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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Genesis 8



Verses 1-15

Ecclesiastes 7 and Ecclesiastes 8:1-15

I. The endeavour to secure a competence may be not lawful only, but most laudable, since God means us to make the best of the capacities He has given us and the opportunities He sends us. Nevertheless we may pursue this right end from a wrong motive, in a wrong spirit. Both spirit and motive are wrong if we pursue our competence as though it were a good so great that we can know no happy content and rest unless we attain it. For what is it that animates such a pursuit save distrust in the providence of God? Left in His hands, we do not feel that we should be safe; whereas if we had our fortune in our own hands, and were secured against chances and changes by a comfortable investment or two, we should feel safe enough.

II. Our sympathies go with the man who seeks to acquire a good name, to grow wise, to live in the golden mean. But when he proceeds to apply his theory, to deduce practical rules from it, we can only give him a qualified assent, nay must often altogether withhold our assent. The prudent man is likely: (1) to compromise conscience (Ecclesiastes 7:15-20); (2) to be indifferent to censure (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22); (3) to despise women (Ecclesiastes 7:25-29); (4) to be indifferent to public wrong (Ecclesiastes 8:1-13).

III. In the closing verses of the third section of the book, the Preacher lowers his mask, and tells us plainly that we cannot, and must not, rest in the theory he has just expounded; that to follow its counsels will lead us away from the chief good, not towards it. This new theory of life he confesses to be a "vanity" as great and deceptive as any of those he has hitherto tried.

S. Cox, The Quest of the Chief Good, p. 188.

References: Ecclesiastes 8:1.—T. Hammond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 333. Ecclesiastes 8:1-8.—R. Buchanan, Ecclesiastes: its Meaning and Lessons, p. 281. Ecclesiastes 8:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1697, and My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 201 Ecclesiastes 8:8.—U. R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 38; A. Mursell, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 297.

Verse 4

Genesis 8:4

The history of the deluge is alleged in the New Testament as a type of the deep waters of sin, in which a lost world is perishing, and from which there is no escape but in that ark which God hath prepared for us. The eight souls saved from the deluge are types of that little flock which rides safely and triumphantly, though the floods lift up their waves and the billows break over them. And their safety is assured to them, because they are in Christ.

I. At the root of all Christianity lies that deep mysterious truth, the spiritual union of the Redeemer with those whom He redeemed. To this truth most emphatically witnesses all the New Testament teaching about the ark as a symbol and a prophecy. For (1) The ark is a figure of Christ. The ark floated over the waste of waters as Christ dwelt and toiled and suffered in the wilderness of this world and amid the waters of affliction. (2) The ark is a figure of the redeemed of Christ. The Church, which is Christ's body, is also the ark of refuge from the wrath of God. This life is still to the Church a conflict, a trial, a pilgrimage, a voyage. The crown shall be at the resurrection of the just.

II. The practical thoughts to which this subject leads us differ but little from the doctrinal. Is not the substance and the end of all—safety in Christ, rest in Christ, and at last glory in Christ? Those only who have rested in the Ark will rest upon Mount Ararat. The life of the Christian is begun on earth; it is perfected in heaven. When the voyage is over, the Saviour, who has been to us the Ark upon the waters, shall be to us, in the eternal mountains of the Lord, rest and peace and light and glory.

Bishop H. Browne, Sermons preached before the University of Cambridge, p. 67.

On the slopes of Ararat was the second cradle of the race, the first village reared in a world of unseen graves.

I. It was the village of the ark, a building fashioned and fabricated from the forests of a drowned and buried world. To the world's first fathers it must have seemed a hallowed and venerable form.

II. The village of the ark was the village of sacrifice. They built a sacrificial altar in which fear raised the stones, tradition furnished the sacrifice, and faith kindled the flame.

III. The first village was the village of the rainbow. It had been seen before in the old world, but now it was seen as a sign of God's mercy, His covenant in creation.

IV. The village of the ark gives us our first code of laws. As man first steps forth with the shadows of the fall around him, scarce a principle seems to mark the presence of law. Here we advance quite another stage, to a new world; the principles of law are not many, but they have multiplied. As sins grow, laws grow. Around the first village pealed remote mutterings of storms to come.

V. The village of the ark was the village of sin. Even to Noah, the most righteous of men, sin came out of the simple pursuit of husbandry. A great, good man, the survivor of a lost world, the stem and inheritor of a new, he came to the moment in life of dreadful overcoming.

E. Paxton Hood, The Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., p. 92.

References: Genesis 8:4, Genesis 8:18, Genesis 8:19.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 408. Genesis 8:9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 637. Genesis 8:11.—T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 158; H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 1. Genesis 8:13-16.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 160.

Verse 20

Genesis 8:20, Genesis 8:22

Noah, we are told, "was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." Noah reverenced right and justice; he ordered his family well; he lived in the presence of an unseen Being, who is right and true, and who had appointed him to be the head of a family. By the orderliness and quietness of his life he became a witness against the turbulent, self-willed world, in the midst of which he was dwelling. But there is in him also an earnest interest in his fellow-men. He separates from them only that he may be a witness to them of the good that they are flying from, and which he claims for himself and his family because he believes that God designs it for the creatures He has formed.

I. There is an evident difference between the sacrifice of Noah and those of Cain and Abel. Here, under God's guidance, the mound of turf gives place to the altar which is built. An order is discovered in the dignity of the inferior creatures; the worthiest are selected for an oblation to God; the fire which consumes, the flame which ascends, are used to express the intention of him who presents the victim.

II. We must feel that there was an inward progress in the heart of the man corresponding to this progress in his method of uttering his submission and his aspirations. Noah must have felt that he was representing all human beings; that he was not speaking what was in himself so much as offering the homage of the restored universe.

III. The foundation of sacrifice is laid in the fixed will of God; in His fixed purpose to assert righteousness; in the wisdom which adapts its means to the condition of the creature for whose sake they are used. The sacrifice assumes eternal right to be in the Ruler of the universe, all the caprice to have come from man, from his struggle to be an independent being, from his habit of distrust. When trust is restored by the discovery that God means all for his good, then he brings the sacrifice as a token of his surrender.

F. D. Maurice, The Doctrine of Sacrifice Deduced from the Scriptures, p. 18.

The text teaches:—

I.That worship should succeed every act of Divine deliverance.

II. That sacrifice is the only medium through which acceptable service can be rendered. Noah's sacrifice expressed: (1) a feeling of supreme thankfulness: (2) a feeling of personal guilt.

III. That no act of worship escapes Divine notice.

IV. That human intercession vitally affects the interests of the race.

Parker, The Cavendish Pulpit, vol. i., p. 61.

References: Genesis 8:20.—J. Cumming, Church Before the Flood, p. 359. Genesis 8:20-22.—G. Moberly, Plain Sermons, p. 280.

Verse 21

Genesis 8:21

These words were said by our Maker more than four thousand years ago, and they have been true ever since, down to this very hour. There is so much more bad than good in us that we should certainly go wrong if left to ourselves, and the bias of our nature to evil is so strong that it can only be corrected by changing the very nature itself; or, in the words of Scripture, by being born again of the Spirit. Everything is properly called good or evil according as it answers or defeats the purpose for which it was made. We were made for our Maker's glory, after His own image, that we should make His will the rule of our lives, and His love and anger the great objects of our hope and fear; that we should live in Him and for Him and to Him, as our constant Guide and Master and Father. If we answer these ends, then we are good creatures; if we do not, we are bad creatures; nor does it matter how many good or amiable qualities we may possess, like the blossoms or leaves of a barren fruit-tree, we are bad of our kind if we do not bring forth fruit.

II. Now, instead of living to God, we by nature care nothing about God; we live as if we had made ourselves, not as if God had made us. This is the corruption of our nature, which makes us evil in the sight of God. Christ alone can make us sound from head to foot. He alone can give us a new and healthy nature; He alone can teach us so to live as to make this world a school for heaven. All that is wanted is that we should see our need of Him and fly to Him for aid.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 19.

References: Genesis 8:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 616; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 24.

Verse 22

Genesis 8:22

I. Every harvest teaches the fact of God's wise providence.

II. Every harvest teaches the fact of God's definite purpose. One vast magnificent purpose has kept everything in exact order during all these years of Divine fidelity.

III. God expects every one of His creatures to be as faithful to a purpose as He Himself has been.

C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 258.

"While the earth remaineth... winter... shall not cease."

I. Spiritual winter is an ordination of God. The true spiritual analogue of winter is not spiritual death, not even feeble spiritual life. There is an orderly change in the soul. Unseen, yet very really, God's Spirit is at work, altering influences, changing modes. He introduces a new state of spiritual experiences, seeking to accomplish varied objects, and summoning to new modes of improving His presence.

II. The objects of spiritual winter are: (1) to confirm and strengthen faith; (2) to act as a check upon excesses; (3) to help in the training of the Christian character and the Christian Church.

III. How are we to improve spiritual winter? (1) By learning a lesson of mutual Christian tolerance. (2) By treasuring up the clear vision and calm judgment which the winter of the soul is fitted to impart, for the improvement of the season when fervour shall be renewed and emotion once more excited.

A. Mackennal, Christ's Healing Touch, p. 101.

References: Genesis 8:22.—R. W. Church, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 369 (see also Old Testament Outlines, p. 7); J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. i., p. 53; R. S. Candlish, The Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 127; J. Tulloch, Sundays at Balmoral, p. 55; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 94; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No, 1891. Genesis 9:1-7.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 140.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Genesis 8:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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