Male and Female – In His Image

On that first morning, sweeter than a tree-ripened peach, more beautiful than a flowering valley, God felt a void. There amidst the verdure, the teeming animal life, the crystal, rushing water, something was missing. That something was us.

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“And God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” Genesis 1:27.

God wanted more than beauty and perfection, more than artistic satisfaction. He longed for face time with beings He could understand—beings who could understand Him.

He craved us before He made us.

Allow this single fact to sink down into your soul: You were meant to be. Let this truth refute any doubts of your value. Step back from the pressures of family, society and church—pressures that sometimes reduce our value to our appearance, our performance, or our achievements—and let God whisper to you the message of Eden. “I made you in my image. I needed someone like me. You are the outflowing of a beautiful plan, put in place from the beginning of time. I have great dreams for you, but even before you fulfill them, I value you just for being a human, made in my image.”

With that awareness in place, let’s walk through the crowning act of the Genesis story and witness God’s artistry.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being,” Genesis 2:7.

God bent down to the loose dirt and sculpted a man—that word “formed” is yatsar and refers to squeezing something into shape like a potter. Noble head, broad chest, powerful arms, washboard abs, firm, strong legs and feet, all squared off and angled in that man-way. Then performing something like our CPR, God breathed into the man and his inanimate form hummed into life.

It’s okay to admit he was gorgeous. A hunk.

“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads,” Genesis 2:8-10.

The Bible says God made a garden for Adam, placing him in the midst. The ground pumped out fruit-laden trees, watered by a coursing river branching out into four heads, forming new rivers which swirled by lands enriched with clusters of gold and precious stones. “Dress and keep this garden,” God instructed His new man-child, who must have thrilled with pleasure at the prospect. All was beauty and delight. The cosmic King and his regent prince of earth, walked, talked, and laughed together those first hours in Eden.

And still, something was missing. That something was again, us. But this time I mean us women.

Pause again, please. Of men and women, women are overall more likely to doubt their value. Why? Perhaps it’s the delicacy of our emotions. Then again, perhaps it’s that men tend to acquire more compliments. Regardless, we must realize that God could have stopped the creation process with Adam. After all, Adam was amazing! But He wasn’t amazing enough. To fulfill His plan, to reveal His love, God needed more. He needed the second half of the human race, woman.

“It is not good that man should be alone,” God said, “I will make him a helper comparable to him,” Genesis 2:18.

Designed with unalterable bonding features, we suffer in isolation. And we thrive when in relationship. In particular, married men have better health, fewer addictions, and longer lives. God knew Eve would raise the quality of Adam’s life by leaps and bounds.

What does “helper” mean? The Hebrew word, ezer, evokes images of someone surrounding and protecting another. Ezer lies about as far linguistically from “doormat” as one can get. An ezer is really a kind of hero. God planned to make Adam a heroine-counterpart.

They’d be quite the power couple.

“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman,” Genesis 2:21 and 22.

He took a rib; He made a woman. The rib provided the raw materials, and God’s own hand powered and guided the process of “making” the woman. The verb itself, banah, contrasts with Adam’s yatsar. Did you get that? The Bible uses a different verb to describe the creation of Adam and of Eve! Banah alludes to building, as in a house. The word “architecture” applies. God sculpted Adam, but architected Eve. Different formation processes mean different outcomes. God made us differently and we turned out differently. How about that?

The reason for this difference emerges when we sink our hearts into the fact that we were made, male and female, in God’s image, or tselem. Tselem means “represent.” Here’s a paraphrase of Genesis 1:27: “God created people to represent Him; to represent Him God created people; male and female were made.”

Let’s break this down into a simple equation: Male + female = A representation of God. Our differences blend to form a picture of God.

If two things together create a representation, subtracting one results in a misrepresentation. Think of the color purple, comprised of blue and red. Say you’d just been healed of blindness, and for the first time in your life you’d see purple. If I showed you blue, would that be sufficient to represent purple? No. How about red? No. Neither red nor blue would give you an adequate idea of the character of purple.

In the same way, neither male nor female alone give an adequate idea of the character of God. The electricity, the synergy, the mystical (and sometimes mystifying!) blending of the genders in marriage and in the church reveals God’s character of love.

Richard Davidson points out that in the original language, the creation of man at the beginning of the passage, and the creation of woman at the end, have the same number of words. Through this, he says, “The narrator underscores their equal importance.”[i]

Woman and man. Equal importance. I like the sound of that, how about you? Do most women want to be more important than men? I don’t. But less important? I don’t want that either.

Sinless and unselfish, Adam and Eve needed no hierarchy. Their relationship was one of utter horizontality. Author Ellen White comments: “She was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him.”[ii] Peter Lombard echoes: “Eve was not taken from the feet of Adam to be his slave, nor from his head to be his ruler, but from his side to be his beloved partner.”[iii]

True, Adam served as head of the human race, even in that unfallen state. Being the firstborn of all creation, he stood as humanity’s representative. Yet his headship didn’t equate to being the “boss” of Eve. Because they had no taint of selfishness, Adam and Eve moved together like a well-choreographed dance. No missteps, no tension. Just fluid, flawless love.

“. . .and He brought her to the man,” Genesis 2:22.

But even as equals, individuality needed protection. The Bible clearly says that God “brought” the woman to Adam. In this simple statement we see a fact implied: Eve connected to God before connecting to Adam. She enjoyed her vertical relationship before attempting a horizontal relationship. This speaks loudly to our need to put God first. Women so often get lost in their relationships, especially their marriages. We so often sacrifice that which should never be sacrificed—our integrity and God-given selfhood—to hang onto a relationship. Yet individuality and intimacy form a tension that must be balanced, lest both be lost. When we lose individuality, we lose intimacy, because a healthy bond requires two mature individuals. The secret of preserving individuality lies in staying connected to God, the Creator of our individuality. God knew this, so He set aside face time with Eve. And He wants that same face time with you, for He claims the first and best of your affections.

Imagine her. Beautiful beyond words, shapely, blushed, and bathed in light, shining hair framing a feminine face, Eve turns her newly created eyes to her Maker and adores Him. Then after untold hours, He whispers, “There’s someone I want you to meet . . .”

So for the first time, the two halves of a whole join together. Breath catching in their throats, hearts fluttering, they inspect each other’s different-but-similar bodies. Eyes, nose, mouth, arms, legs . . . but what’s this? You’re soft here and I’m firm. You’re round where I’m straight. Awe and comfort mingle. They fit each other in more ways than they know.

And God rejoices. His plan bursts to life, like springtime.

[i] Women in Ministry, p. 261

[ii] Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 46

[iii] See Jewett, Paul. Man as Male and female. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 120.

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