Samuel and Susannah

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The book of Genesis is the book of our beginnings, but they are not simplistic beginnings. Rather, God has given us a layered and textured account what He did when He first created us, male and female, and this is an account that never fails to astonish us when we go back to learn from it again.

As you know, the first husband in the world was named Adam, and his name was also the name of our entire race—Adam means mankind. So Adam was Adam the individual, and Adam and Eve together were also Adam, the whole human race. This same kind of thing is reflected in our word for a single male, man, and our word for the human race, also man.

When Adam was first created, he was a single man, and he was at that moment also all of mankind. God had formed Adam out the dust of the ground, and the Hebrew word for that dust is Adamah. The dust that gave existence to Adam was also the dust that gave Adam his name. But there is something else. Adamah mean dust, earth, or ground, and Adam’s name clearly comes from it, but Adamah has a feminine ending. Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground; Adam was born from Mother Earth. As Eve was taken from the side of Adam, so Adam was taken from the side of Adamah.

This is not just some fanciful fun with grammatical endings. The apostle Paul assumes this in his letter to the Corinthians.

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man . . . Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God” (1 Cor. 11:8-9, 11-12).

Paul is arguing for proper relations between the sexes based on creation order. And he says that Adam was not made from Eve, but rather the other way. He says that man was not created to be the helpmeet for the woman, but rather the other way. At the same time, lest the males get uppity about this—which they are certainly prone to do—he says that men and women are mutually interdependent. Man is not without the woman, and woman is not without the man. He then argues, not from creation order, but from natural order. Just as the first woman came from the first man, so also every man since came from a woman.

It would be easy to think that this refers only to every man since Adam, but we can now see even that in a different way. This reality also includes Adam himself. Every last member of the human race exists as part of a web of inter-connecting mutual dependencies. A few chapters later, Paul says this.

“The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47).

Paul knows what he is saying here. In Hebrew, this would have been the first Adam is of Adamah, still tied to the apron strings; the second Adam is the Lord from Heaven. What lies before us is something we cannot yet fully comprehend—it does not yet appear, John says, what we shall be. Whatever it will be, we know it will be glorious. But in the meantime, in the days of our pilgrimage here, Paul wants us to model a humility of mind that glories in our mutual dependence. There is no place in the history of the human race where we can go and find sexual autonomy.

The man came from woman, and needs the woman. The woman came from man, and needs the man. The old feminist cry of defiance, that a woman needs a man the way a fish needs a bicycle, is one of the saddest examples of what happens when we try to declare ourselves autonomously free—we descend into absurdities and self-parody. A woman actually needs a man the way a man needs a woman. God designed this, and it all fits together gloriously. When we reject this sexual wisdom, we find lesbian communities trying to build their project using only nuts, and male homosexuals using only bolts. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. God’s wisdom is the only true wisdom. God’s way is the only true way. God’s design is the only workable design.

Samuel, after just a few short years of marriage, you should find yourself wondering how you could possibly have gotten by all those years without this woman. But in order for this dependence to work rightly, you have to recognize that this not a call to regress into infantilism. You will need her, but not the way an overgrown toddler would need her. You will need her because you need someone to lead, someone to protect, someone to help you provide for her. This is no disparagement of the woman’s gifts and abilities—a man should want to marry the kind of woman who will require him to stand up tall in order to be able to lead her. The more capable she is, the more capable he needs to be. And so this is the glory—a man needs to learn how to stand tall. A man needs to have a backbone, and one of the best things in the world for him is to marry a woman who expects him to have a backbone. She expects this of him because she respects him, which is what Paul requires of Christian wives. But what the apostle requires of Christian wives should make every Christian husband realize the daily need to step up into real leadership. Samuel, the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. This is inescapable—if you sinfully try to shirk any duties related to this, then it will not remove you from the position of headship, but will rather simply mean that you will be using that position of headship in destructive ways. Now you need this woman, and she needs you. But you need her to be a woman, just as she needs you to be a man. So my charge to you is this—continue to do what you have done up to this point. Be a man. 

Susannah, in just a moment you and Samuel will be exchanging vows. Your vows are identical in every respect except for one. He will be vowing to love and cherish, while you will be vowing to love, cherish and obey. This is a Christian wedding, and this is the Christian order. But it is not an order that exists independently of the laws of mutual dependence. These laws govern you, just as they govern Samuel. He needs you to follow him, and you need him to be strong enough to follow. Now as everyone who knows you can attest, you are a pippin. So this is my charge to you—let that strength of your character not be a challenge to Samuel’s authority, but rather be the kind of strength that gives Samuel’s authority real direction and purpose.

To the two of you—never forget how much you need the other to be the other.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.


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