The Author Of Marriage And Sex
God said, "Let Us make man in Our image," and thus He created humans in His own image. This He did not say about any other aspect of the creation. God is also shown to be the author of marriage and sex, a point made quite clear in the early chapters of the first book in the Bible. After God had created the man and the woman and had told them to procreate, He announced that "everything He had made . . . was very good."
In the second chapter of Genesis, which fills in more detail of the creation week, we are told that God created the woman from the man and that a man was to leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife as one flesh. Thus God created marriage between a man and a woman, and He designed sex to be a part of the marriage relationship.
There was absolutely no shame or guilt attached to the relationship between Adam and Eve. So where did a shameful view of sex come from? In the third chapter of Genesis we are introduced to a serpent, which symbolizes the enemy of God's way of life, Satan. The account relates how this adversary induced Adam and Eve to reject God's way as symbolized by the tree of life and instead decide for themselves what was right and what was wrong-an approach that has percolated down to our time today.
As a result of choosing this way, the beautiful relationship Adam and Eve had, as pictured by their unashamed nakedness, was shattered. Here, then, is the origin of ideas that the physical human existence is essentially evil and that marriage and sexual propagation should be considered in a negative light. The first humans disobeyed their Creator, and their attitude toward an ideal relationship - one built on trust, openness and a close bond with the One who had created it all - was subverted.
Sex, in any case, has nothing to do with Adam and Eve's Fall from grace in Genesis. The first sex act described in the Bible comes after the departure from Eden: "And Adam knew Eve his wife" ("to know," Hebrew yada, being a euphemism for sexual intercourse), "and she conceived, and bare Cain." As Barr notes, intercourse is here described for the first time because it is the first time that a child is produced. Adam and Eve then have a second son, Abel, and when Adam is one hundred and thirty years old he knows Eve again, fathering Seth. How many times Adam knows Eve after that, or how many more wives Adam knows, is unknown, but he begets "sons and daughters" for eight hundred more years.
God's first commandment was "Be fruitful and multiply". There were also God-given laws to help keep things in perspective. Thus the commandment against adultery protected property rights (women being subordinate and essentially owned by their husbands), and laws against incest protected the integrity of the family. A newly married man, however, was given a year off from war and other work, to stay home and "cheer up his wife".
For sexual intercourse, the Old Testament writers use the euphemisms "to lie with" and "to know". These sexual terms occur many times in the Bible, and typically each use covers the whole sexual encounter, any foreplay or other elaboration not being a narrative concern. Usually the only point seems to be that the lovers are about the task of being fruitful and multiplying, though at times the encounter, as far as the man is concerned, is for sexual gratification.
True to God's commandment to "be fruitful and multiply", a high priority was placed on progeny. It was Abraham and his seed, of course, who had to do all the actual multiplying. The genitals, as seat of the powers of procreation, accordingly had a sacrosanct quality. Men would literally swear by them: one man might place his hand on or near another man's privates when swearing something to him, as a person today might place a hand on a Bible. The dying Jacob, in getting Joseph to promise to "bury me not" in Egypt, tells him first, "Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh".
Adam and Eve raised Cain, the first human being ever produced by sexual intercourse. Cain grew up to be a farmer but also the Bible's first murderer, slaying Abel, his sheepherding younger brother. Later "Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch." This wife is a mystery woman, since at the time of Cain's birth the whole world's population totaled only three (being, of course, Cain and his parents Adam and Eve). Remarkable also is Cain's founding of a city, which implies a considerable number of inhabitants. The best explanation for such a population explosion from one created couple is the obvious one: inbreeding was originally extensive, indeed unavoidable.
Given God's commandment to "be fruitful and multiply", the bible has a "preoccupation with procreation." That's why many of the stories and other passages in the Bible involve sex, and why many of these, unheard of in sermons and Sunday school lessons, remain little known. Sexually related material comprises overall such a significant portion of scripture that some knowledge of it is essential both in appreciating the Bible as a whole and in understanding the difference in attitude toward sex.
I suppose you'd expect a man who's been married 30 years to a beautiful, intelligent woman would be able to share with you the intimate secrets to having a perfect marriage. But I'm going to disappoint you! That's because my wife and I don't have a perfect marriage. As far as a perfect marriage, well, there's no such thing.
The first purpose in marriage—beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else—is to please God. Becoming married takes time. It doesn't happen on the wedding day. The wedding is only the beginning of a relationship that can be expected to endure and grow. What happens is that over time God's grace becomes visible in the marriage relationship. It becomes visible and real to the married couple, of course, but in a wonderful way it also becomes visible to the people who are touched by the relationship, to family and friends, to neighbors and fellow church members.
When was the last time you looked at your mate watching TV, maybe with a beer in his hand, and thought, He is made in the image and likeness of God? When was the last time you sat across the dinner table and didn't stare down into your plate, but into the eyes of someone reflecting the image and likeness of God? When was the last time you pressed warmly against your mate, knowing she is made in the image and likeness of God—and not just a body there for your amusement?
When you correctly view your mate—not according to the warped, twisted, politically correct, fly-by-night, and faddish standards of a fallen world—but as God created that person to be, you set your marriage on the high road. You and your spouse were both planned for God's pleasure.
Marriage is a life-long process designed to teach you to see the needs of another person as more important than your own. It's a difficult transition because it's not natural. To think this way requires an intentional shift. As you and your spouse make that shift, your marriage will become more and more purpose-driven—focused on the needs of others and balancing the purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, and missions. The reward is greater than anything you could ever imagine. God's plan for you and your spouse—for your marriage—is wider and deeper than anything in your wildest, craziest dreams.
The great danger zone in a marriage is when we withhold anything in our power to give that would bless the other person. Perhaps that's why the Bible encourages couples to make sure that sexual love is given freely. "Stop depriving one another," the apostle Paul says, "except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer". In other words, don't let your sexual life degenerate to a place where either of you feels that the other person could give love yet chooses to withhold it.
God intends sex to be a physical representation-the model of a spiritual mystery that we will understand one day. For now, we have an experience that bonds us for life with the heart of another human being. We have a frame that holds us together when the days grow dark, and there are no words strong enough to make everything all right. We have a place of shelter, healing, and passion.
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