17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram… (Genesis 15:17-18a)
Through the Bible: Genesis 12-15
There is a strange (and fairly gruesome) ancient near east custom described in Genesis 15. When two parties made a covenant in ancient times, they would ratify the covenant by slaughtering an animal (or several animals) and split the carcasses in half. Then both parties would walk between the pieces. The symbolism has become obscure over the centuries, but essentially each party was saying, “May the gods make me as one of these carcasses if I break this covenant.” (Fun fact, there is a theory that this is where the idiom “cutting a deal” comes from).
But there’s a unique detail in this particular covenant ceremony. Verse 17 tells us that “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces.” There are lots of opinions as to what the torch and smoking oven represent. The most comprehensive survey of them that I found is this article from Neverthirsty.org. All of them boil down to speculation and educated guesses because the Scripture doesn’t explicitly say what they symbolize. I’ll give you my opinion, based on context, language, and cross references.
The Bible can never mean what it never meant. So we have to try to get to what this meant either to Abram, who was there; or to Moses, who wrote down the story under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit centuries later.
Abram had just heard God’s prophecy of Israel’s captivity in Egypt. Look at verses 13-14:
“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.
Since this is the immediate context, it is likely that the torch and the firepot relates to the 400 years of bondage, followed by the exodus.
“Flaming torch” is pretty straightforward. A torch is a torch. Smoking firepot is a bigger challenge. The Hebrew word tannoor, translated as “fire pot” in the ESV, is used 15 times in the Old Testament. In the majority of those, it describes an oven or a portable cooking stove. In the KJV, it is translated as “furnace” four times. Some interpreters have noted that Egypt is described as an “iron furnace” in Deuteronomy 4:20, and conclude that the smoking oven in Genesis 12:15 refers to Egypt, especially given the prophecy we just talked about:
20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.
However, it’s a different Hebrew word in in Deuteronomy. Koor in Deuteronomy always refers to a forge or crucible for smelting iron or purifying precious metals. Tannoor in Genesis 15:12 is a clay pot or cooking stove, used for baking bread.
It can be portable. Remember that detail. It will be on the quiz.
One more question to consider is whether there are any parallel passages to Genesis 15:12. There’s only one I could find. The prophet Zechariah wrote about the return of God’s people to Jerusalem after seventy years of captivity in Babylon. He deliberately used similar language to make the connection between Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and Judah’s deliverance from Babylon:
6 “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.
Notice that Zechariah even makes a connection to the animal carcasses Abram laid out on the ground. He said the returning exiles would devour all the surrounding peoples “to the right and the left” of the torch and firepot.
Put all this together, and it seems like these strange symbols are alluding to the Exodus:
God has just spoken of the four hundred years of captivity.
When they left Egypt, the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea, “with the waters like a wall to them on their right and the left”between the waters (Exodus 14:22). This is the symbolic significance of the torch and firepot passing between the pieces.
For 40 years, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness. They ate unleavened bread “baked in an oven” (Ex. 12:39), and manna, boiled and pounded into cakes (Numbers 11:8). Remember the word tannoor we talked about earlier? It typically referred to a portable stove. You know—like you would need on a 40 year camping trip.
Throughout their journey, the Israelites were guided by a pillar of cloud by day. What guided them by night? A pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21). Like a blazing torch.
One More Thing
So when the Lord made a covenant with Abram in Genesis, all the elements of the traditional covenant ceremony were there. The animals were killed. The carcasses were divided. But unlike a covenant between two human beings where they meet each other between the carcasses, only one party to the covenant walked between the carcasses: God, His Presence symbolized by the torch and the stove.
Although verse 18 says that “the Lord made a covenant with Abram,” the truth is God is the one faithful party to this covenant. Human beings break their promises to God all the time. But God is the ever faithful, never failing, covenant keeping God. When God swears to keep a promise, He swears by Himself (see Isaiah 45:23; Genesis 22:16). If God was a witness in a courtroom, He would swear, “So help Me, Me.” Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13). We can trust God to always keep His promises.
“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2 ESV
Believers accept on faith that God created ex nihilo—from nothing. So a careful reader might be bothered by the fact that God created in Genesis 1:1, but the earth was formless and empty in verse 2. The words “formless and empty” are the Hebrew words tohu and bohu. This exact phrase shows up only one other time in the Old Testament: in Jeremiah 4:23, when the prophet laments the destruction of Jerusalem. So why is creation described this way in Genesis 1:2? Was it not perfect to begin with? Did something happen between verse 1 and verse 2?
There’s a branch of creationism, called Gap Theory Creationism that speculates there was an unspecified period of time after the perfect creation of verse 1 and the “tohu and bohu” of verse 2. This gap could have lasted millions of years, and ended with some cataclysmic event, such as a meteor impact or the rebellion in heaven that led to Lucifer’s fall with a third of the angels (Isaiah 14:12, Rev, 12:8-9). This also could account for dinosaurs.
The Genesis account also takes it as a given that God created all that is out of nothing. The very word translated “created” (Hebrew bara) in verse 1 refers to creation out of nothing. An important point for the gap theory position is that bara isn’t used again until verse 21, when God created the sea creatures and birds; and 27, when He created man and woman.
The emphasis between verse 1 and verse 21 is more about organization than it is about creation. Moses, the author of Genesis, seems more interested in how God brought order from chaos than he is in the mechanics of creating something out of nothing,
Notice the focus on ordering and organizing in the first few verses: God separated light from darkness (verse 6). He separated the water above from the water below (vv. 6-8), differentiating sky from sea. Then He gathered the waters into one place so that dry ground could appear (verse 9-10). Throughout the account, there is a precise, logical order to things. Plants are created after the dry ground emerges (verse 11). The sun is created to give heat and light to the vegetation (verses 14-19). Fish in the water and birds in the sky logically follow the creation of sea and sky. Animals are created only after the earth has sprouted vegetation, so they will have something to eat.
All of this serves to teach us as much about God’s character as it does about God’s power. God is a God of order and not confusion. We can see that in how the sun and the moon mark times and seasons (verse 1:14; Psalm 104:19). We see it in the precise way He formed the different systems of the human body to function together. We see it in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing together in complete self-sufficiency and harmony. We even see it in Paul’s instructions for orderly worship services (1 Corinthians 14:23). Most importantly, we see it in the fact that God sent Jesus into the world “when the time came to completion” (Galatians 4:4).
As we begin this journey, Tara-Leigh is going to encourage you to look for God’s character in the passage. So here is what we learn about God in Genesis 1: He is orderly. He’s rational. He isn’t capricious or temperamental. The God who brought order from chaos in the cosmos can be trusted to do the same thing in your life. This year, respond to the invitation he gives in Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” Genesis 24:12-14
The Bible reading plan I did three years ago was a chronological plan from a British pastor named Nicky Gumbel. Similar to The Bible Recap, it has a daily 10 minute or so podcast to go along with the day’s readings. I didn’t always agree with Nicky, but his teaching on Genesis 24, when Abraham’s servant goes to get a wife for Isaac, has been really, really helpful as I think about how to discern the will of God. I apologize in advance for the length of this, but it may be helpful to you guys as well. Nicky uses this passage to teach on the six “CS’s” of discerning God’s will.
The Command of Scripture:
The servant had taken a vow that he would find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s kindred (24:3-4). He was following his master’s command. For us, our Master is God, and His command is found in His word. It is very intentional that this one is first. Because if what you think God is saying to you contradicts His Word, then I promise you, it isn’t God that is saying it.
Key Question: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
2.The Compelling of the Spirit:
Verse 7 says that the “Lord, the God heaven” guided Abraham’s steps, and spoke to him. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Are you following His prompting?
Key Question: HOW IS THE SPIRIT LEADING?
3. Continual Seeking:
In verse 12, the servant prayed, “O God, grant me success today.” That’s a prayer to pray every day. We should be seeking God in prayer every day, but especially when we are facing a major decision.
Key Question: AM I SEEKING THE LORD THROUGHOUT THIS PROCESS?
4. Common Sense:
Rebekah met all the criteria of the servant’s search. She was Abraham’s kindred, was beautiful, was a virgin, and hard working. From a common sense perspective, she seemed like a good match. (Note– this isn’t a deal breaker. It isn’t as important as the first 3, but it can help clarify your decision.)
This one is tricky. The servant had prayed for a specific sign– that the woman God had for Isaac would say “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.” And it happened. This could also be chalked up to common sense. It demonstrated Rebekah’s character, her work ethic, etc. But the servant received it as supernatural confirmation. It’s okay to ask for a sign, but again this one is pretty far down the list. It has to line up with the first four.
Key Question: DOES GOD SEEM TO BE CONFIRMING THIS DECISION?
6. Counsel of Saints:
In verse 50, God used another person (in this case Laban) to affirm that this was of the Lord. God can and will use other members of our faith community to affirm or refute what we are thinking and planning.
Key Question: WHAT DO OTHER BELIEVERS SAY?
I hope this is helpful. While there is no formula for knowing God’s will, these are great principles to keep in mind.
13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing, for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”Genesis 16:13
Originally written January 17, 2021
Update, January 17, 2022: In the year since we buried her husband, this woman I wrote about in this post has remained a vital part of our church family. One of the ways she redeemed her grief was to sell a vacation property she couldn’t bear to use without him, and then gift part of the money to one of our missions partners.
Her generosity with her late husband’s estate has allowed us to set up a legacy fund which will one day fund the seminary educations of young men and women God calls into ministry from our church. She is one of my favorite people to pray with on Wednesday nights. She still seeks after the God who Sees, and I am so blessed to be her pastor.
Another week, another Covid widow. But also another day in which God demonstrates His kindness to me through this reading plan.
Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with a woman from our church whose husband was diagnosed with Covid on Christmas Day. He’s been on a ventilator since December 30. Through tears she tells me that she’s made the decision to discontinue life support for her precious soulmate, in accordance with his living will. And through tears I listened, because this godly woman was needing reassurance that she was making the right decision and that her decision wasn’t from lack of faith.
When I asked her if she wanted me with her when they disconnected the ventilator, the tears came again, and she said, “Pastor, I can’t go to the hospital. The morning the ambulance came for my husband, he had been normal, joking, kind, and “there.” But he has been unresponsive ever since. I want my last memory of him to be how he was then, and not how he is now.” And for the second or third time in the conversation, she asked the same pleading question: “Is that wrong?”
Here’s where our daily reading in God’s word has been such a lifeline. Today, we read about Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, calling God “El-Roi:” the God Who Sees, saying “Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). In tomorrow’s reading, we will see that Hagar had the same heart cry as this woman from our church. When Hagar and Ishmael were cast out of Abraham’s house and she thought they would die in the desert, she cried out to the God Who Sees: “Let me not look on the death of the child” (Gen. 21:16)
By the way, because so many of you who are reading this are women, don’t miss the fact that the only person who is allowed to name God is a woman. And not even a Jewish woman–an Egyptian slave. All the other names of God were either given by God or were altars to God that became accepted as names of God. But Hagar–Egyptian, slave, outcast, single mother–this woman dares to give a name to God. And God accepts her naming.
And the God Who Sees becomes the God who Hears. He hears the sound of her weeping, and He says, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is” (Gen. 21:17).
I have wept with too many widows over these past few months. I’m weary and overwhelmed. I’m worried about my own mother, who was taken to the hospital with Covid on Friday. But the God who sees, still sees.
The God who hears, still hears.
And through His Word, we can say with Hagar, “Truly I have seen Him who looks after me.”
“And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”Genesis 11:6-7 ESV
Through the Bible: Genesis 8-11
Growing up I went through a phase where I was obsessed with Greek mythology. I loved all the stories of the gods and goddesses living on Mount Olympus, detached from but still interested in the affairs of mortals on earth. Occasionally they would come down from Olympus because they saw a beautiful woman they wanted, or because they wanted to help or harm people. I remember the gods and goddesses were a vengeful and petty bunch; jealous of one another, prideful, playing pranks, losing their temper, and so forth. In other words, all the frailties and foibles humans have, but with superpowers. And these stories were often used to explain things about nature. The oceans are salty because they were formed by the tears of a goddess. There is evil in the world because Pandora got curious. And so on.
So when I first read the story of the Tower of Babel, it sounded a little like a story out of Greek mythology. It sounded like God got threatened by what humans were capable of, so he came down and confused their language, and that’s why we all have different languages today.
But that’s not it at all. God isn’t threatened by what we can accomplish. His heart is good toward us. But God could see trouble brewing. He heard the people saying things like “let’s make a name for ourselves (v. 4)” when He desires us to make His name known.
“This will keep us from being scattered all over the earth (also v 4),” when God had already commanded them to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).
God created us to glorify Him and enjoy fellowship with Him. So he knew that in the big picture, unity apart from God is a bigger threat to God’s children than being scattered over the earth. God would rather us be divided and dependent on Him than unified and independent. So He confused their language and scattered them.
But God didn’t leave us scattered and divided. Thousands of years later, on the day of Pentecost, Babel got unraveled, and the curse got reversed.
At Babel, one language became many. At Pentecost, many languages all heard one message (see Acts 2:6).
At Babel, a people gathered were scattered. At Pentecost, people who had been scattered were united (see Acts 2:5).
At Babel, God’s people were together to make a name for themselves. After Pentecost, people dispersed to make God’s name famous.
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:8-9)
Through the Bible: Genesis 4-7
Of all the people in the world, God chose Noah to build the ark, gather the animals, and preserve humanity and creation when the flood came.
Why did God choose Noah? Most Christians will tell you that it was because of all the people in the world, God found Noah to be righteous and good. That’s definitely how Genesis 6:9 describes him. So, case closed…right?
But if it was Noah’s merit that got him a place on the ark, what does that do to our understanding of salvation by grace alone? If only one sin is enough to separate us from God, are we saying that Noah was without sin? Was it that God needed someone to build the ark and take care of the animals, and Noah was the best God could do? Maybe Noah was only righteous and blameless relative to the people around him. Kind of like when we say things like, “Well, I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not as big a sinner as Bob next door…”
Or maybe it’s that Noah is an Old Testament picture of imputed righteousness. Notice that before Noah was described as righteous (verse 9), he finds favor in the eyes of the Lord (verse 8).
The word “favor” is interchangeable with the word grace. In fact, “grace” is how the KJV translates it. It is only after Noah finds favor with God that anything is said about his being righteous.
First came God’s favor. Then, the pronouncement of righteousness. And this is the gospel of grace. Noah didn’t do anything to earn God’s favor. Maybe he was better than Bob down the street. But that didn’t make him righteous. Noah was pronounced righteous because he had received God’s favor. Not the other way around.
Oh, beloved, let this truth set you free: God doesn’t love you because you are good. You are good because God loves you.
This is part 3 in our sermon series “Jesus in Genesis,” first preached October 1, 2017 at Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL
This is Part 3 of our series, Jesus in Genesis. First preached at Glynwood Baptist Church on October 1, 2017. Preacher: James Jackson, Senior Pastor. 3. God’s Design For Marriage for the PDF of the PowerPoint
Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18-24
Intro: Where did I come from illustration “Daddy,” said the small boy, “where did I come from?”
The father, who had been dreading the day the question would be asked, launched into a long contrived explanation on the facts of life. The boy listened attentively. At last the father concluded, “So now you know—but just as a matter of curiosity, how did you happen to ask?”
“Nothing special, Dad,” said the son, “the new boy at our school said he came from Millbrook and I was wondering where I came from.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
7 Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g]and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
What does it mean to be created in God’s image? (v. 27) Men and women are like God:
Mentally: we are capable of thought and reason, We can make choices. We can plan in advance
Morally: We can choose right from wrong, even when choosing the right has no benefit to ourselves personally.
socially: Just as God exists in relationship, with the three Persons of the Trinity, God created us to be in relationship as well, with Himself and with each other.
Eternally: The Scottish pastor George Macdonald said, “People are not bodies who have a soul; they are souls who have a body. Every one of us has a soul that is eternal and will exist forever in one of two places. In this way, we are made in the image of God in a way that is different from the animals. Ecclesiastes 3:11- God has set eternity in the hearts of men.
God’s first purpose for marriage (v. 28): procreation
Sex was God’s idea. God blessed it. It wasn’t an afterthought. It wasn’t something we wouldn’t or shouldn’t talk about in the presence of God. God blessed sex and gender differences before the fall. Realize that after this, verse 31 says, “God saw everything He had made and it was very good.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you are something less than God’s image bearer if you are single, or if you are unable to have children. The point is that sexual distinctions and sexual enjoyment are both God’s idea.
Notice also that gender distinctions are god’s idea. Verse 27 says that He created them male and female. That means that it isn’t up to us to recreate ourselves in any way other than how God created us. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who legitimately struggle with same sex attraction. It’s a real thing, and it may or may not go away, even after someone becomes a Christian. But we have to remember that our desires for things that God has forbidden are not because of how God has made us, but of how sin has distorted us. Throughout scripture God forbids homosexual practice. So for a Christian who struggles with same sex attraction, that doesn’t mean he or she is beyond the reach of God’s grace. But it does mean that their path to a God honoring Christian life is going to be through singleness and celibacy.
“It is not good for the man to be alone” (vv. 18-20)
Things get personal in Genesis 2. Notice that verse 4 uses the covenant name of God. Up to this point, the Hebrew word has been Elohim. Verse 4, notice the capital LORD—that’s how English translations always alert us to the personal name YHWH. This doesn’t mean Genesis 1 and 2 come from two different sources. It just means that God is going from the wide angle lens of all creation to the narrow focus on the first man and woman, and the relationship he has with them. Isn’t it amazing that the creator of the Universe gives us His personal name!
It is also personal in the way God made Adam. Up to this point, it has been the Hebrew word asah for everything God creates. It means “produce” or “create.” But look at verse 7: The LORD God formed man out of the dust of the ground. That’s the Hebrew word yatsar, and it means squeezed, or molded. It’s the same used word used throughout the OT to describe a potter working clay. With everything else in creation, God could just speak something into existence. With human beings, he got His hands dirty!
So in verse 18 we have the first thing in all creation that God pronounces “not good”. Isolation is not alone. Remember, God created us to be like Him socially. So begins what has to be the most awkward beauty pageant in history. God parades every animal past Adam for Adam to name. But His word says “for Adam, no suitable helper could be found.” Adam is looking for someone or something he can connect with mentally, morally, socially, and eternally. And there’s no other creature on the planet that he can do that with. Dogs are social creatures, but they aren’t intellectual creatures. Chimpanzees and dolphins are smart, but they aren’t moral. And no animal is eternal.
The problem: finding someone who’s like God the way you’re like God
Adam is looking for the one who is like God the way Adam is like God. And he doesn’t find that in any of the animals. If you are single and hoping to be married someday, take this to heart. You are looking for someone who is like you mentally, morally, socially, and especially eternally. if you don’t have that, then you haven’t found your suitable helper yet. And if I can be real with you for a second, you need to seriously evaluate where you are looking for them. Do you really expect to find someone who shares your values in a place that is contrary to your values?
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14)
The solution: “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman”
Now, I know the Bible is God’s inspired word. And I don’t question that Adam said this… eventually. But keep in mind that Moses is writing this at least 1500 years after it happened. So I don’t know if the first thing he said was “this is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.” Adam has just spent who knows how long trying to play chess with chimpanzees, or hanging out socially with llamas. I think maybe the first thing he said was “WOW!!!!” “MAN!!!” See, there it is! “She shall be called “WOW! MAN!”
Like him in the right way: in nature, in purpose, in character
In nature– you’re biologically compatible.
In purpose (multiply, rule the earth, subdue)– vocationally compatible:
character: you are spiritually compatible,
Different from him in the right way: gender. Adam looks at her and thinks, whoa. She’s… different! And different is good!
Sam Allberry, in his book “Is God Anti Gay” puts it beautifully: She is a different example of the same kind of thing as him. It is this complementarity that leads to profound unity between them when they come together in sexual union.
According to Legal Answers.com, Irreconcilable differences is a no-fault grounds for divorce, which means neither party committed any sort of extenuating act, such as adultery, abandonment or extreme cruelty. In other words, no-fault divorce is just like it sounds—no single party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.
In 2010, New York, the last state to offer legal provision for a “no fault” divorce, finally did so. Every state now has some way to dissolve a marriage with neither partner citing abuse, neglect, abandonment or infidelity. As a result, overall divorce rates have increased 20%-25%. Hear this: when you take those issues off the table, I’m convinced that most marriages don’t really fail because of irreconciliable differences. They fail because of irreconciliable similarities. You’re both selfish. You’re both sinful. You’re both self absorbed.
“For this reason…” (v. 24)
To reflect God’s nature
In Dt. 6:4, the first, foundational statement of faith for the Hebrew people was “Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One.” That word for “one” is ehad. And it is the same word used in verse 24 for what happens to a man and woman in marriage. They become ehad with each other. They become one.
Marriage is a God-given way for humanity to reflect the unity and diversity that is seen in the Trinity. God’s oneness is not sameness, as though the three persons of the trinity were identical to one another. It is unity in difference, not uniformity. The same cannot be said of a same-sex marriage. It isn’t possible for two men and two women to become one in this way. Go back to what we talked about before: they might be the same in the right way, but they aren’t different from one another in the right way.
To multiply and fill the earth
15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. (Mal. 2:15)
Christians– 1.9 billion people. Muslims 1.7 billion. By 2050, Muslims will have caught up to Christians. David Platt points out that part of this is because Muslim couples are having more children, (3.1 per Muslim woman compared to 2.7 for Christian), they are having children sooner, and they are staying married longer. At Secret Church 16, Dr. Platt had this to say:
God’s initial command to man and woman—“Be fruitful. Increase. Multiply.” It’s in the Word. So I’m compelled to ask, particularly in our culture, are we going to change our casual approaches to marriage? Christians primarily in their 20s and 30s. Single brothers in Christ—high school, college students, young professionals in your 20s and 30s—you’re surrounded by a culture that takes a casual approach to marriage, viewing it as unimportant. It’s something to be delayed as long as possible—if ever—resulting in all kinds of single men running off to all kinds of pursuits in this world, while prolonging taking responsibility for a family. I want to challenge you to change that in your life, to step up and take responsibility for pursuing, finding and caring for a wife. There are countless strong Christian single sisters who are waiting for you to step it up. None of them are perfect—but neither are you. So commit yourself to loving and caring and providing for a wife, like Christ does the church. It’s a picture of the gospel. And then when you do, to the extent which you are physically able, have babies! So will we change our casual approaches to marriage and will we counter cultural attitudes toward multiplication? … What I’m talking about here is the cultural attitude that says, “Kids are expensive and a hindrance to you experiencing all you want to experience in your life and your work in the world.” I want to call you to counter that, biologically or through the beauty of adoption or however. Psalm 127 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord….Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” So, to the extent to which you are able, fill the quiver. Fill the quiver with arrows and shoot them into the world for the glory of God’s name. Children are not a barrier in your life—they’re a blessing for your life, and to the world.
To reflect the relationship between Christ and the church
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)
The church is not the same as Christ and Christ is not the same as the church. To that many of us can say, “Thank God!” because many people have been hurt by the church. Scripture describes the church the Bride of Christ, here in this passage:
(25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such), as well as in 2 Corinthians 11, and finally in Revelation 19.
It is because Christ is different from the church that he is able to draw her to himself and to cleanse her, as Ephesians says through the washing of the water with the word.
Human marriage is a reflection of the supreme, heavenly marriage between Christ and his people. This is why as Christians we can’t define marriage in such a way as to include gay couples. As Allberry says in his book, “a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, cannot reflect the union of Christ and the church. It would represent christ and christ or church and church.”
Invitation challenge: for husbands and wives to determine that you won’t let your differences divide you anymore. If your marriage is struggling right now, maybe it isn’t because you are different. Maybe it’s because you are the same.
Singles, and students that are dating: Don’t look for love in all the wrong places. The last person you date is going to be the one you marry. So I want to encourage you not to waste time with anyone that is not reflecting the character of God the way you are trying to reflect the character of God. And if you are holding off on the decision to get married because you don’t want to grow up, then maybe this is an invitation to grow up.
Finally, and I know this may be super awkward. But maybe you are struggling with same sex attraction, and this has been a really hard sermon for you to hear. Please understand that God loves you. Your path to salvation is exactly the same as it is for anyone else, dealing with any other sin. Repent and believe.