understand your role as a leader? These counsels, if accepted and acted upon, will give you a clearer understanding of your role and how to fill it. Exercise spiritual discernment, utilize your intellectual endowment, and maximize your covenantal commitment. In so doing, you can become the kind of leader God created you to be.