Marriage is all about sharing with one another at the deepest level, the biggest thing that stops this happening is fear. It has surprised me over the years how many men fear their wives, marriage seems to do this to men. A friend of mine puts it like this: if you have a youth group down the beach the girls are attracted to the vigorous sort of man that rushes into the water, he is like a Rottweiler, he marries one of them, and ten years later he is like a poodle.
In my ministry however I am watching God doing something to change all this. It has nothing to do with cultural stereotypes e.g. the Aussie BBQ (all the around the cooking, women together chatting) but everything to do with Jesus. Let me explain what I am getting at – in many churches intercession and worship leading are dominated by women and the songs (in contrast to the Psalms, the traditional hymn book of the church) lack guts. It seems that women find it easier to enjoy intimacy with God in praise and prayer than men. This not how God created things to be, even if it is a popular myth. If I asked, “Who was the most sensitive person who ever lived?” We all know the answer is Jesus.
To get to grips with God’s pattern for marriage and what has gone wrong with it we need to turn to the first chapters of Genesis.
What God created
Genesis 1:26-28 teaches that God created male and female in his image and commanded them to have dominion of the earth. It teaches a marriage of equals, as “male and female” together constitute the image of God. The other important point is that husband and wife were to work together in ruling the earth. This is expanded in Genesis 2.
Adam was placed in the garden to “work it and keep it” (2:15). God knew the man would be lonely, so he formed a “helper fit for him”, a genuine life partner. As Adam and Eve worked the garden as a team they would have been more and more powerfully bonded together in God’s will.
Something however seemed out of place in this whole picture, they were to work to tend a tree that produces fruit “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen 2:9) but which they were NOT allowed to eat. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”” (Gen 2:16-17). The command concerning this tree contains the secret of success in the maturing of any marriage before God.
What God Intended: Faith Obedience-Union
The first thing to notice is that God spoke to Adam, there is no suggestion that the Lord spoke to Eve. Adam has a certain primacy with respect to the revelation of the Word of God. It did not take faith to pick up a hoe and till the soil, but it did take faith not to eat from the tree that looked the same as many other trees. Adam’s primary stewardship was not labour in the garden but obedience to the Word of God through whom all things, including him, were created. Whilst Adam had never seen anything die, it must have been plain, by God’s tone of voice at the very least, that the essence of the Word spoken to him was to avoid punishment. Such punishment includes consequences for marriage. Jesus warned,“ “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Matt 19:6). Marriages can be broken.
What God was seeking from Adam and Eve was not primarily physical work, but the work of faith. Jesus said, ““This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”” (John 6:29).
When Adam heard the devil’s doubting words to Eve, ““Did God actually say” (Gen 3:1) he should have jumped into the middle of the conversation with the words, “God said it, I believe it, that finishes it.” If he had done that he would have been united through faith in the Word of God with God’s own eternal nature. Eve, if she had obeyed with Adam, would also have become one with God by supernatural union. As Paul says, “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17). They would have entered into a level of intimacy with one another that broken marriage would have been impossible (cf. Heb 4:2).
When the serpent started to speak to Adam’s bride his primary emotion should have been jealousy. God describes himself as a “jealous God” (Ex 20:5); this does not mean he is selfish, but that he has holy anger against anything that would destroy the good of his people. God’s righteous zeal acts against whatever destroys God –centred intimacy. What God was looking for in Adam, and in every man of God, was holy anger at evil’s intrusion into the place that belongs to God and his Word, Adam should have blazed with anger against the attack on his bride Eve. Paul speaks of his apostolic passion in this way, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:2). A reflection of his own jealous love was what God was seeking from the man in the garden. If Adam had responded to Satan in this way he would have filled with the Holy Spirit and eternal life, instead he passively stood by and watched the devil lead his wife into sin and the consequences for marriage ever since have been disastrous.
The Cost of Adam’s Fall
In God’s order Adam’s first obligation was not to his wife but to the Word he had spoken to him. Instead, Adam treasured partnership with Eve more than God’s Word, this is his foundational sin. Disobedience to God’s Word is the cause of all levels of marriage failure.
In Luke 3:38 Adam is said to be “the son of God’ (Luke 3:38), he is the son of God not only because God created him, but because God spoke to him. In listening to the voice of his wife (Gen 3:17) he chose fellowship with Eve, in sin, over the voice of his Father. This was especially a disaster for the first couple, since unlike everyone else, they did not leave father and mother to become one flesh in marriage (Gen 2:24), they were brought together directly by their Father in heaven.
Since God had spoken to Adam first about the tree, he holds him primarily responsible for the Fall. The consequences of his sin were enormous and immediate, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Gen 3:7).
Shame instantly intruded into the marriage. Shame is an experience of lost glory (Rom 3:23). Adam knew that he had neither honoured God nor his God-given life partner. Because he stood by passively while the evil one tempted his precious wife he immediately lost the presence of God in his Word and his awareness of sonship. Eve knew that she had betrayed the covenant she had with Adam; instead of being his helper (Gen 2:18) and referring the snake to her husband, she had led the way into sin. The protective covering of the presence of the Word of God was lost and she felt naked and ashamed.
If a husband is unfaithful and untrustworthy in his stewardship of God’s most precious Word, a wife intuitively senses that he is internally untrustworthy. No woman can fully open up her heart, about her hopes and fears, to someone whose own heart is not open to God as a faithful Father. This is how women have lost respect for their husbands. Since God’s Word spoken to Adam was his intimacy with him as a son, the rejection of the Word leaves the man with insecurity concerning covenantal intimacy with God as a Father. Men can read scripture, argue doctrine, sit on eldership boards, give money to churches etc. but strive to be sensitive to the Word of God.
A terrible distortion has taken place in the male-female dynamic. Because Adam failed in his primary stewardship in the garden (to keep God’s Word), work has become an idol. The fruit of man’s physical labour, rather than his faith, has often become the source of marital security. The heart of the women becomes attached to what is external to the man, the work of his hands (cf. Gen 3:17-19), instead of trusting what is in her husband’s heart, his, faith, “with the heart one believes” (Rom 10:9). This does not please God (Heb 11:6).For the man, work takes on a meaning it was never meant to have –masculine identity becomes tied to productivity.
The answer to the sin of the first husband Adam is to be found in the life of the last Adam, Jesus (1 Cor 15:45).
Jesus is the True Husband
Jesus delivers us from our fleshly inheritance because he is always faithful to the Word of God. Jesus passed on perfectly to Israel, which in the Old Testament is called the bride of the LORD (Jer 2:2; Hosea), everything that the Father ever spoke to him, “all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). As the eternal Word of God made human Jesus is the true Son who completely expresses the heart of the Father (John 1:1, 14, 18).
Above all else, Jesus hears the Father telling him to die for the church. The mystery and importance of this for marriages is expressed in the words of Paul, “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 splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:25-27). For Jesus to love his bride the church (Rev 19:7; 21:9; 22:17), is for him to suffer for her to give her glory.
Remember Jesus struggling in the garden of Gethsemane, ““Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:36). If Adam did not fear God enough to hold his Word in his heart, Jesus knows that the cost he must endure for taking our sin on the cross (2 Cor 5:21) is to stop hearing God as a Father. The terrible cry from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) means that Jesus can no longer sense God’s Word in his heart telling him he has a Father in heaven. In himself he has no Word to speak; he can only quote the words of the psalmist who felt utterly abandoned by God. BUT he does not abandon God, he cries out in the midst of the darkness, pain, ridicule and rejection until the Father speaks again, then he dies without shame and with perfected (Heb 12:1-2) faith, ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”” (Luke 23:46).
To say, “I love you” is cheap, but suffering for someone else shows that love is real (Rom 5:8). Jesus honours the church as his bride by suffering for her to the point of death. This blood offering covers all her shame, blame, insecurity and inferiority. The harlot church is covered with material riches, “arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup” (Rev 17:4) but the true bride of Christ is adorned with the glory of his deep love.
Application and Conclusion
If we want our wives to respect us at the deepest level what we most need is faithfulness to the Word of God – not in the fairly trivial sense of reading and quoting the Bible, but of hearing God speaking to us and by faith bringing that Word even when it may not be popular. We respect Jesus because he loves us enough to speak with us whatever our state of life and at times to say things that we may not want to hear.
The more costly it is to hear God and to speak his Word the more you will impart a sense of worth to your bride. This is to share in the way of the cross, as Paul says to the church in Ephesus, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” (Eph 3:13).
Sadly brothers, we are in a time of “a famine of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). What holds back leadership from being all that God calls it to be, including the leadership of the husband in the home, is fear, and behind fear is always the shame that comes from being in the wrong.
Deep in our hearts we carry the shame of Adam’s rejection of God’s life-giving Word for his bride that has passed down through generations through natural fathers until the present day. Men are afraid that when they speak things to their wives they will be put down, mocked trivialised or thought unspiritual and this will intensify their sense of shame. Maybe a wife will do this, but this ridicule is exactly what Jesus was exposed to on the cross and he triumphed over it all for us all, and we are his bride.
Let us heed the words of Hebrews, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Heb 12:2). If we are willing to allow Christ to take us through the shame barrier, we will experience what Jesus hears from the Father for each of our households from the throne of God.
I guarantee that if we want to hear God speaking to us we will, and he will speak to us in such a way that the following text will become true at a deeper and deeper level, “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph 5:33).
 “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.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:20-24).
 See also “the obedience of faith” Rom 1:5; 16:26).
 Instead of selfish ambition (James 3:14-16).
 Compare Adam to the righteous psalmist, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Ps 119:11)
 God speaks to him first when he reappears in the garden (Gen 3:9) and passes judgement on him last (Gen 3:17-19). Paul reinforces this order of responsibility when he says “in Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22) and more directly, “13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Tim 2:13-14). Eve genuinely thought that she was doing the right thing; Adam knew that it was wrong but did it anyway.
 Contemporary loincloths include money, houses, jobs, degrees, ministry activities, outer appearances etc.
 “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19).