Like many others the start of another January means the start of another read through of Genesis (six days in and so far so good. Honestly? I got to May last year before getting into major arrears).
Once again though, in those opening chapters of the Bible we see the foundations of humanity being laid out – its origin, its purpose, its potential, and its limitations. Man (i.e. Adam) stands upon the earth but he is alone – a situation that is first identified by God Himself as not being good (Gen 2:18). The solution we are told is that he needs ‘a helper suitable for him’.
The animals are paraded by but despite all their variety none of them can be what Adam needs – ‘no suitable helper was found’ (v19). So God provides Eve – someone of whom Adam can say, ‘This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (v23). Eve is the ‘helper’ suitable for Adam.
But what exactly do we mean by ‘helper’ – after all such a title could be interpreted as being a little condescending – a bit ‘second fiddle’, a support act to the main event – the man! For me such thoughts arise thinking back to ‘helping’ my Dad do DIY – that is, me standing holding a packet of screws while my Dad did the important and interesting stuff like using the power drill. So is Eve (womankind) an afterthought of God’s – hastily put in place to provide an extra pair of hands. Well of course, if it was just about some extra manpower then some extra men would have sufficed.
Actually the title ‘helper’ tells us more about Adam than it does about Eve. So throughout the Bible ‘helper’ is a title given to God Himself, ‘The Lord is my helper’ (Heb 13:6); ‘The is with me; he is my helper.’ (Ps 118:7); ‘My father’s God was my helper’ (Ex 18:4). And let’s be clear that God is no-one’s sidekick or go-for.
You see in saying Adam needed a ‘helper’ – God is not so much commenting on Eve but making the point that Adam is not sufficient for the task He has been given. The issue being highlighted is Adam’s lack and incompleteness not Eve’s. Adam’s problem was that without Eve (and vice-versa) he could never have fulfilled humanity's calling and purpose.
Crucially, Eve is like Adam but different from him – equal but not the same. As John Piper put it you could write a list of all human attributes and two have columns against them, one for Adam and one for Eve, and put in the scores for both against those attributes. They might score differently on each individual attribute but the totals at the bottom of each column would be the same(i). Thus it’s only in male and female together that humanity is complete. Distinct but complementary.
The helper we all need
In the same way, to say God is your ‘helper’ – is not to claim superiority but to admit that you need help! It is to declare that I cannot be and do what I need to be and do solo – I’m just not up to that job alone. It means that if God isn’t your helper you’re doomed to fail and come up short in fulfilling the point of your existence.
Tragically just as pride and self-sufficiency created disharmony between the sexes it isolated men and women from God. So lives are lived dependent on ‘me’, my abilities, my good fortune, my self-belief – all of which is a very fragile basis for life and which leaves us hanging by nothing more than a thread of our own making.
So in 2017 you need a Helper – you need God. You need what only Jesus Christ can provide – a Saviour and Friend to enable God’s purpose and calling in your life to be fulfilled.