Every April and November, our local church puts on a day-long Bible conference in cooperation with a number of other similar congregations in the area. They invite two different speakers to come, and each takes a separate (often difficult or controversial) topic and does two messages on it, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There's also a Q&A session with the speakers and a time of congregational prayer. Usually about 300 people attend.
Anyway, today's speakers were both excellent, and I especially appreciated Gary Weeks's ministry on the subject of marriage. He pointed out some things in Scripture that I hadn't noticed before, and which I found very encouraging and affirming.
One particular point comes to mind at the moment -- he talked about how God describes Eve as being a "helper" to Adam, and how many people take offense at this because they assume that being a helper means being inferior or subordinate to the person being helped -- that Adam was somehow more important than Eve. But that's simply not so.
In Psalm 121:1-2 David describes God Himself as being his helper (and it's exactly the same Hebrew word as is used to describe Eve in Genesis 2). God is hardly inferior to David by virtue of being his helper! Rather, the fact that David called on the Lord for help showed that he was not self-sufficient -- that he needed the Lord to support, strengthen and deliver him because he simply couldn't manage alone. God says straight out in the same chapter (indeed, the same verse) of Genesis that "It is not good for the man to be alone." Without Eve, Adam was incomplete: he simply could not fulfill the role or do the work God had appointed for him. He needed her, in the most fundamental sense.
Gary also pointed out something interesting -- that the famous prohibition against eating the forbidden fruit was made specifically and directly to Adam, before Eve arrived on the scene. It was, therefore, primarily Adam's responsibility not to eat of the tree, Adam's responsibility to warn Eve about it, Adam's responsibility to stand firm against Satan's subtle wiles and encourage his wife to do likewise. But instead of carrying out the command God gave him, he abdicated his responsibilities and allowed Eve to struggle with Satan alone -- even though he was "with her" the whole time she was speaking with the serpent (vs. 6) he said nothing, did nothing to help her.
On a more positive note, the speaker also observed that the "executive responsibilities" and "executive perks" of Creation were given jointly to man and woman, at the same time and in precisely the same words (Gen. 1:27-29) --those commands and benefits were not given to Adam exclusively or even primarily. It was to both Adam and Eve, as a team, that God gave all the plants of the earth for food; to both of them that He gave the rule of all living creatures and the responsibility to manage and tend the earth, as well as the command to "be fruitful and multiply".
Man and woman were created and appointed to be a partnership, equal in privilege and responsibility. And yet at the same time God created them complimentary, not identical. It was not a clone of Adam that God appointed to be his helper and partner, but a creature quite different from himself, both in her appearance and in her strengths and abilities. Gary went on to remark that if a single person goes looking for a partner "just like me" -- the same way of thinking, same opinions, same interests, same strengths and weaknesses -- he's really being arrogant about himself, basically saying that he doesn't need anyone to balance or complete him but that he's fine just as he is. Rather, although it's important that a couple share the same moral values and core spiritual beliefs and have complementary goals in life, they need to have different personalities, focuses, strengths and opinions -- to keep them both humble, to stretch their spirits and broaden their minds, and give them a wider scope for ministry to others.
Anyway, I ramble. The point is, it was a good, encouraging morning of teaching and fellowship, and I really enjoyed it.