I've started a personal Bible study this year on 52 women of the Bible, using a book that I recently discovered through one of my blogging buddies. If the first week is any indication, I'm going to get a lot out of this, and I want to share a couple of thoughts that God revealed to me during my devotional time this morning. For the last several days I've been studying the story of Eve....a story that I thought I was completely familiar with....a story that I doubted would have too many new epiphanies to be revealed to me. Boy, was I wrong! There's a reason that God's word is called a "living" word...why am I so amazed when He breathes new life and meaning into an old, old story?
We're all familiar with most of the details of creation: God formed all of the birds and beasts from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:19). He made Adam, the first man, the same way....with 2 key differences: Adam was made in God's own image, and God breathed his own life force into Adam's nostrils (Genesis 1:27, 2:7). The woman was an entirely different story....she was not made from the dust at all, but from Adam's own rib. She was set apart from the very beginning....created in an entirely new way and made for a very specific purpose: to be the beloved, completing, counterpart to Adam, the helper perfectly suited to his needs. The word "help" that is used in Genesis 2:18 is most often used in Scripture to describe the way that God is a help to His people. It is used, for example in Psalm 33:20: "Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield." This word certainly does not indicate any inferiority or subordination; rather the man and the woman were meant to be equal partners, each contributing their own special gifts, talents and abilities to the marriage and family, truly completing each other. As Adam named all of the animals, so he named his new bride, "woman" (Hebrew 'ishshah) a word that meant literally "part of man."
Then we come to the story of the serpent tempting the woman. Satan is not very good at coming up with new tricks. Thousands of years later, he tries to get to us using exactly the same methods that he used in the Garden of Eden. He took the woman's attention from all of the good things that God had freely given her and focused it instead on the one thing that God had said she could not have. He also appealed to her fear of "not being enough." Which of us, as women, has not felt that at one time or another in our lives? We spend so much of our time trying to "measure up"...with our homes, our careers, our children, our relationships. We look around us and worry about what others think of us, and we want to be MORE. The woman had the same fault, as Satan talked to her about becoming like God. What she didn't realize was that she already WAS like God. He had made her in His own image, after all. Satan told her that "knowing good and evil" would make her more like God, when what it would actually do was the exact opposite. By His nature, God is completely seperate from all evil, and He hates it. By "knowing evil", the woman was drawing farther and farther away from God.
The next part is what completely grabbed my attention. God confronts the sinners and pronounces judgement on the serpent, the woman and the man. In the middle of this sadness is one little verse that, at first glance, seems very out of place. Genesis 3:20 states "And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living." The 19th verse is the end of the curse of the man, and the 21st verse is about God making coats of animal skins for them before driving them from the Garden. On my first read-through, I was struck by the strangeness of verse 20. Had Moses forgotten to write it in Chapter 2, when Adam was naming everything, and he just stuck it in here? No, because Adam had named her "woman" in 2:23, and besides, I don't believe that anything in Scripture is placed there arbitrarily. Then, with some help from my concordance and my favorite commentary, the answer became clear: Adam re-named her Eve. In Scripture, a change of name indicates a change in nature or character (ie: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul.) As "woman", she was already the physical mother of all people, so "the mother of all living" must mean something deeper here. Adam and the woman had just experienced spiritual death....so the word "living" here must correspond to spiritual life. The woman was the first believer...the first to receive God's promise of a Messiah. She was the first to place her trust back where it belonged....in God Himself...and her legacy is therefore changed from one of sorrow to one of great hope. Adam honors her great faith with a new name, one that is synonymous with her new Spirit, and she becomes Eve, the spiritual mother of all who put their trust in Him.
Isn't that just how God works? At our darkest moments, when all seems lost and overwhelming and completely incomprehensible, He comes in with redemption. He changes us from the inside out...creating a new life within the old shell. At the very fall of creation, a spark was born, a light of hope through Eve's burgeoning, clinging faith in God's promise. He's still doing the same today. He can fully restore the most desperate circumstances and make the hardest paths into the most beautiful stories. His hope and joy and redemption is all around us if we're only willing to place our trust in Him.
"Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness....O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever." Psalm 30:11-12