Eurasia Blog Wednesday Devotion: “Unless the Lord Builds the House…”

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And he commanded him, saying: Eat from every tree of Paradise, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil do not eat. For on whatever day you will eat from it you will die. The Lord God said: It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a help which should be before him…And the Lord God built the rib which He had taken from Adam into a woman, and He brought her to Adam (Genesis 2:16-18, 22, Luther’s translation of these passages is from: Martin Luther. Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5. Volume 1 of Luther’s Works. Ed. Jaroslav Pelikan. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1958. 103, 110, 115, 131. Page number references throughout this post are to this volume).

Right away in Genesis, says Luther, God establishes first His own household, the church, and then the household of man. The church is established when the Lord gives Adam the command concerning which fruit he may eat. Luther writes: “In this passage the church is established…before there was a home government. Here the Lord is preaching to Adam and setting the Word before him” (105). He goes on to show that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “or the place where trees of this kind were planted in large number, would have been the church at which Adam, together with his descendants, would have gathered on the Sabbath day. And after refreshing themselves from the tree of life he would have praised God and lauded Him for the dominion over all the creatures on the earth which had been given to mankind” (105). So the Lord established his church from the very beginning through the spoken Word to Adam.

After establishing the church, the primary institution, the Lord establishes the household of man when He creates Eve for Adam. Luther notes that the Hebrew word here used is not “create” or “form” like for other portions of the Creation account, but “build.” Luther traces the use of this Hebrew word in several other places, showing that it is used commonly to refer to building up a home:

A woman, especially a married one, is called a building not for the sake of allegory but historically. Scripture employs this method of speech everywhere. Thus Rachel said to Jacob (Gen. 30:3): “Take the maid that I may be built by her.” Scripture states the same thing of Sara (Gen. 16:2). And in Exodus it is said of the midwives (Ex. 1:21): “The Lord built them houses”; that is, through the blessing of a family He repaid the kindnesses which they showed to Israel contrary to the king’s command. Likewise, in the account about David, when he wanted to build a house for the Lord, he receives the answer (2 Samuel 7:11): “You shall know that the Lord will build you a house.”

Thus the expression is common in Scripture, that the wife is called a household building because she bears and brings up the offspring. The form which this building would have had in Paradise we have lost through sin so completely that we cannot even conceive of it in our thinking…Some faint image of this building remains; for he who marries a wife has her as a nest and home where he stays at a certain place just as birds do with their young in their little nest.

This living-together of husband and wife — that they occupy the same home, that they take care of the household, that together they produce and bring up children — is a kind of faint image and a remnant, as it were, of that blessed living-together because of which Moses calls the woman a building (133).

These passages express the beauty, intent, and comfort that marriage was designed by God to be. It is God Himself who builds the household for man and wife. While we face more difficulty in marriage and life than before the Fall, its blessings are still evident and its beauty still shines through as husband and wife live and work together in their household.

The Psalmist says: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a). The good news is that the Lord does build the house. He builds the household of faith through the preaching of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments. He builds the household of man through the gifts of marriage and procreation, strengthening them in their homes through His Son, Jesus Christ.* Thanks be to God, who builds and sustains us through these two different, but connected, households.

Let us pray: Lord God, you are the Master Workman, continue to build your church through the preaching of Your Word, the administration of Your Sacraments, and Your daily watch and care for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your loving sacrifice for Your Bride, the Church, teaches us what marriage should look like; continue to strengthen all marriages so that they may testify to You by word and deed to their children and the world around them, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

  • Missed last week’s devotion? You can still find it here.
  • Pray for all marriages to be strengthened and sustained.
  • Pray for those dealing with abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, other pregnancy losses, and infertility.*
  • Read about DCE Kendra McNatt who is working to strengthen children and families through Christian education in Frankfurt, Germany.
  • Stay tuned later this week for a blog post about family and youth camps run this summer by our partner church bodies in Russia.

*Luther on infertility: “Similarly, there are also some remnants in the instance of procreation, although in the state of innocence women would not only have given birth without pain, but their fertility would also have been far greater. Procreation is now hindered by a thousand diseases, and it happens either that unborn children do not survive the period of gestation or that at times marriages are altogether barren. These are flaws and punishments resulting from Adam’s awful fall and from original sin. In the same way the wife is still the house of the husband, to which he goes, with whom he dwells, and with whom he joins in the effort and work of supporting the family. In this sense it will be stated below (Gen. 2:24): ‘Man will cling to his wife, and he will forsake his father and mother'” (133, my emphasis).

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