Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Little Meditation

Sometimes it's good to read large sections of the Bible in one sitting so you can get an idea of the big picture. How long could it take to read a short book like Mark's Gospel? There are times, though, when it's good to read just a little bit - and then to ask questions about what you've read. Sometimes just listing some questions can provide insight. Then, there's the benefit of arriving at some answers to those questions. And what is this but the ancient art of Christian meditation.

Today, we're going to look at a small bit of Scripture, a sentence. After I read it I'm going to ask some questions of it. I'm also going to provide some answers to those questions. In a way I'll be guiding you in meditating of our passage. And out of that I'm expecting the Spirit to help you in some way or other.

Here's the part of Scripture that we're going to consider.
The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3.20
So, first question. What happened? That's always a good place to start when you read about some event in the Bible. The answer here is quite clear. Adam changed his wife's name. It helps to remember that he had named her before. He gave her the name Woman. Evidently, he changed his mind and decided to rename her Eve. That's what happened.

Next question. Is this event significant? Or should we just move on to the next sentence? I think that it's fair to say that it is significant. Why else would Moses include it? There are many things that happened that Moses decided not to include. But he included this. Something important is going on here. So, it's worth investing some time to find out what's so important.

That leads to this question. What's going on beneath the surface? Adam changed her name. So? What's the big deal with that? Well, there are other places in the Bible where a person's name is changed. Abram was renamed Abraham. Jacob was renamed Israel. And there were others. Why were they renamed? Their new names had something special associated with them. Abraham means 'father of a multitude'. God renamed Abram when he promised him that he would have a multitude of children. Israel means 'he strives with God'. His name was changed after that wrestling match with God. Having their names changed meant something. What's it mean here?

Moses explains why Adam renamed his wife. It was
because she was the mother of all living.
Abram heard a promise. Jacob wrestled with God. Those are the reasons why their names were changed. What happened with Eve that her name was changed? She was going to be a mother.

Remember what God had said to Eve.
I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.
What did Adam hear in this that he felt the need to change his wife's name? He heard a promise about motherhood. To feel the punch of the promise you need to remember what God had said to Adam.
You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
God told Adam that if he ate he would die. Or as God told him elsewhere,
… you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
God was clear. You eat, you die.

But then there were also these words spoken to Eve. What was promised? Life was promised. Yes, they would die and return to dust. But it wasn't going to happen on that day. Adam and his wife still had a future. They would live. They would live and have children. And while giving birth to them and caring for them and feeding them would be difficult, there would be children. God promised. They’re not going to die, not on that day.

So, do you see what was going on with this renaming? It was Adam's response to God's promise. Adam believed what God had said. They weren't going to die right then. The Woman would have children. So, Adam marked the significance of that. He changed his wife's name. She would no longer be Woman, which is about her being taken out of Man. No, she would be Eve, which in Hebrew means life. She was going to live and give life. Adam believed that and acted.

Now, another question. Adam changed his wife's name. Can he do that? Can he change her name, just like that? Doesn't she get a say in this? Again, connect this to some other Scripture, in this case chapter 2. And what happened there? Adam named her the first time. That seemed to be okay back then. Is it different now?

Abram and Jacob were renamed. But God did that. Obviously, God had the authority to do that. Did Adam? He did. For one thing, there is no suggestion in the text that Adam did something wrong. The next time that his wife shows up in the text Moses refers to her by her new name, Eve. It also helps to remember that Adam named the animals. What was that about? It was about dominion. It was an expression of the authority that God had given to Adam. People are sometimes given authority over others, and one way they use that authority is to name those others. Parents do it all the time. What we have in this renaming is an expression of Adam's God-given authority over his wife.

As soon as people hear about a husband's authority, one quick response is all about tyranny. Men can be so abusive. And the sad fact is that we can be. And that really is a problem. But tyranny isn't the only problem when it comes to authority. There is also the problem of abdication. That's when a husband refuses to exercise the authority given to him. That's when a husband refuses to lead. And the result is the chaos of rudderless ship. So, we have two problems when we talk about men and their authority over their wives, tyranny and abdication. And these days charting a course that avoids both is really hard.

Let’s pursue this with another question. Was Adam's renaming his wife an act of tyranny? What he bossing her around? No. Actually, what Adam did was an act of love. Remember the situation. The two of them had just ruined everything at that tree. They were found out and cursed. Something beautiful was just made ugly. I'm guessing that the Man was hanging his head in shame and the Woman was in tears. It was a horrible time. So, what do they do now? Was it hopeless?

This is where Adam shines. He loved his wife. He wanted to take care of her. He wanted her to be assured that they weren't going to die, at least not then. He wanted her to hope. So, he acted. He used his authority. He changed her name. That was by no means an act of tyranny. Adam was simply fulfilling his role as husband. He was caring for his wife. From that day on, every time Adam addressed his wife, Eve, it was a reminder. There was hope. God was for them and not against them. He had promised them good. Adam's act of authority was an act of love to encourage his wife. Adam was being a good and wise husband.

And that's an example of meditating on some Scripture. It does leave one more question. Where do go from here? There are several options. We could talk about God and His promises. That's an important aspect of what's going on here. We could also consider the mercy of God. After all, these two sinners, like the rest of us, deserved justice. They deserved to return to dust at that moment. But that didn't happen. We could even talk about the significance of names.

But I think that it would be good to talk about a husband's authority, what it means for husbands to lead their wives. First, there is simply the thought that this is part of how God wants His creation to function. Husbands have been given authority to lead. And while tyranny is an evil that God hates and will most certainly deal with, refusal to lead, abdication, is also an evil that God hates and will most certainly deal with. And while there are abominable situations where husbands are abusive in any number of ways, the greater problem in the evangelical church today is the problem of husbands who don't lead. To say that differently, a large problem in the evangelical church today is husbands who refuse to act in the way that Adam did, husbands who refuse to wisely use their authority, husbands who refuse to love their wives.

Many younger husbands who fail at this are not quite as guilty as others. No one has told them that this is part of what it means to be a husband. That's one of the fruits of egalitarianism. God still holds them responsible, but not as responsible as some other husbands. These other husbands know what they are supposed to do. They know about leading wisely with authority, but they don't lead. I'm sure that they have their reasons. But I'm also sure that none of those reasons are good enough to justify their disobedience. While that first group of husbands sins in ignorance, this group sins knowing. Their guilt before God is greater. There is a growing need for repentance in many Christian husbands.

This, however, is not something just for the husbands to consider. Wives also need to consider it. The first wife was created to be a suitable helper to her husband. That leads to this question. How can you wives be suitable helpers to your husbands in all of this? How can you help your husband to live out God's calling to lead with authority? You have a role to play and that means that you also have some responsibility for what happens. There is also a growing need for repentance in many Christian wives.

The key problem here has to do with the whole topic of authority. Our culture has a love/hate relationship with authority. We love to have authority but hate to submit to it. So, after our culture falls apart, when it's time for the Church to rebuild the culture, this is going to be one of the key areas that we will need to give serious attention to. There is a place for authority, Godly authority. And we prepare for that day of rebuilding by living according to a biblical notion of authority today.

So, husbands and wives, how is your marriage doing when it comes to the proper exercise of authority? Husbands, are you leading your wife, being motivated by a sincere desire to love her like Adam loved Eve? Wives, are you helping him do that? And to both, what lessons are you passing on to your children as they watch your marriage? Is there anything that needs to be changed?

So, what have I done? I’ve described for you some of what it means to follow Jesus in a marriage. And it’s important to say it that way. Following Jesus is not something that you can succeed at on your own. It requires so much. But Jesus is clear that there is grace for all who do follow Him. All you need to do is ask. Sometimes you’ll ask in the context of repentance, coming to Him because of your sin, seeking forgiveness and change which He will give you. But there are also those times when you come just because you know that there’s work to be done and you know you can’t do it without Him. So, ask for grace so that you will be able to make progress in this and show the world what it means to follow Jesus.

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