For anyone who knows how I study the Bible, context is everything. Certainly much can be gained by a surface reading of a passage, but a greater depth of understand comes when we set it in its historical and cultural context.
An example would be I Samuel 24:3-5, where David snuck up on King Saul in the cave and cut off the hem of his robe, only to have his heart convict him, leading him to apologize. Reading it with no cultural understanding certainly is adequate to seeing David's tender heart, but there is more.
The custom of the time as it is to this day among some Orthodox Jewish funerals, is to cut off the hem of a dead person's garment at their funeral. The tassel's and hem stood for the Word of God, and the ceremony of cutting off the hem is a symbolic release by loved ones, telling their beloved they are no longer earth-bound to God's Word, they are free from the law.
When David cut the hem off King Saul's robe, he was telling him 'You're a dead man', rubbing in the fact God had chosen David to replace Saul, who was living on borrowed time. That provides a whole new level of depth to that brief passage doesn't it? It isn't incomplete without that cultural and history information, it just takes on depth.
So it is with early Christianity's understanding and teaching on sexuality. We can read of Adam and Eve and how the two shall become one flesh and gain a certain understanding, but there is more. We can read Paul's words on marriage and even sexual relationships and gain a surface understanding that have meaning, but when we set the NT into the culture of the day, and the larger Jewish culture in which Paul was raised, we gain a far greater depth.
How it all started
Genesis 2:15-24 is the first detail of man and his relationship to his Creator and his spouse, and the sexual aspect of their relationship.
In v18-20 we are told the Lord God said within Himself that it wasn't good for Adam to be alone. But the Lord God said nothing to Adam about it. Instead, this was something that required Adam to come to his own conclusion. To help the process along, the Lord God caused all the animals to pass by Adam so he could name them.
I heard a Rabbi talk of how the naming of the animals was done as Adam got to know their nature, and where they fit in the creation. Adam didn't just see the animals, he got to know their nature, their place among the animal world, and so on.
In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Adam, Seth, and Enoch were given perfect understanding of all the earth, the stars and universe, and how it all worked together by the Lord God, their Creator. Adam didn't just see an animal and come up with a name for it, the name was given after fully understanding its place in the natural order.
Josephus also writes that the animals could talk back then, that Adam understood their thoughts and feelings. I believe Josephus was describing words of knowledge, that by the Spirit Adam knew the thoughts and feelings of the animals, for I experienced the same thing in my 'tour' of heaven with pets and animals there.
It was only after naming all the animals that Adam himself now realized they all had mates, male and female, but he had none. It was only then that we are told the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and He took part of his body, a rib, to form the body of Eve, creating her.
Who created them? Christ and the church
A rule of Biblical interpretation is that we understand the Old Testament through the eyes of the New Testament. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:25-32 that the marriage union between husband and wife is a type of the union between Christ and the church. This makes the sexual act between husband and wife spiritual, mystical, tied to creation and the larger universe.
In Genesis 1:26 we are told 'God said let us make man in our image, after our likeness', and that is the word 'Elohim' or gods. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But in chapter 2 there is One who steps out of the Elohim (Father, Son, Spirit) to become personally involved in the creation of man. He is identified as the Lord God or Jehovah Elohim.
The Lord God is seen throughout Genesis and Exodus as the One who made man and breathed into his clay body to turn it into human flesh. He appeared to Abraham and Sarah. He is seen by other OT prophets. And to our point, He is identified as the One who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.
In Exodus 3:14-15 Moses has the burning bush experience. The Lord appeared to him and identified Himself as "I AM that I AM; therefore you will tell the children of Israel that I AM has sent me to you." And God said to Moses; "You will tell the children of Israel that the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim) of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you..."
We see the Lord God is the I AM. When Jesus made the statement to the religious leaders in John 8:54-59 that Abraham rejoiced to see His day, and that He knew Abraham, He added:"Before Abraham was; I AM." They immediately understood Jesus was claiming to be the one to have talked to Moses out of the burning bush, and to have appeared to Abraham, and to have been the One in the Garden of Eden - so they took up stones to kill Him for blaspheme. But He 'hid Himself' and walked through their midst.
Make the connection
Jesus also stated His name as I AM in John18:5-6 when they came to arrest Him, stating:"I have told you, I AM, now let these others go. And when He had said 'I AM' they were all moved backwards and fell to the ground."
He also claimed to be the I AM in Matthew 14:27-28 when the disciples saw Him walking on the water:"Take courage; I AM, now stop being afraid. Then Peter answered, saying, 'Lord, if you are (I AM), command me to come walking on the water to you." (It wasn't a question of a Him being a ghost or not, it was His claim to be I AM)
We can trace our Lord's involvement with man from these statements. He was the I AM now made flesh, who previously appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Abraham in Genesis 18 and 15, and walked with Adam and his wife in the Garden. Jehovah Elohim called Himself I AM in Exodus 3:14-15, the One who made Adam and Eve.
When Paul speaks of Christ and the church, there is a direct reference to the Lord God, our Lord, making man and his wife and telling them they would become one flesh back in the Garden of Eden. This makes the act of sex between husband and wife directly tied to creation, to Christ and the church, mystical. Whether for fun or procreation, the sexual union of husband and wife is spiritual and directly tied to the larger universe in which man was created.
Every plant, every animal, was created to reproduce. The higher animals were made male and female. Adam and Eve were so much one that Eve did not receive her name until AFTER they had sinned. Genesis 5:2 tells us:"He called their name Adam in the day they were created."
They were one. When Christ, the Lord God called out, "Adam, where are you?" Both Adam and his wife came, for they were called Adam. Eve was created as we see cells divide under a microscope - the Lord God literally took the man's rib and started multiplying cells into the various body parts until a fully formed woman was created. They were one, made of the same material, yet individual with each having a spirit and soul.
This mystical, tied to creation element of sexuality has been lost on the church. We see glimpses of it when Paul writes of husband and wife and "I speak of Christ and the church", and our minds just shut off, unable to comprehend the mystical elements of Biblical sexuality.
So we begin this series grounded in the fact that has been lost in our modern world; The act of sex between husband and wife is the physical confirmation and affirmation of a deeper grace and love in their hearts, as a type of Christ and the church. First detailed as they stood naked before their Creator, the One who would one day become a man to die for the sin of the world. But here, in the beginning of the story of man, sex is understood in its proper context. Mystical, a type of the union between God and man, and speaking into man's place in the creation as God's highest and best creation.
We will pick it up there next week. Until then, blessings,
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