bringing men to the end of themselves
To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
God first addressed the serpent, pronouncing a curse upon him. The serpent was guilty of obscuring the straightforward, simple truth of God’s word. He seemed to bring a revelation of hidden truths. But by claiming the fruit was an opportunity to gain independent wisdom, he veiled the woman’s responsibility to obey the Creator. In offering her independence, he enticed her to abandon God’s word. For this, God reduced the serpent from his elevated position among the animals to crawl in the dirt (Genesis 3:1, 14).
God also announced a hostility between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s Seed. The serpent’s seed would be those who follow the serpent and discard the truth of God’s words (see John 8:42-47). They would be in opposition to the woman’s Seed, who would reveal the truth. Her Seed would show that true life is not found in breaking free from the Creator’s word, but in keeping it. By the light of this truth, He would defeat the agenda of the serpent.
The knowledge of good and evil obtained by Adam and his wife gave them the impression of having an independent life. It was a life guided by their own wisdom and, thus, a life divergent from the life of God. Such a life was not what God intended for His creatures for He did not give humans the capability to live a life fully independent of Himself. Even at the physical level, humans depend on external resources, such as food, air, and water, to preserve life. The fact is that humans are not self-sufficient. Yet, the knowledge of good and evil makes people feel like they no longer are dependant upon God and they dismiss God’s wisdom. But this independent life is a life of death (Genesis 2:17) for it is separate from God’s life.
If you were God, what lengths would you be willing to go to show your creatures that their independence is a lie? Would you bring pain and suffering to deliver them from death?
The sorrow and birth pains that God introduced upon the woman (Genesis 3:16a) vividly illustrate the process of bringing an independent human from death into life.
The woman’s labor pains are unique among living creatures. At the peak of labor, her pain is overwhelming, and she feels unable to complete the process, reaching the end of herself. Happily, it normally is not her end, but the beginning of a new life. However, in the peak of labor, even though she knows the pain is temporary, she feels like the process is too much for her.
When life goes well, people often believe they are self-sufficient and fully independent from God. But this is a lie. If God fully withdrew from us, we would not be capable of preserving our life. We are dependent on God. But we forget that reality, so God will introduce circumstances into our lives that are overwhelming for us, to show us that life without God is too much for us.
One historical example of God using overwhelming circumstances is the birth of the nation of Isreal. When the children of Jacob first moved to Egypt, they enjoyed a privileged status under Joseph. However, things changed and they found themselves under hopeless and cruel bondage (Exodus 2:23-25). Although they were a numerous people, they were unable to escape from their bondage and they cried out to God. When God delivered them with great power, they saw it was beneficial to embrace a covenant that established God’s rule over them (Exodus 24:3-4). The overwhelming oppression they suffered under opened their eyes to their need for God.
Another example, from the future, is the seven years of Jacob’s trouble (the Tribulation) that will overwhelm Israel. God will use this suffering to open their eyes to their need of their Messiah, Jesus Christ.
A final example is the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable. He was happily living independently of his father until a famine came. His social position digressed until he found himself hungrily eyeing the pig food. At that point, when he was at the end of himself, he came to his senses and returned to his father (Luke 15:17). While the famine was ongoing, he would have said it was a bad thing. But afterward, when he was fully restored, he would undoubtedly say that the suffering of the famine had been good for him.
Looking at the individual level, we see that people generally must come to the end of themselves before they will acknowledge their need of the Savior. For some people, reaching this point takes great suffering; for others, not so much. But all who come to the Lord have reached the state where they recognize they are incapable of making it on their own. After this point, like for the woman, comes new life.
Then God spoke of struggle that would arise between a wife and her husband.
Having the knowledge of good and evil gave the wife a wisdom independent of her husband’s. As a result, she would not always see eye-to-eye with him and she would want him to do things her way (Genesis 3:16b). However, she was not created with the strength to compel her husband to obey her. If her husband chose to rule over her, she would not be able to prevent him.
Side note: The Hebrew word for ‘rule’ is used to speak of the sun and moon ruling over earth in Genesis 1:16-18. It refers to the fact that nothing on earth has the ability or power to stop the sun from shining during the day. Thus, to rule means that those under you cannot (or, do not) stop you from doing what you want.
Our culture decries the oppression of women. Far too often we have seen women subjected to domestic violence, physical and verbal abuse. These things are wrong and should not happen. But if a man decides to oppress the woman in his life, it is unlikely that she can stop him without help. Generally, women do not have the strength to dominate the man. It is this simple observation that I am referring to.
God drew attention to the wife’s struggle because it illustrates the root and futility of mankind’s struggle against God. The knowledge of good and evil will lead mankind to a different opinion from God and they will strive to make God do things their way. But it is a futile struggle, for God is man’s Creator – not the other way around. Thus, it is inevitable but that He will rule over them.
There is a part of me that resents the thought of God’s rule over me. It’s silly because my way of life produces a loathsome corruption of personality (like bitterness, anger, hatred). I find it truly is a life of death. In contrast to my way of life, God stated that His rule in my life would produce the wholesome qualities of personality that I wish I had (like patience, kindness, gentleness). I can see His rule would be a life of life for me, for it would reverse the damage from the serpent’s false promise of independence from God. His rule in my life would be, on a small scale, a triumph of Christ over the serpent.
God’s intent was to reveal truth to mankind, but the serpent offered independence in exchange for truth. God’s method for undoing the serpent’s lies was by revealing the truth through a Man who wholly submitted to His will. This Man preached the word of God, which exposed people’s corruption, and invited them to turn from their lives of death and enter God’s kingdom. To this day, God works to turn men from the facade of independence by revealing their need for His provision. He continues to reveal the truth to mankind.