After two weeks banging away on man’s design and the tendencies he has to mess this up because of that rascally sin nature, we launched headlong into God’s design for woman. We used the same text where we saw God’s purpose for men.
Genesis 2:18-25 - Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man 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. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Two things strike me about this text. First of all, God made only one Eve for Adam. Maybe that sounds like a no-brainer to us, but what’s interesting is that within 6 generations of the introduction of sin, men had turned to polygamy, where women were property—no better than cattle, really. The more wives you had, the wealthier you were. Hardly what God had in mind. Second, manuscripts and what we know of culture at that time suggests that it would have been considered crazy to talk about a man leaving his family and holding fast to his wife, which is, again, how God set it up. Instead, we find in the culture that the wife joined the man’s family. His loyalty wasn’t to her, but to his family. Just think how many advice columnists respond to letters from wives complaining that hubby is a mama’s boy—someone who hasn’t left mom and dad and is not holding fast to his wife. No wonder women have doubts about this whole man-woman thing. Sin totally busted up what God intended.
So, let’s go back and see what it was that God intended for the woman. We’re going to see a phrase in the passage we just read, and it’s a phrase women are predisposed not to like. I’d merely ask that, before you throw whatever device your reading this on against the wall, you just give me the opportunity to lay out for you what God was going for with this phrase. I’m trusting that it’ll make sense when I’m done.
Here’s the phrase: A helper fit for him. We’re going to break that phrase into two distinct parts, realizing that both of them matter.
This word in Hebrew is a bit difficult, because what it means depends on the context in which it’s used. In that regard, it’s like the English word “fast”—which can mean to move quickly, or to avoid food, or to be a bit of a shady character, or to hold to steadfastly to a view or opinion. Find the word “fast” in a sentence, and you know which meaning is referred to.
When we see the word “helper" used in the OT, the most common usage is in reference to God helping mankind in some way. I used three specific verses to highlight this: Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7; and Psalm 33:20. These provide the answer to a very specific question: Does helper infer that woman has an inferior or subordinate or lesser role to the man in God’s design. The answer: Not at all. We already know women, like men, are made in God’s image and equal in dignity, worthy and importance. Man’s role is to exercise headship by self-sacrificing love and service. And it’s woman that man is to serve with this self-sacrificing love. Hard to conclude, then, that women are in a lesser or subordinate role—after all, it’s the men who are serving them.
So, what does helper mean? In every context in which the Hebrew word “helper” is used, it denotes someone assisting someone with primary responsibility in some way. So, let’s say I have a responsibility to deliver a Sunday message, but I’m stuck and need help. I ask my wife for some insight. What just happened? Well, I’m not asking her to deliver the message. I’m asking for help in something I have a primary responsibility for because I’m too dumb or weak or insufficient in some way. Or, she just sees that I’m too dumb, weak, or insufficient and offers to help. It turns out that I’m the weaker person here who needs help. Think of it this way: in many ways, man is the weaker vessel because God specifically provided woman to help us. We are going to be incapable as men of fulfilling the responsibilities God gave us without that help women provide. Rather than something inferior, woman comes alongside as a partner, as a key player in man’s ability to fulfill his purpose. And we sure are not going to argue that God is the lesser because He deigns to help man.
Now, we turn to the second part of that phrase: Fit for him. This clearly lays out that woman is not identical to man. If she was, man wouldn’t need her, and she sure wouldn’t need him. No, she’s uniquely fitted, uniquely equipped in ways the man isn’t, and in ways the man needs. It carries the connotation the man has some holes in his armor, some weaknesses, if you will. But along comes Eve, woman, the perfect fit, to help, to complement. What she brings strengthens his strengths, and fills in for his weaknesses. Together, they form a fantastic partnership, designed to complement, not compete against, one another.
How do we apply this design of the woman in real life? Let’s look, as we did for the man, at the home and in church. First, the home. In the message, we looked at:
Titus 2:2-8 - Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Just observe how the older men and older women are assumed to have lived godly lives and to be playing it forward as they instruct the young men and women rising up. These are men who exercise godly, loving headship, and women who are clearly partners in the discipling of the kids at home. It says that women are to be submissive to husbands, but, listen, that’s nothing new. We know from Ephesians 5:15 that both husband and wives are to be submissive to each other. What I found interesting is that while men are to be willing to lay down their lives for their wives, and wives are told to be kind to their husbands. It’s amazing how much power women have over men with their words. Maybe we men can be great handling criticism from the world, at work, wherever, but let our wives express disappointment or criticism, and it can really affect us. That’s because they know us, our every weakness, every shortcoming. Complementary relationships can be great fun, but they can also be painful when it’s dealing with the weaknesses we have. But if we’re wise men, we’ll cherish the fun as well as the pain. We men need to be open to both to have a chance to be competent at what God designed for us.
Men, if your wives know you are crazy about them, that you find them wildly attractive, that you are for them, wanting them to be all God wants for them, they will not think us to be jerks. This passage in Titus actually says that if we have this kind of mutually submissive, complementary relationship, the world would only have good things to say about us.
Ok, how does all this work in the church? Well, if you look through the New Testament, you see women doing all kinds of things—being dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and spreading the gospel; teaching younger women (Titus 2); joining with husbands in discipling (Acts 18); and praying and prophesying at the church in Corinth. Women are not only needed; they are indispensable. So, women should grow in knowledge of the Word, practice and exercise their gifting to make disciples of Christ. Sure, it starts at home. Sharpen the iron of your husband and pour into your children. And take it outside the home to extended family and friends and coworkers. Have younger women that you hang out with.
Before we close out this message, let me say a few words to single ladies. How can you be a “helper fit for him” if you’re not married? What does it mean to be a helper you’re single? Well, first of all, if you’re single, it does not mean that you are supposed to sit idly by simply waiting for a husband. Be engaged in the church, and guess what? You’ll be involved in homes because you’ll be an influence on children, on teens, on other women.
You might also ask this question: If it’s not good for man to be alone, then is being single wrong? Is there something wrong with me being a single woman? Answer: Not at all. In fact, the Apostle Paul was asked this very question by the church in Corinth. He responds to that question specifically in 1 Corinthians 7.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 - I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Do you see it? Sure, it’s ok to want to be married, but there are some advantages to being single. You can be totally devoted to the things of God. Paul describes a married man or woman as divided, meaning that they have attention on the things of God, but they also have attention on how the things of God play off of that marriage partner. So, take advantage of the freedom you have being single to really zero in on the things of God. God’s not waiting for you to be married to be able to use you.
Let me share an example of how this can work. I’ve discovered by observation that elementary school-age girls think that junior high girls are cool. And junior high girls think that high school girls are cool. High school girls think that college girls are cool, even if they aren’t. Hey, they think you’re cool, so leverage that to make disciples. Disciple younger girls or women. Frankly, it’s something that guys can’t do—or shouldn’t do. It’s dangerous for guys to do that. So, by engaging in that, you are being a helper fit for him in terms of the men who lead households and the men who lead churches. Go for it!
Final thought for you is this: Your value and worth is not found in marriage. It’s not found in whether you have a man. Your beauty and loveliness and value are derived from the God of the universe designing you, wiring you, shaping you, and placing you exactly where He wants you on this earth at this time to fill the specific need He has equipped you for so that humanity would flourish. Don’t waste it just waiting for a man.