In His Image: the Ezer
Words by Leslie Bustard
In C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan, the Great Lion and the Son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, sings Narnia into existence. At his word, stars accompany Aslan’s singing, while trees push up through the earth, dogs bark and burst out of the grass, and so much more. Aslan’s work is a feast for the imagination.
After he created Narnia, Aslan chose certain pairs of animals to be the Talking Beasts. With the following words he called them to image him into this new world: “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak.”
Later, Aslan chose a king and a queen. His words to them were also a call to image him: “You shall rule and name all these creatures, and do justice among them, and protect them from their enemies.”
Like the Narnian king and queen, our callings also begin at creation. Dr. Dru Johnson writes in The Universal Story: Genesis 1–11 that we must lay a foundation in Genesis because “understanding creation as a profound argument for the world as it is supposed to be wisely guides us to become the people into whom God is forming us.” Because we believe Genesis is real and not a myth, we apply it to our lives.
In Genesis 1, God speaks the world into existence. The first 10 verses tell the story of darkness and light, day and night, water and land, and earth and sky. Verses 11–25 enlarge the picture of plants, trees, birds, fish, and animals rooted in the land and overflowing with life. All creation shouted out God’s glory and goodness.
As Aslan was not finished with creation until he chose the Talking Animals and the king and queen to mirror him, God was not finished with creation until he had created mankind in his own image. God shaped two persons—male and female—and placed them among his creation. Then he commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” (Gen. 1:28).
Together the man and the woman reflected the image of God to the world. Together they were to take the stuff of creation, care for it, and make more of it. Because of their imaginations, vision, and work, the garden would grow out into the world. Their descendants (right down to the men and women of today) were to do this work of being representative rulers, makers, cultivators, and caretakers. Theologians name God’s call in Genesis 1:28 the cultural mandate.
Genesis 1 is a lineage of creation, and Genesis 2 is a narrative story; it repeats the story of Genesis 1, yet enlarges the creation story by adding new details, including why the woman was created. After creating Adam and placing him in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam the job of naming the animals. As the animals passed before Adam and he named them, God saw that none of them were suitable companions for Adam. Adam was alone. Although all of creation was good, being alone was not good. Into this need God said, “I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). And then he made the woman and introduced her to Adam.
Some dismiss the importance of a woman because of the phrase “helper fit for him.” Helpers could be merely junior assistants. Helpers could be the ones who hand the tools to the builders. Helpers could be the three-year-olds cooking with their mommas in the kitchen. Hearing the term “helper” applied to women, men could think they are adequate enough to not require the help that God has given them through women. Or women could think their calling is insignificant.
The phrase “helper fit for him” has been translated from the Hebrew words Ezer k’nedgo. Understanding what ezer means helps us see how crucial women are to the work God calls humanity to accomplish.
The word ezer is used to describe God many times in the Old Testament. As ezer, God gives saving aid and strength; he also gives protection to the poor and the orphans. As their ezer, God made it possible for the Hebrews to get into the Promised Land.
Moses highlighted aspects of God’s character and work when he used the word ezer for God. After God delivered Moses from Pharaoh's sword (Ex. 18:4), Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means “My God is my help.”
Ezer is the word the Holy Spirit had Moses use to describe the woman when God created her. Women are designed to image God as ezers. God is not a junior assistant or an optional help but gives his people the aid and strength to complete what he calls them to do. For Israel, it was getting to the Promised Land; for us it is obeying God. Women are not junior assistants: their ezer work is no less valuable than the work a man does. It is needed to ensure that God’s work is completed.
Our gifts, our wisdom, our loves, and our strengths are part of the big picture of God’s work in the world. Just as God placed the woman in a garden, God puts us in places, including our homes, our churches, our jobs, and our neighborhoods. And as God helped his people as their ezer, we become our people’s ezers—their strong helpers and their necessary allies.*
In this series, “In His Image: Creating, Cultivating, and Restoring,” we will explore some of the ways God calls us to fulfill our ezer design. Our work will always be rooted in our identity as God’s image bearers, and therefore, as creative makers and ezers. Whether single or married, we are called to create and cultivate, strengthen and defend, and encourage and restore. As God’s words and ways form us to be like Jesus, we find that we love, think, and speak for the life of the people God has given us and in the places he has put us.
*McKinley, John “Necessary Allies—God as Ezer, Woman as Ezer”—a paper presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 17–19, 2015, Atlanta, GA.