When I was in college and dating my now husband, my friends were circulating ideas and books on what it meant to be a Godly wife. I was confused as I combined what I had seen growing up, with what I was reading, with what Todd and I were working out in our relationship, with what I felt bubbling up inside of me… what did all of that add up to be? What in the world did being a helpmate even mean? Was I supposed to be his assistant?
Thankfully, Todd was as interested in understanding truth as I was, and instead of looking for arguments that supported our preferences, we asked questions, read, studied and came to an understanding that’s worked for us the last 30 years as we’ve dated, married, parented, and led a ministry together.
It started with understanding what the Hebrew word for helpmate meant. Ezer kenegdo is translated as suitable helper. Kenegdo is translated in older English translations as “meet,” instead of suitable, hence: “helpmeet.” This is where the ‘assistant’ idea came from in my mind, as if he gets the good jobs and I was supposed to have a secondary role. Don’t misunderstand me – I loved being a support to him, but I wanted it in a he-supports-me-too kind of way.
God had no intention of making women second class. He makes that clear with His use of the word ezer. First, kenegdo, or suitable, indicates ezer is the man’s match, literally, “as in front of him.”
We are to be his strongest ally and asset as he runs after the mission God has set before him, (and his first barrier when he swerves off course.)
We read ezer throughout the Old Testament: twice in Genesis as a reference to women (Genesis 2:18, 20), and three times for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid (Isaiah 30:5, Ezekiel 12:14, Daniel 11:34.) Ezer is used as Israel seeks military aid from her neighbors. God is His people’s “shield and defense,” this has prompted me to ask: How can I come to my husband’s defense? How can I fight alongside of him, rather than against him?
As compelling as those verses are, ezer is used sixteen times for God as Israel’s helper (Exodus 18:4, Deut. 33:7, 26. 29, Ps. 20:2. 33:20, 70:5, 89:19, just to name a few.) The word is not accidental, it’s a powerful-come-to-the-rescue kind of word.
Ezer, this helpmate, is the one who rides in on the white horse at the end of the battle when everyone is discouraged and worn out. She is a warrior. God wants to send us to fight alongside our husbands with our whole heart and full strength, so together we better reflect God’s image. Todd needs everything I bring to our mission, and I need him and what he brings, too.
The power and strength God brings when called on as an ezer is a powerful model: be strong, be alert, and be proactive. God didn’t create the woman to bring a smaller version of herself to the table or to shrink when men are in the room. The man (and men) in my life need my full strength and gifts on display.
Not every man knows how to honor an ezer, to be willing to call on her for help in a battle. I am grateful my man respected me (before it was cool) for who I was, and what I had to offer. The result is I have spent more time fighting in battles alongside of him and less time fighting against him. We revisit this conversation time to time and make sure we are listening to God more than our culture.
If you were looking to start this conversation with your partner, here are three questions I recommend:
- Where did we get the ideas we have about the roles of men and women in marriage? Have we evaluated them against the Bible’s teaching?
- When have we come alongside of one another? How did it feel for both us?
- How can I better support what you are doing? And where do I need more of your support in my life?
Jesus, teach me how to lean on you for strength. I want to follow Your leading as I serve and love my husband. Amen.
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