Marriage within the Truth should be a wonderful and satisfying experience as a couple outwork their privileged
position. Theirs is the privilege of living a parable in their personal relationship which should mirror our Lord
and his bride. Like the relationship with our Lord, it has to be worked at if the blessings are going to be there.
Marriage requires the same level of commitment which God expects from us in the Truth, that is, our whole being.

Sadly some brothers and sisters go into marriage without understanding the Scriptural significance of what they are doing. Yet the examples are so clear. The process of “forming” a man and “putting” him into a garden to “till it and to keep it” (Gen 2:15), provides the key to a wonderful start in marriage . This we shall explore further. Modern society is incapable of giving any couple this God-centred foundation so necessary for a truly God-honouring relationship.

The Lessons of a Garden

 We are familiar with the subject of gardening. Gardening is a satisfying activity full of a sense of fulfilment. Any of us who have spent time in digging, planting, watering, weeding, pruning and harvesting will know that it is a tiring, repetitive work which needs to be done in its appropriate season year by year. Yet the repeated pleasure obtained from this activity when the garden yields her increase, causes us to work willingly with anticipation.

To the garden of Eden or garden of “pleasure” or “delight” (as “Eden” means), we shall go. There we shall consider the subject of gardening and discover the striking parallel in the subject of marriage and family life. In the human relationship the woman is likened to a garden. “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed” (Song of Solomon 4:12). This opens up a whole beautiful vista of ideas which bring many Scriptures to bear upon the human relationship.

“And Yahweh Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8). Here the imperfect tense is used. It is more vivid and pictorial than the perfect tense. The perfect expresses the “fact”, the imperfect adds colour and movement by suggesting the “process” preliminary to its completion. The language therefore captures the events so that we can see the actions in our mind’s eye and note the pleasure that Yahweh Elohim had as He viewed the work of His hands.

God had done the preparation work before he “put” the man in the garden. It was sequential and this preliminary work was required that it might be a “garden enclosed”.

Gardens Need Watering

 “A river went out of Eden (pleasure) to water the garden” (Gen 2:10). It was Yahweh’s pleasure or delight to provide a river out of Eden to water the garden. That was the express purpose of the river and it was “very good” for the purpose for which it was designed. It did the job well and was also the pattern of what Yahweh would do for His people, “For he satisfieth the longing (or thirsty) soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (Psa 107:9). Speaking of the blessings of Yahweh upon the children of men, David said in Psalm 36:8, “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures (Heb ‘Eden’). Our Lord also spoke of His power to satisfy the thirsty ground. He cried out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). Also, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High” (Psa 46:4). We drink of the river of Yahweh’s pleasure, for Isaiah 53:10 speaking of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ said, “the pleasure of Yahweh shall prosper in his hand”.

 Genesis 2:15 states, “And Yahweh Elohim took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” or to cultivate it and hedge it about. It was God’s intention that man would reflect His character, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry (or tillage), ye are God’s building” (1 Cor 3:9).

This same principle should be outworked within marriage. Yahweh takes the man and provides him with the woman whose character is to be cultivated and hedged about so that the finer points of a godly character are not lost or destroyed. The divinely appointed relationship of marriage is meant to be a “pleasure” or “delight”. But like any garden, if the time is not spent upon her cultivation, then the wife will not develop to her full glorious potential and his own character will be lacking.

Appropriately in the sequence of events in Genesis 2, Yahweh taught the man the following principles that he would be called upon to implement in his new relationship with Eve:

  • Pleasure in the human relationship has to be worked at; it doesn’t come without effort
  • A successful garden needs cultivation and so does a wife.

All couples entering into marriage and family life will want their new relationship to be successful. A brother must come to understand that he will need to put personal time and effort into the development of his wife. The time needs to be quality time, not a few moments tacked onto the end of a busy day. The shared enthusiasm for the Word, the tender concern and words of love and encouragement for the wife who is exhausted after a day of service to her family, the providing of a clear answer to a difficult question of relationships with others. These all involve communications, but the work of a husband is not mere words but actions too. Leadership is by example. The work around the home, the physical diligence to keep a home and garden as a place of pleasure rather than tension, the doing things together, shared experiences and more. There is encouragement as we do this, for the results may be seen and enjoyed as we progress towards the kingdom together.

The deliberate work of character development is most evident when we consider the labour of Yahweh—“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). The Lord Jesus Christ cultivated the character of his disciples—his own bride, the ecclesia—“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you… If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:15–17). The apostle Paul carried on the same work—“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor 3:6).

Yahweh will also cultivate Israel as a garden once more,“For Yahweh shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of Yahweh; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (Isa 51:3). Eventually, this same pleasure will be experienced by the whole world. “For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord Yahweh will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isa 61:11).

Family Life Must be Protected

 Cultivation is one thing, but unless some form of protection is available the garden will soon be over-run. So the role of Adam was to include the “keeping” of the garden (Gen 2:15). The “hedging about”, as the word “keep” means, is a vital part of the role of the husband. Our Lord again showed the example—“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).

 Again the simple example of Song of Solomon 4:12, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse…” focuses upon the garden as a type of the bride in the life of our Lord. Having concluded his prayer to the Father in John 17 he made his way over Kedron to a garden, into which he entered and his disciples. “Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples” (John 18:1–2). What encouragement our Lord would have received, as surrounded by his disciples he prayed to the Father, he taught his bride to be, all within a “garden enclosed”. The husband should ensure that the development of the character of his wife is of the very best quality and that the benefits are not lost. Our Lord most certainly did this. This is the parable of Genesis 2:15.

When Does This Work Begin?

 The labours of character development or cultivation start prior to marriage. A brother may enjoy the fruits of his labours as he sees his future wife blossom in her mental and spiritual development. The sister responds in love to the encouragement of her future bridegroom. It is a time of mutual help and anticipation. The warning of the law of God in Genesis 2:16–17 however, is rather timely and must be heeded. The one fruit that he must not partake of is one that will bring a knowledge of good and evil, associated with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The words of Song of Solomon 4:12 aptly describe the state of the “sister spouse” before marriage as “a garden enclosed”—“a spring shut up”—“a fountain sealed”. It is not until marriage that the wife can say, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits” (Song of Solomon 4:16). Physical union must be left until marriage so that the relationship will not be damaged and scarred.

Paul explains in Hebrews 13:4 that, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”. The language is strong but only emphasises the divine abhorrence of any action which would dare to change the parable of marriage into the immoral practices which are prevalent in a world soon to be overthrown.